Written by Jans Ambassador, Jackson Hogen, of Realskiers.com.
In the specialized world of ski marketing, “new” can mean many things.
“New” can be as inconsequential as a paint job or as fundamental as a fresh construction. Generally speaking, all brands have equal access to the same materials and are well aware of prevailing construction techniques, so the advent of something completely different from all that has preceded it is uncommon.
Yet the ski market manages to be in constant flux, introducing new material combinations and construction tweaks that have made the modern ski market wonderfully diverse.
The concept is as old as commerce itself: if you want to inspire interest in your brand, either make something new or renovate an existing product. Since totally original, category-busting, market-bending ideas are hard to come by, most innovations tend to be of the “one small step for man” type rather than of the “giant leap for mankind” variety.
The virtual requirement to always have something new obliges the major brands to flip a model family or embellish a recent introduction every season. Since truly transformative ideas are hard to come by, product line extensions – such as adding a thinner or fatter model to an established collection – are a handy way to introduce something fresh that’s also familiar. For example, this season the new Kore 99 fills a hole in Head’s line-up of off-trail skis, and the Kästle MX99 carves out a new niche for its elite Frontside family.
In order to extend a successful model family, you first must create one, which puts relentless pressure on brands to innovate. The general theme pervading nearly every new model this year is lighter weight, a trend that has been with us for several seasons and isn’t going away anytime soon. Among the brands with compelling lightweight stories attached to new product launches are Head, Atomic, and Liberty.
While almost all materials used in modern skis are available to any supplier, Head is the only ski maker licensed to use Graphene, carbon in a one-atom thick matrix. Head has been infusing its entire lineup with Graphene over the course of the last several seasons, capping this run with the off-trail Kore collection that has earned a chorus of kudos since its introduction last year. The Kores use Graphene, Koroyd honeycomb, and Karuba wood to create a unique sensation of feather-light weight that masks a powerhouse.
Atomic’s new Prolite core is an exercise in minimalism, building up the ski structure only where engineering requires it, over the edge. To further lighten the load, the carbon or Titanal sheets normally used to stabilize and dampen the ski are reduced to an interwoven mesh to maintain minimum mass. Atomic uses either Carbon Tank Mesh or Titanium Tank Mesh throughout its new Vantage series of all-terrain skis.
Liberty was already making lightweight, bamboo core skis when founder and designer Dan Chalfant was working on a new line of carving skis. Chalfant knew his new skis would need metal to achieve the stability the Frontside genre requires, but he attacked the problem from a fresh angle — instead of edge-to-edge laminates of Titanal, he created vertical struts from high-grade aluminum to reinforce his carbon and bamboo core. The new design is available in three models, the V76, V82, and V92.
Another new twist on how to deploy metal in a contemporary ski comes from tradition-rich Völkl. Völkl tested dozens of prototypes before defining the precise parameters of its new Titanal Frame design. The Titanal Frame divides the usual single topsheet of Titanal into three sections, creating a blend of dampening and liveliness that experts covet. Found on the new M5 Mantra and women’s Secret, Titanal Frame puts a twist on a classic component that merits mention as genuinely “new and improved.”
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not a ski is brand new, but whether it represents state-of-the art technology that makes skiing more fun. The Atomic Vantage 97 Ti, Head Kore 93, Liberty V92, and Völkl M5 Mantra are all avatars of the Lighter is Better trend, yet each displays distinctly different traits when ski meets snow. Ski makers’ tireless drive to provide a better experience has resulted in an over-served market that offers the skiing public more options than ever before.
To learn more about all that’s new and improved in the universe of 2019 ski models, continue your education at Realskiers.com.