WHAT YOU MUST KNOW
Short Shaped Skis Do Work!!!!
This is the truth...... They can bring new skiers into the sport permanently; they can bring those skiers back who have left skiing; they can take the long standing difficulties of learning the sport out of skiing, while leaving in all the fun. The short shaped skis that I am talking about are of course mid-fat shaped skis, shorter versions of those skis preferred by extreme skiers. Sound crazy?
It's not so crazy after you do the math, or more precisely, the physics. These same mid-fat shaped skis (waists 74mm on up) used by extreme skiing competitors, but in lengths under 180cm, are quite simply better suited physiologically for human beings to ski on as an all-terrain snow tool, while expending the least amount of extraneous energy.
All that's needed is to take the basic physical formulas of the mechanics of torque, swing weight, conservation of surface area, edge contact length and balance equilibrium, and factor in the size range of the average skier, and the range of speed of most recreational skiing. Most recreational skiing is done at an approximate limit of about 43mph, less than the upper limit of slalom racing. When you factor all of these components towards designing a energy efficient, user-friendly ski, you are left with mid-fat shaped skis less than 180cm in length, and in most cases, much less.
When you do this you can throw away your lifter plates, there is no boot-out problem with a waist wider than 74mm. As you approach the 80-85mm waist width range, the ergonomic advantages of mid-fats become even more pronounced. They are yet easier to balance on, skid on if desired, and transition from skid to carve or vice-versa. When more edging leverage is desired on hard snow, for your expert skiers, simply offset your bindings toward the inside edges 2 to 4mm.
Unfortunately, at present there is a conspicuous lack of short mid-fat skis that are flexed anywhere close to where they should be in firmness. Because of their extra width, shorter mid-fat skis should be flexed much firmer than their narrow-waisted counterparts; they still remain user-friendly. A short mid-fat shaped ski with a firm flex has tremendous potential carving power on groomed or hard snow.
A case in point:
A pair of ODYSSEY production prototype mid-fat shaped skis were used while winning an end of season instructor's open slalom race at Steven's Pass, WA, back in March '94. This shocked all present. The dimensions of these skis were: 112X82X106mm, length 159cm. These skis were also loaned out as demos for recreational skiing to expert and intermediate skiers alike with extremely good feedback, despite the fact they were short and flexed almost twice as firm as a conventional ski of either comparable length or surface area. This is the preferred length for the slalom racers now that are standing on the podiums…
Not Surprising if you refer to SKIING Magazine's November 99, article on “Ski Anything”, where Eric and Rob DesLauriers say "Wider shaped skis can take you anywhere on the mountain. They rip powder, steeps, crud, and the groomed. They carve variable snow with a lot of cool new sensations. They really level the playing field so a ton of already good skiers can become a lot better. Including you."
It is becoming a well known fact that many extreme skiing competitors not only use their mid-fats to compete in, but to shred groomed runs with as well. Take a look at any of the photos where you see free skiers or extreme skiers. They are on wider shaped skis.
The mid-fat's large sweet spot under the boot binding area smoothes out snow irregularities, and has inherently a much higher degree of synergy with a shaped side cut than a narrow waisted ski.
I believe that the engineering departments of most ski manufacturers are aware of this synergy and the potential for mid-fats for everyday recreational use. Unfortunately, until the marketing departments get off the longer-and-narrower waist-is-better band wagon, the choices out there for a truly energy efficient all-terrain ski for the average skier at an affordable price are pretty slim. It's time for our manufacturers to wake up and smell the physics, wider is better.
In conclusion, I don't believe that the primary reason for declining ski sales is because of the overwhelming choice in shaped skis currently available, as some have suggested. I think there is another reason; the shaped skis being promoted mainly for groomed slope use are just too narrow in the waist, and thus still hard to balance on. This is magnified by the addition of lifters, jacking the skier's center of gravity further off the snow. The factors of narrow waist and lifters can lengthen the learning curve, and turn a lot of initiates off the sport.
On the other hand, look at snowboarding, and that relative newcomer to the scene, skiboarding, both of which continue to post growth in the percentage of total hard goods sold, while alpine ski sales continue to decline. Why is this so? I think a big part of the continued growth in snowboarding and the rapidly expanding growth in skiboarding is their respective short learning curves, especially in skiboarding. Initiates to these sports have almost instant success, and they tell their friends. In the case of snowboarding and skiboarding, the product for the most part lives up to its hype. The narrower shaped skis do not live up to most of the shaped ski hype being currently advertised in ski magazines and elsewhere. It is a start, but only part of the equation. Shorter mid-fats skis waists 74mm and up, could easily live up to the hype without a doubt.
The part of the testing that the industry misses is the average or intermediate skier learning curve. Testing is done by experts that have trained neuro transmitters. They don't lack the skills the beginner, average or intermediate skier has. Therefore they cannot possibly make the determination of what works best because they already know how to ski and can't feel the advantages as readily. In fact the wider ski may seem awkward to them similar to comparing a racing bike with a mountain bike. There is a place for both, as there is for shaped skis. You want to go everywhere on the mountain you need a wide short ski not a racing ski.
Mid-fat shaped skis in their shorter lengths
with a firmer flex, also have a short learning curve; they honestly
meet all the hype which equals more satisfied, successful customers that
will return for more of the same experience. They'll tell their
friends. They'll buy skis. Their friends will buy skis.
The industry will grow. Skiers will be happy again and not be
looking elsewhere for fun.