Parabolic skis: revolution
in downhill skiing|
Chang, Discovery Channel
|Parabolic, shaped or hourglass. These
skis are out to settle the score.
Carving Day at Horseshoe Ski Resort an hour north of
Toronto. The snow is falling steadily as representatives for all the major
ski manufacturers set up their demo stations. They're here to reclaim the
mountain from those who've gone to the other side - the ones
who've traded in their lean steel and fiberglass swords for a fatter and
wider surfboard on snow. The ski-makers have a new weapon: parabolic skis.
Set up in military lines, these hipper, groovier-looking skis have a
tip and a tail that's much wider than the waist, which is the area under
your boot. The result is a dramatic shape or sidecut along the side of the
ski, producing an hourglass-like figure.
something exciting, something fun to add to skiing," says Bob Muran, a
former professional skier with the Polish National Team and now a
parabolic ski instructor with Elan.
||One of the most extreme parabolic ski
is Elan`s SCX series.|
Skiing has been suffering a rough ride since the surfers came on board.
Snowboarders talk about how much easier and more fun it is to "ride the
snow" than to downhill ski. But this new shaped ski has ski
instructors and manufacturers raving about a revolution in
skiing. Interestingly enough, the ski has a shape suspiciously similar to
its rival snowboard.
"When you tip the
ski on edge, it will immediately start turning because the shape already
has the ski going in that direction," explains Muran. It's so much easier
to turn and balance that, "whatever level you were on conventional skis,
you'll go up to another level on the shaped skis," says Perry Schmunk,
director of the ski and snowboard school at Blackcomb Mountain at
Whistler, B.C. "Everyone's enjoyment will go up a notch." The resort has
replaced their rental skis with the shaped ones last year.
|The parabolic ski has a dramatic
sidecut, but the `extremeness` depends on the model.
geometric technology will affect the ski industry the same way the
oversized racket impacted tennis, says Schmunk. "It'll increase your sweet
spot." They're the most innovative thing to happen to skis since plastic
boots replaced leather ones in the 1960s, adds Muran, when the plastic
allowed you to lean forward and really pressurize the ski.
||Ski instructor Bob Muran shows Don
how to shift his weight on the parabolic skis.|
Easier to turn! To balance! Less effort!
Could a simple
adjustment like a curve in the ski really allow a beginner to carve in a
season or two, a skill that usually takes several patient years on
conventional skis? Will it make a difference for an intermediate skier
|The skis allow advanced skiers to
`ride the snow` close to the snow, like snowboarders do.
I put on a pair and follow Muran out onto the slopes. My friend Donald
Chong, a beginner skier, comes along for the ride.
comfortable immediately after strapping them on. He roughly imitates
Muran's Cs down the slope, legs wide apart. My skis cross once before I
realize I really don't have to work as hard to turn, and to trust
the skis. The stance is the same: knees bent, chest and arms forward,
shins leaning forward against my ski boots. But instead of twisting my
skis into my turns by putting pressure on the front of the skis and
following the turn through, I just shift my weight from side to side. The
more weight I put on my inside ski, the sharper the turn. They really are
easier to turn.
||Bob Muran says each Elan model varies
according to the skier`s ability, weight and gender.|
As I see Don grasping the technique on his third run, I feel a little
cheated. I remember spending much of my time falling when I was learning
to ski and here was Don, all smiles. No aches, no fear.
"Psychologically, they just feel better - they're like extensions of my
legs and I don't have to worry about my skis crossing over," grins Don.
"Suddenly you're going to discover the joy of skiing that was reserved
for someone who's been skiing for ten years," offers Muran.
some ways, this is the way the skis should have been made."
"..to begin with." Muran finishes the thought.
The skis are
shorter, about 15 cm shorter than what you would take on a conventional
ski, and come in only about four sizes. The wider tip and tail make up for
the lost surface area from the decrease in length. The deeper the sidecut,
the easier it is to turn. They are touted to be best in powder and easier
to handle in cruddy snow and moguls. There aren't any moguls to try them
out on but they do seem easier for the first two conditions. They're also
supposed to handle ice but from what I've seen, it depends on the model
you buy. Curved edges aren't what I would choose to ski in icy conditions.
|Skiers and snowboarders (right) can
ride the snow together.
The shape of these new skis aren't completely unfamiliar to the ski
industry either. Professional racers have been using custom-made shaped
skis for years. The commercial designs, said to be made first by Elan,
showed up last season but have come out in full force this year. According
to industry experts, the parabolic skis will make up half of all ski sales
this year - comprising more than 60 models from 15 manufacturers.
To introduce the skis to the retail public, manufacturers and ski
stores are holding clinics across the country to allow curious skiers to
try them out. Some, like Elan, offer an actual run out with an instructor
like Muran. Salomon is the only major manufacturer that won't be making
its own version of the shaped skis, and American manufacturer K2 is now
only making the shaped ones. Prices vary greatly, from $299 up to
So how do you decide if the new skis are for you? Schmunk says it's
like buying a used car: don't buy them until you've tried which make is
best for you. Try them at a demo clinic or rent a pair for the day.
Ski instructors and manufacturers alike are predicting that what is now
the conventional ski will become obsolete, and the new parabolic ski will
be known just as the ski.
The new skis won't just give skiing its needed facelift; they may end
the war on the mountain between snowboarder and skier. As one "paraholic"
who goes by the name J. Garcia says, "if snowboarders look like skiers and
skiers look like snowboarders, it doesn't matter. All that's important is