A Brief History of Ski Design and Predictions for the Future

Antique wooden skis crossed

Image courtesy Ingham’s.

Today’s post is a guest post from Sam Morley. Thanks Sam!

brave ski mom logoIf you’ve been skiing for any time at all, you’ve probably experienced how having the latest skis can make speeding down the slopes a little more exciting, not to mention easier on your body.

Skis date back at least five millennia. Compared to skis of the past, modern skis are easy to use for everyone from a first-time holidaymaker in the Alps to the most seasoned professional. Here’s a short history.

Wood is Good

In the early days, wooden skis were the norm, as it was one of the few materials that could be shaped by craftsmen in Scandinavia, where skis were essential for traveling. In 1850, woodcarvers invented the cambered ski, a template for skis as we know them today. Bow-shaped, they had arches towards the center, making them more aerodynamic.

Cambered skis were also lighter and better maintained their shape in the snow, a major turning point. Later on in the 19th century, the Telemark ski was created. It was narrower underfoot, but was more flexible. Further developments were to come, as hickory skis were created, which were tougher in dense snow.

Added Steel

In the early-1900s, steel became common in the production of skis. The segmented steel edge was created in Austria in 1928 as a means of making cutting through the snow easier. But improvements were needed to stop the edges from falling off the ski base. In the same year, an aluminum ski was prototyped in France.

As the decades rolled on, so did the improvements. Three-layer laminated skis were invented in both the US and Norway, where waterproof glue was used to bind them together. Dynamic skis made with Cellulix, a plastic bottom, were invented in 1944, while other manufacturers decided to blend wood and aluminum.

msc tatonka

Photo courtesy Ingham’s.

The Future is Here

Fast-forwarding to today, the modern ski is usually made with a range of materials including plywood, plastic, carbon fiber and aluminum. All three work in harmony to make for a pleasant skiing experience, as many skis are made with individuals in mind using easy-carving techniques, but what does the future hold?

According to a blog post on the Inghams website, over the next few decades, skis could become even more lightweight and thin. In an interview with Phil Gordon, the equipment buyer at British retailer Snow+Rock, they look at the newest range of skis for this season and prognosticate a bit into the future.


Photo courtesy Ingham’s.

“In the years to come, I think that skis will fundamentally keep the same basic shape, because it’s what people are used to. Micro brands such as Switzerland’s Zai give us a clue as to where ski design could be going. Suggesting that we could start to see super-strong skeletal shapes for piste, and ultra-thin powder skis for off-piste adventure”, they write.

“Where I see the things changing is the advancement of new materials and digital integration. Ultimately, as material and production costs come down and the technology is perfected, it will be widely introduced into the mainstream.”

Other predictions include a changing relationship between skis, boots and bindings, emphasizing greater ski/binding integration. This could include using lightweight magnetic film on touring equipment to secure the heel for descents. Also, digital applications built into the ski could track speed and location to help skiers avoid getting lost and discourage theft.

Thanks Sam for this quick overview of ski design! I can’t wait for magnetic touring skis!

Click here for more of Sam’s interview with Phil Gordon.





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  1. roberto fabrega says

    “…Also, digital applications built into the ski could track speed and location to help skiers avoid getting lost and discourage theft.”

    will they also track new blog post from the brave ski mom too? :-)