Blister Summit Panel on Ski Design

We talk to ski designers from Blizzard, Folsom, Rossignol, Dynastar, & Wagner Skis about their respective design philosophies; current trends in ski design; whether skis are being dumbed down today; whether stated sidecut radius numbers are fake; current consumer interests; and more.

TOPICS & TIMES:

  • Different approaches to ski design 00:00
    • Jed Duke, Blizzard Skis 00:57
    • Mike McCabe, Folsom Custom Skis 3:37
    • Pete Wagner, Wagner Custom Skis 8:03
    • Thor Verdonk, Rossignol & Dynastar 9:46
  • Rank the top 3 innovations in ski design today 13:20
  • Are skis being dumbed down today? 22:34
  • How much has the manufacturing process changed? 31:33
  • Women’s skis 38:36
  • Current demand: specific touring skis vs. “50/50” skis 48:06
  • Are stated sidecut radius numbers fake? 56:08
  • Which ski design trends do you like best? 1:04:58
  • Which ski design trends do you like least? 1:08:44
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9 comments on “Blister Summit Panel on Ski Design”

  1. Serious question — why did it take so long for shaped skis to happen? Folks have been shaping surf boards since the 1960s. You would assume that folks were shaping the first skis out of wood by hand. A curve is not a complicated engineering/design accomplishment. So why did it take until the 1990s (20+ years after an astronaut walked on the moon) for there to be commercial skis with sidecut? It’s a superior product in every respect, right?

    • The international skiing history association website has a lot of articles about how ski equipment has evolved. They have an in-depth history about the evolution of ski shape https://skiinghistory.org/history/evolution-ski-shape The TLDR version is skis have had sidecut since the 1800’s just significantly less sidecut than modern skis. In the related article on ski construction you see most of the evolution in ski design from WW2 to the 1980’s was focused on materials and construction https://www.skiinghistory.org/history/short-history-skis-0

      As someone who skied as a teenager in the 1990’s before modern highly shaped skis were everywhere let me tell you skiing was still really fun. The skies I used back then were 220’s and they were stiff and stable. For skiing groomed slopes they were actually fantastic. Coming back to skiing after about 15 years to skis that are shorter, fatter and shaped they absolutely opened up way more of the mountain to way more people.

  2. Nice conversation. The most interesting question, to me, was the discussion about “dumbing down” skis. I assume we are talking about relatively stiff skis, with long effective edge, and less rocker and taper (harder to ski) vs softer skis, with short effective edge, and more rocker and taper (easier to ski). For the record, I have slalom skis, and I love carving on piste, but for most general skiing I prefer skis of the second kind. Skis of this kind helped me venture off piste, and opened up so many possibilities. Now, after a long learning curve, I am tending (slightly) more toward skis of the first kind. I appreciate how accessible skis make the sport more more fun and safe for people without the very best skills, but I also appreciate how people looking for really straight, long, stiff skis might feel like their options are limited (and shrinking) in the current market. I guess in the end I hope there will always be different skis for different people. Now here’s a related question: how can we help more people build all-around skiing skills? Or, to phrase that differently, instead of “dumbing down” skis, how can we help skiers become more proficient? That’s an area that Blister has perhaps not explored as deeply a possible.

    • Bruno, to me the “dumbing down of skis” applies to all sports industries. You think some kid who just learned to shift gears on a new dual suspension bike is going to get anything close to the skill level he would cutting his teeth on a hardtail?

      Point is, humans would rather invest in stuff than skills. Lessons (school) takes time and $ and why bother when you can just buy it? Of course you can’t but marketing brainwashes most otherwise.

      I know you asked Blister, but if I could answer your question? We could help build skills through education (lessons). Can lessons be cool? They certainly are in most big resorts, but then comes the cost. Few are going to drop the price of a new ski (half a pair) on a good lesson. Is it worth it? It is but it’s not marketed well and has to compete against they hardware marketing.

      • Totally agree nothing compares to ski lessons for making you a better skier. “Better” equipment really can only take you so far. The ski school at Keystone offers a season lesson pass 10 group lessons for like $450. It is an amazing deal for people who want to go from an average skier to a good skier.

        To make ski lessons cool the thing I would like to see more places do is put on multi-day specialty clinics like the bumps clinic at Winter Park. Take it from a basic ski lesson to an event you can brag to your friends about doing. I would absolutely love to go to a place like Crested Butte for 2 days of steep skiing lessons with a group dinner and video analysis at the end of day 1.

  3. Great conversation.

    My least favorite ski trend: progressive mount points. I don’t spin or ski backwards or know many people who do, and a more centered mount point makes it hard to bend/drive the shovel.

    Jed: If you had anything to do with bringing the Bodacious to life, thank you so much. I’m actively hoarding them.

  4. Something I’ve taken out of this pandemic is using things longer than I would have in the past. Like mtb tires. You notice these little things. You make do and it’s really not a big deal but it’s been so easy in this disposable society to replace gear quickly and affordably.

    Sustainability in the outdoor industry (and many industries for that matter) seems easy: make it to last and charge the $ for it. Skiing in a dirty 12 yr old Arc shell is way cooler than buying a new one because the color changes each year. But the latter is their main market. Make it prohibitively expensive to replace it every year. Those who actually need to get to do so through warranty. Gear should not be a fucking fashion statement and if it is it should be how well used it is.

  5. Damn did I sound like a grumpy old man in my last comment about progressive mount points. And that’s exactly why I don’t know many flippers or spinners ;-)

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