Featured Evolution and Revolution of Ski Design

Discussion in 'Hardgoods: Skis, Bindings, Poles, and More' started by Philpug, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Evolution vs Revolution Pugski Petersen Slider Version.jpg
    Evolution is safe, revolution is risk. Product managers are in a constant fight for balance and must determine when evolution is not enough and revolution is needed. But evolution can actually be riskier than revolution: brands can be so content with the sales and acceptance of a particular model that they leave the ski on the market too long, and revolution comes too late. These are the thoughts that keep product managers awake at night.

    Ski designs run their course. The sales of even the most timeless eventually get stale, so we see evolutions beyond just NGT (New Graphics Technology). Then at some point, evolution is not enough, and it's time to reinvent things. The Völkl Mantra is a good example: evolution turned into one revolution and then another. The last revolution includes a possible evolution to a new model name in the M5, dropping the Mantra name altogether.

    As a boutique ski company, Kästle really needs to watch this balance. Kästle’s original and oldest collection, the MX line, is still in the evolutionary stage as its most popular MX88 turned into the MX89. Where Kästle went revolutionary was with its FX collection. The current FX skis are a blend of the original Chris Davenport-influenced FX, which some billed as "MX Lite," and the entry-level BMX collection, which didn’t quite have the Kästle panache. The FX of today has a much clearer direction and personality.

    This year we are seeing revolution in a series from Rossignol with its cornerstone collection. The Experience/Temptation line has become the all-new Experience/Experience W. The original Experiences were polarizing skis: they were either on or off, and while they were great carvers, they proved to be difficult in mixed conditions. Rossignol evolved the skis through the generations but they remained biased toward hard snow; even the wider Experience 100 didn’t excel off piste. Enter the new Experiences, with a more gradual tip profile and less pronounced flare in the tail. The new collection is eons better off piste, and with a slightly tighter turn radius on piste, groomer performance is not compromised too much.

    There are countless other examples. Blizzard's reference Bonafide is still in its evolutionary stage; even though the current ski is "new," it is "safe" new. Another instance is K2 and its Luv skis. When the Luvs were released in the mid-2000s, they were THE women’s ski. After numerous generations, K2 felt the series had run its course and dropped the Luv name in favor of the Super-models: Superstitious, Superfree, etc. It was a Super marketing misstep, and sales plummeted. After a short time, K2 returned to the Luv name, hoping to regain the series' momentum.

    My final example is Stöckli's Stormrider 88. Over the past half decade, the SR 88 was one of the reference skis in its class; last season, Stöckli evolved it with a lighter balsa core. Big mistake. Instead of finishing a typical two-year run to get its investment back, Stöckli cut its losses and changed the construction -- and the SR 88 has returned to its expected place in the hierarchy of premium skis.

    So, what does all this mean to you? Well, how many times did you like a ski only to discover that the newest version just didn’t ring your bell? This could be why: even though the name is the same, it could be a completely different ski. Now, counter to that, maybe you owned or tried a ski that just didn’t work for you so you completely wrote that model off. Remember how we say, “There are no bad skis, just wrong skis”? Well, the ski that was the wrong one for you then might be the right one for you now. You need to have an open mind today more than ever. Sorry, I just made more work for you in your ski selection process, didn’t I? Actually, I am not sorry, I am K2 Luv-ing it.
     
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  2. Bill Talbot

    Bill Talbot Vintage Gear Curator Industry Insider

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    My Rossi E83 skis are very versatile and a damn fine northeast ski. From just shy of boilerplate to boot top fresh and most everything in between they work well. The mid 80's is where I'm at more often than not! So it must be the OTHER skis in the Experience line you were referring too ;)
     
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  3. Mike Thomas

    Mike Thomas Whiteroom Pugski Sponsor

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    I feel like Blizzard is stuck where Salomon was with the XScream- the Black Pearl is still a huge seller for ladies and can't really be changed and Brahma still does OK... but they need a re-boot for the entire flipcore series. They are a victim of past success and are now living off the late-adopters for sales, which is working... but there is a cost to getting left behind by the early-adopters and trend setters. They should have changed the design for '18, really needed to do it for '19... we'll see what next year brings, but they are fading fast. Their brothers at Nordica are eating their lunch with the Enforcer series and Navigator/ Astral is just... better.
     
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    Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Exactly, this is where evolution is more costly than revolution for Blizzard.
     
  5. wallyk

    wallyk Would rather be ski'n Skier

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    @Philpug or anyone else, how rare is it for a company to radically alter the product only one year after introduction like Stockli did with the SR88? Are there any other examples? Feels like the big companies have the balance sheet to fight an cycle and manage deal a sluggish product.

    Off topic, but as an owner of a SR88 from last year, is my ski like the Porsche 944 of skis? FWIW, I really liked your description of the ski last year "oozes refinement." Who is not for: "people who drink 40oz from a paper bag." One of the best descriptions that still resonates and makes me laugh!!!
     


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    Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    We do see it from time to time. K2 recently did it with the iKonic Ti, after the first season, they added carbon to the tip. Unusual quick change for an all new ski that jsut came to market. Look changed the toe of the Pivot 12/14 from the WTR switch design to the new AW toe which is not WTR compatible but Gripwalk. This change seemed unnecessary to me in the fact that the previous toe was GW compatible AND WTR so it didn't seem to be needed. The Fischer Hybrid with "rocker on demand" wasn't a one year ski, but a two and left quickly after that.
     
  7. Mike Thomas

    Mike Thomas Whiteroom Pugski Sponsor

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    Nordica Nrgy series was gone well before Nordica anticipated. Sometimes, when the mark is missed, the best move is a reboot not doubling down on a loser.
     
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    Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Wasn't the NRGy85 brought in just for the last year, making it a one year wonder?
     
  9. markojp

    markojp mtn rep for the gear on my feet Industry Insider Instructor

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    108 i think as well.
     
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    Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Yes, the orange 107. :beercheer:
     
  11. tch

    tch What do I know; I'm just some guy on the internet. Skier

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    So what IS real revolution? I get the shape revolution, rocker, 5-point design... perhaps even "revolution" in the sense of major change in core/construction, a la your Stockli example. But how much different (valuable) is most change? For example, I have a pair of Kastle MX78's, (no longer in the line-up). Really, what "revolution" would make these skis any better? Would I really notice -- or like -- "newer" designs that are aimed at the same demographic? Same with my Fischer Motive 95's. I know Fischer adjusted the construction & dimensions subtly and called them the Pro Mountain series. But does that make my Motives suddenly significantly inferior?
    Someone mentioned that flipcore is getting old. But if it worked, why does it need to change? Is the idea passe? Why? How?

    While I'm as much of a gearwhore as the next Pugster, I often find myself wondering if a lot of "change" in skis is not substantial and really designed to spur sales. It seems like a lot of attention is simply advertising and fad: for awhile the Bonafide was the BEST ski ever made, then the Rossi Soul 7 became the "it" ski. Now, if someone says they like the Soul 7, serious skiers scoff. Really, did these skis suddenly become obsolete?
    :huh:
     
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    Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    You bring up some good points. What would make the MX78 (or any MX) significantly better? Right now that is a question that I am sure Davenport, Griffin and the team are trying to come to grips with and until they do, they will not make a significant...or revolutionary change for the sake of making a change.

    It is not that the Bonafide was a winner and now it is trash, other skis and designs as @Mike Thomas pointed out have passed it. No one is saying that any of these skis are obsolete but it is a moving target. Almost every year when I am at ski test, more than once I will say to myself "Damn I thought they couldn't do any better...but they did"
     
  13. mishka

    mishka Putting on skis Industry Insider

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    please explain why do you think so. If company making good product, popular product. Product maybe don't need to be changed. Why make changes only for marketing and marketing only.

    okay what if, they, start to make "double flip core" and tweak shape a little two makes it looks "new" would it be evolutionary or revolutionary?
     
  14. mishka

    mishka Putting on skis Industry Insider

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    I thought the same thing....
    IMO switch to old would ski to epoxy/fiberglass/sandwich construction is Revolution in ski construction
    going from straight skis shaped skis is an revolution in ski designs.

    everything else from first revolution to second too
    now is marketing
     
  15. Jilly

    Jilly Lead Cougar Skier

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    Revolution is risk------BBR. Now that was a risk that didn't catch.
     
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  16. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    Revolution is predicated on pre-existing need, and has at least some support amongst the masses. The BBR was massively bought by 2 weeks/year club skiers and most of the shops in this area carried them for several seasons.

    A risk that doesn't catch is more like a coup attempt. August Putsch. RAMP ShaBang. NEOX EBM.
     
  17. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    I'd like to suggest the following working definition:

    Change big enough for zero or near-zero residual value in the customer's owned product. If the used market isn't collapsed, it's still vanilla evolution. Just bigger steps.
     
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  18. markojp

    markojp mtn rep for the gear on my feet Industry Insider Instructor

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    Big trends/revolutions: Of late (20 ish years), side cut. Width. Rocker. Decoupling lat and long stiffness. The latest is the race to reduce weight. All revolutions swing to the extreme, then find a happy medium. The search for the happy medium is the evolution. Sadly, there are some truly great skis that suffer from our consumer'itis and compulsive need for the newest latest, but hopefully inform the next revolution's happy medium. At the moment and IMHO, exercises in boot weigth reduction and walk modes are producing some very questionable product. Marketing and the creation of desire is a cruel and often capricious master.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
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  19. Joe Strummer

    Joe Strummer Booting up Skier

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    I view skis in four dimensions. Dimension 1 : Horizontal. This refers to shape and sidecut. Little room for innovation here. Dimension 2: Vertical. This refers to rocker/camber. Again little room for innovation. Dimension 3: Materials/Construction. Lots of room for innovation here. Carbon fibre, Kevlar, Honeycomb. Final Dimention: Base. This refers to base and edges. Very little innovation here. Bring back grooved skis I say.
     
  20. Bill Talbot

    Bill Talbot Vintage Gear Curator Industry Insider

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    But the customers 'owned product' is still as good as it was before the change was made. It therefor has just as much value (at least to those who don't chase marketing hype endlessly). It's about perception. They can't sell you want you already have. THIS is the number one rule in sales.
     

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