Skis are the most critical part of the winter sport of skiing; it is in the name. They are the primary tool and the method by which the participant traverses the mountainside, dale, or otherwise the countryside. They are broken down by type and orientation into several categories, the largest of which is alpine and cross country, with one deviation in the alpine downhill skiing category. Almost all of them are, however, pointed upwards in the front to prevent digging into the snow during their use. Some freestyle versions will also have a slightly upward facing rear for the same reason to assist in tricky or backwards landings, or just to make cruising downhill backwards a feasible endeavor. For the remainder, three primary different forms of skiing will be looked into along with the differences in the tools of their respective trades.
Alpine skiing is the method of skiing to go downhill, or more realistically down-mountain, in a brisk manner. The method of descent is most easily discernable by the landscape, it is downhill and heavily sloped, and by the breaking method, which is a number of turns typically called carving. In this method, the skis are typically the length of the rider and are of a middle ground width, being not as wide as their back country powder counterparts and not as thin as cross country variants.
Technically, backcountry skiing falls into an exploratory form of alpine skiing and has gained a lot of popularity because of the thrill and floating experience provided by gliding on powder. Skis in this category are broader at the front and the rear in order to be sure that the rider can float on top of the powder, instead of sinking and grinding to a halt under the snow which can be several feet deep in the high elevation mountains. Also, back country version will generally be a little shorter than the generic downhill kind, as the shortness helps to maintain the skier above the snow with minimal drag on the powder. For these reasons, powder hunters will typically invest in skis with a wider waist, as it is referred to, and will utilize the advantages listed above to dominate the backcountry powder.
Both of the previous categories are in great contrast to the category of cross country skiing. The purpose of this method of skiing is to traverse a relatively level landscape, in comparison to the vertical drops proposed by alpine downhill skiing. For this reason, the skis are typically longer in length and shorter in width than their alpine counterparts. The reduced width, sometimes 5 cm wide, has earned them the nickname of “skinny skis”.
The materials used to produce skis are of wide and varied sort. Old school vintage Nordic versions that came from Sweden, Norway, Finland and other frost covered European state usually were built from wood, and were exceptionally long by today’s standards. The modern incarnation of the tools of skiing has produced many different polymers and other composites that are used to create a lightweight and super strong pair of powder waders or groomed-slope shredders. In either event, the more complex and engineered the production process, you can bet that a higher cost will come with it. One of the most interesting materials that a select group of these have been made from is a patented material out of California. The California Institute of Technology commercially introduced Liquidmetal in 2003, and Head built their own line of groomed sking carvers out of this composite material. Some of the properties of the Liquidmetal include a high tensile strength, superior corrosion resistance, a near 1 coefficient of restitution, and a fantastic memory.
These have culminated in a piece of equipment with a impressive bite into groomed snow, hard pack, or even ice. The technological advances into chemical composites, metal alloys, and polymers in general have culminated in a superior set of equipment as compared to the old wooden blocks of the early skiing industry.