Straight Skis vs. Parabolic Skis

Straight Skis vs. Parabolic Skis
The term parabolic is often used to describe the shaped skis that rose to popularity in the 1990s and now dominate recreational Alpine skiing. These skis are easier to use than traditional straight skis, which is why they quickly became a mainstream piece of equipment for skiers everywhere. 
 

History of Parabolic Skis

Once upon a time, the sport of Alpine skiing was the exclusive domain of the highly athletic and extremely coordinated. After all, who in their right mind would slide down a slippery, snowy slope on a pair of skinny sticks? Then, in the early 1990s, a company known as Elan had an idea: they developed a shaped ski that would make it easier for beginners to learn the sport. Elan used the term "parabolic" to describe their new boards. To test their product, they sent samples to the ski schools at Killington and Squaw Valley. Ski instructors were impressed. The rest is history. Today, on any ski slope, straight skis are conspicuous by their absence.

Sidecut Shape of Parabolic Skis

The word sidecut is often used to explain the difference between shaped or parabolic skis and straight skis. Sidecut relates to the shape and dimensions of a parabolic ski. Parabolic skis have a small waist and are wider at the tip and tail. Simply put, a sidecut ski simplifies skiing.

How Parabolic Skis Impact Technique

With straight skis, turning involved a good deal of muscle action for steering. When using parabolic skis, a skier simply needs to put the ski on edge to initiate a turn. As such, on straight skis you use a good deal of quadricep action. In contrast, on parabolic skis, the primary movements begin in the feet and ankle. Overuse of your quads will create skidding movements. Additionally, shaped skis require less steering or rotary movements than straight skis. You will also need to adjust your stance. Due to their higher edge angles, parabolic skis require a wider stance. 

Parabolic vs. Straight Ski Length

The average straight skis measured 200 centimeters. Parabolic skis are rarely any longer than 185 centimeters. In fact, a parabolic ski with a more pronounced sidecut exerts pressure over more ski length than a longer ski with minimal sidecut. This means that a 170-centimeter shaped (parabolic) ski is equally as stable as a 200-centimeter straight ski.

Key Benefits of Shaped Skis

Parabolic skis have had a significant positive impact on recreational skiing due to the many advantages of shaped skis. If you haven't hit the slopes since parabolic skis became the norm, chances are you'll find skiing to be very different now.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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