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Ski technology accelerating?


Than_Bogan
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Not quite sure this deserves its own thread, but I couldn't decide which of the new-ski-related threads to put it under.

 

It is very interesting to me that we appear to have a backdrop of decline in tournament participation as well as public awareness of the sport of slalom waterskiing. Yet at the same time it seems to me that the pace of waterski (and binding) technology is rapidly accelerating right now. Going way back, perhaps the first materials breakthrough was fiberglass. Somewhere in that era we got away from "high drag" as a means of slowing down and found that faster skis could get you there earlier with plenty of room to turn. That feels like about 2 major advancements in about 20 years. Then the 9100 came along, and personally I don't think there was a dramatically better ski than that until relatively recently. Maybe I'd call that another 10 year period without a "major" advancement.

 

But now it seems like people are really pushing forward fast, and that a modern ski is technologically obsolete long before it is physically worn out. We're getting all sorts of construction innovation, rapid advancement in shape, and exploring creative ideas like bottom steps, asymmetry, and articulation.

 

Why is this happening? I think part of it is that the tools that allow advancement have gotten so much better. But doesn't some of it have to be that the market is strong? How do we reconcile that with the perceived decline? Or is it completely my imagination and caused by better marketing and hype machines?

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Both! Sure, skis are getting better but do your scores benefit from jumping on "the best ski ever" every time it hits the market vs hitting the gates with "old faithful" wich you have really dialed?

Personally I'm all for trading in the dialed one bc of breakdown.

Jmho.

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Curious how many serious course skiers never enter a tournament but are still buying equipment and boats. My father in-law skis almost every day year round sometimes twice a day. He entered one tournament a couple years ago and that is it. Likes the skiing and the challenge doesn't care about the external competition. Brother in-law is the same way. Both of them are riding on some pretty fancy HO skis. I'm more on the hack side, but still buy new skis and equipment when I want them (nothing as fancy as a $1000 + ski).
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I think @oldjeep has hit on a major point. When I was a teenager, I competed. It's what teenagers do, I suppose. I'm 45 now, and I'm just grateful to get out on the water when I can. I've (almost) no interest in spending my summer scheduling/driving to tournaments. I want to spend my leisure time at the lake, with my family.

 

The guys I ski with (mostly 45-65 years old) are the same way. We own skis and boats. We keep practicing. We don't compete.

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@Than_Bogan

 

My theory is we get a new generation of skis every 3 to 5 years. There are some step changes along the way like the 9100 but that is extremely rare. Right now there seems to be a lot going on because we have 3 new skis that are getting a lot of attention. FlexTail, Vapor 3*, and the V-Type R are all lighting up this forum.

The reality is that ski R&D goes on somewhere every day. The three skis named above are not the only skis to be excited about. The underground buzz on the MC is INSANE! I have not ridden the GT but hear Connelly is selling a lot of skis in the Northeast. I also have a Reflex on my rack… no idea how it skis but I am looking forward to it.

There is also at least one yet to be made public new ski company bubbling under the surface. Game changer? Maybe and maybe not.

So what is left to design? There is some work on materials. You can spend more on exotic carbon and core materials. The carbon top sheet of the new Radar is unique to the industry. I know industry smart guys that think a better carbon or core materials is a huge deal and I know others that disagree.

The golden nuggets seem to still be in shape, flex and rocker. It is the tiny and basically invisible details that make the biggest difference. I know the FLexTail has the Goode guys all worked up but I bet that ski is almost as good without the movable tail. Perhaps the FlexTail technology is a huge deal but I am sure it is worthless on a lesser ski.

The second part of your comment is how does this correlate with the decline in tournament skiing – go back and read my original post about the state of water skiing from the BallOfSpray perspective. I was proposing that there are a LOT of skiers but just less skiing in tournaments.

(*“Vapor 3” is not the official or approved Radar product name)

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@Horton Do you also agree that 10+ years ago a "generation" was a lot longer? Or are you saying a fairly steady 3-5 year generation over most of the sport's history with just a few random sudden steps?

 

My perception is that a "generation" was more like 10 years for a long time and recently has shortened to 1/2 or even 1/3 of that.

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@DW Yep, I think every innovator has been asked to plan when they happen. I think I laugh harder each time it happens...

 

@Horton Interesting. I wasn't purposely thinking about this year, but perhaps I've been overly influenced by it.

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Prototyping and building of new molds I was told had gotten much cheaper more precise. I remember that video here of Nick Parson say that it just a matter of days between an idea and a finished ski during the N1 development.

 

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@gregy (clarification) from idea to next prototype yes. from idea to finished ski no.

 

cutting an aluminum mold by CnC is cheaper and easier but still not "cheap"

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It seems to me that materials and manufacturing techniques are driving the evolution of the shapes. As the designers get newer materials and techniques to use, the shapes seem to be following to make the best use of the materials and techniques. I don't see any revolution in shape technology that everyone will copy.
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@boarditup Radical shapes are still lurking out there.

 

3bpcn5we64sv.jpg

 

As always, it's still the skier - not the ski. The advances in coaching and technique are responsible for most of the score inflation. Some techniques are tuned to characteristics of the equipment but really the credit goes to the talents of the skiers.

 

Eric

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I believe torsional twist Mapple Skis is the most significant innovation. The Goode is a copy IMHO. I don't believe it flexes side to side like a fish tail. It is an excellent ski.

The T2 is the best ski I have ever ridden.

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@Than_Bogan totally agree with the skis devolpment but bindings not so much. Release systems yes but actually bindings no. Look at snow ski and snowboard boot technology and quality of construction and if we want releasable tech we have to make do with let's be honest $100 rollerblade shells. I will be excited when a company brings out a full boa boot I can use with an OB4 release. Until then I'll stick to the exos.
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Yeah I think bindings have a long way to evolve and as a skier its great to see these new designs coming through. And then I take a moment to consider the current WR was set on a pretty conventional D3 Quest. A design that probably has its roots back with the KD skis of the late 90's.
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