Over the past few years, some patterns have been showing in changing ski design. When I first got interested in ski design and behavior, some ten years ago now, almost all consumer skis had rocker – the new wonder of the ski world. And with tip-rocker came tip chatter. And with that came all sorts of dampening solutions to counter that.
What I am trying to say is: brands are constantly looking for new ways to make skis for a wider range of skiers (without losing the old fan base). They simply want a ski to appeal to that expert skier looking for stability, power, and a ski that really rewards good technical skills. At the same time, they want that same ski to appeal to less skilled or powerful skiers as well. They will never say it out loud, but there’s still a quest going on for the One ski that appeals to every skier. Luckily for us, all brands approach that search in their own way. But there are some trends that we see with all brands. Let’s discuss a few.
Brands try to make high-end skis more accessible for less technical skiers. They still want the technically skilled skiers to like them, though. So they try to keep the performance ceiling as high as it was before, but with a lower instep level, as it were.
We can see this in the renewed Curv series by Fischer, the Head Supershape e-series, the Head Worldcup Rebels, the Blizzard Brahma, and Bonafide: they have tried to make these skis easier to ski on lower speeds. A slightly smaller sidecut radius (basically: more automatic steering while ‘riding the sidecut’), less aggressive or punishing torsional stiffness, and softer flex overall. This all means that less skier input is needed to make a controlled turn. When pushed, however, these skis will still deliver a tonne of rebound and basically have upper limits that only the most bad-ass skiers will ever encounter.
Quite a few skis have some sort of ‘multi radius’. There are basically two variants of this principle. The first option is a tighter radius at the tip (and sometimes also in the tail) than underfoot. This makes for tight and more immediate turn initiation, leveling off to a more relaxed turn in the second half of the turn. Great for skiers who want the tips to pull them into the turn as soon as the skis are rolled on edge. Fischer The Curv and RC One series have this technology, amongst others.
The second option is quite the opposite: the radius at the extremities of the ski is slightly bigger than the radius underfoot. This kind of softens the turn entry, making it less aggressive and more gradual. Great for all-mountain skis or skis for snow that would normally punish ‘hooky’ skis. Völkl applies this in their wider Deacon skis and in their all-mountain line (Kanjo, Kendo, Mantra).
Progressive flex means a softer longitudinal flex at the tip, gradually becoming stiffer towards the middle and tail end of the ski. This makes for less aggressive turn initiation since the ski bends more, more or less softening up the entry into the turn. When – throughout the turn – weight shifts to the middle and back end of the ski, the ski holds a powerful edge and gives a powerful rebound, as the ski is stiffer in this section.
It may ‘soften’ the turn entry, but it also caters more to the ‘modern’ skier. The modern, more carving skier (as opposed to the ‘old-school’ skidding style, or wedeln) has an easy life. A ski that has a softer forebody bends with less energy and carves more naturally. For skidded turns, however, a more homogeneous flex and lateral control of the front of the ski is preferable to steer the ski into a turn. In short: modern carving skiers will appreciate this progressive flex more than more traditional style skiers.
All in all some interesting things going on. And it’s nice to see brands still trying to make products for the ever more demanding audience. And we gear enthusiasts happily tag along for the ride.