25 years of carving

A quarter of a century ago Elan first sent its revolutionary skis to market. They were forty centimeters shorter than normal skis, much wider and had a pronounced sidecut. But their defining characteristic was the fact that they turned on their own. Elan’s new skis changed the sport forever. The SCX ski that opened the door to a completely new way of skiing, the technique now known as carving. These skis are perhaps the most revolutionary invention in the history of skiing. We can safely say that everybody who enjoys carving arc after perfect arc into the snow is in a way skiing on Elan skis.

Back in the early nineties we still skied on over two meter long “planks”. We chose skis based on their length and stiffness. Slalom skis were the stiffest, followed by slightly softer GS skis and all the other softer recreational skis following behind. Skiing technique corresponded to the equipment and turning was done by skidding skis around. But Elan’s development team was pondering on an idea. They were thinking on how to invent skis that would simplify turning and perhaps, in ideal conditions, even allow the skier to ski on the very edges. They wanted to make skiing feel more like riding on rails. In the mid-eighties that very same idea also begun percolating in the mind of legendary Swede Ingemar Stenmark. Not only was he the greatest skier of all time, he was also famous for his exceptionally precise and modern technique. “I found that the skis would bend more if I loaded the tails. In this way I could create a sort of sidecut that allowed me to turn better, more efficiently and, above all, faster.”

An early attempt at making a ski with a pronounced sidecut was the VSS ski, the brainchild of Andrej Robič and his team. The skis could be adjusted for width and thus allowed for changes to the sidecut. In the early nineties the idea of a pair of skis that would truly hold the line as if they were on rails finally begun to take shape. The idea that a skier can bend a ski with their action while skiing was finally proven to be fallacy. One that unfortunately still guides some people even today. A sidecut is a prerequisite for bending a ski and the ski can only carve a turn on its edge with an appropriate sidecut. What we felt on the piste that day was exactly what our calculations showed. I should again thank Andrej Robič for leveraging his reputation to gain support for our project and taking part in the first tests. Without his support we wouldn’t even have had a first prototype,” recalls Jurij Franko who was, along with Pavel Škofic and Andrej Robič, one of the main designers behind the first ever pronounced sidecut ski.

Every ski made after 1994 has a bit of the Elan spirit.

The engineers were afraid that they would be faced with many technological limitations in trying to actually build their new age skis. But the problems never materialized. Perhaps the greatest challenge was finding a wide enough base. Fortunately Elan was also in the business of making ski jumping skis so the company had some wider bases readily available. Engineer Franko now readily admits that the R&D team had absolutely no idea of the impact their innovation would have on the word of skiing: “We never thought about that during our calculations and development, but as soon as we made the first turns it became clear that nothing in skiing will ever be the same.”

And there was another interesting thought to come out of the first test sessions. The developers readily established that the skis did indeed work, but that there was simply no realistic way they could be marketed with any degree of success. Well, turns out they were not completely right about that. The SCX ski turned skiing on its head practically overnight. Thanks to the new design people started to enjoy skiing even more and in even greater numbers as skiing suddenly became easier, less demanding and much easier to learn. Elan’s example was soon followed by every other manufacturer. That is why we can say that every modern ski carries a bit of the Elan spirit.

The SCX ski and all the other innovations from the rich tradition and history of the Elan brand can be seen in the Elan Museum in Begunje na Gorenjskem, Slovenia.