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You've probably read the terms all-terrain, off-piste,
freeride and free skiing. All of these terms are descriptive of skiers and skis that are capable of skiing any part of the mountain in any snow condition. Due to their versatility, these skis are popular with advanced and expert skiers. Because they are somewhat wider than the skis that are designed for groomed slopes, yet narrower that powder skis, these skis are called
Mid-fats, which are usually 100 to 109 millimeter wide at
the tip and over 70mm at the waist, are wide enough to work their way through powder and crud, but not so wide as to be unworkable on groomed runs or packed snow. In contrast, freeride fat or powder skis are built extra wide. This provides good flotation in deep powder snow. In most cases, they measure over 110 millimeter in the tips and over 100mm in the tails with wide waists. Fat skis maneuver quite well through powder. However, they can be difficult to control and turn in groomed conditions.
Freestyle skis, which are also known as park or "new
school skis," are especially designed for skiers that like to show off their tricks in the terrain parks. These skis are often twin tipped. Unlike alpine skis, which have a curved up tip and a flat tail, twin-tips have both a turned up tip and tail.
With Bode Miller on their technical design team, Head Skis are noted for their energy, stability and speed. Their light and agile pipe and park skis use a technology called AIRCOAT, which involves putting air in the fiberglass that surrounds the ski. This technology is also used in the aerospace industry. It is used in Head's Mojos, Monsters and Xenons. The Liquidmetal technology used in Head skis provides elasticity and rebound. However, the brilliance of these skis lies in the Head Intelligence Technology, which was first used in the technology that was developed for helicopter rotor blades. Here's how it works.
Head Skis feature a technology known as Intellifibers. They are placed at 45 degrees in front of the ski binding. According to the Head website, these Intellifibers " transform mechanical impulses into electrical energy." For example, a stronger skier will produce more electrical energy, which will in turn cause the ski to stiffen up. This torsional stiffness of the ski serves to push the skis edges into the snow, thereby providing stability at high speeds. Some Head Skis have what is called Intelligence Chip Technology. With these skis, the electrical energy produced by the Intellifibers is accumulated and gradually released through a pre-programmed chip that is timed to match the oscillation properties of the ski.
You read the ski magazines and you see the descriptions of
the various types of skis. You think that you understand what they are talking about. Then again, you may not. Here is a basic description of the various categories of skis.
Developmental carving skis are designed with a softer flex, wider tips and narrower tails. They tend to be more responsive at slower speeds. Since the shape of these skis helps new skiers make the transition from skidding tocarving, they are best for beginners and intermediates. Skiers who only ski occasionally will appreciate these easy turning skis.
As you begin to advance, you will probably want to look for
an all mountain performance ski. These are specially designed for intermediate to advanced skiers who are able to carve turns on the whole mountain. However, these skis work better on groomed snow, as opposed to ungroomed or off-piste conditions. They are wider than racing skis and have a somewhat softer flex, which allows them to handle more snow conditions and slower turning speeds. Their wider tips, which are also known as shovels, help pull the skier into the
K2 Skis MOD Technology synergizes an elastomeric secondary core that functions as a high-performance suspension system with a mass damper that provides ease, power and forgiveness.
The amount, application and distribution of mass are the keys factors attributed to the success of MOD Technology. While the technology neutralizes unwanted vibrations, unlike other dampening technologies, it has no effect on the flex of the ski. K2 also uses Titan Metal Laminate, which is an extension of the standard metal laminate. This technology results in swing weight reduction by removing material from the top layer of titanium in the tip and tail. This reduced swing weight gives the skier more control with far less fatigue.
K2 MOD Technology is used in the 2008 Apache Coomba Ski, which was designed as a memorial to the late Doug Coombs. Prior to his death, Coombs had been involved with the design of this ski. The Apache Coomba's 102mm waist provides superb flotation, even in deep powder. A favorite with heli skiers, backcountry skiers and powder lovers, the ski is a fitting tribute to one of skiing's most admired heroes. A percentage of the proceeds from sales go to Doug's wife Emily and their three year old son David.
When you hear the call of the wild, will you be ready to answer? The backcountry provides the adventurous skier with the opportunity to enjoy the ultimate solitude of the ungroomed, untracked and unexplored terrain. However, this highly advanced sport requires a special type of ski. Backcountry skiers do not have the luxury of ski lifts or gondolas. In fact, for backcountry enthusiasts, the hike is a significant part of the thrill. For this reason, backcountry skis will be lighter than alpine skis. In most cases, situations that require greater balance, such as carrying a backpack, soft powder and varying snow conditions, require a wider platform. For this reason, backcountry skis require a minimum of a 50mm wide waist.
If you plan to ski backcountry terrain where you might encounter some trees, choose a ski with a 10mm to 20mm sidecut. This will facilitate the type of short turns that are needed to avoid close encounters with tree trunks. Backcountry skis are designed with a Nordic type of camber, which is the ski's central arch. This type of camber is required for the forward movement that is used in classic striding techniques. Skis designed for the backcountry also have metal edges, which help grip the snow in icy conditions.
Gaining an understanding of the components of a ski boot will provide insight into how the boot is supposed to function. It will also help you make the best ski boot choice. The hard plastic outer shell of the boot may offer varying degrees of support. A softer plastic shell will flex easily and be more forgiving.
In contrast stiff plastic ski boot shells are more rigid. However, these shells make the boot more responsive, thereby enhancing movement precision. In fact, the more rigid the boot shell, the more power you can exert on the inside edge of your ski. Beginners should choose a shell that is soft enough for flexibility, but supportive enough to support a correct skiing stance. As your skills improve, moderate shells will allow you to ski different types of terrain. Although these are stiffer than soft boot shells, they are still relatively forgiving. Stiff shells are designed for recreational racers, whereas ultra stiff shells are designed for pro racers.
The ski boot liner is composed of soft foam, which can be removed from the plastic shell. Boot liners regulate foot temperature and aid in moisture management. After you have broken in your boots, the liner eventually conforms to the shape of your foot.
Intermediate and advanced ski boots have specialized adjustment mechanisms that can vary the support needed for various conditions. For example, ankle flex will translate into more movement. However, high performance conditions require less flex.
The forward lean adjustment, along with the ramp angle, can change the angle of the boot cuff. These mechanisms are sometimes used to correct skier stance. If you are knock-kneed or bow-legged, the lateral upper-cuff adjustments can be helpful.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|