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Why did it take ski manufacturers so long to get to this point?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

To go along with Dawg's thread about how good "All Mountain" ski's are my question is what took them so long?  I lived in Aspen from '91-'94 right after I graduated from college.  I remember skiing everything on a pair of 205 Authier's and a then getting a pair of 195 Volkl P20's(which I still own for nostaglia reasons).    My questions is why did it take so long for the ski industry to figure out that shaped ski's was the way to go?  And not just shaped skis but the whole new way to design the geometry?  It seems like the industry was so slow to get it right.  Not saying I didn't have a blast on my 195's and 205's but I sure wish they had the technology they have now when I lived there 20 years ago.  Just curious.

 

Chuck

post #2 of 19

Go walk into your living room and take a gander at your television... does it look anything like what you were watching in '94? 

 

You obviously have a computer, does it perform or look anything like what was available in '94?

 

Improvements in ski design has been evolutionary, each leap forward in technology has led to a new way of looking at what skiers want, and changed the way skiers ski and think about skiing. This has driven the development of better and better designs, it has been a symbiotic relationship. As gear gets better, skiers adapt and evolve along with it. If someone were to have taken away your 205cm Authier's and handed you a 180cm Blizzard Bonafide back in '94, chances are you would have HATED them because you just wouldn't have been ready for them... that and 99% of people follow the crowd, the crowds back then skied long straight skis. Showing up at the lift corral with silly short, fat, bent skis would have led to much finger-pointing and laughing. Folks like Shane McConkey are few and far between.

post #3 of 19

^^^^ This. Did you ever try any of the very early parabolic Elans? They truly sucked. (Probably even allowing for how we skied, but our skill sets didn't help. At all. Besides, they looked like clown shoes.) And I recall feeling like my 187 Solly Screams (semi-sucked) were so short I was gonna spend the whole day on my face. Or my Pocket Rockets were so boat-like on groomers that they'd never turn. Technological "revolutions" are more about media types getting hot and bothered than how tech really changes, then how early adopters drive tastes, then skill sets catch up a bit later, followed by refinements in the original Great Idea to make it actually work.

post #4 of 19

I like to think that the gravitation AWAY from the ideal that racing was the pinnacle of the sport as far as ski design was concerned.
 

post #5 of 19

I think what drove the industry to wider and shorter skis was the technical revelation of making skis that were more torsionally rigid.  For example, Salomon came out with their mono-coque design that added torsional rigidity.  Before, skis were built in flat, laminated layers and didn't have that torsional stiffness.  The longer skis were necessary as the tips and tail would tend to torque and flatten out when turning.  They also had to be narrower as width increases torque which, again, flattened the ski when turning.  When torsional rigidity was better designed in, skis could be wider and didn't have to be as long.

 

As for the shape with more extreme side-cut, the same torsional concept applied; the wider the tip and tail, the more torsion and the ski just would torque out and flatten.  Solving the torque issue opened up a new world to ski designers and that's what, I believe, drove the revolution to ski shapes and designs that we have now.  They made it so that nearly anyone could learn what it was to actually carve a turn.  It didn't used to be that way.  It also allows just about anyone to track out MY powder...  For that reason alone, I kind of wish we were still in the skinny ski days.

post #6 of 19

Probably a bunch of factors

 

1) Industry inertia/fear to do something different - ski geometry hadn't significantly changed since the beginning, if it didn't "seem" broken, why fix it??

 

2) Not making something that sucked, commercial acceptance only comes if the change actually works

 

3) Better materials and manufacturing processes - helped prevent #2

 

 

I think it took some innovators to take some risk (#1) with the help of better materials (#3) to achieve a true beneficial change (#2).

post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecimmortal View Post

I like to think that the gravitation AWAY from the ideal that racing was the pinnacle of the sport as far as ski design was concerned.
 

That's certainly part of it.  The same thing happened to mountain bikes around 2000, and the redirection in R&D has been nothing but great.

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecimmortal View Post

I like to think that the gravitation AWAY from the ideal that racing was the pinnacle of the sport as far as ski design was concerned.
 

 

I think this is part of the market force that brought the changes I mentioned before.  It was 1989 when Blizzard of Ahhhs.... came out and it was the nineties when designs really started to change.  BoA was a transitional movie that got a lot of younger skiers looking for something different other than groomed runs.  That movie truly was a revelation to the sport.

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecimmortal View Post

I like to think that the gravitation AWAY from the ideal that racing was the pinnacle of the sport as far as ski design was concerned.
 

I also agree with this but it's my belief that the reason the ski manufacturers moved away from race skis for recreational skiers was the geometrically ballooning popularity of snowboarding.  The young simply weren't going into skiing any more and the ski companies had to come up with something new or die.

post #10 of 19

If you look at the Powder Magazine Equipment Issue literally half of the ski companies were not around 15 years ago, and a third were not around 10 years ago.  The old mass market companies were not giving us what we needed or wanted so the indie companies sprang up to fill the gap.  They could create new experimental designs on a one-off basis to come up with stuff that just worked better in many situations.  You can thank Shane McConkey for kick starting the new thinking on ski design.  Imagine what it took to start with historically traditional skis and come up with reverse camber reverse sidecut. He literally turned ski design inside out.  A true visionary.  After that the door was wide open for new skis designs, and the major manufactures are just following behind trying to keep the leading edge in sight.  The ski options today are just mind boggling, including the ability to get custom skis cheaper than ever before.  The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!  cool.gif

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post

I also agree with this but it's my belief that the reason the ski manufacturers moved away from race skis for recreational skiers was the geometrically ballooning popularity of snowboarding.  The young simply weren't going into skiing any more and the ski companies had to come up with something new or die.

 

There's a lot of truth to this as well.  The width and shape of snowboards also got the designers looking at materials and shape and the realization they could use similar products and shapes in skis.  The market did drive this change through necessity.  Adapt or die...

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldMember View Post

I think what drove the industry to wider and shorter skis was the technical revelation of making skis that were more torsionally rigid.  For example, Salomon came out with their mono-coque design that added torsional rigidity.  Before, skis were built in flat, laminated layers and didn't have that torsional stiffness.  The longer skis were necessary as the tips and tail would tend to torque and flatten out when turning.  They also had to be narrower as width increases torque which, again, flattened the ski when turning.  When torsional rigidity was better designed in, skis could be wider and didn't have to be as long.

 

As for the shape with more extreme side-cut, the same torsional concept applied; the wider the tip and tail, the more torsion and the ski just would torque out and flatten.  Solving the torque issue opened up a new world to ski designers

 

I'm with GoldMember. I feel, intuitively, that this is about 80% of it. It's not like no one ever "thought" of sidecut or tried to build it into skis before 1998 or whatever. It's just that materials didn't allow for an amount of sidecut that was meaningful by current standards. I remember agonizing, c.1977, about whether I wanted the 195cm Bonna tur-langrenns with the 56-50-52 sidecut or the Asnes ones with a "deep" sidecut that was something like 54/47/51. Oooooh.

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

^^^^ This. Did you ever try any of the very early parabolic Elans? They truly sucked.

If you thought they sucked, it's because you sucked. Those skis rocked for anyone who could ski.

post #14 of 19

Not too many things that have been too radical have succeeded in this industry.  If you can not create a demand and acceptance for a new product you may not even become a speed-bump on the road of progress.

 

 About 1972 a lot of World Cup coaches were cruising around on Dynamic VR27s' (think that was the designation).  They were about 180CM wide for the day built with the VR monocoque construction.  Got to put down a few runs on them and thought they skied really well. Those guys loved them and they ripped on the groomers, but not a commercial success, just too different.  

 

A coupe of years before that the Miller Soft showed up from Utah.  It was designed short wide and soft, as a dedicated powder ski.  It made heavy snow ski easier and it worked better than a GS long ski.  It disappeared into the fog of obscurity.  A very good idea just too far ahead of its time.   

 

These skis were not as good as what we have today, the CAD programs had not evolved far enough.  The manufacturers did not have some of today's' materials available.  They were not sold to us in a way that made us listen.  

 

Kind of makes you wonder what else is in the also ran pile of history.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Liam View Post

That's certainly part of it.  The same thing happened to mountain bikes around 2000, and the redirection in R&D has been nothing but great.

Seems like both industries had 95% non-racing participants but 95% of the research and product was dedicated to racers.  Much improved now!

post #16 of 19

We tried for years to carve turns but failed to scribe clean lines with smaller than SG radius. Then we got snowboards and were carving in a week. Someone in a laboratory in Slovenia closely examined a snowboard and figured out how it works. The rest is history.

post #17 of 19

Thank goodness the ski industry is trying to keep up with technology. I tried some ANTON's up at Lake Tahoe, pretty interesting design. Your boots sit up off the ski and have some sliding movement like a shock absorber, the weird part they worked great and my knees felt good after the day. A little pricey but I might have to do it.

post #18 of 19

Here is a column in a 1955 SKI magazine for Dynamic mentioning a reverse camber. There was another thread about a Werntz ski with a patented "rockered ski" to make turns easier. I believe Armada owns that patent now. Considering this you might wonder why it took so long to get here. Why didn't anyone think of putting titanium in skis in 1955? :)  There is a lot of trial and error, sometimes technology responding to demand and sometimes technology way ahead of its time. Lots of weird and interesting technologies in the dustbin. But I have to admit to having that thought about many products. Why did it take so long, why didn't they think of this 10 years ago. When I take a longer view, it is astonishing, the state of skiing today and how fast technology is advancing. We are actually exactly where we should be.  :)

 

 

1000

 

1000


Edited by Joal - 11/17/12 at 2:46pm
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15 View Post

We tried for years to carve turns but failed to scribe clean lines with smaller than SG radius. Then we got snowboards and were carving in a week. Someone in a laboratory in Slovenia closely examined a snowboard and figured out how it works. The rest is history.

I almost forgot about this.  My first (and only) year snowboarding was when I had a fair amount of experience skiing but didn't know what carving was.  I was more interested in just skiing with friends and not much into learning technique at this point.  While "shaped" skis were out, they were still controversial and my Atomic 9.22 (IIRC) wasn't the type of ski where you'd just stumble into carving.  Once I figured out snowboarding, I couldn't believe how great it felt just to turn.  With skis, I needed bumps/trees/steeps/etc. to get that sort of rush.  With a board, it was fun just to turn.  Took me some time to figure out I was experiencing carving.

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