Skis Overcome the Snowboard Onslaught with Plastics

We all remember the 90s. Grunge culture was at its apex and nothing epitomized the spirit of youth and fun more than the snowboard. Teens and young adults flocked to the board like plaid to Seattle. Skis were passé; the snowboard seemed edgier, hipper, and hotter.

Yet in recent years skis have made a big comeback. The slopes are flooded with a new breed of skier, a skier who seemingly floats on powder, can carve the most intense runs, and loudly proclaims “This is not your dad’s sport.” Skiing today is faster, sexier, and better than ever thanks to design innovations and advancements in plastics.

In the mid 90s the reintroduction of the shaped ski, an hourglass-figured design made for easy handling and increased speed, gave skiing a new lease on life. These “short skis” were not only lighter but also superior in varrying snow conditions compared to their straight and narrow cousins. Despite the reluctance of traditional skiers, shaped skis were greeted by an eager new generation of athletes inspired by their increased performance and superior maneuverability. Although the shape of these skis, originally made of wood, dated back to the 1800s, the flexibility, weight, and torsion control of the new shaped skis was made possible by the use of modern fiberglass and polyurethane plastic composites.

The shaped ski is bulkier at the tip and tail, creating an angled curve for increased turning precision, without the traditional one-legged stepping approach of old-fashioned skiing. Since skis were originally made of wood, original ski designs were for straighter skis, which meant heavier weight at the bulky ends of the skis. This decreased performance, especially in powder conditions. Enter Polyurethane. This plastic, now used in lieu of wood in the ski’s core, eliminates the weight problem while adding flexibility and fun. Often reinforced with carbon steel or titanium alloy to increase strength and stability, and fiberglass composite plastic to provide bounce, the new generation of shaped skis has reinvigorated the sport. What makes these skis much more than beginners’ toys is the polyethylene waterproof bottom coating that makes for high performance over wet or dry powder.