I finished my writing my paper today, a final draft is due next friday, and my teacher is a bitch who doesn't give feedback. So, i figured newschoolers could help me out. I'd appreciate it if people could point out any glaring inaccuracies in my information, and just some general advice on parts that could use some work.
Here it is:
Though lots of people in New England, and in New Hampshire in particularly, ski, few know a whole lot about how different types of skis can help you become a better skier. Most people only think of old, straight, metal planks when the word ski is mentioned. However, with a variety of new types of skis, with very different properties unique to each, thereís now a ski out there thatís perfect for any individual.
One of the most important factors in how a ski feels to the skier is what type of construction the manufacturer uses to build it. One of the two main types of construction used by manufactures is cap construction. The top of a cap construction ski is made of a composite of some sort; What type of composite it is varies from ski to ski. The composite continues along both sides of the skis, and connects to the metal ski edge. The composite usually forms a 3-D shape, and the topsheet, which is where the graphics are located, finishes off the top of the ski. The wraparound design of the Ďcapí of the ski means that a great percentage of its strength from this composite. So, ski makers can use foam for the skis core, which results in a lighter ski. This also means that just about anything can be used for the central part of the ski, so itís inexpensive to make compared to sidewall construction. In addition, the ski is quite solid, and delamination rarely occurs. However, one well-known disadvantage to cap skis is their lack of ĎconnectionĎ to the snow. They simply donít have the tactile feel that sidewall construction skis typically have. Itís more difficult to get feedback on the snow youíre sliding on, something more advanced skiers normally expect. Thus, cap construction is used mainly in lower-end skis. (Haney)
The other type of construction mainly used by manufacturers, sidewall construction, is made in a considerably different way using different materials, and offers properties quite different from those of cap skis. Much like a sandwich, sidewall construction skis have a layer on the top, the topsheet, and a base which connects two metal edges on the bottom. The similarities end there. The key part of the ski construction is the middle, since it is what gives a ski properties such as stiffness, flex, and dampening. This core, which is made of various types of wood, is known for giving better feedback, or having a better Ďfeelí on snow compared to cap skis. The sidewall, which is unique to this type of construction and gives this ski its name, is a hard pice of plastic running along the sides of the ski to protect the core, usually at a slight angle. (Haney)
How a ski is constructed isnít the only thing that determines how it acts on snow. Various materials can be used to give it a soft or stiff longitudinal flex, which is key to how easy it is to turn the ski and how well it holds this turn. Softer skis are naturally easier to initiate a turn in, since they bend into the carve and engage the sidecut (more on that later) more easily. Softness also makes it easier for a skier to correct their mistakes. However, soft skis arenít just for beginner skiers. They perform better in powder, since when a ski is easier to flex up and down, as is required for it to stay afloat in pow, itís easier to ski the soft stuff in it. (Ski Sidecut) Stiffer skis, on the other hand, are harder to initiate a turn in, but stays in the turn significantly better than a softer ski. Making a ski stiffer usually takes some sort of metal or other stiffener different from the core of the ski. This increased edge hold offered by stiffness allows for more aggressive skiing, on steeper slopes, since you can be sure that your edges will hold. The extra weight incurred by the metal makes stiffer skis unfriendly powder companions both in that they bend less above the snow and are heavier, so sink even more. (Ski Sidecut)
Another characteristic a manufacturer can change in a ski is how fast it turns. This comes directly from a skiís sidecut, or turning, radius. Think of it as if the curve of the ski extends in both directions, eventually becoming a circle. A skiís sidecut is a measure of the radius of this circle. A ski with a shorter radius will make faster, sharper turns, and will generally engage easier. Advance skiers will like the short turns with little transition time, and beginners will enjoy the ease with which they start a turn. A ski with a long turn radius will be more comfortable in faster, more relaxed turns, and wonít be as likely to catch an edge when you are cruising, due to their tip and tail not being much larger than their waists. Skis with a turn radius which is neither particularly short or particularly long embody the characteristics of both types of sidecuts, but to less of an extreme degree than the skis at either end of the spectrum. They can also be made to make either shorter or longer radius turns, but again, they canít make a turn as sharp as a ski with a short radius, and wonít be as comfortable in a long, sweeping arc that skis with long radii are known for. (Ski Sidecut)
How exactly is a ski maker able to design the ski so that it has a specific sidecut? Since sidecut is essentially an extension of how much of a difference there is between the waist width of the ski and its tip and tail, manufacturers. simply adjust the dimensions of the ski until its sidecut is what they want. (Alpine Ski Sizing) The contact points of the tip and tail can also be adjusted, but that will explained in the section on rocker and camber.
The waist width of a ski doesnít just determine what kind of sidecut a ski has, itís also a key factor in determining what type of conditions the ski is suited to. The wider it is, the better it is for pow. The thinner it is, the better it is for hardpack and groomers. The rare ski seen today with a waist width of less than 72 mm is for nothing but groomed snow. Anybody seeking the soft stuff need not apply. However, these skis are among the best in the business in the area in which theyíre intended to be used. They transfer fastest from edge to edge, since there isnít much in between. This allows for more time on edge, so there is less time on the flat base of the ski, where you are most likely to wipe out in a bad patch of snow. Anything between 72 mm and 88 mm is a ski that can hold its own anywhere on the mountain, but canít do as well as something more specialized in each area. Itís still thin enough to be reasonably fast edge to edge, but it floats better in soft snow and is more stable overall than an thinner ski is. A ski between 88 mm and 100 mm is beginning to shift toward the soft end of the spectrum snow-wise. Itís quite hefty underfoot, and noticeably slower from one edge to another than pure carvers, but it more than makes up for that due to the flotation that it offers in powder. And, depending on the ski, a ski with this waist width may not be an absolute ninja from side to side, but these usually hold a turn fairly well. Anything with a waist width beyond 100 mm is a ski intended for nothing but deep fresh snow. The only thing that they will be worthy for outside of blower powder is getting you back to the lift for another lap. These are skis for a skier who skis nothing but powder. (Ski Sidecut)
A skier who skis a lot of powder wants a wide, soft ski, but rocker or reverse camber will also make a ski float in powder like itís its job. However, explaining what rocker is isnít easy. To understand what the term means, one must first know what normal camber is. Itís the space you see in between a pair of skis when you put them together, a natural bend in the ski that goes upward. Itís what helps initiate turns. (Rocker Guide)
Reverse camber is simply the opposite of normal camber. The idea was originally used in waterskiing, and has recently worked its way into winter skiing. Instead of a ski bending up and one or both ends, with two downward sloping portions and another upward curve in the middle, true reverse camber is simply a long, downward curve. As one might imagine, this shape works wonders in soft snow. (Rocker Guide)
Thanks to all these new technologies, different combinations of each can be used to figure out a ski with perfect and unique properties just right for any type and level of skier. As the technology in skis continues to advance, even stranger-seeming technologies will soon be moving to the forefront of ski construction, resulting in better skis for everyone.
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