The Past, Present, & Future of Ski Manufacturing | Blister Summit 2023 Video

At Blister Summit 2023, we brought together ski designers and manufacturers from DPS, Folsom, Majesty, and Meier to get their take on the current state of ski design; why wood has remained the go-to choice for ski cores; what we should expect from ski cores in the future; how to identify a properly constructed and “finished” ski, and more.


Learn more about the Blister Summit here


  • Introductions & Background 00:00
  • Most Difficult Thing About Constructing Skis 11:01
  • Why Use Wood Cores? 14:27
  • Wood-Core Alternatives? 20:14
  • How to Evaluate a Properly Constructed Ski? 28:02
  • Performance of Different Types of Woods 39:21
  • Waste in Ski Production 43:00
  • What are Your Backgrounds? 44:58
  • Biggest Advancement in Skis So Far? 48:03
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3 comments on “The Past, Present, & Future of Ski Manufacturing | Blister Summit 2023 Video”

  1. Thomas’ point about the economics of sufficiently performant foams are spot on. Exotic foams like Rohacell have replaced wood in things like helicopter blades, but the economics just don’t work for skis. DPS and Dynastar are the only brands that I can think of that have really made a go of it.

  2. Thomas made another point at the end that I think got glossed over: To get good torsional stiffness from a really wide rectangle as in the tip of a wide ski (or one with aggressive sidecut) requires materials with high tensile strength. He specifically cites the economic availability of S-glass (especially higher grades like S-2 and S-3), and that rings very true for me as an engineer.

    I think that as with just about everything in engineering and manufacturing the shapes co-evolved with the materials. Shorter, wider skis with deep sidecut are nothing new. Ski designers were always aware of the potential benefits, and there were attempts at both at least as far back as the 1970s (contemporaneous with the original freestyle craze). Nobody remembers them because they skied poorly, IMO because the materials didn’t exist to make them ski well.

    Even rocker is a very old concept. I’ve seen speed-event racing skis from the 80s with notably rockered tips, though the designers called it “splay” back then. The reason we didn’t see it in the mass market is because rocker really only became advantageous for “general use” as it became possible to make the skis wider (and arguably stiffer), and those required progress on the materials side.

    I think that one of the most arrogant things we can possibly do is to assume that the professionals who designed skis back in the olden days didn’t understand ski geometry as we do. They did, and that is evidenced by the ways in which they attempted to exploit sidecut, width, and rocker at the time. They just couldn’t take it anywhere near as far as modern designers do because the materials weren’t there.

    A random thought: IMO snowboards could go wider with old materials because the two-foot stance and shorter length creates different stress distributions and less need for torsional stiffness.

  3. At the risk of spamminess, I think that the one “materials-independent shape insight” we can point to is McConkey’s Spatula.

    For a pure “surfing powder ski” like that the fact that you couldn’t make a wide-tipped ski with favorable flex characteristics (longitudinal and torsional) didn’t matter much, and indeed the Spatula’s reversed sidecut meant that the tip and tail were fairly narrow, inherently mitigating the problems that Toomas referenced. The Spatula would have been possible many years earlier if somebody had recognized the potential of such a radical shape before Shane did (a point that McConkey himself made with terrific flair by riding old waterskis).

    With that said, I don’t think we could have evolved from the Spatula to modern shapes that can both surf and also perform halfway-reasonably for “conventional” skiing without a lot of materials progress.. So IMO the subsequent evolution of McConkey’s innovation into something with mass-market viability was materials-driven, even if the original insight was not.

    To be clear, I’ve never owned DPS skis (though I’ve demo’ed several) and their design approach and the characteristics they optimize don’t really “speak to me” personally, so I’m not being a fanperson here. At the same time I think that Toomas is spot-on, and that DPS was at the forefront of taking the Spatula and using advanced materials to turn it into skis like the ones we have today (including the ones I do ride).

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