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What does a ski's stiffness affect?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Kind of an open ended question but here goes...

I have been absorbing a lot of info on this forum as I get back into skiing (after an almost 20-year hiatus) and one thing that is fairly common is a person's description (impression) of a ski's "stiffness". I have seen people say they didn't like a ski because it felt like a wet noodle, and others say that a ski was too stiff and it beat them up in the bumps or they didn't want to "work that hard at skiing.

I don't have an opportunity to test a lot of skis to try to figure this out for myself so I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me as to how a ski's stiffness affects the ride, when are stiffer or less-stiff skis appropriate or inappropriate, are stiff skis more geared towards expert skiers (and why), does a rider's weight factor into the equation somehow, does ski length affect stiffness or is that factored in by the manufacturer (by making skis in a specific model stiffer as they get longer), etc? Looking for general theory here, I haven't ridden many skis so comparing A to B won't help me much.

Thanks for the great resource... I have learned a ton from this forum!
post #2 of 3
One way to shape a turn -- that is, change its radius -- is to bend the ski to match that radius. If you have two skis with the same tip/waist/tail dimensions, the stiffer one is going to take more energy to bend into any given arc.

The speed at which a skier usually skis affects their preferences for the stiffness characteristics of the ski. As your speed increases, you get more G-forces at your disposal throughout the turn, thereby effectively increasing the weight you have bearing down on the ski, which in turn will cause it to bend more, which in turn will create a shorter radius turn. If you have a "wet noodle" of a ski, it's going to bend very easily at speed, which is a very disconcerting feeling.

Likewise, heavier skiers tend to prefer stiffer skis for more or less the same reason -- it'll be hard for them to carve anything longer then a medium radius turn or so.

Lighter weight skiers, or those who ski at a more moderate pace will have issues bending stiff skis without really leaning into the ski on each and every turn, a process that gets really tiring pretty quickly. If you can't bend the ski enough to create a turn as short as you desire, you're going to be left with having to steer the ski, which is a whole other can of worms.

Race skis are typically really stiff as the manufacturer designed them to be skied at high speed, thereby giving the skier more control at race speeds. Lower-end skis tend to be a bit less stiff so that those without ideal body positioning can get the ski to bend and feel some carving sensations without having to push the speedometer.

Make sense? The stiffness tends to affect other characteristics as well (i.e., how reactive the skis will be to your input), but I mainly think of it in the above terms.
post #3 of 3

stiffness (approx) = car suspension / steering wheel play

For beginning adults, I relate the beginner ski to the old truck: lots of play in the steering has its benefits for beginners (less responsive) while
an expert ski may want a tight (sports car) suspension - they ski responds
when you do, and you may feel things (ie bumps) that you might not want, as with a sports car over a bumpy road.
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