The Ripstick thrills the most demanding skiers in all corners of the globe and takes on any slope and style with full confidence. It is a playful, friendly and deftly capable ski. But their development took a lifetime of knowledge, innovation, deliberation and persistence.
A great pair of skis is like a trusty workhorse. They sleep while standing, work in the most challenging weather, and can reliably endure being pushed, pulled, twisted and tortured, without complaint. A workhorse’s stamina knows no limits and operates under the premise “It’s all in a days work”. And just like the farmer appreciates the workhorse, skiers appreciate the dependability of their trusted tools. Nothing can get in the way of carving tight arcs, smearing turns, straightlining chutes and floating in powder. True skiers know how to appreciate its loyalty. They spoil their skis with a hot coat of wax, quickly care for any damage, gently finesse the edge with a diamond stone and carefully prep them for another day of work. And the next morning they do it all over again, throughout the winter until springtime consumes the snowpack. Their story is an epic poem of sports, sung by two bodies merged into a single spirit. Skis can be beautiful and smart or unattractive and clumsy. Skis can be envious too, because some can achieve anything they want while others just skid around and burn out after a moment of glory ...
All of the above holds true for the Elan Ripstick series. The collection ranges from 86 to 116 millimeters wide and are designed to rip through powder and variable conditions. Their width provides enough float for the deepest champagne powder days and the pronounced sidecut provides relentless on piste performance. “When I first grabbed a pair I was a bit skeptical. The skis were so light, perhaps even too light. When I dropped them on the snow they made a different sound. But when I stepped in the bindings and made a few turns my initial reservations melted away. The skis are amazing, powerful, responsive ... I was totally blown away,” said Glen Plake, one of the greatest freeride skiers of all time, about his first meeting with the Ripstick skis that have since become his most trusted gear.
Of course, none of this visually stunning ski’s performance characteristics happened by chance. Elan’s engineers have surprised the skiing world and thrilled skiers countless times with innovation over the years. The task we set out for them with the Ripstick took plenty of digging into their arsenal of knowledge and experience. The goal was to create a lightweight, high performance freeride ski with no limitations. But no existing solution was enough to satisfy the challenge, so they went back to what they do best – thinking laterally and inventing new solutions. If you need something that does not exist, there is nothing else to do but to make it from scratch.
“Making a lightweight ski is easy. But making a lightweight ski without compromising performance is a different ballgame. It requires careful selection and application of the best materials. If we take some material away in one place, we need to make up for it somewhere else,” says Marko Kozjek, one of Elan’s chief development engineers and the brain behind many innovations and solutions that made the skis from Begunje the first choice of many skiers around the world.
“It is a fact that racing skis are the best in terms of ride characteristics, but they are heavy. Recreational skis are a different story because light weight is a very desirable feature. At the same time, the skis must not be too light. We believe that a good recreational ski must weigh at least a kilo or so for optimal performance. The weight of a ski gives it a certain momentum that helps when turning and blasting through the snow. Current trends in ski construction point towards reducing weight and using materials that provide the necessary ride characteristics,” adds engineer Kozjek.
Weight is not a major factor in racing skis. But freeride skis such as the Ripstick require finding an effective compromise due to their width. When making skis it is not just the materials that are important, but also where they are used. Careful calculations must be made in order to create a perfect flex pattern with the core.
There are several factors that make the Ripstick perform as well as it does. “First and foremost is the sidecut. We experimented a lot with different options to arrive at the optimal solution. The skis are designed so that the tip retains its role of leading into turns without any unwanted chatter or diving. At the same time the skis have enough of a sidecut to allow fast and controlled skiing on groomed surfaces. The elevated Amphibio profile tip provides lift and flotation in deep snow as well as grip on more demanding and hard surfaces. In terms of construction the ski is lightweight due to its light poplar core reinforced with carbon tubes for plenty of flexibility and pop. In technical terms, we increased the ski’s modulus of elasticity. This is a particularly effective use of carbon fiber, since traditional longitudinal carbon reinforcements are prone to cracking if the skis flex too much. In our case the carbon fiber is not the primary load bearing element. Its tubular structure inside the wood core provides exceptional controlled flexibility.”
The Amphibio rocker profile is another major factor in performance. “Since the tip is there to provide flotation, it must be light in order to rise up from the snow as soon as possible and allow normal control of the ski. That is why we took some of the material out of the tips and filled the voids with Vapor Tip inserts for rigidity and low weight. The Amphibio rocker also ends with a nice radius at the tip which enables the ski to track well in deep snow,” explains Marko Kozjek.
36 Constituent Parts
Each Ripstick series ski is made of 36 parts. The base at the bottom of the ski is hugged by the edges from both sides. Between them lies a layer of laminate which is also the first load bearing element. Over it is another layer of laminate that also covers the edges. The sides are then built up by sidewalls that hold the laminated wood core. In case of the Ripstick, the core also holds carbon tubes. The core is then covered by layers of longitudinally and transversely braided layers of fiberglass. Placement of fibers in laminates above and under the core determine the optimal stiffness and torsional profile of the ski. The area where bindings are mounted utilizes additional layers of fiberglass for screw retention. Only a solid connection between the skis and bindings assures good feel and safety on skis. Sufficient reinforcements under the bindings are especially important in lightweight skis such as the Ripstick. The final layer is the topsheet that carries the graphics.
A Symphony of Engineering
Of course the 36 elements only work if they are put together well. This is where the experience, attention to detail, knowledge and skill of Elan’s craftsmen come into play. Their careful, skilled and loving hands make all the perfect turns and unforgettable days on snow possible. The Ripstick is a supremely confident ski that performs without compromise in all circumstances and gives discerning skiers the joy and energy for endless good times.