Inghams recently interviewed Phil Gordon, the equipment buyer at Snow+Rock, to get his opinion about the progression of skis and how technology has changed skis in more recent years. With the winter season fast approaching, we’re intrigued to learn more about the different types of skis we will be seeing on the slopes this season.
What are the trends looking like for the newest range of skis?
Lighter weight skis and versatility are the biggest trends for the year ahead. Each year, manufacturers bring lighter weight materials to the market, integrating them into mainstream ski construction outside of R&D.
The demand for versatile skis that can handle a variety of terrain is also on the increase.
Has there been any dramatic changes to skis this year?
A few years ago, we saw the introduction of a host of exciting new ski shapes, whereas this year has focused on developing themes and redesigning established products to incorporate lighter materials and advanced technologies.
With more and more skiers starting to experiment with different types of terrain we have seen a big shift toward all-mountain skis. The designs have become even more versatile and we are seeing an increase in the inclusion of rocker across the board, allowing easier pivoting on-piste and more float in softer snow.
How does the core of your ski affect the performance?
The core gives the ski a lot of its character; it provides stability, dampening, pop, playfulness, flexibility and torsional strength. The ski’s characteristics vary, depending on the material used in the core’s construction and the ski’s intended use. The majority of skis have a wood core as it provides reliable, lasting performance and is easy to source. As technology advances, we are seeing the introduction of more exotic core materials such as bamboo, carbon fibre and granite, which all offer unique performance attributes.
What do you think the next big thing will be in ski engineering?
The next big thing will be the introduction of lighter weight materials into more ski ranges. I also think there will be further development in reducing the environmental impact of ski manufacturing and hopefully more components will become recyclable. I think that graphene, one of the most talked about materials, will start to be used in combination with carbon fibre once some of the technical production challenges have been sorted out.
I also think that we will see the bar raised further in terms of product quality and a drop in price, as the development of prototyping using 3D modelling design will bring production time down. Bindings will also continue to get lighter and stronger with improvements in plastics and production techniques, probably used in conjunction with 3D printing to create unique composite parts and moulds.
What are you predicting to be the season best seller?
This is a really exciting year for us and I think we’ll have lots of great sellers, as there are so many fantastic products. We are really excited about our Rossignol ski package, which includes the All Mountain Experience 74. The Rossignol Soul 7 is going to be huge, as will our range of Line skis, which includes the Sick Day 95. Another ski that stands to be really popular is the all-new Salomon RS800 Ti. It offers great all-mountain versatility, taking the solid characteristics of the award winning XT800 Ti and adding a semi-sidewall construction to give it a solid, yet playful feel that you can enjoy all over the mountain!
With the advance of smaller companies, do you think this will change the face of ski buying in 2014/2015 to more micro ski brands?
Many of these smaller companies have some really interesting ideas and have the resources to take these ideas, put them into production and bring exciting new products to the market. The problem is that in many cases, these skis are made in limited numbers, which can be more expensive than the skis produced by larger brands. As a result micro brands tend to speak to experienced skiers who are aware of what’s available on the market and are happy to pay a premium for something different.
If we look at skis 30 years ago and how far they’ve evolved, how do you picture a ski looking in 2044?
In the years to come, I think that skis will fundamentally keep the same basic shape, because it’s what people are used to. Micro brands such as Zai give us a clue as to where ski design could be going, with models like the Nezza, which suggests that we could start to see super-strong skeletal shapes for piste, and ultra-thin powder skis for off-piste adventure. Where I see the things changing is the advancement of new materials and digital integration. Ultimately, as material and production costs come down and the technology is perfected, it will be widely introduced into the mainstream.
I think we would also see a change in the relationship between skis, boots and bindings, as skis become lighter and thinner. New production techniques would further integrate the ski and binding, including lightweight magnetic film, which would probably be introduced initially to the touring ski market, where the heel is locked in place magnetically for the descent.
Digital integration could allow skiers to be able to get more information from the ski, including everything from speed and location (to avoid getting lost on a powder day), to GPS that would allow you see how many runs you’d done. RFID would allow your lift pass to be ingrained into the ski itself, reducing theft, as it would allow the movements of the skis to be closely monitored.
While it’s fun to speculate about the future, I’m very excited about the current season as we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great for skis, and I’m looking forward to skiing on as many as I can. Bring on the snow!
For more information about any of the skis mentioned visit www.snowandrock.com
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