Ski design constantly undergoes changes in the endless effort of manufacturers to produce a better ski for every skier’s objective on the slopes. Skis are specifically designed for a variety of users. There are skis for racers, extreme skiers, recreational skiers, novices, and powder hounds.

The newest designs in skis are the highly touted parabolic or “hourglass” skis, sometimes called “Q-tips.” These have received rave reviews from experts and ski magazines - and from this skier. Resorts are stocking them for rentals, though at a premium.

Parabolics make skiing easier for everyone, from novices to top experts. Novices can learn parallel turning more quickly, intermediates who have trouble turning quickly can begin to use their edges to carve turns, and experts can have fun with less physical effort. While some find that the skis have less holding power on steep and icy runs, and that the fat tips are a bit cumbersome on moguls, they have a super reputation for cruising on both soft and groomed runs and blasting through crud.

Mike Porter, director of Vail-Beaver Creek ski schools, said: “The development of the parabolics is comparable to the plastic boots that replaced the
double-leather boots, and the metal skis that succeed the original allwood skis.” Paul Brown, director of skiing at Sugarbush, said: “Once skiers get used to the fat tips and learn to put the skis on edge, the lights go on!”

The secret of the hourglass ski is that the side cut, or spot where the ski narrows between tail and tip, is narrower than in the standard ski, while both the tip and tail are much fatter. Because the middles of the skis are narrower, they’re more flexible. This means the skier’s own weight is enough to bend the ski to put its entire edge in contact with the snow. This virtually self-creates a carved turn. Regular skis demand more pressure and effort to make a clean arc in the snow.

My own experience with parabolics took place on a particularly beautiful, warm spring day. Warm enough, in fact, that some skiers were wearing shorts. Not a heavy jacket was to be seen. The snow conditions were less than ideal - sort of softish in the morning, then slushy by midday.

The length of skis is measured in millimeters, not inches or feet. I normally ski 190s, or about 6’4”. Irwin Mallory, director of Emilio’s Ski Shop at Hunter Mountain, who provided me with demo parabolics, recommended 180s.

It took me a couple hours to learn how to handle skis that turned quickly and easily on snow that would have been difficult to maneuver on with my regular skis. The wide shovel, or tip, of the parabolics slid unusually well through the slush.

By the end of a day’s trial, the parabolics had won me over, and my choice for my next pair of skis.

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