By Reid Tulley
Skiers and snowboarders continuously push the limits of snowsports by venturing further into steeper and more technical terrain, completing mind boggling acrobatic aerial maneuvers, and riding harder and faster than ever before.
“With progression of the sport comes progression of the gear,” said Rob Peper, a local avid skier and gear technician at Pine Needle Mountaineering.
The equipment used by today’s skiers and riders is considerably different from the equipment used when the sports first began, Peper said.
Today there are snowboards shaped like bananas and skis wider than a shovelhead that can rip through powder like never before.
New equipment that is built to suite certain terrain, conditions, and ability levels provides modern-day skiers and snowboarders with a specialized experience that is adapted to their specific wants and needs.
“It would be a dead sport if the gear didn’t advance with it,” Peper said.
The largest innovations thus far have occurred in the shape and dimensions of the equipment, he said.
Reverse camber and rocker technologies are fairly new and important technologies in snowboarding, though they’ve been used in the skiing world for quite sometime, said Lisa Branner, of the Silverton-based snowboard factory Venture Snowboards. The term “camber” refers to the shape of the equipment from tip to tail. Traditional camber arches downward from the center of the equipment toward the ends. Reverse camber is the opposite, giving the equipment an upward arch from the center to form a banana shape. Rocker is a less extreme form of reverse camber.
Reverse camber gives the equipment a more surfboard-like feel, while traditional camber gives the user more turning power. Reverse camber also helps the equipment to stay on top of powder, she said.
Ski and snowboard manufacturers have adapted different shapes to suite different riding styles and uses.
Snowboards like those made at Venture have a flat middle and rocker at both ends, giving the rider the best of both worlds, she said.
Changes in the shape of skiing and snowboard equipment can help a rider to have more control in certain conditions and environments, Peper said.
Changes in the dimensions of ski and snowboard equipment have also been pushers of innovation. The dimensions of a ski are described as the tip, tail, waist, and measure the width, in millimeters, of the ski.
Fatter skis will float on top of powder while skinny skis will be easier to control on groomed trails, Pepper said.
The side cut of equipment is another shape that is constantly changing in newer equipment. Side cut depth is measured as the distance between the waist of the board and an imaginary straight line that strikes both of the contact points at the tip and tail.
Different side cuts are suitable for different riding styles, however, Venture snowboards are made with a “quadratic side cut” as opposed to the traditional circular side cut, Branner said.
A quadratic side cut uses the curvature found in a quadratic equation to help spread the users weight out evenly across the snow, which results in more stability when turning the board, she said.
One innovation in the shape of skis that is specifically designed for telemark skiers is called the “Bob Tail,” and was created and patented by a ski maker out of Silverton named Scott Robert Carlson, also known as ScottyBob, who owns ScottyBob’s Skiworks. The “Bob Tail” is an asymmetrical cut in both skis that make the inside and outside edge of the ski unequal lengths. This design was created to help tele skiers turn with more control of the ski, said Carlson.
Carlson may have innovated the dimensions of the “Bob Tail” but he still prefers to follow his engineering motto of “KISS” or “Keep It Simple Stupid,” he said.
Carlson uses much of the same materials as he did when he first started making skis as opposed to some others in the industry, who keep finding new materials to use in the construction of their equipment.
The materials used by ski and snowboard makers today include carbon fiber, Kevlar and graphite among others. Cores can be made of anything from bamboo to a synthetic wood or carbon fiber mixture.
Venture snowboards are now using a castor oil based top sheet that is healthier for the environment than traditional petroleum based top sheets, Branner said.
The castor oil based top sheet is a new development at Venture that they are looking forward to showing off at this year’s SIA Snow Show, she said.
SIA stands for Snowsports Industry of America and their Snow Show is one of the largest snow-sports conventions in the world.
The show, which takes place in Denver during the last week of January, provides industry professionals with a place to show off their latest and greatest gear and to see what other companies are creating.
With all of the technological advancements that ski equipment has undergone in the past decade, most people can easily find equipment built to suite their needs.
Whether one enjoys hiking in the backcountry to get that glory line of chest deep powder, or spending the day jibbing in the park, today there is a pair of skis or a snowboard built to accommodate the specific riding styles of most everyone.