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Death of the Shaped Ski

post #1 of 85
Thread Starter 
It will be a happy day when these new funny looking clown foot boards we ski on have become so established in our consciousness and straight skis have become so much a relic from the past that we can drop the shape prefix and we can again just call boards we ride on skis. Unfortunately we don't seem to be there yet.

We have gone through this before, there were days when one found it necessary to apply the prefix of metal to skis, or plastic to boots. These transitions always usher in new technical models and those models in their infancy tend to foster disassociation with old technical models that can create a "throwing out the baby with the bath water" mentality. As those new models are tweaked and refined emphasis is again returned to core technical foundations that had been temporarily placed back stage. The swinging of the new school pendulum makes its journey back to center and we find that the fundamental truths of skiing in fact transcend all equipment evolutions, just as they always have.

I think we are presently still in the "striving to disassociate" phase of the pendulum swing with this shape ski revolution, and we need to eventually come back to a state where the fundamental cornerstones are given more emphasis then elements of differentiation. Anyone care to take the ball and run with this? Perhaps define and identify the cornerstones. Maybe focus on current differentiation themes that are presently receiving top billing?
post #2 of 85
Fastman, I thought we're pretty much there with the "shape" thing this year. Usually the only time it comes up is when you meet someone who hasn't skied for several years and talks about "those hourglass skis" or "parabolics" or "those new skis". Then there's the mogul skiers who like "straight" skis. Soon I suspect they'll be called "mogul" skis.
post #3 of 85
Good post FastMan!

I think we are "there" with the skis in many ways. With few exceptions, when anyone buys "skis" these days, they expect them not to be straight, without specifiying.

But the question will still be around, because there are so many different shapes out there! It used to be that you'd have to decide between a slalom or a GS ski, or a recreational ski. There was little argument or even discussion about the dimensions, although the details of the materials and construction were often talked about.

But now you have to decide what sidecut radius you want, what dimensions underfoot, tip, and tail, whether you want twin tips or not, what length, and so much more.

So the question "IF shaped" is not much of an issue anymore, but the question "What shape" will be with us for a while!

Bob Barnes
post #4 of 85
It wasn't until I quit ski teaching that I was able to afford to purchase my first "shaped" skis so I'm a little late getting on board with all this but I have to admit my puzzlement. Listening to all the hype one would get the impression "carving" was discovered simultaneuosly with the invention of the so-called "shaped" ski. I get the feeling, listening to some ski instructors that they feel that the contemporary ski designs have somehow redefined the technical basis of ski instruction. My impression has been that for at least the last 10 years, and possibly much longer, the PSIA teaching system has been oriented toward producing the movements that result in carving. So where is the great change? I still enjoy carving with my 193cm Rossignal 9s "straight sticks" almost as much as my 167cm T-Power 9s so I find the revolutionary aspects of this all a bit difficult to grasp. I'm not teaching currently so I can't comment with first hand experience but I do suspect that the so-called "revolution" has been taken by some to provide the pretext for dropping whole areas of skill development from their teaching. Surely that cannot be a good thing.

My question is, sales oriented hype aside, are these changes in ski design really revolutionary or just more refinement? Except for my track/skate skis, they have always had shape at least as far back as I can remember. Recently the shapes have become more exagerrated but isn't this just a further developoment of a trend in ski design begun long ago? Probably just as influential but unheralded have been the development of flexibility vs lateral stiffness and the damping characteristics of modern skis. Sure all these developments have wrought changes but nothing terribly dramatic. I see no milestones or significant events to conclude that revolutionary rather than evolutionary development has occurred. I would think the same could be said to be true of the development of ski instruction.

Perhaps its time to conclude that the great event was blown out of proportion by the marketing folks, who like to do that sort of thing.
post #5 of 85
I swapped from shaped to conventional and back again during the late 90s (preferring the straights as I'm a luddite).
What I found was, the shapeds enabled you to do certain things much more easily, at slower speeds.

When first on shapeds (in Canada in 97, Olin lent me their shaped range), I did the obligatory lay-over carves where you wreck your gloves.
Back in Oz, I tried it on my conventional DTLS, and found I could do it, but needed more speed and power to hold it.

So the shapeds put more facets of skiing within reach of lower-skilled skiiers. They make it easier...teaching groups on a mixture of shapeds and conventionals, the shapeds people do a lot better, this goes double for kids! I've had kids struggling away on skinny, longish skis. Suggest to parents they get some shorter, fatter, shapier ones, and the next day the kid is a different skiier.

I guess with shapeds, you are skiing on a pre-bent ski! Rather than having to bend it to carve and do stuff, it's already there.
post #6 of 85
I suppose it's a bit like car design. Compare driving your average car today from one 25 years ago. Today suspensions are tighter, smoother, steering is drastically better, they're quieter. It's drastically different but is it revolutionary?

Of course go back 25 years and plunk down a car from today then it'll seem revolutionary. In skiing, go back 6 or seven years and plunk down a 160cm slalom ski next to the 200/205 and yeah, it's pretty revolutionary. Of course you would have been laughed off the lift.

Of course cars have far more variables and since one of them is style older cars often have far more appeal. Still, who misses driving down the highway constantly correcting the steering like your piloting a boat because the car just won't track straight by itself.
At least with skis style only matters on the way up. Coming down it's pure function.

A few years ago Bode Miller was ranked in the top 100 most influential skiers of all time. This was way before he was winning anything on the world cup and might have just turned out another promising star that didn't rise. The editors decided that his use of a recreational shape ski (K2 four) at a national race which he won so spurred acceptance of shape skis that just that act alone was enough to make him worthy of such recognition.

With straight skis I wonder if we really all needed to be on 200's, 205's or if 185's would have been fine.

Quote:
but I do suspect that the so-called "revolution" has been taken by some to provide the pretext for dropping whole areas of skill development from their teaching.
such as?
post #7 of 85
Arcadie--

I couldn't agree more! The "new" skis have created new opportunities for skiers, especially at the lower and intermediate end of the skill spectrum, but they've really CHANGED nothing, rendered no "old" skills or movements obsolete. And the movements and teaching methodologies that work best on them predate "shaped" skis by a very long time! Real carved turns, with their enticing g-forces, may have been only a pipe dream for the average recreational skier 15 years ago. The new skis have made expert-type movements much more accessible to the average skier, and perhaps easier to teach, but they did NOT invent those movmements!

The new skis really are NOT different from older models in any qualitative way. The change is quantitative. Like the cars Tog describes, they simply work BETTER than the old skis, but they do essentially the same things. They're better tools. Better toys! Any change has been evolutionary, more than revolutionary.

Mainstream teaching methodologies, at least in the US, have emphasized the contemporary movement patterns that best exploit a ski's ability to carve since the mid-1980's. That's when PSIA's Center Line(TM) Model came out, with its emphasis on releasing the edge of the downhill ski and rolling the skis to their new edges, steering their tips into the turn as the center of mass flows smoothly through the transition, rather than creating a "platform" and pushing/stemming/stepping/rebounding/hopping to get the skis displaced into a skid. The Center Line Model came out long before the "shaped ski revolution," yet it clearly identified the movements we now recognize as contemporary. And, while it was the first "official" recognition of these contemporary movements by American instructors, the Center Line Model certainly didn't invent the movements either! In the right conditions, with the right athlete, skis have ALWAYS been able to carve.

I've always objected to the term "shaped" ski from the moment it first appeared. As you suggest, it was all marketing, an attempt to suggest that previous skis somehow were NOT shaped. Not only did they have a shape, that shape included sidecut! Skis always carved. They just do it better now.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #8 of 85
I think it's not just the shape, but some other changes in ski design that allow most people to carve at slower speeds and hold the carve more consistently. I'm talking about the way new skis are softer in flex while torsionally stiffer than skis of the past.
post #9 of 85
Bob and everyone,

I agree with your assessment of the new technology. Marketing hype and the herd instinct took the "Shaped Ski Revolution" over the top. PSIA was right in the thick of it, having suffered criticism for being late to the party.

Shaped skis have followed an evolution of their own, from the Fringe (can anyone say SCX real fast?) to the Mainstream. Today they are Mainstream. Maybe some day ski manufacturers will do as Levi's does with custom jeans: we send in our specs and they build us a ski to order.

But you say something that doesn't sound right to me:

Quote:
The new skis really are NOT different from older models in any qualitative way. The change is quantitative. Like the cars Tog describes, they simply work BETTER than the old skis, but they do essentially the same things. They're better tools. Better toys! Any change has been evolutionary, more than revolutionary
Could you have mixed up the words quantitative and qualitative?
post #10 of 85
My old skis have the same shape characteristics of my most modern ski. The measured widths have changed. but not the "profile". I support Bob in his opinion that skis have changed quantitively, but not qualitively. The difference can be described with numbers.

The quality of the ride may seem different, but a day on "the old skis" will support the observation that, " changes upon changes, it's all pretty much the same"

There are those "reverse shape, reverse camber" skis but those are exceptional.

CalG
post #11 of 85
I think that it is a disservice to the industry to think of the "shaped ski revolution" as only a refinement. Just like plastic boots, shaped skis are a clear, defining technological advancement (the word "revolution" does come to a marketing mind). First of all (as Tog hinted already) it is the length of the old straight ski that was the biggest problem. Frankly, even racers could not carve those 205s in SL courses, so there is no need to pretend that one could carve just as well on the old skis (unless you carved an arc with a 50 meter radius ).

On top of everything, the new shapes and new technology allow for much shorter and manageable skis. Instructors were among the first to accept (and benefit from) these short, shaped skis. Perhaps revolution is too big a word, but there is little doubt that for inbounds skiing in 95% of situations, short, shaped skis are the choice of most pros. In fact I would venture to say that many certified instructors could not get their current certification on straight 205s.
post #12 of 85
Quote:
Originally posted by TomB:
In fact I would venture to say that many certified instructors could not get their current certification on straight 205s.
Then they have no business teaching at all.
post #13 of 85
" I think that it is a disservice to the industry to think of the "shaped ski revolution" as only a refinement. "

TomB. I feel a disservice to the skiers with this styatement. It's the singer, not the song!

Have you tried a pair of " straight skis" lately? They work the same as the new ones.

CalG
post #14 of 85
Here's a older thread on my experience going back to straight skis . For adult entertainment only...
post #15 of 85
I was just putting my skis away and in the closet where I store them, there sat my old Volant"straight" skis (Circa 1994?, before the "shaped" skis came out anyhow) and next to them a pair of K2 skis from the 80's. I looked closely at them, they too were shaped, maybe not as pronounced as those of today, but they had a slight "hourglass shape" to them. Many of us have been skiing on "shaped" skis for years and probably didn't even notice it. It was only when they became more pronounced and the companies began marketing them as "Shaped" or "Parabolic" that we noticed. We also took notice because all of a sudden tehy were recommending a shorter ski. If you think back to the 70's and the GLM method, this idea is not new either.
post #16 of 85
CalG,

I beg to differ, but then maybe I don't understand what you and Bob mean when you say that we can describe the difference between (e.g.) a pair of VO-slaloms and a pair of Axis-XPs numerically, but not qualitatively. You are saying there is no subjective experiential difference between riding a VO and an Axis-XP?

I contend that there is a very significant qualitative difference between the old and the new technologies. I don't care how smooth the marketing, if there had been no significant qualitative (that is, subjectively felt or experienced) difference, shaped skis would never have made it beyond the fringe.

Sorry to be stuck on this point, but it seems critical to the discussion to resolve it.
post #17 of 85
Skis have had side-cut(side geometry)for years. Slalom more than downhill. It's just been exaggerated in the last few years.
post #18 of 85
Quote:
Could you have mixed up the words quantitative and qualitative?
No, I meant it the way I said it, Nolo. The new skis have the same qualities as the old skis--they just have different quantities of those qualities. (Probably should have stayed away from those two words entirely, though!)



Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #19 of 85
Like this Bob
post #20 of 85
Okay, I understand what you mean. To me quantitative and qualitative are two approaches to scientific research. A qualitative researcher might conduct a focus group discussion about the new technologies, analyze the data, interpret the findings, and produce a descriptive synthesis, where quantitative analysis requires statistical procedures. [This is cribbed from my textbook on Educational Research.]

My point stands: the new technologies do have a qualitative difference (quality meaning a measure of excellence). As you yourself say, they are BETTER, easier, more ergonomic than previously.
post #21 of 85
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
CalG,

I beg to differ, but then maybe I don't understand what you and Bob mean when you say that we can describe the difference between (e.g.) a pair of VO-slaloms and a pair of Axis-XPs numerically, but not qualitatively. You are saying there is no subjective experiential difference between riding a VO and an Axis-XP?

I contend that there is a very significant qualitative difference between the old and the new technologies. I don't care how smooth the marketing, if there had been no significant qualitative (that is, subjectively felt or experienced) difference, shaped skis would never have made it beyond the fringe.

Sorry to be stuck on this point, but it seems critical to the discussion to resolve it.
I agree with what I understand your view to be, but can not escape the view that Qualitative judgment (not being qualifiable by nature) is relatitive to comparitive experiences avaliable at singular points in time. Case in point, when I first skied the V.O. Slalom back in the late '70's, I thought (qualitativly) that is was the best ski I ever skied on (I still recall the rush of the experience). This season I had the same perspective about my new XP's the first time I skied them in ungroomed snow. I could not rank one experience "better" than the other. They each stand as unique and equal. I've had may such "best ski I ever skied" experiences, all rating equal qualitativly.

Although quantitativly the two can be measured, flexed, etc. and (by current standards) one rated "better".

So, I suggest quality is unique to the experience at it's own point in time, and it lasts for all time.
[img]smile.gif[/img]
post #22 of 85
Hey arc, think you could equivocate a little more there?
Tell me you think those xp's aren't any better than the old vo slaloms?
Performance wise, would you rather have a 300zx turbo or the original 240z? (of course in your case you've tricked out the 240 to the max so I don't think it's a very good question)

I remember demoing the Atomic 9.34 slalom when it came out. I really wanted a pair of slalom skis and the next year or so I picked up a pair of 188's on leftover sale before the snow was on the ground. By this time most skis were quite shaped except for slaloms, though maybe that year the new ones were coming out. Anyway, in early January I finally got to use the 9.34's in a race clinic. I spent one day on them and that was it. I rented a pair of 9.20's in 180 the next day and ended up selling the 9.34's. 34 meter sidecut was just too much. Thank god for ebay. I took a bath on them but at least I was clean ...
post #23 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:

The "new" skis have created new opportunities for skiers, especially at the lower and intermediate end of the skill spectrum, but they've really CHANGED nothing, rendered no "old" skills or movements obsolete.

The new skis have made expert-type movements much more accessible to the average skier, and perhaps easier to teach, but they did NOT invent those movmements!

The new skis really are NOT different from older models in any qualitative way. The change is quantitative. Like the cars Tog describes, they simply work BETTER than the old skis, but they do essentially the same things. They're better tools. Better toys! Any change has been evolutionary, more than revolutionary.

Bob Barnes[/QB]
Rather than struggle with what the meaning of "IS" is, I think we can read Bobs' words in the context he used them and clearly understand that when he said the new skis are not different from the old skis in any qualitative way he was trying suggest that the new skis work the same way (operate subject to the same technical principles) as the old straight skis. The quantitative difference is in the greater response that comes from similar driver input.

Bob, I completely agree with what you have said here. The new skis excel in there ability to carve a greater spectrum of turn shapes, but the technical principles that must be observed to produce those carved turns and the associated physics have not wavered from the days of straights. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #24 of 85
Quote:
Originally posted by Tog:
[

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />but I do suspect that the so-called "revolution" has been taken by some to provide the pretext for dropping whole areas of skill development from their teaching.
such as?[/QB]</font>[/quote]Well, I can think of a few individuals......,and a few conversations here and elsewhere suggest to me that they are not an isolated bunch, who have always been a bit in the dark regarding mechanics of skiing and who have never quite grasped or accepted the Centerline concept. These instructors seemed to feel that something entirely new had just come along that warranted a completely new approach to teaching and improvised their own largely out of ignorance. Buzz around the locker room was that rotary movements are no longer a significant part of skiing, with the new equipment. I know from personal experience, having received a few of their alumni as students, that they neglect to introduce or develop rotational movements in their classes. Now that was a few years ago but I've no reason to believe this mistaken approach has changed. "Tip and turn" is another expression I've heard with increasing frequency that I suspect hints at a welter of misapplied concepts. There has long been a tendency among some instructors, for example, to emphasize Pressure arbitraily early in a student's experience. To me this has always seemed like putting the cart before the horse since the balancing skills and movement, not to mention generated forces, which normally are required to create the pressure are not yet present. This no doubt provided more work for many of us as we were called upon repeatedly to help students with the "stiff lower leg " syndrome and lacking the movements and skills required to create round turns and initiate new ones. I have an idea that part of the fallout from the misperception of the "revolution, is a host of new instructor-inspired problems faced by students. Of course I'm just speculating here.

Sorry. I don't mean to be overly cynical. I imagine some of my teaching was less than ideal. I just mean to point out the significance of putting the hype in its place and generating a more balanced understanding.

[ April 28, 2003, 06:49 PM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #25 of 85
Arcadie, I also remember a conversation about what has changed in our teaching since the shapes came on the scene. Has nothing changed in the way we teach ski technique since, say, 1980, when ATM: Teaching Concepts was published by PSIA?

Arc, If you compared a run on each model of ski, how would you describe the difference? Would it not be qualitative rather than quantitative? Would the comparison be valid (i.e., are you qualified to judge)?

FastMan, I would defend to the death my right to quibble about meaning.
post #26 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:

FastMan, I would defend to the death my right to quibble about meaning.[/QB]
As I'm sure you would also mine to clarify.
post #27 of 85
Nolo
Of course, change. I doubt if there were ever two days alike, two students, two classes, nor was any instructor unchanged from one class to another. We human beings possess this remarkable ability to observe, respond, adapt and change. As a SSD acquaintance observed the other day, its a good thing too. If not for this quality, Ski instructors would be unnecessary, cue cards would suffice. The core concepts of the teaching system though, seem to me as valid and fundamentally correct as they were before the development of more shapely skis.

Do you disagree?
post #28 of 85
>>>The quantitative difference is in the greater response that comes from similar driver input.<<<

Many of us, I include myself, at first try didn't like the shaped skis because they behaved differently from what we had been skiing. Many gave up but I always prided myself in being able to adjust to any equipment ideosincracy realized, after just initiating a normal turn and finding my tips pointing up the hill that I was way overdriving the skis.

But doing the same thing as with my straight skis, only with a much softer touch got good results. Finesse instead of raw power was required, so since we had both, all that was needed was to back off on manhandling the skis and coax them instead.

Granted, with the older skis that didn't have a wide tail, railroad tracks were not really possible but we could carve the tips to underfoot with as much precision as with the new skis, even forty years ago.

....Ott
post #29 of 85
Nolo, Tog, and whoever....
Let me clarify with an analogy.

Over the last 3K+ days on snow over 36+ seasons I've been fortunate to have an unfathomable number of qualitativly execellent adventures on snow. I've had them in lace up leather boots on wood skis and on all the sucessivly "latest and greatest" gear ever of the last 30 of those seasons. Not a single one of those "good old days" experiences has ever been rendered qualitativly a less an "excellent adventure" because I subsequently had another great experience one on newer quantifiably superior gear.

This season our ski school had a "retro night". We rummaged thru our basments and garages and dragged out the oldest gear (including clothes) we could find. I took my '70's 220cm K2 910's green tails (89mm-72mm-79mm / 6mm sidecut) out of their spot in the corner of my living room, waxed them, adjusted bindings and went skiing. I had an excellent adventure, great fun, hoots and giggles, rummaging around in the bag of tricks and dusting off whatever move I needed to wiggle around for a night of fun. When I switched back to my current gear, the fun just got different, but better? I would be hard put to say so.

Som do I prefer to ski the new gear? Absolutly.
Does doing so make any previous day spent on older gear qualitativly less valuable an experience? Absoultly not.
I think I understand you, I hope you kinda understand me on this.
[img]tongue.gif[/img]

[ April 28, 2003, 09:06 PM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #30 of 85
Arcadie,

How about the technical content? Has that changed or remained essentially the same, given the periodic cosmetic touchups (phantom foot, weighted release, et al) and spin du jour (move the CM, two-footedness, etc.)?

Arc and FastMan,

I'm going to let the qualitative angle drop. I have no quibble with the essence of your points.

The essence of shape skis: Less is more.
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