How technology has changed ski equipment - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How technology has changed ski equipment

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Skis have drastically changed through the years. Some, like those from the 1940s, were made entirely of wood.

"With skis like this, you could turn with more of a slide," said Andy Kingston of the Alpine Shop. "You weren't carving. There's no metal edges."

Without metal edges, making a sharp turn was difficult. Then, in the 1960s, metal skis started coming into production.

"Probably go down as one of the strongest developments in the history of skiing when they came out with these metal skis; metal edges, cable bindings. It doesn't look like much, but it's a huge step from the wood ski to the metal ski," Kingston said.

Another revolution in skis started about 15 years ago, when they started to take on more of a parabolic shape, making turning much easier.

"You can see the waist is a little bit more narrow than the tips and the tail, and that's the shape we're talking about when you're trying to turn," Kingston explained.

The next big development started in powder skis several years ago, with something known as rocker.

"The easiest way to talk about rocker is to think about your grandmother's rocking chair and think about the legs of it. That's an extreme example of rocker. If you put it down on the floor, you see the tips and tails come up on both sides," Kingston said.

The rocker technology allows tips and tails to float in the powder. Rocker has recently been incorporated into traditional recreational skis.

"The idea was you don't need extreme rocker, but if you have a little rocker in your tips, if you look at the physics of it, you put the ski on edge and the ski does the rest for you," Kingston said.

The combination of shape and rocker allows modern skis to easily turn. Plus skis can be a bit wider for additional float, making powder days a lot of fun.

Snowboards have also evolved through time.

"It started out at a very crude level. Pretty much like lunch trays or small pieces of wood to slide down on the snow," said Jake Cameron of the Alpine Shop.

Then about 20 years ago the sport started to take hold. But the basic shape of the boards stayed pretty much the same for about a decade. It's only the past six or seven years snowboarding has seen a huge change.

"Just like skis they've found ways to make boards lighter, to make them more poppy," Cameron said. "So when you see a guy jumping up on rails and getting themselves into the air, the more snap and liveliness you can put into a board, makes it a little more fun."

The rocker technology that is used in skis is also used in snowboards.

"Rocker is pretty much taking the board and bending it backwards so that what actually hits the snow is in the middle of the board and the rest of the board trails away from the snow," Cameron said.

Incorporating rocker into boards make them much more maneuverable.

Rider to board feel has also drastically improved in recent years. Traditional snowboard bindings had a lot of plastic between the rider and the board, making for a less connected feeling. But now that's changed.

"This is what the new binding base plate from Burton looks like, and this is called EST. And when you look, there's almost nothing between you and the boards. So it can give you really good, easy flex," Cameron said.

EST bindings can also be mounted anywhere along the board.

"So getting the rider being able to customize his stance and get more board feel are really important things coming along in the industry," Cameron said.

Skis and boards are now easier to use than ever before. And with technology continuing to advance, that trend should continue.

If you are thinking about learning to ski or ride, it might be a good idea to consider a lease program. You'll be able to use equipment that's fitted properly for you, without spending too much. Seasonal lease programs at some shops start around $100.

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