"Racing skis - what's the deal?"
If I may be permitted to add my $0.02 worth:
I find race skis to be a good challenge. And good for your skiing if you learn to use them.
Most SL and GS are perfectly OK to ski recreationally, provided you give them some respect. And you won't be let down by the ski if you want to amp it up. You can also impress your mates (If so inclined) in the Powder/bumps/park/pipe as they are more of a challenge there.
I don't think Super-G or Downhill boards are practical for public slopes. (They are really impressive for standing with in the cable-car, though). Basically, they are designed to be stable at speed and really need to be going faster than a Club skier can ski before they can be bent into a curve. If you watch the speed-event teams training on the glacier they have several safety marshalls all radioed-up all down the course to ensure a clear track. You occasionally hear of a racer colliding with a marshal. That's frequently fatal. Super-G and Downhill involve speeds of double that of GS. Downhillers at Wengen are touching 100mph. A sky diver is going only 30mph faster than that.
In most competition sports, there are the "Works Teams" where the pro's are issued with special equipment - not retail products.
You'll see works teams from Yamaha in Motorcycling, or Jaguar in GT Racing. These machines bear only the most basic resemblance to production types.
It's the same in skiing Racing.
Like "Primoz" already said, There are race skis and Race Skis!
There are "Cheater" models that have the race graphics, but you can tell from the side-cut radius, width under-foot and the length that they couldn't be used for racing in a FIS competition. Some of these Cheater Skis are great skis, though.
For all round the mountain especially if you are on an instructor training course, I'd pick Rossi 9X Oversize 185 any day of the week. They will give you that accuracy on the icy carve, allow race tuning, but have the width underfoot to look after you in the variable and the deep.
Then there are Proper Race skis. They are designed specifically for the race track, not for the deep, but if you take the race plate off them they make pretty good general purpose skis.Factory
I find Factory SL and GS Skis from Fischer excellent.
Factory Skis are skis we get direct from the factory. They were from batches made for the race teams. The teams select-on-test and reject the ones that aren't perfect. (They're the ones we get!). They come with 0.5 degree base-bevel and 88 Degree side-edge cut.Race Stock
Some of the top Team racers get 90 pairs of skis each a year to race on. All different tunings and waxings. At the end of the season, they sell them on. These, I call "Race Stock". They were tuned and used for racing. You'll be lucky to get your hands on a good pair.
Standard "Shop" Volkl and Stoekli GS and SL skis are said to be Factory skis - or as good-as. That is, these manufacturers don't make a 'punter' ski filled with polystyrene foam and put racey graphics on them and call them "Race-Carver": the same quality of ski is sold for recreation as is made for race.
K2 skis are usually a solid choice too with their wood core.
Salomon Race department skis are known as "Race Lab" skis. You can usually tell by the Technician's labelling and the non-standard heavy duty plate and binding.
The top skiers get custom service. Sometimes the works equipment is from another works!
The top racers sometimes can't get on with a works ski or boots. My trainer in France showed me a pair of Lange boots she had used faked-up with a black and gold Rossignol Paint-job, as she was a Rossi Works skier.Good things for club skiers about Factory and Race Stock Skis.
Things to watch in a race-stock ski
- Simplicity. No gimmicks. No struts and bolt-ons.
- Sandwich Construction, not Cap. This means you can shave away the sidewall to allow the edging tool room to cut. A cap ski with a damaged sidewall needs to go in the bin. So you can't shave away the sidewall in a cap ski. It's structural.
- Strong construction,They are designed to take higher stresses without coming apart at the seams.
- Strong Bindings: heavy plate and bindings that can be cranked up to 15 DIN if you want to. Most recreational skiers ski on DIN Settings of 4,5 or 6. I had a look at Didier Cuche's skis last year. They went to 24 DIN. However, with bindings it's best to have them set mid-point and not screwed up to the stops to keep the spring in its designed band. If you are skiing fast in a race course, you do not want the ski vibrating off if you hit a rut. You need to be thinking of tightening up the bindings ahead of time. Most Pro bindings you get in the shop will go to 15 DIN. Note: If you are a superb skier, you may be so on top of your skis that they can stay on with loose settings. The Racers of old must have been like this. If you look at the equipment Jean-Claude Killy used in 1968 it looks delicate by today's standards.
- Fitted Bindings not Rental bindings. I really do not trust those atomic rental-rack rattly bindings.
- Base material is better to absorb wax and comes with a lovely structure-pattern. For the racer, the base is the key component in selecting a race ski.
- Top performance is there if you ever need it.
- As Ghost points out: you have to learn to ski properly. Race skis need to be worked. This is a great reason to move to race skis.
- If you keep them sharp and get some training you will be able to move into a new area of performance.
A racer will have competition skis and training skis. Some of the competition skis will be tuned to edge angles of 86 degrees (And maybe less). Anything sharper than 88 or at most 87 Degrees are to be avoided. They are super-sharp and require trained skills to manage them in use. Also, they go blunt after 3 runs. They are then unskiable. You have to shave off so much metal, they wear out in weeks.
Also: remember they are sharp. I've seen a ski tech slip with a file and slash an artery on the edge. I also seen a mother ski over her daughter's arm. Thank goodness her edges were round!
Another thing you'll notice is that race skis usually weigh noticeably more than recreational skis. So you won't be selecting them for ski mountaineering.Semipro skis.
I tried semi-pro skis like Rossignol Z15 Mutix. The ones with the "Power-Arms". They are even more expensive than the Factory race skis. At first They served me well in the new snowfall. Until I got talked into taking some fellow aspiring instructor-racers for a spin. I pushed them hard down a steep icy red and the skis wouldn't hold on the edge angle I'd inclined on to. (I'll admit it was probably a lot to do with me, but I was used to full-on GS skis.) The left ski vibrated so much it came right off. The cam heel binding rotated itself and jammed upside-down against the footplate. I had to make my way on one ski back to the lodge and was late for my next meeting. The power-arms are a complete gimmick. They are too big to carry with you, and I just kept the carbon-fiber ones in all the time.
Also, never buy a Rossi ski if it has the dread words "Made in Spain" written on the top. My Z15's de-laminated, and when I took them for inspection the UK Importer told me it was acceptable tolerance for that ski. But he was told to say that by his boss. My local dealer told me that "everyone" knows that the Spanish ones de-laminate.Summary
The big difference about race skis - apart from the reliability and power, is that a good tech can fettle them up to make them unbelieveably grippy on hardpack and ice. So many club skiers think their skiing doesn't merit getting good skis or in sharpening them (let alone having them tuned). With some confidence, and a good toolkit, you can tune your own skis. But don't buy the 'shop' tools! Shop tools are designed to ruin skis and therefore sell more new ones. Get tools from a race equipment supplier. You probably need to send off for them. In Europe I use the Worden Ski Catalogue and I choose Ski-Man tools. Get a fixed angle file-guide. Not a vario setting tool.Why tune the skis?
If you can ski with the ski tipped-up on an edge-tilt of more than 50 Degrees, you will be able to carve good tight-apex turns. To do that you need razor-sharp edges or else the'll skid and lose the bend.
The Base-Bevel is important. If you start with the base flat and then alter the base-edge at 0.5 Degrees to that, it means you can work on the base edge later with diamond files without marking the precious base preparation.
(If you put a base-bevel on, you need to set the side-edge too, or else the skis will be un-skiable).
It also rotates the edge half a degree so that more of the edge bears against the ice when the ski is tilted right over. Half a degree doesn't sound like much, but extend the line of the edge and it makes a huge difference.How do I tune the edges?
You need to prepare the base edge and the side edge. Ensure you know what the new skis come with on the edge. Thay may already be tuned to 88 Degrees on the side and 0.5 Degrees on the base.
If they come out of the packet with 90 Degree edges you can take them to a tech to get them bevelled and set first time and then just dress them up with a diamond file in the file-guide after each session.
Ensure the tech is a race ski-man. I've seen so-called 88 degree edges that still had sidewall in the way because the tech didn't do the job correctly.
After doing the 0.5 Degree base bevel (with the correct tool) you need to ensure the sidewall is scraped away (Sidewall remover required) to allow the side-edge file to cut an 88 on the side edge (88 Degree File-Guide required)
You use engineer's marking-blue on the edges before cutting that will show blue left on the bits you missed.Do Club Racers need to tune?
If one of my students tells me they are having trouble with edge control for instance, I say "Let's have a look at the condition of the edges". Many times I tell someone that I couldn't ski (even as well as he is managing) on equipment in such a poor condition.
The guy is learning but he makes the task impossible because the equipment will physically not permit the maneuvre he is attempting.
Give it a try?
Actually, take a tip from "Prickly":
I would recommend for a Club Ski Male trying race skis for the first time, to see about getting hold of a pair of Women's GS Race-Stock skis with a good base and a decent 88 Degree/ 0.5 Base bevel. Not more acute than that. You will probably believe you are starting a different sport, not just trying different skis.
Do I have to push them fast?
No. If you look at the way the racers train, you'll see them on the blue slopes on the solid icy summer glaciers at slow speed sometimes: working on balance and precision. It's quite easy to fall inside if you are going slowly. Skiing slowly calls for careful skill. Then, Try tick-tac drills, javelin turns, standing on the top edge - all the good training drills.
Also: MX579Turbo makes some excellent points.
The Rev range in a F1 gearbox?: I think the engine revs to max rpm (18,000 rpm in 2009) in every gear. I saw this guy who taped the F1 car engine sound, and plotted the revs for each change. Here it is:-http://img103.imageshack.us/i/mal2006gfr168pv.jpg/
Here's a post on how he did it.http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2218&
That's more than $0.02!
I hope that has given you something to think about.