On the other side of the spectrum, there are just as many benefits to using skis made with GFRP even though it’s slightly heavier than CFRP, says Pete Wagner, founder of Wagner Custom Skis.
“A ski that has more mass will allow the skier to have more power and fluidity and sometimes more precision when they’re skiing on choppy or crusty snow,” Wagner explains. “A ski that has more mass will generate more force and it will tend to slice through the choppy, variable snow easier. It will tend to vibrate less, so [there is] less chatter when you’re skiing fast.”
Wagner Custom Skis has about 100 different combinations of materials at its disposal when designing a ski. All of Wagner’s skis are made with a UHMW polyethylene base and contain a wood core that is reinforced with structural layers of GFRP, CFRP or a combination of both. The company uses a wet lay-up process. Resins are cured with a heated pneumatic press to create the final shape of the ski.
“For us, it’s a combination of 21st century computer-controlled milling machines that fabricate all of the components,” Wagner says. “We press them all together and then it’s sort of old-world craftsmanship expert hands that do the final finishing and tuning of our products. It’s an interesting blend of modern and traditional craftsmanship.”
While some of the company’s skis feature CFRP as the primary component, Wagner is a strong proponent of glass fiber. “Fiberglass is a really great material for building skis because it’s … sort of a medium weight material that has really great strength properties, provides good torsional stiffness, has good harmonics, good vibrational absorption and reduction,” says Wagner. He adds fiberglass is a “workhorse material” because it’s versatile, durable and easy to work with.
Backcountry Skiing and Alpine Touring
Wagner says that when skiing uphill or straight, a lightweight carbon fiber-based ski can really be helpful because it minimizes a skier’s energy output. Grande believes that over the past three to five years, one of the biggest trends that has increased the use of CFRP in skis is an evolution toward wider skis to allow people to ski more easily on ungroomed backcountry trails.
“The wider skis got people starting to ask, ‘Hey, what can we do to control the weight?’ And so carbon became a natural tool to use,” Grande says. Additionally, there has been a rise in alpine touring – hiking up mountains before skiing down them.