HANKY-PLANKY,
Saturday Post in the National Post,

December 7, 2002 - by Matt Beam

New curvaceous skis are smoother on the slopes. The fact they look so sexy is just a bonus.

   Snow-sport enthusiasts are looking for something extra from their skis these days. No longer are skiers keen on tall hipless waifs-the long, thin, rigid, planks of yore. They are pining for something with more to grab on to, a little sexiness. When, in 1989, Elan launched the first hourglass-shaped "parabolic" skis-which revolutionized both the sagging rep of the sport and the skiers' on-slope technique-the sport found a completely new edge. In recent years, skis have gotten even wider, and terms such as fat and mid-fat, have become as ubiquitous as phat once was in snowboard patois.
The sensuality of these gliding wide loads comes from the side cuts-the ski designer's version of liposuction-that slenderize the middle of the ski, providing a more alluring shape and easier turns. Skiers are now apt to describe their tips, waist and tails as if they were ogling a pair of identical brunettes.
   The most challenging design alteration for skiers (especially males obsessed with size) has been the shortening of skis. By making planks more curvy and flexible, the skis' active edge-the portion of the ski that's on the surface of the snow during a turn-has been increased. Carves became easier and faster. Ski makers could thus reduce the length of their high-tech planks-from more than 200 cm to 170 cm for the average male ski; and from 180 cm to 160 cm for the average female. But with this new shortness, a fresh issue arose: vibration.
   To diminish the vibration and torsional bending (the twisting motion from tip to tail) on the new skis, manufacturers have had to make innovative leaps. External dampeners, which can look like long, metal four-legged spiders on the front and back of skis, absorb the extra shudder. Head's new line uses a version of its tennis racket technology, an implanted computer chip, dubbed Intelligence, which analyzes, then electrically cancels out the vibration. For strength and rigidity, skis are now made out of layered high-tech materials such as aluminum, titanium and carbon fibres instead of steel and fiberglass, and filled with cores of new wood products, which allow for an exceptional lightness.
And now that it's all about turning this way and that, two-plankers are crossing boundaries into other sports. While interest in snowboarding has planed in the past few seasons, park and pipe skiing has grown exponentially. In the mid-1990s, freestyle skiers such as Quebec's Vinnie Dorion, J.P. Auclair and J.F. Cusson turned their sport on end when they forsook the freestyler's typical bumps and jumps and hopped into the half-pipe. Then park-and-pipe skis were invented-with twin tips-so they can slide backwards and forwards, like snowboards.
   In terms of pure esthetics, the single-hued palette of burnt orange, popular last year, has been extended with computer grey, retro greens and patriotic reds, whites and blues. The head-turner of the year, though, has got to be Rossignol's Scratch FS, with its James Bondian, naked-woman silhouette. It's an unabashed nod to the new mantra of the slopes: Curves, curves and more curves.

GOES BOTH WAYS
SALOMON TENEIGHTY
DIMENSIONS:114/80/108 MM
$570

   The Teneighty was the first of its kind: a park-and-pipe ski that can take on the whole mountain. With Salomon's Spaceframe technology, this switch-hitter can slice the slopes as well as it can land backwards off big air. Its twin tips are more flexible for better push-offs for tricks, while its tail has added power for turns. On top of its aluminum/fibertex foil, the Teneighty's look is modern as can be: Autumnal shades of orange and bright red show off bold geometric shapes.

QUICK AND DIRTY
HEAD I.SL
DIMENSIONS: 109/62/97 MM
$720

   Strap on these torpedo-grey racers and get ready for all-out slope war. The SLs are lightning-fast boards, held together by a grey-weave design over an ultra-strong titanium coating. Head's implanted Intelligence technology instantaneously eliminates vibrations by generating an electric counter-force, allowing the skier to deftly carve up the mountain without a tremor. The dimensions here are curvy, but this ski is all business. Think GI Jane in the heat of battle.

ROMP IN THE PARK
ROSSIGNOL SCRATCH FS
DIMENSIONS: 110/80/103 MM
$550

   The naked woman silhouette on the Scratch FS is full-on snowboarding style. So is the acronym used to describe Rossignol's new technology-T.H.C. (It stands for Triple Hybrid Core. It's not a marijuana reference as one might suspect). Rossignol's microcell/isocore/wood construction limits vibration and weight in the ski without losing its muscle. These park-and-pipers are designed with twin-tips for bi-directional landings and serious trick maneuverability.

X-RATED ENCOUNTER
VOLKL SUPERSPORT T50 FOUR STAR
DIMENSIONS: 112/67/97 MM
$850

   For those high-octane skiers who wish to experience the exhilaration boarders can get flying down flagless courses without crossing over to one plank, there is a two-plank solution: Volkl's Supersport T50. These babies are ideal for sports such as Skiercross-the roller-derby of the slopes-with their slightly wider waists for the soft stuff and tips and tails that respond like racers. As for style, the T50 is Euro all the way. The fiberglass layer is topped with titanium and garnished with simple blue-and-white art. The most fashion-forward of this year's crop.

BUBBLY ON ICE
ATOMIC SUGAR DADDY
DIMENSIONS: 126/99/116 MM
$850

   "All-mountain" skiers like to push off from the peak and go wherever they please-the more deserted the piste, the better. They're in search of one thing only: what they call "champagne" powder. The Sugar Daddy excels on this light, fluffy, extreme weather kind of snow, but treats you to high-class curves on the more packed stuff, too. Designed by Atomic's Freeride Team, the model is equipped with two parallel tubes running tip to tail, which help to hold turns and make for a light ride. The Daddy is barrel-chested to shove away powder and not as slim in the middle: Hard to complain when he treats you so well.

© Copyright 2002 National Post

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