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 hill on a pair of skinny sticks? Then, in the early 1900s, 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. Instructors were impressed. The rest is history. Today, on any ski slope, straight skis are conspicuous by their absence.
What Is Sidecut?
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 ski. Parabolic skis have a small waist, and are wider at the tip and tail.
How Does Sidecut Affect Technique?
Simply put, sidecut simplifies skiing. In the past, turning involved a good deal of muscle action. Now, 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.
The average straight skis measured 200 centimeters. Today, 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 ski is equally as stable as a 200-centimeter straight ski.
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.