Back in the old days, like 1993, when mobile phones were the size of bricks, the internet was still a baby, and Bill Clinton was just developing a penchant for cigars, parabolic skis were first introduced to the public. Reception was rather lukewarm when Elan became one of the first manufacturers to incorporate the parabolic shape into their skis. Although this was a first step, what this did, on a larger scale, was revitalize the stagnant ski industry. As snowboarding was becoming increasingly popular and taking huge marketshare from double boarders, the ski manufacturers were desperate to find the new wheel. Enter the parabolic ski.
So what is a parabolic ski? A parabolic ski is skinnier in the waist, with the ends being considerably thicker. This fat-boy or hourglass shape is incredibly different from the zero sidecut shape of earlier skiis. Let's consider a straight line and a curved line. If you stress (flex) a straight line, the power is distributed fairly evenly through the line, kinetic energy really isn't created. On a curved line, however, loading the top of the parabola will channel power throughout the line, creating areas of power storage and release. Now think of a parabolic ski and a turn. At the initiation of a turn, when a skier comes into it, power will load at the tip and build up to spring the skier up, then the skier completes the turn and is kinda launched with the power that is loaded from the tail. But what does this actually mean? Energy is transferred throughout the turn, making a turn much, much easier to initiate and complete. This makes linking turns almost effortless, something a novice skier cannot do or learn that easily - except with lots of practice and faces full of snow.
Thus, parabolics made skiing easy. Like skiing's one-boarded cousin, snowboarding, new winter enthusiasts are taking to skiing because the learning curve is not so steep. The ski manufacturers took back a little from snowboard industry, but never ones to sit still, ski manufacturers took advantage of this new audience and tweaked it a bit. Now fat skiis are everywhere, but a little different, they are twin-tipped. Again, borrowing from snowboarding, skiis are shorter, super parabolic, and bi-directional. The pipe and park, reserved before for green-haired-baggy-panted-stud-tongued snowboarders are now the playground for the likes of Jonny Mosely and Shane McConkey, guys who have taken advantage of the new technology and pushed the sport to incredible levels.
So what does this mean for you? You may be on the fence: Snowboarding? Telemark skiing? Backcountry skiing? You can have it all. Everyone can benefit from the new shape of parabolics as it has taken firm hold in all alpine disciplines. And why not? If there is something that improves precision, tightens turning radius, and decreases fatigue, why not implement it in your growing arsenal of skills. Alas, all this comes at a high price, of course, but go ahead ride the two planks, you'll like it. Trust me, I snowboard. Yeah, I've tried parabolics, and I like them. After skiing for 26 years on straight edges, I decided to try them out. Here are some great choices to check out (hit refresh to see different skis):
Peter Shin has climbed extensively around the world including speed ascents of El Capitan, soloing the Grandes Jorasses, the North Face of the Eiger and Mt. Everest. In addition, Peter has been a product tester and developer for Patagonia, The North Face, Salomon, and Black Diamond. He can be reached at email@example.com
- Peter Shin
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