Is it outside the realm of possibility for you to hire your own personal ski coach to be with you every day you’re out on the mountain — all season long — to watch and analyze every movement, every turn you make, and then be there to provide instant feedback on how to improve your technique and style?
Judging by the nature of skiing, that kind of premium service and attention would come with a hefty price tag, which doesn’t even factor in the tip.
Fear not, for Elan is telling us there is another way. The company — during ISPO Munich 2018 — gave the world a glimpse of its new Smart Ski Technology that effectively provides virtual coaching to anyone who seeks it. Elan demonstrated the technology at ISPO by integrating the sensors into its high-performance SLX Fusion ski, capturing data from the sensation of skiing and then relaying that data onto a computer screen.
While the concept is still in its prototype stage and not yet available for consumers to purchase and take out on the hill, industry insiders suggest it is imminent. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, we now have self-driving cars on our roadways and who would’ve thought that would happen as quickly as it did?
How it works is that Smart Ski sensors are integrated into the body of the skis in key areas so that each time a skier carves a turn or executes a movement, they measure dynamics that include balance distribution and precise weight flex. The data is relayed to a cloud database where it can be stored and then analyzed.
The product also comes with a self-coaching tool that can evaluate weaknesses in your style and suggest improvements. Skiers can connect their smart devices to their smart skis via Bluetooth and also receive real-time feedback through headphones or ear buds.
“Our Smart Ski technology is a reflection of Elan’s leadership in innovation,” stated Melanja Sober, head of product management for Elan’s winter division, in a press release. “As consumers are connected across every touch point of their daily lives, it’s an advancement not only for Elan, but also for the ski industry to connect technology between the skier and their skis.”
The only downside of virtual coaching, the way I see it, is that you can’t buy your coach a beer at the end of the day.
While you will not find Elan’s Smart Skis at your favorite ski shop this season, you will find many, many examples of how companies are using the best in technology to produce skis that excel for every skier in every condition. Here is a glimpse at some of those technologies:
AirTip 2.0 | Rossignol
When your laurels include 200,000 units sold, it would be understandable to rest on them for a bit. But that’s not what Rossignol has done with its immensely popular all-mountain/freeride Soul 7 line, giving the skis a substantial technological overhaul for 2018-19.
Primary modifications to the Soul 7 HD focus on upgrades to Rossi’s AirTip technology, the innovative 3D honeycomb fiber structure that removes mass from the ski’s tip/tail and effectively replaces it with a far lighter substance — air. With “AirTip 2.0,” the lattice weave is now wider, thinner, lighter and stronger to give the ski an even more playful feel while boosting its stability. It is woven seamlessly into the ski in a singular construction, giving what Rossi touts as true unity that keeps energy and power centered. The reduced swing weight combined with a nimble 19-meter turn radius makes this a responsive and fun ski.
Another new Rossignol technology that is featured in the Experience all-mountain/frontside line is LCT construction — Line Control Technology. Born out of World Cup racing innovation, LCT is a centralized power rail build from tip to tail that eliminates counterflexibility, resulting in smoother snow contact and increased stability. The power rail fosters instant turn engagement and releases equally easily, giving the ski a playful ability to smear and drift.
BioKonic | K2
When it comes to designing skis for women, K2’s approach is spot on. It’s more, they say, than taking a men’s ski and simply moving the mounting point forward. The company’s Women’s First Design approach — evident in the popular Luv line — is a holistic process that matches the shape, flex profile and material distribution specifically to the female skier. Three technologies — BioKonic Core, Stance Forward and Hybrid Sidewall Construction — distinguish this approach and are featured in the all-mountain Luv collection (Luv Machine, Tough Luv, Endless Luv, True Luv, Secret Luv, Sweet Luv, First Luv, Alluvit, Thrilluvit, Fulluvit and Gotta Luv It).
The BioKonic Core build spreads out heavier and more dense materials further to the edges of the ski where they have the most impact on performance, rather than concentrating the bulk in the middle. This progressive weight distribution continues to optimize flex along the entire length of the ski. Stance Forward promotes a perfectly balanced ski by coordinating the overall shape and sidecut of the ski to sync perfectly with the suggested mid-sole. Hybrid Sidewall Construction improves power and performance by blending a sidewall (sandwiched) construction underfoot with a lighter full-cap construction to the tips and tails. This blend focuses power and performance where it is most effective underfoot, while reducing overall ski weight to ease turn initiation and finish.
Recoil Power | Nordica
Modeled after Nordica’s World Cup race skis, the entire line of Dobermann Spitfires are designed for skiers hungry for high speed, high performance and high precision. Those on-piste, racecarving demands are delivered brilliantly with a combination of technologies, most notably Nordica’s Recoil Power Plate. The plate, which is modeled after Nordica’s proven Piston Plate from World Cup racing technology, allows the ski to flex naturally for a smoother ride
Kore | Head
Super light and super strong is the direction Head is moving with its LYT Tech ski build technology, implementing graphene, koroyd and karuba wood in a customized build pattern to suit any type of skier. Using these ultralight materials, designers are able to fine-tune weight and flex distribution characteristics to optimize the way a ski performs in racing, on-piste or off-piste conditions.
Head also has developed a new geometry for the V-Shape line designed to make turning easier. While the middle of the ski remains the same width, Head has widened the shovel to support skiers when they engage their turns. The narrower tail allows the ski to release with less aggression, making it fun and agile while still requiring a technically demanding driver. The V-Shape models are available with middle widths ranging from 70 to 85 millimeters.
C-Spine | Blizzard
Blizzard’s quest to build high-performance skis designed to carve the perfect turn on groomed snow has been achieved, thanks in large part to Carbon Spine technology. C-Spine, which is found in all skis in the new (throwback) Firebird Race collection and Quattro line, will appeal to skiers in the recreational racing sector, or high-performance “retail race” category.
The core of these skis is laminated wood, but in the middle, between the two laminates, are two layers of tip-to-tail vertically laminated carbon fiber that make up the ski’s “spine.” Being vertically laminated, the ski, when bent, wants to respond back with a lot of snap, energy and rebound. That rebound energy, combined with edge grip, add up to the kind of performance that makes racing skis what they are.
Powerdrive | Dynastar
This technology is based on three materials that interact in the same way as a car chassis, working in harmony to bring the ski alive. It includes a soft material as active suspension to absorb vibrations and smooth imperfections, a hard material to optimize power and amplify performance, and a dynamic material for power transmission that enhances fluidity and control. The materials altogether create a “suspension” system that boosts shock absorption and improves the ski’s responsiveness and grip.
Servotec | Atomic
Developed for its Redster racing line, Servotec is Atomic’s innovation to introduce “power steering” to ski racing. The name derives from “Servolenkung,” or power steering, and the technology consists of a Servotec rod on the top of the ski and an elastomer just under the binding. As a skier prepares to turn, the pre-loaded rod is under tension (the elastomer connected to it is compressed). Once the turn is initiated and the ski bends, the compression in the elastomer is relaxed. It rebounds out like a spring, pulling the rod with it and actively supporting the flex of the ski. This makes steering lighter and quicker. Then on fast straights, the rod and elastomer dampen out bumps and ruts, keeping your steering firmer and more stable at high speeds.
“We believe that racing is the base for building good skis but then we use those technologies to bring those advantages to everybody,” says Christian Hoflehner, global alpine race manager for Atomic.