Carbon fibre is light and stiff. But if not compensated for in ski design, light and stiff can turn to chatter in the right (wrong) conditions. When the going gets variable, alternative materials and intelligent design keep your skis damp and powerful. Let’s drop into some ski construction details to illustrate the point.
Just like that sandwich you ate for lunch, most high-end skis are made of numerous layers sandwiched together. The ski base provides the glide surface on the bottom, the top sheet provides a place for graphics and a top layer of protection, and the wood core makes the central meat of the sandwich. Above and below the core are various layers of fibre laminate and in some cases metal that work together to create the personality and characteristics of a ski.
Ski laminates are typically glass or carbon fibre, each with their unique characteristics. Glass fibre boasts damping and a lower material cost. Carbon fibre is more expensive but allows ski manufacturers to cut weight and increase responsiveness without sacrificing stiffness.
ENERGY NEEDS SOMEWHERE TO GO
Aggressive skiing drives substantial energy into your skis which is amplified at high speeds through variable conditions. Stiff carbon fibre does not absorb that extra energy as effectively as more dense woods, metals, and glass fibres. That energy turns into chatter unless you can damp it with alternative materials. Hence a backcountry ski designers’ challenge is to balance the material choices, quantity, and placement to achieve optimal energy absorption without compromising the ski’s light weight. The key is to look at each of the sandwich layers already present and developing ways to get more out of each one.
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A SKATE INSPIRED SOLUTION
G3 has introduced Polyurethane sidewalls throughout our ski line to directly complement carbon’s properties and put a muzzle on that chatter.
Commonly used in skateboard wheels and racecar bushings to make for a smoother ride, polyurethane (or PU) is an elastomeric polymer material known for its energy absorption, durability, and elasticity. Compared to traditional ABS sidewalls, PU’s superior elasticity gives skis a whole new level of damping and increases durability by 30% improving protection from sidewall impact. Using PU in ski construction also allows for a permanent bond to the wood core and a seamless sidewall.
WHAT ABOUT THE METAL?
Using metal layers will bring additional energy absorption and power transfer to the ski, while boosting the ski’s durability and stiffness and increasing security for binding mounts. Titanal is a popular Aluminum alloy found in high-end skis. All G3 skis include Titanal layers of varying lengths designed to meet that ski’s intended use. Some backcountry skis are produced without metal laminates to reduce overall weight at the cost of durability and performance.
This information is one tool amongst a myriad of others a ski designer pulls from to create the desired ski characteristics for a specific ski. Carbon fibre keeps your skis light weight for the climb, and when the going gets variable, alternative materials and intelligent design keep your skis damp and powerful. Rip it up.