Understanding Ski Technology & Construction - Epic Mountain Sports
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Understanding Ski Technology & Construction

January 7, 2022

When it comes to understanding the basics of ski construction & technology it's all about getting familiar with a few basic ski industry terms.   If you're looking to take the plunge & buy your own skis for the fist time - or the first time in a long while, getting familiar with ski construction terms can make a huge difference in your overall satisfaction with the equipment you end up purchasing.  Follow along below & we'll do our best to break down the basics to help you get a better grip on what all goes into making a ski.

Breaking Down The Basics of Ski Construction

What Material Are Skis Made With?

Most manufactures use a mix of materials to optimal blend for ski performance.  Common materials found in ski construction include: wood, metal, plastic, carbon, fiberglass, metal alloys & rubber.  Perhaps the most universal element & also most important is wood,  manufacturers select different types of wood for different types of skis.  For instance Aspen & poplar are popular choices to balance weight dampen a ski & add rebound.  Fir or Maple wood on the other hand are much denser materials that add stability, power & rigidity to skis.  Once the wood, or wood blend is selected manufacturers can then add in other materials to maximize performance.  Often times either fiberglass or an aluminum alloy is woven in to stiffen up the rigidity of the ski & cut vibrations (which can occur at higher speeds). Another commonly used element is carbon which can be added to the core to boost stability without adding much weight.

Sidewall Construction (the side of the ski)

  • Cap Construction: Cap construction means that the top sheet of the ski folds over the edge of the ski.  This type of construction better protects the core of the ski & improves durability.  Another bonus of choosing a ski with cap construction is the weight of the ski will likely be lighter, and often easier to initiate turns on.
  • Sandwich Construction: This approach layers materials (for instance wood, carbon & metal) between the ski top sheet, the ski base & plastic sidewalls.
  • Half Cap Construction: As you may have guessed (smart cookie) half-cap construction is when cap construction is used on half of the ski (the top) and sandwich construction is used on the bottom. This blend produces a ski that is light weight with great power transfer between the skier & the ski.

Understanding Ski Terminology

  • Rocker Technology: Picture the profile of the rails on a rocking chair. Rocker describes a ski with only moderate edge contact with the snow.  When laid on a flat surface the middle section of a rockered ski lays flat on the ground while the tip & tail turn upward.   Over the years Rocker technology has accumulated many alias' you will hear it refereed to as "early rise" "reverse camber" or "negative camber" just don't get flustered they all represent the same basic technology.  Rocker makes it easier to initiate & exit turns, it also aids in flotation especially on powder days!
  • Camber Technology: Camber, is the opposite of rocker technology & describes the shape of a more traditional ski with a very moderate upward curve.  A cambered ski on a flat surface will have an upturned waist and the tip & tail of the ski while lay flat on the ground. Camber provides a ski edge contact with snow when a turn is initiated.  Transmission of power from skier to ski that can't be beat.
  • Turn Radius: The turn radius is an important measurement when choosing the right ski for your skiing style.  Little refresher here - the radius is the distance between the center point and perimeter of a circle. When it comes to determining a ski's turn radius, if you were to a variety of different skis in a circle around a set center point it would result in a variety of circle sizes based on the stiffness and degree of sidecut each ski has.  Skis made with stiffer elements & that have less sidecut will yield a larger turn radius while softer skis with more substantial sidecut make a smaller radius.  In general a turning radius of about 16.5m or below means that the ski will produce quicker more responsive turns
  • Torsional Rigidity: Defined as the resistance a ski shows to being twisted. A rigid ski will preform well at high speed, maintain strong edge hold & carve turns.
  • Sidecut: A ski's sidecut is basically the curve of the ski's edge from the tip to the tail.  The sidecut of a ski affects how a ski turns.  A bigger sidecut will produce quick sharp turns while a more moderate sidecut is better for longer more mellow or shmeering turns.
  • Taper: Taper refers to the reduction of width at the tip or tail of a ski.  A traditionally tapered ski (or directional taper ski).

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