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Beginnings of shaped skis from boarding?


Erik J
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Many of us have heard that shaped skiis got started through the tighter sidecuts of snowboards (or more specifically alpine boards). I'm curious if anyone has more details on the hows and the whens that trend got started? Just curious, that's all - I've never heard the full story.

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Guest RaceCarver

The truth is that ski companies began experimenting with increased sidecut on their custom made World Cup GS skis long before snowboarding took off.

In the late 1980's World Cup course setters began to set turnier GS courses in an effort to keep the speed down to prevent the growing number of injuries. At that time, ski equipment was getting better, and the racers started to train like actual athletes, so the end result was that GS speeds were approaching SuperG speeds.

Naturally, the ski companies responded by making their World Cup GS skis turn tighter to give their racers an advantage in the course. This change in side cut was never offered in the mass production skis, even the retail "race" models, because the ski company engineers never though the general public would want to carve a GS turn! (Duh!!!).

When the general public learned that yes, you could turn a tighter turn at a slower speed on a board, or a ski like the orginal Elan SCX, the ski companies final woke up and really started engineering more shapely skis.

So, the old story that snowboards were the inspiration for shaped skis is not true, but they centainly did make shaped skis popular.

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I'd be surprised if we ever see a formal account of the birth of shaped skis that gives full and proper credit to snowboarders, or specifically alpine snowboarders, written in the annals of skiing history. Perhaps it is such an obvious fact that it has yet to occur to someone to actually document it.

I don't know what the first snowboard was to use a functioning sidecut that could be considered "shaped", but I know a bit about Burton's history of sidecuts. My 1988 Elite 150 (little brother to the Cruzer 165) didn't really have a functioning sidecut. The sidecut it did have was V-shaped, merely the by-product of its overall powder board shape (the tail was also concave). In 1988 Burton also made the Safari, a race board which I think originated in 87. I believe it had a real sidecut, but I don't know what it was or if it was any deeper than a ski sidecut. I do know that in 1989, the 165cm Safari had a sidecut depth of 14mm, which was nearly twice the depth of slalom skis of the day, and on a shorter running length to boot (135cm). This was a radius of 16.3m (thanks .NateW), which on a ski would be considered shaped even today.

There can be no dispute that snowboaders were carving the first real, low, tight radius carves on the mountain, and that skiers ached to be able to do the same.

This Odyssey guy sounds like the typical small-time inventor sob story, who peddles his idea to "industry" and they say "we're not interested" and then they steal his idea. I feel bad for him, but only to a point. He claims to be the sole inventor of the shaped ski, and gives no props to snowboards. If he had said something like "I was the first to realize that snowboards held the key to the future of ski design" I'd be more interested in his story.

-Jack

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Originally posted by RaceCarver

In the late 1980's World Cup course setters began to set turnier GS courses in an effort to keep the speed down to prevent the growing number of injuries. At that time, ski equipment was getting better, and the racers started to train like actual athletes, so the end result was that GS speeds were approaching SuperG speeds.

In the late 80's people were carving on snowboards and snowboards had real sidecut. What were GS skis' radii before and after this transition? I would estimate that maybe they dropped from a 50m sidecut to a 40.

When the general public learned that yes, you could turn a tighter turn at a slower speed on a board, or a ski like the orginal Elan SCX, the ski companies final woke up and really started engineering more shapely skis.

Where did the general public learn this? From snowboarders, of course.

So, the old story that snowboards were the inspiration for shaped skis is not true

Yes it is, you proved it yourself. The ski industry did not mass produce its tighter GS race skis (which were arguably not even "shaped") because they were clueless and there was no demand. Snowboarding <i>alone</i> created that demand. The Kneissel Parabolics and the Elan SCX rode in on snowboarding's coat-tails.

So, saying "snowboards were not the <i>inspiration</i> for shaped skis" is clearly not accurate. However, if you want to argue whether a ski or a snowboard was the first to use a sub-30m sidecut (or some other magic "shaped" number), that can be discussed objectively. But it is nearly irrelevant, because snowboards are what created the demand for shaped skis.

-Jack

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Actually, Jack is overlooking one of the main reasons why functional sidecuts first appeared on consumer-level snowboards and not consumer-level skis: the extra width of a board makes it a lot easier to make a stiff but still nicely damped snowboard than it is to do the same with a much smaller ski. It really has very little to do with which sport had its engineers come up with the idea first.

The evidence actually suggests that both sports first made use of functional sidecuts at almost the exact same time. One non-technical reason for the much more rapid adoption of sidecuts on snowboards is that the sport was significantly younger and evolving much faster. It had a younger and more free-spirited demographic, and was not held back by an obstinate older guard like skiing was. Snowboarders were simply more eager to embrace new ideas at the time.

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The first time I saw a real shaped ski was a prototype Elan scx at Mt. Hood during the summer of either '93 or '94. It was all black with no markings on it, but it was obviously much different than another ski I've ever seen before. I taked breifly to the guy who was on them, he simply said that "we are just trying to make turns like you".

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Guest RaceCarver

Jack, this is not worth getting into an argument about, but after spending 34 years being involved with USSA racing and NCAA racing in college, and the last 15 years with snowboard racing, I do know what I am talking about.

If I recall, you have no backround in competitive ski racing, and you don't even race your board.

I fully agree with you that snowboarding made the "shaped" ski popular with the general public.

But the fact is ski engineers knew the advantages of skis with more shape in the increasingly technical courses that were being set. They just never made the skis available to the general public.

As you are aware of, the speed at which the ski is designed to carve the turn dictates the sidecut. The turn radius you mentioned (16M) would be, and is worthless to the speed a ski racer carries through the course. FIS approved GS skis have to have a radius greater than 21M and SuperG skis must have a turn radius greater than 33M.

Like I said, I have no problem with the idea that snowboards made the production of shaped skis popular with the general public. but the idea that ski companies did not know the advantages of increasing the side cut of skis until snowboarding "showed" them is a flat out lie.

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Guest RaceCarver

One more thing, the orginal Elan Parabolic was an extreme off shoot of their new World Cup skis. If you were in direct contact with the Elan engineers at the time--I was--you would of known that "riding on the coat tails" of snowboarding was not their reason for creating the orginal Parabolic skis.

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Originally posted by RaceCarver

Like I said, I have no problem with the idea that snowboards made the production of shaped skis popular with the general public. but the idea that ski companies did not know the advantages of increasing the side cut of skis until snowboarding "showed" them is a flat out lie.

Well!

I never said you don't know what you're talking about, but I think we're arguing two different things. The subject of this thread is "Beginning of shaped skis from boarding?". An idea that gets tested but never widely implemented is not the "beginning" of anything. All I'm saying is that the term "shaped ski" did not exist before snowboarders were carving two-inch tracks in the snow. So the answer to this thread remains the same. Of course ski companies understood the function of deeper sidecut, but they did not understand its value in the marketplace. Surely snowboarding "showed" them that.

-Jack

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Jack, this is not worth getting into an argument about, but after spending 34 years being involved with USSA racing and NCAA racing in college, and the last 15 years with snowboard racing, I do know what I am talking about.

Well, I have been racing for 500 years, ja, in Obergugl/Hochgurgle arena., ja dats right. Skis did not make dis, until snowboarder did, still to dis day you rarely see a single person ride a ski correctly. But in alpine almost all do!

Pbbbsssst:p

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I know plenty of ex world cup skiiers(and coaches) and none of them can back up Race carvers Statement of "A True shape ski that early" Also the rule book from those days is indeed the answer to the questions because it will out line, Min and max radius for that time frame. As a young kid at Stratton working the SIA show. Members from Elan approached My friends and I in the 91,92 season and first asked if any of us knew how to carve a ski as well as we could carve a snowboard, and if we would be interested in a ski to "Lay out euro carves". They had 2 protos (WHITETOPS)and we went out with some elan rep and learned to dig trenches in less then a hour. He was so blown away that we were even given a pair of BLACKTOP protos the next year to play with at the local hill.

It was not intill 94-95 that ski shape started changing at the world cup level. I can remember running around Park City with Bob and Billy Skinner(Park City's Masters Coaches) With a tape writing down ski demensions( They had been following ski shape for years and where so fired up that year about new ski shapes). Thats when SL skiis got short and GS skiis got fat! The radius rules started to change around that time as well.

Also got to add this, it was Mike from Gnu that I first heard boost about a true sidecut he did how ever say that Chuck Barfoot had included a circler arc into his shape so the board turned faster and smoother. I do rember the barfoot guys starting a carved turn as early as 84 but none of them finished the turn. The next year the Cats on proto GNU's were linking carved turns(sort of)!

I am not saying Racecaver is incorrect, there has and will be shapes that are tried in both industrys that only a few people get to see. He may have seen some of the first Proto shped skiis that failed. However it was truly the Elan SCX and what ever black ski had the turns on the tip(?) that started the shaped ski RETAIL BOOM and as a alpine snowboarder whos brain has been picked by lots of ski excs. Its hard to convince me that ALPINE SNOWBOARDING had nothing to do with every one wanting to carve. :D

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Guest RaceCarver

Jack, I'm sorry for sounding so harsh. I was half asleep when I wrote that post late last night.

I guess we are talking about different things. I was looking at it from the engineering perspective and you were looking at it from the marketing prespective.

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Originally posted by RaceCarver

Jack, I'm sorry for sounding so harsh. I was half asleep when I wrote that post late last night.

no prob.

I guess we are talking about different things. I was looking at it from the engineering perspective and you were looking at it from the marketing prespective.

agreed.

cheers,

-Jack

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Guest RaceCarver

Bordy, you are correct that the "truely shaped" ski was not fully embraced by ski racing until the mid 90's, but the thought process/engineering and first prototypes were in existance for several years prior to that.

What is really interesting is that the majority of men World Cup racers were some of the last racers to embrace the new shapes.

I remember hitting Masters Races (where ski length and side-cut rules are never enforced) after the first Elan Parabolics and the orginal K2 Fours showed up, and saw racers who were mid-pack the previous season simply blow away better racers.

On the World Cup, women were the first to embrace the shorty shaped slalom. There were men who insisted on using their old super-straight slaloms into the late 90's, and they were getting their butts kicked every week.

The current FIS minimum turn radius rules are only a few years old. Up until that time, ski companies pretty much had the freedom to pick and choose whatever length and side-cut they wanted. What happened is that GS skis got too short and too turny (some companies were giving their racers GS skis in the sub-20M radius range) and racers were actually getting hurt because the skis would "hook-up" way to fast into the turn.

The FIS now has minimum turn radius and length for each class of ski and maxumum riser height in an effort to protect the racers.

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When Bode did so well at Nationals on a pair of K2 fours (which wasn't a real race ski), that's when is seemed to sink in to the higher level racers that shaped skiies were the way to go. By this time I had been euro carving on my PJ 4.9 for years. My first coach, who knew nothing about snowboard, but was a local ski coach and would let us run his courses with the skiers would say "I wish my skies had that kind of sidecut."

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Guest Paul Brabenec
Originally posted by Linus

here is the conclusion of whatever you guys are talking about....

ALPINE SNOWBOARDING CARVES MUCH BETTER AND COOLER THAN ALPINE SKIING!!!!!!:D

agree???

No, Linus, I don't agree. There's skiers at the local mountain fully carving down the fall-line, hip nearly brushing the snow, at three times the speed of any boarder. Do they make as short a turn? No, but at the speed they're going I 'd say they're pulling at least as many G's as I am laid out carving back and forth across the hill. They are two different ways to get down the mountain but both high-performance, high-excitement, and highly beautiful to watch. There aren't that many people skiing the fully carved style, but that goes for boarding as well. Most everybody on the mountain gets rid of energy as quickly and boringly as possible. We're seeing more carvers of both persuasions this season than ever before, though.

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There's skiers at the local mountain fully carving down the fall-line, hip nearly brushing the snow, at three times the speed of any boarder. Do they make as short a turn? No, but at the speed they're going I 'd say they're pulling at least as many G's as I am laid out carving back and forth across the hill. They are two different ways to get down the mountain but both high-performance, high-excitement, and highly beautiful to watch. There aren't that many people skiing the fully carved style, but that goes for boarding as well. Most everybody on the mountain gets rid of energy as quickly and boringly as possible.

Come to Utah and you will see a few boarders laying down high speed, low to the ground carves (not by me).

Who's to say turns that quick are boring. I finally learned how to turn my GS board as hard as a SL board with massive amount of flex control and I find that exciting. So did several people that stopped me to comment on it.

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