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New age powder skis -- why do they work?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
The latest gear review magazines listed two -- for lack of a better term -- "new age" powder skis. There's the K2 Pontoon, which is designed with reverse camber, and with the tails narrower then the waist. A model from Goode has tips and tails which are narrower then the waist. Elan's 1111 has a swallowtail; not sure about the sidecut. The older Spatula model I believe had reverse camber and a reverse sidecut.

There have been some endless discussions here on Epic regarding whether or not it's possible to carve in powder. One school of thought seems to believe that on a traditional ski, the tip and tail are wider then the waist and thus will sink less; that non-uniform sinking produces the "arc" of your turn and around you come in more-or-less a "carved turn". (Or at least that's how I understand it).

There's obviously another school of thought here as several companies have made skis that the reviews rave about (whatever that's worth) -- so long as you're in snorkel-deep powder. Why do these "new age" designs work in deep snow? Where's the turn coming from?

Disclaimer: The only kind of powder I'm good at skiing is the loud / clear / blue kind that we encounter in New England. If I'm missing something blatantly obvious -- well, be gentle. :
post #2 of 23
Short answer - spat's don't carve in powder.
post #3 of 23
Turning is done by pivoting. If I were to get a pair, I would definitely get DP (previously DB) Lotuses. As far as the Goode Scoop, it originated in an agreement between Goode and DB skis where Goode was supposed to produce DB designs. Apparently they were far behind on production and the quality was low. Anyway, despite Goode taking credit for its design, it is basically taken from the DP Tabla Rasa (the predecessor to the Lotus). Of course the Volant Spatula was the original reverse camber/sidecut ski. The Goode Pash has the exact same dimensions as the DP Cassiar. I believe the Monstro also remains from the Goode/DB alliance (but was abandoned by DP). Construction quality is rumored to be an issue with Goode skis, at least in comparison to DP, who now uses a wood core. According to reviews at www.tetongravity.com, the DP Lotus does not have issues with high speed stability, however apparently the design works better in heavy snow than dry snow.

Salomon has been producing the AK Swallowtail for a few years, however it is skinnier and longer than the Elan 1111. Swallowtail snowboards have been around for a while.
post #4 of 23
There's also the new Armada ARG, which is closer to the DP Lotus 138.

I haven't skied any of these, but want to.
post #5 of 23
Why do water skis have reverse camber and sidecut??
post #6 of 23
I was skiing at Alta last year and saw two guys skiing on them. I asked how they worked. Their answer was the best in Powder, but they were a disaster on groomed. You could barely ski them.
post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
One school of thought seems to believe that on a traditional ski, the tip and tail are wider then the waist and thus will sink less; that non-uniform sinking produces the "arc" of your turn and around you come in more-or-less a "carved turn". (Or at least that's how I understand it).
A standard sidecut is not needed for the ski to assume a curved shape in soft snow. To understand this imagine the ski upside down. Imagine the ski sitting upside down on a post at the binding area. Now imagine that you are loading bricks along it's base. The tip and tail will bend down due to the load of the bricks. The whole ski is being pushed down, but isn't allowed to move down at the post. The farther away from the post, the more deflection you will get, just like a double canti-lever beam. This is how the ski is loaded when skiing in soft snow; your foot acts as the post, the snow acts as the bricks and the ski is curved.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
The latest gear review magazines listed two -- for lack of a better term -- "new age" powder skis. There's the K2 Pontoon, which is designed with reverse camber, and with the tails narrower then the waist. A model from Goode has tips and tails which are narrower then the waist. Elan's 1111 has a swallowtail; not sure about the sidecut. The older Spatula model I believe had reverse camber and a reverse sidecut.

There have been some endless discussions here on Epic regarding whether or not it's possible to carve in powder. One school of thought seems to believe that on a traditional ski, the tip and tail are wider then the waist and thus will sink less; that non-uniform sinking produces the "arc" of your turn and around you come in more-or-less a "carved turn". (Or at least that's how I understand it).

There's obviously another school of thought here as several companies have made skis that the reviews rave about (whatever that's worth) -- so long as you're in snorkel-deep powder. Why do these "new age" designs work in deep snow? Where's the turn coming from?

Disclaimer: The only kind of powder I'm good at skiing is the loud / clear / blue kind that we encounter in New England. If I'm missing something blatantly obvious -- well, be gentle. :
In Shane McConkey words : They don't carve, indeed.

Important! Read this before you ski on your new Spatulas. Keep this guide so that you can refer back to it after you have tried the Spatulas. It will help remind you of certain things you will need to know.

Congratulations! You have just purchased the most progressive invention in the history of powder skiing since the original fat skis were invented. These skis will change the way you thought you were supposed to ski powder, minimize the effort you put into your skiing, and greatly improve your powder skiing experience. The following is meant to give you some idea of what the Spatulas are all about, why they are shaped the way they are and how to ski them. First of all, in order to clear your mind and attempt to make sense of all this, take most everything you have ever learned about skiing and stick it where the sun don't shine. Or at least in the garage next to your shaped skis. Why? Because: Sidecut is not good in powder. Camber is not good in powder. Carving is not necessary in powder. Simply put, if you want to maximize your abilities in soft snow you do not want to use the same tool as you would on any kind of hard, groomed, or compacted snow.

How to ski your new Spatulas As you well know your new Spatulas have a very unique almost bizarre shape. It is important for you to understand the adjustments to your skiing technique you will need to make in order to ski them well. Don't worry! It's easy. Many people may get intimidated by the progressive shape of the Spatula and think that it takes an expert to know how to manage them. Not true. These skis will make powder skiing much easier for even the least experienced beginners. Actually the opposite concepts explained here will be much easier for a beginner to grasp than an expert conditioned to use their skis the way they always have. The expert will have to open their mind and be prepared for some very differnt concepts. Or simply, they must floss their brain!

Ski on both feet! Put your weight a bit more on two feet throughout the turn instead of mostly on your downhill ski. This will help you stay afloat and facilitate sliding when you need to. You will also be able to load up your downhill ski as you normally would in most soft snow situations but knowing how and when to use both feet will greatly increase your abilities with the Spatulas. Suncrust and wind affected snow are prime examples of when to use both feet. In these conditions the Spatulas will blow your mind. Normally these conditions would require you to slow down and be very careful not to hook a tip. Not anymore. Ski on two feet and let er rip.

Open it up! Your powder skiing is about to change dramatically. It will become much easier for you to maintain control at higher speeds. If you were the type of powder skier who used to make lots of slow, little bouncing up and down turns then you need to try and go faster. Open it up and go for it! You can still milk the powder slowly if you want but after you get the hang of hauling ass you won't want to putt around anymore.

Slide instead of carve! Yes, believe it or not this is something that you should be trying to do in the powder. Sliding will be the most difficult of Spatula techniques to learn but you should be able to get the idea in time. Even if you never attempt to learn slides you will still be able to blow doors on everyone else without the Spatulas. Who knows, you might just naturally start doing them anyway. The more dense and compacted the snow is the easier it will be to perform slides. Sliding will greatly improve your maneuverability and control. Begin your powder turn and then instead of hitting your edges hard to carve a turn, stand up on two feet and let your skis slide or skid diagonally across the fall line. It will be harder to perform a slide directly down the fall line. Start off doing them diagonally.

Trade skis with a friend for a run. Just to compare what you used to ski on with what you have now, I guarantee you will only try this once and then you will keep your Spatulas for yourself!

Flotation and sliding. In order to better understand why the Spatulas are so efficient the two most important concepts to grasp are floation and sliding. In a ski world where everyone is constantly thinking power, pressure and carving it may seem like a crazy concept to accept almost the opposite theory. Then again, soft snow is pretty much the opposite of hard snow. Retraining your mind that sliding not carving is actually a good thing is a very hard concept for many people to swallow. A ski which is fat under foot will float much more than a ski which is narrow under foot. A ski with reverse sidecut will give the skier the ability to slide their turns where as side cut will force the skier to sink and carve. Reverse side cut combined with decamber immediately puts the tip and tail higher than the waist of the ski as well as pulls the edges of the ski away from the snow leaving the point of first contact with the snow at the waist of the ski. When you set you skis sideways to start a slide there is much less ski at the tip and tail to catch the snow and prevent the slide. It also helps to eliminate catching your downhill edges and stuffing it. The Spatulas are also twin tipped. This helps immensely for initiation of the slide. Expert skiers can use the twin tip to ski and land backwards if they wish. Skiing backwards in powder will be surprisingly easy compared to any other twin tipped powder ski. In virtually all situations you will still be able to carve your turns. the Spatulas simply give you the option to initiate a slide or to scrub speed by sliding similar to how you would do it on a groomer. Why is it so easy for snowboarders to scrub speed in the powder? Why is it so easy for them to make turns and go fast when skiers are laboring slowly down the hill? Why do snowboarders use less energy than skiers in the powder? It is a simple matter of flotation. Snowboarders are always on top of the snow. Skiers are mostly down in it. The Spatulas will give you all the benefits of snowboardings floatation and ease as well as satisfaction in the fact that you are actually on skis and still have all the luxuries and mobility options that skiing offers.

Reverse Side Cut For normal skis side cut is used to make it easier to turn. You simply roll the ski on edge, add some pressure to the ski and it carves around. In recent years ski manufacturers have been adding significant amounts of side cut to their skis greatly facilitating the experience for everyone. This is true. ON HARD SNOW! In powder or soft snow side cut creates two distinct negative effects. 1. "The Pool Cover" - Your weight is directly on top of the narrowest part of the ski. this type of weight distribution immediately puts you in a sinking into the snow situation similar to what happens to the pool cover when you try to run across it. this causes your tips and tails to float but the center of your skis where all the weight is sinks, bogs down and then you must plow through the snow. You will be forced to carve every turn and expend a lot of energy bounding in and out of the snow. Sinking/carving=bad, floating/sliding=good. 2. "The Unstable Hooker" - Skis become very unstable and much more difficult to control. In sun crust or wind affect you may have noticed the occasional Unstable Hooker. This is when you start a turn and your downhill ski hooks fast and hard up and across your uphill ski. You cross your tips, step on your downhill ski with your uphill and then stuff your face into the mountain. Or at high speeds you may have noticed your skis trying to swim around a bit making it hard to control as you try to keep your tips up and out of the snow. The solution to this in the past has always been to maintain a wider stance in powder and to slow it down a bit. Fortunately now you can use your Spatula to dish out a good spanking to that Unstable Hooker and Pool Cover. The reverse side cut of the Spatulas immediately sets you afloat on top of the snow allowing you to initiate turns and negotioate everything you encounter much more easiliy without having to labor through it. Reverse side cut also eliminates the instabilities commonly encountered with shaped skis in the soft snow. You will notice little or nor Unstable Hookers and you will be able to enjoy a much more relaxed stance in variable snow and at high speeds.

You will also notice that the Spatulas feel much lighter while on your feet than other skis of similar surface area. Try swinging them from sided to side while on the lift. This effect is created by the reverse side cut. It gives them a very light swing weight. Normal skis with side cut have a weight distribtuion which puts the bulk of the skis at the tips and tails. The Spatulas are the opposite. The bulk is at the waist. The Spatulas are a lot of ski and there is a lot down there stuck to your feet. However, they feel much lighter and more maneuverable than you can imagine.

Decamber

On normal skis camber is used to add power and extra pressure to the tip and tail of the ski. This gives the ski stability, strength, and helps it inititate a turn. It also adds power through the arc of the turn. This is true, ON HARD SNOW! In soft snow it has these negative effects: 1. “The Sunken Plow” - Tips and tails are constantly trying to dive down into the snow. No matter how much you load up the skis with pressure or how soft the skis are the tips still always want to dive lower than the waist of the skis. This causes excessive unweighting or bouncing and leaning back onto your tails. It puts you in an unbalanced position. The point is to get up and out of the snow not down in it. 2. “Franz” - Skis will only ever turn by carving. Skis will not in any way be made to slide. Tips and tails during unweighting are always lower than the center of the skis prohibiting any attempt at a slide. Throwing the skis sideways in anyway will end in a caught outside edge followed by a quick whiplash onto your side. The Spatula’s decamber will prevent most Sunken Plow situations depending on the skiers weight. The lighter you are, the more you will benefit from the decamber. You will notice that you will not need to lean back on your skis in the powder nearly as much as you would on normal skis. This will allow you to stand upright and attack the mountain much more efficiently. Having the option to eliminate the Franz carve from your powder skiing will open up a whole new world for you. Try sliding a bit sideways as you finish your turn. Remember to stand on both feet. Try doing a long slide instead of doing a turn at all. Skiers constantly link one turn to the next in powder because in the past we lacked the ability and technology to slide. It also has traditionally been considered proper style to make identical, consecutive linked turns down a powder slope. Now you have the option to carve, slide, crab sideways, hockey stop, and basically use the slope in many creative ways instead of such a limited traditional style.



How to ski your Spatulas on hard snow.

These skis are not versatile. I will make no attempts to fool you, as all ski manufacturers typically do, into thinking that you can use these skis in all kinds of snow conditions. They are made specifically for the many types of soft snow. Powder, suncrust, wind affect, deep, shallow, light and heavy. They are not designed to be primarily skied on ice or most types of hard snow. Of course you will frequently find yourself skiing on some sort of hard snow even on a powder day. It may be on the groomer going back to the lift or you may hit a hard patch or a mogul along the way. Not to worry. They can be easily managed in any situation. You just have to know how to do it. The first quiestion that absolutely everyone always asks me is : “Yeah, but how well do they work on the groomer?” The most accurate analogy I have come up with is that they work about as well on the groomer as a pair of GS skis work in the powder. Manageable but not great. However, I am confident that the satisfaction and pleasure which you will receive from the powder intended qualities of these skis will soon make the issue of Spatula performance on hard snow nonexistent. When the situation demands that you ski your Spatulas on the groomer or hard snow it is very important that you remember two things: 1. Stand on both feet. 2. Initiate turns by sliding. Think of it this way. When initiating a turn using skis with side cut you simply roll the ski on edge and the tip of the ski catches the snow and depending on how much pressure you give it the ski either carves around fast or slowly. No matter what, the ski will turn. This is not so with the Spatula. They have the opposite shape. They were not designed to carve on hard snow. They were designed to slide and carve in soft snow. You will need to train your mind to think slide not carve especially when on the groomer. A ski with reverse sidecut if forced to carve on hard snow will perform exactly the opposite task as a ski with side cut. Try it, you’ll see. Start the turn like you normally would. Weight forward shifting to the downhill ski, add pressure to the tip of the downhill ski, follow through with more pressure on the downhill ski through the turn and your downhill ski tracks off in the wrong direction and you fall onto your uphill ski! It won’t work! You must initiate your turns on both feet and by sliding them around! After you have begun your turn by sliding you will notice that you can actually finish the turn by carving once you are on your tails if you want. The tails of the Spatulas will catch and you can carve the end of the turn. It all sounds weird I know, but just remember this and try it a couple times on the groomed and you will probably get the hang of it in one run. Remember! Your’re a slider, not a carver!



How the Spatula was born.

Back in 1996 the ski industry was just beginning to go through two revolutionary discoveries. The invention of shaped skis and the popularization of fat skis for soft snow. As we all know now fat skis have totally changed the way we ski powder and shaped skis have totally changed skiing on harder snow. As manufactuters began to experiment with massive side cuts for carving the groomer and the race course it was only natural for people to want to test out these new shaped skis. At the same time skiers were also just beginning to to realize the benefits of fat skis in powder. Back then I had also recently made the switch from skiing on traditional skis to the very fat (at the time) Volant Chubb. I was spending my time marveling over the benefits of fat skis in most snow conditions. Then I decided to try out the new shaped skis in the soft snow. Since the quatlities of fat skis were so fresh on my mind all the time I was immediately able to recognize how horrible side cut is for soft snow. If I had been skiing on traditional skis all year like most everyone else this revelation may not even have happened.

During the summer of 96 at a bar in Las Lenas Argentina while hanging out with some friends I quickly sketched a picture of some fat skis with reverse sidecut onto a beer napkin. We all spoke about it and of course some even laughed at the idea. I took the napkin home and kept it in my “Cool and funny stuff “ file in my cabinet for about 2 years never really esxpecting that any ski company would bite on the idea. In the mean time as ski companies started making their shaped fat skis with all this side cut I remained skiing on fat skis with minimal side cut trying to milk as much flotation and control as possible.

Then in 1998 the Volant design engineers came out to Squaw Valley. The plan was to test out some new shaped fat skis that they wanted to make with a bunch of my friends and knowledgeable skiers. These new skis were basically a Volant Chubb with more side cut. We tested them against many skis including our old, used for a year Chubbs. Yes, they were more versatile and could be used to carve easier turns on the groomed but in the powder they still were more work than skis with minimal side cut. Then Scott Gaffney, who was one of the testers, decided to open his mouth and suggest a concept which is probably the most important yet now seeming so obvious discoveries in powder ski technology. He said, “I think my old, dead, decambered Chubbs float better in the snow than those ones with new ski life and camber.” And then the light bulb flashed on. I dug up my old beer napkin and began pondering the concept. I thought about hard snow and soft snow and began copmparing the similarities of powder to water. I realized that the effects of riding on powder snow would be very similar to riding on water. Water skis have reverse side cut. So do surf boards. and they both have decamber or rocker.

Over the course of the next two years I would talk to people about how cool it would be to have skis with decamber and reverse side cut specifically for powder. Almost everyone I mentioned the idea to would either laugh or politely smile. All except for Scott and JT Holmes and a few others. I never really pushed the idea to Volant very hard because I assumed that no one would listen. Nobody buys powder only skis. The industry already lost on that bet. The skis that sell are the all mountain carver that are so versatile right? Right. No one wants to buy more than one pair of skis. So why even attempt to make something that a ski shop can’t even sell? So nothing happened for 2 years. Finally after stewing over it for too long I began talking to the design engineers at Volant about just going for it and jury rigging a pair or two together in the shop in their spare time. If it wasn’t for the hard work and extra after hours put in by Ryan Carroll and Pete Turner in the Volant factory the first and only four pairs would never have been made in the summer of 2001.

The first prototype arrived at my doorstep in August. Soon afterwards I packed up my beautiful, shimmering, new steel Spatulas and flew down to New Zealand to work on a film project. As I am a very spoiled preofessional skier we were heli skiing the whole time and I got to test them out. They immediately blew my mind. Everything was so easy. No more leaning back to prevent tip diving. No more boot sink. I couldn’t believe it. I ran straight to the phone and called Volant over seas and spewed my guts raving for 45 minutes about how great they are.

Unfortunately, when I got home I got the news that Volant was going to be sold to another company and that everyone was getting canned. No one was going to be able to put any time into making more Spatulas. There were four pairs in existence on the planet with no foreseeable solution. I held on to three of them and Ryan Carroll held on to one single ski fo the remaining pair. The other single ski went on tour with the new Volant to help promote the Spatula concept if and when we ever got it together enough to start making them again.

Luckily as time would tell Volant got back up on its feet and contracted the Atomic factory in Austria to make all its skis. Perfect! Atomic makes great skis and their standards are nothing short of excellent. They also happen to be the company who first made super fat powder skis back in the 80’s. The Atomic Powder Plus or “Fat Boy” is today still considered one of the best powder skis ever made by many western skiers. Peter Turner and I then pushed for some budget money to be spent on creating around 300 pairs of Spatulas to be made in the Atomic factory.

The powers that be thought it over. Powder specific skis? They won’t sell very fast. If we are lucky we will break even with these skis. But they are revolutionary. They will change the way people think about skiing powder, the most enjoyable type of skiing. They will open up a whole new world for people. It’s a big risk, but what great idea isn’t? Everyone said yes and the project was a go. Now as I sit here and write this it’s October 2002 and Volant is making the first batch of the greatest powder skis ever. I can’t wait for it to start snowing and for a small part of 300 people’s lives to change! Have fun on your new Spatulas! And remember, if someone makes fun of them, there are no friends on a powder day! You don’t have to wait for their slow ass. Good luck!



Shane McConkey
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
A standard sidecut is not needed for the ski to assume a curved shape in soft snow. To understand this imagine the ski upside down. Imagine the ski sitting upside down on a post at the binding area. Now imagine that you are loading bricks along it's base. The tip and tail will bend down due to the load of the bricks. The whole ski is being pushed down, but isn't allowed to move down at the post. The farther away from the post, the more deflection you will get, just like a double canti-lever beam. This is how the ski is loaded when skiing in soft snow; your foot acts as the post, the snow acts as the bricks and the ski is curved.
Ok, so if the sidecut isn't needed in soft snow, then why are manufacturers coming out with these bizarre reverse sidecut models? It sounds like you should be able to strap some sufficiently flexible 2x4's to your feet and ski powder just fine.
post #10 of 23
Good question KevinF and by extension, if sidecut doesn't make the ski carve in powder, why do people complain about skis with "too much" sidecut being "hooky" in powder?
post #11 of 23
KevinF - I think that the point in the quote by Ghost means you don't need the sidecut to turn in powder, as in you can turn in powder EITHER with it or without it. If you are doing what I think of as "surfing" the powder, then you don't need the sidecut. When I say surfing, I'm thinking of a skier with two feet working together - in a turn to the left, the ski surface under the boots is parallel, so the left boot is deeper in the powder.

Now Epic - I think that when people say a ski is too "hooky" in powder, perhaps they are skiing more traditionally (modern 2-footed technique), and one of the individual skis is being overpressured ?

I'm just thinking out loud - by no means an expert in powder or fat skis - but I'd be interested to see what others think.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
Ok, so if the sidecut isn't needed in soft snow, then why are manufacturers coming out with these bizarre reverse sidecut models? It sounds like you should be able to strap some sufficiently flexible 2x4's to your feet and ski powder just fine.
Read the quoted McConkey text above. It's all there.

The whole point is to help "sliding" versus traditional carving. Reverse cambered skis can "slide" sideways as well as to go straight down, even on soft surfaces (or actually especially on them too).

Ever tried hockey stopping at full speed in powder? That's why.
Ever wondered why those old beaten up Pocket Rockets work so damn well on soft snow...that's why (--> extreme softness make them decamber almost by themselves)

Btw. Gordy Peifer was doing what he called something like "sideways decleration turn" in some old TGR film few years ago...going towards a narrowing chute from an open powder field at mach 3, then letting skis go totally sideways for a few metres in the beginning of the chute (where there wasn't any room left for wide turns!), sliding atop on powder snow, making needed braking to hit the end of the narrow chute comfortably. Pretty impressive, on some 85-90mm middle skis! --> To put it simple, the point of the decamber is to help that kind of moves for "everyone".

Snowboarders have done similar things for ages...and that's the whole point of riding pow on a board..to get rid of the need to stay in the fall line. Skiers are finally getting to a point where you can turn traditionally, go sideways, open up the turns away from the fall line, "slash cut backs", use terrain features much more etc. Watch any snowboard big mountain flick, and you understand what I'm saying (etc. Jeremy Jones on TGR flicks).

I'd say it's even a zen-like thing. When you've mastered carving, it's time to get rid of it... (and all the best big mountain skiers / boarders I've seen live use "sliding" techniques quite alot...carving is good on open wide stuff, but think about steep spines, steep stuff with lots of terrain features, trees, variable terrain with the need of quick speed changes etc.)

EDIT: Ok, you could probably do that on "sufficiently flexible" 2X4 but why not to go all the way and design special tools for the most fun skiing - powder? What's wrong with that?
post #13 of 23
^^^GREAT POST^^^

"...when you've mastered carving it's time to get rid of it..." pure genius.

Skiing is about fun, powder skiing is fun, these new shapes are supposed to make powder skiing more fun for more people. In the same way that shape let int. skiers carve and width helped adv. skiers explore off-piste, these skis MIGHT help skiers enjoy soft snow skiing more. The pros can do a lot of the things these skis allow on more traditional gear these just make it easier and more fluid for the rest of us.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
why do people complain about skis with "too much" sidecut being "hooky" in powder?
IMO, I'm not a big fan of skis with a lot of traditional sidecut in powder because of the "hooky" feeling you mention above that can occur in skis with greater ammounts of sidecut.

Everyone's mileage may vary a bit, but when I'm skiing powder, I'm generally not the type to bounce the same, slow, short radius turns all the way to the bottom (think Powder 8's), but I have more fun by getting the ski up on top of the snow and maching larger GS turns (think wide, Snowboard type turns). I also like to take air on powder days, which lends itself to lots of high-speed run outs in powder fields. A ski with lots of traditional sidecut doesn't allow me to this as easily as a straighter fat ski or one with reverse camber.

Reason being that, because I enjoy big arcs & speed in powder and would rather the skis plane on top of it, rather than sink down in it, I want my powder skis to have some of the following characteristics:

-If I'm on a traditionally shaped ski (in my case, 188 Bro Models), I'm going to want something that's relatively straight (think turn radius in the 30M+ range) and I also want the ski to have at least a difference of 10 mm between the tip width and the tail width (in the case of the Bro Model this difference is 11 mm as it has a 125mm tip and 114mm tail). This tip-to-tail "taper" amount helps the tail of the ski sink in soft snow popping the tip of the ski up (pretty much the intended puropose of a swallowtail), allowing you to get a more aggressive stance on the ski w/o worry of the tip diving. On a ski with a lot more sidecut, or with tip-to-tail taper of less than 10 mm, or with a ski with tighter turn radius, the ski wants to make its natural shaped arc in the snow (the hooky feeling) which I'm generally fighting against because of my powder skiing style.

-If I'm on a "new age" powder ski (to use the term in the thread title), I'm going to be surfing on top of the snow, and all the stuff about tip-to-tail taper, turn radius, etc I mentioned above gets thrown out the window. Shane McConkey's explanation above is probably the best description of how these skis works so I'm not even going to try and one-up that, but I can say that these skis are useful in a wider array of conditions than most people think.

I spent sometime on Spatulas before I sold them on got some DP Lotus 138's last season (192 cm, flex 2, 140-138-139 published dimensions). And while these skis are amazing in powder for the reasons McConkey explained detailed above, they're also great in breakable crust, heavy mank, and virtually any off-piste condition. I've literally skied runs that went from powder up high to breakable crust toward the bottom....and while on my Lotus's, I was able to carry the same speed out of the powder into the crust without missing a beat, slowing down, backing down, or changing my skiing style. The reverse camber of the ski, allows the ski to plane on top of the snow surface which greatly levels the playing field in variable conditions.

Also, the Lotus's dimensions could easily be extended to include another sit of dimensions for the tip & tail. Although DP publishes 140-138-139...this really doesn't tell the whole story of the ski....as the tip is way less than 140 and the tail is way less than 139. Like the Armada ARG, 5 sets of numbers are best to describe it....i.e. the Lotus 138 is probably something like 120-140-138-139-125 round abouts (didn't go out and measure them). This narrower, torpedo shaped tip having the widest part of the ski just behind it works in conjunction with the reverse camber to pop that tip of the ski up on top of the snow and keep it there. It really is amazing. I've never skied powder at "groomer speeds" until I got on this ski, and it really lets you do some amazing things with natural terrain features that just wouldn't possible on traditionally shaped skis.

It's a great time to be a skier these days with all these new shapes coming out and all of this experimentation going on.
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
It's a great time to be a skier these days with all these new shapes coming out and all of this experimentation going on.
Its an even better time to be sponsored

Great write up. This really helps to visualize the feel of these new skis. Sure wish there were some around to test drive. They don't come cheap.
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 
Tyrone -- awesome writeup! Now that made sense.
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiteroom View Post
^^^GREAT POST^^^

"...when you've mastered carving it's time to get rid of it..." pure genius.
Thanks.

But actually I've just lurked too much on the TGR forums, and read about the antics of Tyrone & the likes...

So, Tyrone really nailed the issue. Not much more to say!

PS. I still like some sidecut too...currently on Big Stix and Seth Pistols...I guess here in Euro-land every run involves so variable snow conditions that it's much easier to live with some turning radius on your skis (and thus enjoy all the traverses, groomers, hard snow patches etc. involved) If I could choose some of the "new age" skis freely, I would take these...seems like perfect compromise with some moderate sidecut and slide/schmear cabability:

http://backcountryblog.blogspot.com/...4frnt-ehp.html
post #18 of 23
Returning to the upside down beam supported in the middle, with a perfectly straight ski and completely uniform material, you get the ski bent into a curve with both ends deflecting equally downwards. The force acting on the ski from the snow load for the most part is perpendicular to the base. You can change the shape and the direction of these forces by decreasing stiffness; a stiff tail will cause the tips to sink for example.

You also can increase the load at the tip/tail by having a wider tip/tail than waist. On hard snow this shape not only affects carved turn shape, it digs in more when scarving. On soft snow this shape causes the top to presure more snow. Force is pressure times area. Having more force farther away from your feet is much harder to manage because the torque it exerts about any point is force times distance from the that point.
post #19 of 23

I've been doing some reading about the differences between early rise tip/tail, rocker and reverse camber, which is how I came up with this thread in my search. 

 Shane McConkey's  quote was very interesting............

Quote:
Originally Posted by philippeR View Post

In Shane McConkey words : They don't carve, indeed.

Important! Read this before you ski on your new Spatulas. Keep this guide so that you can refer back to it after you have tried the Spatulas. It will help remind you of certain things you will need to know.

Congratulations! You have just purchased the most progressive invention in the history of powder skiing since the original fat skis were invented. These skis will change the way you thought you were supposed to ski powder, minimize the effort you put into your skiing, and greatly improve your powder skiing experience. The following is meant to give you some idea of what the Spatulas are all about, why they are shaped the way they are and how to ski them. First of all, in order to clear your mind and attempt to make sense of all this, take most everything you have ever learned about skiing and stick it where the sun don't shine. Or at least in the garage next to your shaped skis. Why? Because: Sidecut is not good in powder. Camber is not good in powder. Carving is not necessary in powder. Simply put, if you want to maximize your abilities in soft snow you do not want to use the same tool as you would on any kind of hard, groomed, or compacted snow.

How to ski your new Spatulas As you well know your new Spatulas have a very unique almost bizarre shape. It is important for you to understand the adjustments to your skiing technique you will need to make in order to ski them well. Don't worry! It's easy. Many people may get intimidated by the progressive shape of the Spatula and think that it takes an expert to know how to manage them. Not true. These skis will make powder skiing much easier for even the least experienced beginners. Actually the opposite concepts explained here will be much easier for a beginner to grasp than an expert conditioned to use their skis the way they always have. The expert will have to open their mind and be prepared for some very differnt concepts. Or simply, they must floss their brain!

Ski on both feet! Put your weight a bit more on two feet throughout the turn instead of mostly on your downhill ski. This will help you stay afloat and facilitate sliding when you need to. You will also be able to load up your downhill ski as you normally would in most soft snow situations but knowing how and when to use both feet will greatly increase your abilities with the Spatulas. Suncrust and wind affected snow are prime examples of when to use both feet. In these conditions the Spatulas will blow your mind. Normally these conditions would require you to slow down and be very careful not to hook a tip. Not anymore. Ski on two feet and let er rip.

Open it up! Your powder skiing is about to change dramatically. It will become much easier for you to maintain control at higher speeds. If you were the type of powder skier who used to make lots of slow, little bouncing up and down turns then you need to try and go faster. Open it up and go for it! You can still milk the powder slowly if you want but after you get the hang of hauling ass you won't want to putt around anymore.

Slide instead of carve! Yes, believe it or not this is something that you should be trying to do in the powder. Sliding will be the most difficult of Spatula techniques to learn but you should be able to get the idea in time. Even if you never attempt to learn slides you will still be able to blow doors on everyone else without the Spatulas. Who knows, you might just naturally start doing them anyway. The more dense and compacted the snow is the easier it will be to perform slides. Sliding will greatly improve your maneuverability and control. Begin your powder turn and then instead of hitting your edges hard to carve a turn, stand up on two feet and let your skis slide or skid diagonally across the fall line. It will be harder to perform a slide directly down the fall line. Start off doing them diagonally.

Trade skis with a friend for a run. Just to compare what you used to ski on with what you have now, I guarantee you will only try this once and then you will keep your Spatulas for yourself!

Flotation and sliding. In order to better understand why the Spatulas are so efficient the two most important concepts to grasp are floation and sliding. In a ski world where everyone is constantly thinking power, pressure and carving it may seem like a crazy concept to accept almost the opposite theory. Then again, soft snow is pretty much the opposite of hard snow. Retraining your mind that sliding not carving is actually a good thing is a very hard concept for many people to swallow. A ski which is fat under foot will float much more than a ski which is narrow under foot. A ski with reverse sidecut will give the skier the ability to slide their turns where as side cut will force the skier to sink and carve. Reverse side cut combined with decamber immediately puts the tip and tail higher than the waist of the ski as well as pulls the edges of the ski away from the snow leaving the point of first contact with the snow at the waist of the ski. When you set you skis sideways to start a slide there is much less ski at the tip and tail to catch the snow and prevent the slide. It also helps to eliminate catching your downhill edges and stuffing it. The Spatulas are also twin tipped. This helps immensely for initiation of the slide. Expert skiers can use the twin tip to ski and land backwards if they wish. Skiing backwards in powder will be surprisingly easy compared to any other twin tipped powder ski. In virtually all situations you will still be able to carve your turns. the Spatulas simply give you the option to initiate a slide or to scrub speed by sliding similar to how you would do it on a groomer. Why is it so easy for snowboarders to scrub speed in the powder? Why is it so easy for them to make turns and go fast when skiers are laboring slowly down the hill? Why do snowboarders use less energy than skiers in the powder? It is a simple matter of flotation. Snowboarders are always on top of the snow. Skiers are mostly down in it. The Spatulas will give you all the benefits of snowboardings floatation and ease as well as satisfaction in the fact that you are actually on skis and still have all the luxuries and mobility options that skiing offers.

Reverse Side Cut For normal skis side cut is used to make it easier to turn. You simply roll the ski on edge, add some pressure to the ski and it carves around. In recent years ski manufacturers have been adding significant amounts of side cut to their skis greatly facilitating the experience for everyone. This is true. ON HARD SNOW! In powder or soft snow side cut creates two distinct negative effects. 1. "The Pool Cover" - Your weight is directly on top of the narrowest part of the ski. this type of weight distribution immediately puts you in a sinking into the snow situation similar to what happens to the pool cover when you try to run across it. this causes your tips and tails to float but the center of your skis where all the weight is sinks, bogs down and then you must plow through the snow. You will be forced to carve every turn and expend a lot of energy bounding in and out of the snow. Sinking/carving=bad, floating/sliding=good. 2. "The Unstable Hooker" - Skis become very unstable and much more difficult to control. In sun crust or wind affect you may have noticed the occasional Unstable Hooker. This is when you start a turn and your downhill ski hooks fast and hard up and across your uphill ski. You cross your tips, step on your downhill ski with your uphill and then stuff your face into the mountain. Or at high speeds you may have noticed your skis trying to swim around a bit making it hard to control as you try to keep your tips up and out of the snow. The solution to this in the past has always been to maintain a wider stance in powder and to slow it down a bit. Fortunately now you can use your Spatula to dish out a good spanking to that Unstable Hooker and Pool Cover. The reverse side cut of the Spatulas immediately sets you afloat on top of the snow allowing you to initiate turns and negotioate everything you encounter much more easiliy without having to labor through it. Reverse side cut also eliminates the instabilities commonly encountered with shaped skis in the soft snow. You will notice little or nor Unstable Hookers and you will be able to enjoy a much more relaxed stance in variable snow and at high speeds.

You will also notice that the Spatulas feel much lighter while on your feet than other skis of similar surface area. Try swinging them from sided to side while on the lift. This effect is created by the reverse side cut. It gives them a very light swing weight. Normal skis with side cut have a weight distribtuion which puts the bulk of the skis at the tips and tails. The Spatulas are the opposite. The bulk is at the waist. The Spatulas are a lot of ski and there is a lot down there stuck to your feet. However, they feel much lighter and more maneuverable than you can imagine.

Decamber

On normal skis camber is used to add power and extra pressure to the tip and tail of the ski. This gives the ski stability, strength, and helps it inititate a turn. It also adds power through the arc of the turn. This is true, ON HARD SNOW! In soft snow it has these negative effects: 1. “The Sunken Plow” - Tips and tails are constantly trying to dive down into the snow. No matter how much you load up the skis with pressure or how soft the skis are the tips still always want to dive lower than the waist of the skis. This causes excessive unweighting or bouncing and leaning back onto your tails. It puts you in an unbalanced position. The point is to get up and out of the snow not down in it. 2. “Franz” - Skis will only ever turn by carving. Skis will not in any way be made to slide. Tips and tails during unweighting are always lower than the center of the skis prohibiting any attempt at a slide. Throwing the skis sideways in anyway will end in a caught outside edge followed by a quick whiplash onto your side. The Spatula’s decamber will prevent most Sunken Plow situations depending on the skiers weight. The lighter you are, the more you will benefit from the decamber. You will notice that you will not need to lean back on your skis in the powder nearly as much as you would on normal skis. This will allow you to stand upright and attack the mountain much more efficiently. Having the option to eliminate the Franz carve from your powder skiing will open up a whole new world for you. Try sliding a bit sideways as you finish your turn. Remember to stand on both feet. Try doing a long slide instead of doing a turn at all. Skiers constantly link one turn to the next in powder because in the past we lacked the ability and technology to slide. It also has traditionally been considered proper style to make identical, consecutive linked turns down a powder slope. Now you have the option to carve, slide, crab sideways, hockey stop, and basically use the slope in many creative ways instead of such a limited traditional style.



How to ski your Spatulas on hard snow.

These skis are not versatile. I will make no attempts to fool you, as all ski manufacturers typically do, into thinking that you can use these skis in all kinds of snow conditions. They are made specifically for the many types of soft snow. Powder, suncrust, wind affect, deep, shallow, light and heavy. They are not designed to be primarily skied on ice or most types of hard snow. Of course you will frequently find yourself skiing on some sort of hard snow even on a powder day. It may be on the groomer going back to the lift or you may hit a hard patch or a mogul along the way. Not to worry. They can be easily managed in any situation. You just have to know how to do it. The first quiestion that absolutely everyone always asks me is : “Yeah, but how well do they work on the groomer?” The most accurate analogy I have come up with is that they work about as well on the groomer as a pair of GS skis work in the powder. Manageable but not great. However, I am confident that the satisfaction and pleasure which you will receive from the powder intended qualities of these skis will soon make the issue of Spatula performance on hard snow nonexistent. When the situation demands that you ski your Spatulas on the groomer or hard snow it is very important that you remember two things: 1. Stand on both feet. 2. Initiate turns by sliding. Think of it this way. When initiating a turn using skis with side cut you simply roll the ski on edge and the tip of the ski catches the snow and depending on how much pressure you give it the ski either carves around fast or slowly. No matter what, the ski will turn. This is not so with the Spatula. They have the opposite shape. They were not designed to carve on hard snow. They were designed to slide and carve in soft snow. You will need to train your mind to think slide not carve especially when on the groomer. A ski with reverse sidecut if forced to carve on hard snow will perform exactly the opposite task as a ski with side cut. Try it, you’ll see. Start the turn like you normally would. Weight forward shifting to the downhill ski, add pressure to the tip of the downhill ski, follow through with more pressure on the downhill ski through the turn and your downhill ski tracks off in the wrong direction and you fall onto your uphill ski! It won’t work! You must initiate your turns on both feet and by sliding them around! After you have begun your turn by sliding you will notice that you can actually finish the turn by carving once you are on your tails if you want. The tails of the Spatulas will catch and you can carve the end of the turn. It all sounds weird I know, but just remember this and try it a couple times on the groomed and you will probably get the hang of it in one run. Remember! Your’re a slider, not a carver!



How the Spatula was born.

Back in 1996 the ski industry was just beginning to go through two revolutionary discoveries. The invention of shaped skis and the popularization of fat skis for soft snow. As we all know now fat skis have totally changed the way we ski powder and shaped skis have totally changed skiing on harder snow. As manufactuters began to experiment with massive side cuts for carving the groomer and the race course it was only natural for people to want to test out these new shaped skis. At the same time skiers were also just beginning to to realize the benefits of fat skis in powder. Back then I had also recently made the switch from skiing on traditional skis to the very fat (at the time) Volant Chubb. I was spending my time marveling over the benefits of fat skis in most snow conditions. Then I decided to try out the new shaped skis in the soft snow. Since the quatlities of fat skis were so fresh on my mind all the time I was immediately able to recognize how horrible side cut is for soft snow. If I had been skiing on traditional skis all year like most everyone else this revelation may not even have happened.

During the summer of 96 at a bar in Las Lenas Argentina while hanging out with some friends I quickly sketched a picture of some fat skis with reverse sidecut onto a beer napkin. We all spoke about it and of course some even laughed at the idea. I took the napkin home and kept it in my “Cool and funny stuff “ file in my cabinet for about 2 years never really esxpecting that any ski company would bite on the idea. In the mean time as ski companies started making their shaped fat skis with all this side cut I remained skiing on fat skis with minimal side cut trying to milk as much flotation and control as possible.

Then in 1998 the Volant design engineers came out to Squaw Valley. The plan was to test out some new shaped fat skis that they wanted to make with a bunch of my friends and knowledgeable skiers. These new skis were basically a Volant Chubb with more side cut. We tested them against many skis including our old, used for a year Chubbs. Yes, they were more versatile and could be used to carve easier turns on the groomed but in the powder they still were more work than skis with minimal side cut. Then Scott Gaffney, who was one of the testers, decided to open his mouth and suggest a concept which is probably the most important yet now seeming so obvious discoveries in powder ski technology. He said, “I think my old, dead, decambered Chubbs float better in the snow than those ones with new ski life and camber.” And then the light bulb flashed on. I dug up my old beer napkin and began pondering the concept. I thought about hard snow and soft snow and began copmparing the similarities of powder to water. I realized that the effects of riding on powder snow would be very similar to riding on water. Water skis have reverse side cut. So do surf boards. and they both have decamber or rocker.

Over the course of the next two years I would talk to people about how cool it would be to have skis with decamber and reverse side cut specifically for powder. Almost everyone I mentioned the idea to would either laugh or politely smile. All except for Scott and JT Holmes and a few others. I never really pushed the idea to Volant very hard because I assumed that no one would listen. Nobody buys powder only skis. The industry already lost on that bet. The skis that sell are the all mountain carver that are so versatile right? Right. No one wants to buy more than one pair of skis. So why even attempt to make something that a ski shop can’t even sell? So nothing happened for 2 years. Finally after stewing over it for too long I began talking to the design engineers at Volant about just going for it and jury rigging a pair or two together in the shop in their spare time. If it wasn’t for the hard work and extra after hours put in by Ryan Carroll and Pete Turner in the Volant factory the first and only four pairs would never have been made in the summer of 2001.

The first prototype arrived at my doorstep in August. Soon afterwards I packed up my beautiful, shimmering, new steel Spatulas and flew down to New Zealand to work on a film project. As I am a very spoiled preofessional skier we were heli skiing the whole time and I got to test them out. They immediately blew my mind. Everything was so easy. No more leaning back to prevent tip diving. No more boot sink. I couldn’t believe it. I ran straight to the phone and called Volant over seas and spewed my guts raving for 45 minutes about how great they are.

Unfortunately, when I got home I got the news that Volant was going to be sold to another company and that everyone was getting canned. No one was going to be able to put any time into making more Spatulas. There were four pairs in existence on the planet with no foreseeable solution. I held on to three of them and Ryan Carroll held on to one single ski fo the remaining pair. The other single ski went on tour with the new Volant to help promote the Spatula concept if and when we ever got it together enough to start making them again.

Luckily as time would tell Volant got back up on its feet and contracted the Atomic factory in Austria to make all its skis. Perfect! Atomic makes great skis and their standards are nothing short of excellent. They also happen to be the company who first made super fat powder skis back in the 80’s. The Atomic Powder Plus or “Fat Boy” is today still considered one of the best powder skis ever made by many western skiers. Peter Turner and I then pushed for some budget money to be spent on creating around 300 pairs of Spatulas to be made in the Atomic factory.

The powers that be thought it over. Powder specific skis? They won’t sell very fast. If we are lucky we will break even with these skis. But they are revolutionary. They will change the way people think about skiing powder, the most enjoyable type of skiing. They will open up a whole new world for people. It’s a big risk, but what great idea isn’t? Everyone said yes and the project was a go. Now as I sit here and write this it’s October 2002 and Volant is making the first batch of the greatest powder skis ever. I can’t wait for it to start snowing and for a small part of 300 people’s lives to change! Have fun on your new Spatulas! And remember, if someone makes fun of them, there are no friends on a powder day! You don’t have to wait for their slow ass. Good luck!



Shane McConkey

 

post #20 of 23

To the OP who skis ice--

 

I grew up racing in MN on slalom sticks with very little sidecut in the 80's. Our slalom turns were at the time termed 'carved' turns in that the tip led the shape of the turn. Remember ruts in the courses? They had a fan-like shape to them throughout the turn. 'Arcing' slalom turns was essentially impossible. Even Tomba sprayed snow.

 

Our coach used to have us race in side-slips for training. We would line up side-by-side on the steepest/iciest run and race sideways down to the bottom. This gave us edge-control. It taught us to ski our bases more than our edges. It taught us to slarve.

 

In my 30 years of skiing I have recently realized that modern reverse/reverse skis in pow feel more like slalom skis of the eighties on ice than anything else. (minus the noise, the vibrations, and the effort.) It's the exact same movement.

 

What happened to the industry, though, is the carving ski revolution. 15 years ago we all started arcing perfect turns with no snow spraying from our tails. Ironically, this is what skis have always been trying to do. But, Shane and the spat brought us back to our roots.

 

I ski my mavens with the exact same butter-knife movements as I did my Hart Comp SL's and my Fischer RC Vacuums 20 years ago on bullet-proof groomers. And- I think that is where the "Carving in Pow" debate is coming from. Purists (aka Arcers) forgot what it was like to haul ass sideways while just ever-so-slightly instigating the edge to change direction.

 

I find it quite hilarious, actually, how much skiing fresh trees is like running an old slalom course. The muscle movements are identical in that any up-and-down/extension movements result in higher angles and not deeper snow penetration.

 

Furthermore, Tomba used to complain when his skis were too sharp (aka hooky) because it slowed him down. Tomba was a slarving master. He skied his bases. Reverse camber makes skiing your bases easier in 3D snow... as per Shane's request.

 

With that in mind, Saucer Boy seems like quite the pinnacle of the sport. Pure base and no edges.


 

 

post #21 of 23

 

 

post #22 of 23

 Quote:

Originally Posted by Whiteroom View Post

 

 


As usual, Whiteroom's understanding is so perfect, he doesn't even need words. 

 

Trekchick, would strongly advocate making Shane's explanation into a sticky. First, because it does a better job of getting into this stuff than most of our long winded reinventions of the wheel. Second, obvious. 

post #23 of 23

 


The skier also ariseth, and the skier goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiteroom View Post

 

 

 

 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

 Quote:


Trekchick, would strongly advocate making Shane's explanation into a sticky. First, because it does a better job of getting into this stuff than most of our long winded reinventions of the wheel.

 

 

There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

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