The first part of our series about the history of skiing finished during the mid-1800’s and looked how the cambered design revolutionized skiing at the time and set the standards for the future development of ski making. We continue our story after 1840 and look at the next major development in skiing which happened in 1868, as well as the new Telemark style. And this piece of equipment founded a whole new way of skiing that is still popular today, Telemark Skiing.
The designer of the Telemark ski was Sondre Norheim, the big difference in its design to previous skis was that it had a side cut. This narrowed the ski where the feet were located and the tail and tip remained wide. It made the ski more flexible when it was tipped on its edge. This meant that when the skier turned, the edge followed the direction of the turn and the ski did not skid sideways as with the old skis. Norheim also introduced a stiffer binding that held the heel firmly in place when turning. This all added to a new school of skiing, Telemark Skiing, which introduced dynamic turning as the skier flew down the piste at terrific speed.
Just before the turn of the century, most skis were made of Ash, which was a strong but springy wood. Then in 1882 the first Norwegian Hickory skis were produced. The problem with Hickory wood is that it is so hard it is difficult to work with, but this was solved by the introduction of newer carbon and steel wood cutting tools. The new and tougher wood enabled the skis to be a lot thinner, which added flexibility and made them lighter. The rigid base was also less likely to gouge the snow and slow the skier down.
The Laminated Ski
The first laminated skis started to come off the production line in 1893, designed and built by H.M Christiansen in Norway, it used Hickory as the base, with lighter woods such as Spruce on top. This made the ski even lighter and also gave it more spring. More importantly, it made the skis far cheaper without all the expensive hardwoods being cut up for thin planks. The difficulty with these first laminated skis was they were screwed together, and this meant the screws would actually come loose and fall out making, it impossible for the skier to continue. Skiers at the time carried a tool kit with them!
In 1926 the first steel edge was developed by an Austrian skier. This enabled the skis to have much better grip on hard snow where wooden skis struggled. These new steel segments also had to be screwed into the wood and had the same problems as the early laminated skis.
The Second Generation of Laminated Skis
1932 was a landmark year for ski design, it produced the first successful three-part laminated ski. This time there were no screws and a new waterproof glue was used to fix the woods together. These skis were the forefathers of the skis used today, and although there have been minor developments to enhance the ski since, the modern skis are still based on the classic 1932 design.