The first snow has long since fallen in the Alps. And the Christmas holidays aren’t that far away either. It’s high time to explore the latest options for snow mobility. Obviously, skiing is the most important branch of winter sports. Yet by no means the only one. All over the world, start-ups are tinkering with new technologies and bold combinations for winter sports options. The result is not always crystal clear.
At 4500 years old, skis are the most advanced winter sports equipment. However, further optimization is possible thanks to digitization.
1. Made-to-measure x mass production
The Austrian company Original+ has designed a self-learning online ski configurator. This system configures the right skis on the basis of answers to 21 personal questions with the help of artificial intelligence. The program has been developed in collaboration with the start-up Fact.AI. Basically the idea was to make individually adapted skis possible for a wide public. The Original+ models are available from €660.
Commercialization of custom-made skis was made possible by:
- Automation of customer conversations;
- A modular ski structure that allows for 600 ski designs;
- Combining flexible ski production with precise series production;
Each ski model is made up of 32 parts that are adapted to the individual skier. The central element is the wooden core, which can be made of poplar wood, ash wood, or a combination of the two. The construction, processing and strength have an effect on the ski properties and are adjusted accordingly.
2. Snow shoes x skis
The desire to combine skiing with endurance sports has led to a wonderful ski touring movement. The combination of mountaineering and the subsequent downhill skiing called for a technological leap forward. The equipment had to be lighter and more flexible. This made it easier to climb as well as provide more grip during the descent. While this was still relatively simple as far as skiing was concerned, it was more difficult when it came to snowboarding. The ascent in particular was sometimes only possible with a splitboard. But not all snowboarders are satisfied with that. Drift, a brand from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, designed an alternative and combined three elements:
- the simplicity of snowshoes;
- the speed of the skis;
- the grip of touring skis;
Seasoned snowboarders only use driftboards for climbing. Once they’re at the top, they exchange them for a snowboard. The light and handy boards are easy to attach to a rucksack. They are lightweight thanks to the carbon material. The wooden core is not heavy either according to the makers. It gives the boards the stability that they need for the descent. Driftboards also function as stand-alone sports equipment. Shape and construction offer versatility and add a playful component to the descent. Its aluminium binding offers the extra advantage that it works with all boots.
3. Skis x downhill mountain bike
Three short skis and a saddle-free bike frame provide the basis for the Sno-go Bike. This fusion is not entirely clear. It does offer a totally new experience on snow. The American start up says that the bar should be set low initially. The three skis are able to move independently of each other. They provide control and stability together with the steering grips. Coordinated movements are made possible by synchronized coupling technology. Advanced skiers are also able to perform tricks such as turns and jumps on the Sno-go Bike.
The feet fit into a kind of binding. These aren’t really fastened, so you can easily move your feet in and out. For instance, you could use a foot to help push the bike off to a start. The inventors have also thought about how to transport the Sno-Go bike. A hook makes it possible to attach it to a chairlift. After use, the bike and skis can be disassembled so that they easily fit into the boot of the car.
4. Skis x skates
Would you want to glide across snow in shoes that have a slippery surface? It’s like skating on snow. You could also call them ‘snow-skates’, so say the inventors of Snowfeet, a Czech start-up. The idea of getting through snow with no more equipment than a binding on your shoe with a kind of ski tip is very tempting.
This winter sports gear is light, small, fits in any pocket and is easy to transport. The binding is adjustable in width and can be adapted to all shoes. It looks a lot like a binding for soft snowboard boots. You can use snowboard boots, but you don’t have to. Waterproof winter boots are also suitable as long as they provide ankle support. The gear is made of reinforced fiberglass and has metal edges for fast braking as well as heel brakes to slow down the ride. They can be used on and off the slopes as well as in snow parks. People with acrobatic ambitions can do somersaults with them as well …