Snow's up

Stand by for sidecut
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The Independent Travel
If you ski in America this winter and take an interest in skis, you'll soon spot this season's buzzword: sidecut. Instructors and shops are in a state of considerable excitement about "hourglass" or "parabolic" skis, designed to carve much tighter turns than a conventional ski. Why the excitement? Mainly because these super-sidecut skis make it much easier for non-expert skiers to experience the sensation of carving turns.

One US instructor who gave me a lesson on super-sidecuts had bought a pair as his regular skis: "The first time I used these things, I just came down the mountain laughing my head off, I was enjoying myself so much," he explained. I wasn't such an immediate convert, but I did have a lot of fun on the Elan SCX skis, which have a shovel about twice the width of the waist.

In the course of the lesson on the SCX I explored the sensation of carving turns to a degree that I haven't bothered with since my youth. My instructor encouraged a style of skiing quite different from my usual one: no pole plant, legs wide apart, weight on both skis, no rotation from knees, hips or ankles. All you have to do is edge, let the skis turn and swing under you, and then edge the other way.

When I went back to a conventional ski, I found I was skiing more aggressively and reproducing some of the carving sensations I'd explored on the super- sidecut. But then the "conventional" ski concerned was one with more sidecut than is usual - the delicious K2 MSL, with a stated sidecut of 10mm. K2 is the only maker that is explicit about sidecut, but my guess is that this is soon going to become a key piece of information about any recreational ski.

I'd recommend anyone keen to develop their skiing to have a go on super- sidecut skis when the opportunity arises. And also look out for a slightly different animal: the Volkl Presto, which promises to combine the carving power of a super-sidecut with some of the powder flotation of the acclaimed Volkl SnowRanger. It could be just the ski we slightly-less-than-expert skiers have been waiting for.

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