On January 6, 2016

The Mountain Journal: The 2016 ski collection

Inside the latest technology shaping new skis

By Tony Crespi

Each season the ski industry unveils new ski collections boasting innovative refinements and technological advancements. This season, as example, manufacturers have realized that while many new technologies are extremely light, skis which are too light can, well, chatter on harder snow.

Manufacturers have also have learned over the past few years that while “rocker” in ski designs is positive, the amount of rocker must vary depending on the goal for each ski design, with tapered designs typically offering greater appeal for recreational skiers. Finally, flat skis – where buyers choose the binding of choice – are actually surpassing  “systems” where specific bindings are paired with individual skis. Still, this is less true for narrower skis needing to maximize edge grip through integrated plates and/or rail type systems integrated into the ski design.

Given that many Eastern skiers prefer narrower waists readers may still find system designs appealing. So, what does all this suggest? Many of these new skis reflect more then solely cosmetic changes!

Understand, today the materials used to construct a multi-layer ski core are simply dazzling, often blending exotic woods with titanium, carbon, fiberglass, or steel. Carefully blending materials to create specific models, and incorporating varying amounts of tip and tail rocker, choosing specific waist widths, and balancing ski flex with edge angle decisions, skis continue to evolve. What manufacturers and designers have learned too is that even minor modifications on any single variable can change performance. In addition, ski bindings can enhance or inhibit flex and performance, which is why some skis have integrated bindings intended to maximize the ski and binding interface. “We are quite excited about our skis,” said Jed Duke, product marketing manager for Blizzard Skis.  “These changes are designed to make you feel more connected to the snow.”

As a consumer, then, skiers should recognize that while there are many wonderful skis on the mountain, there are also profound differences between skis.  In fact, the same ski, in different lengths, may have a different radius turn.

“I hope people realize its important to figure out what equipment is right for you,” noted former Olympic Racer Pam Fletcher, part of the team working with Head Skis. “Then you can really feel comfortable and gain comfort and confidence.”

“For the East a great ski is a ski that’s versatile enough for softer snow, but quick enough edge to edge to function everyday in the groomed and harder snow we see daily,” added Duke.

Today it may be helpful to understand that while skis once ranged from novice to race skis today it is more helpful to think of skis as “families” of products, with low to high end performance qualities within each family.  Moreover, these families might include race skis, front side carving skis, all mountain skis, twin tips, powder skis, women’s skis, junior skis, and, yes, backcountry skis.

Honestly, the range in the 2015-2016 skis is extraordinary. We suggest potential buyers take a test ride on their two or three top choices! Then test that final choice in two neighboring lengths. It’s smart. It’s fun!

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