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I see the term used in ski descriptions all the time but I just can't seem to get my mind around exactly what it means. Please help me understand.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by adipose Explain "radius" I see the term used in ski descriptions all the time but I just can't seem to get my mind around exactly what it means. Please help me understand.
How big or small of a turn the ski will make when edged correctly.
actually the radius number on a pair of skis is not the turning radius of the ski. Do you think a slalom ski can only make a 10 meter radius turn? That's awfully big.

There is a long thread about this on the board somewhere, no time to search for it now, but the turning radius of a ski is much shorter than those number, and is dependent on how much the ski is on edge and flexed.
As SkiMangoJazz said:

It describes how curved the sidecut of the ski is. Lower radius = more curved / more sidecut; higher radius = less curved / less sidecut.

Think of it like this:

Set a ski down on the floor in a gym. Climb up on a tall ladder and look down at it, paying attention to one edge. Notice that it's curved. Picture the circle that's formed if you extend the curve. The radius of that circle is the "radius" we're talking about.

A few notes:

- It's approximate, for a number of reasons, most importantly: the curve of a ski's sidecut typically isn't uniform, i.e. it's not exactly an arc from a circle.

- Typically, it's estimated by considering (i) the width at three points: near the tip, at the narrowest point (aka the waist) and near the tail and (ii) the length of the ski (or, to be more accurate, the distance between the three points at which you measured the width).

- If you do a search, you'll discover numerous threads on this topic, some of them lengthy, some of them abstruse.
Lay your ski on the floor. The edge approximately follows a circle with the sidecut radius. If you slightly tilt your ski, you will find it is supported at the tip and tail and the middle does not touch the floor. When you press down on the middle of your slightly tilted ski so that the entire edge of the ski is touching the floor the tilted ski's edge will trace part of a smaller circle on the floor.

What this means is that on a hard surface the ski can "carve" (or cut) a curve with a riadius that is smaller than the sidecut radius by tipping it farther on edge (and decambering it more, but it can not carve a larger circle.

In addition to sidecut, the flexibility of the ski also affects how easily a ski can be forced to bend into a tighter arc. It is possible to bend straight skis into tight arcs, but it takes much more skill (IMHO).
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