Old Snow Technology: Ski and Snowboard Innovations That Tanked

Old Snow Technology: Ski and Snowboard Innovations That Tanked
Ski and snowboard technology comes and goes. With these changes, like natural selection, some stick around and improve the sports. Others, however, just fail. Throughout the history of the snow sports industry, many new designs and innovations appeared on the scene for one or two years, only to result in major malfunctions or rejection by the skiing and riding community. Some of these failures were funny, while others were outright dangerous.


Scott, a sporting goods manufacturer known for skis and bicycles, made a series of alpine ski boots that used multiple foam liners to achieve what the company billed as a perfect and custom fit. In reality, the foam inserts did not hold well, and many skiers complained of hot spots, blisters, restricted blood circulation, and malformed foam. These boots lasted only a few seasons before Scott retired them.

Hansen Boots tried to achieve custom fit using wax molds for each buyer's foot. Hansen would take a wax cast and then try and custom mold both the insert and the hard shell boot to achieve this perfect fit. Like the Scott Boots, this idea produced a bad fit for skiers. Ski boot techs were amazed at the mess and labor involved in fitting these boots.


Backcountry Gear - Avalanche Probe/Beacon

In the years just after the millennium, telemark and alpine touring skiing saw a large surge in popularity. More and more skiers and snowboarders began taking to the backcountry for the unbridled freedom of the hills. With this came the need for new avalanche gear and technology to keep these skiers safe.

Pieps introduced a combination avalanche probe and beacon designed to save weight in packs and increase efficiency in pinpoint searches for victims. The performance of the probe, according to many reviews, failed to achieve the desired result. Many reviews suggested that this piece of equipment would lead to disastrous results, with few people fully understanding the limitations on this hybrid piece of gear.

Metal Skis

Ski makers are always searching for new materials to use in the manufacture of skis. As early as 1947, the Dow Metal Air-Ski was introduced to the skiing world from the Chance-Vought Aircraft company. The skis never performed as well as its wood laminate cousins, so skiers soon eschewed these funky skis.

Eventually, skiers began calling the product "tin cans" and left the metal skis sitting on ski seller shelves. The problem with the metal skis was that the base failed to hold wax properly and would not withstand the major temperature swings associated with skiing conditions in the mountains.

Traditional vs. Decambered Snowboard Noses

For years snowboarders had to deal with boards designed with noses that did not have a precamber to them. These riders found the board technology stiff and "damp." (Dampness in snowboarding is when the board seems dead to the foot when heading into turns.)

These nose designs would try and plow through the snow, causing the dampness. This technology was replaced with the precamber to the board nose a few years back. The precambered board nose allows the board and rider to actually slice through the snow instead of plowing and pushing it. It only took a few seasons of precambered technology before the old traditional noses were retired.


Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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