Modern skis have come a long from the days when they were made of all wood. Your current skis are probably made of a mix of different types of wood, metal, and other materials, all laminated together.
My name is Christine, I’m an avid skier who loves everything about the sport. I’ve done quite a bit of research into what skis these days are made of, and I’ve also had the chance to visit several ski manufacturers to see the building process in action.
In this post, I’ll explain the most common materials that skis are made of and the role these materials play in how the skis perform on the snow.
Let’s jump in.
To better understand what skis are made out of, it’s essential to understand their construction. While many people assume that skis are made out of wood, that’s no longer the case.
Modern ski construction features several layers of different materials, all sandwiched together. This is known as laminate construction, and it is the method by which nearly every ski and snowboard is made these days.
Let’s take a look at all of the elements of ski construction so you can better understand how they all come together to make up your skis.
The core of your skis makes up the majority of the construction. This is the very center of the ski, and every other element surrounds it. It’s typically made of wood. But instead of solid wood, it’s a laminate of thin sections of wood glued or formed together.
The type of wood used in the core can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some companies use a single type of wood core, while others use several different types of wood to get various desired characteristics.
The thickness of the core can also vary depending on the style of the ski as well as the location of the ski. The center of your ski will typically have more wood core to make it sturdier, while the tips and tails will have less core material to make it more flexible.
Common types of wood used for the core include Poplar, Ash, Aspen, Paulownia, and Maple. Some ski brands are starting to use Bamboo as well.
The core isn’t always wood. It can also be a composite material or a blend of wood and composite. Composite cores are often used in really lightweight skis (like backcountry touring models) because this reduces weight without limiting strength and performance.
Surrounding the core of the ski will be a layer of reinforcement. This layer is very important and plays a significant role in how the ski performs on the snow. This layer is thinner than the core but a crucial aspect of ski construction.
The three main types of material used in the reinforcement layer are carbon, metal, and fiberglass. Fiberglass is the most common because it’s easy to work with and cheap to use. Fiberglass builds can be heavy and are used in big mountain skis designed for heavy use.
Carbon is a very lightweight material, and you’ll find it used on backcountry skis and park skis that are intended to be light and flexible. Carbon skis can have a lot of play and bounce, which is good in freestyle situations.
Metal reinforcement can lead to a very heavy ski that is great for plowing through variable conditions and reaching high speeds. This reinforcement will absorb a lot of vibrations and lead to a very smooth and stable skiing experience.
The base of your skis is the bottom section, where they actually come into contact with the snow. This is almost always made up of polyethylene or PE material. PE is a synthetic plastic material that is super strong and smooth.
The base of your skis needs to be strong enough to handle all the conditions and smooth enough to glide across the snow. PE is the best material to get this job done effectively.
The side of your skis is known as the sidewalls. This is different than the edges, which we’ll get to in a second. The sidewalls are usually made of plastic materials, which helps to hold all of the pieces of the ski construction in place.
Not all skis have a sidewall construction, but if your’s do, they will be made out of heavy-duty plastics like P-tex or ABS.
The edges of your skis are made of a durable metal that helps you dig into the snow to turn, slow down, and remain in control at all times. Edges are extremely important, and without them, you won’t be able to stay in control of your skis.
Ski edges are usually made of solid metals like steel or carbon. They need to be very durable and stay sharp. You can repair or sharpen your ski edges if they start to get dull. Keeping an edge sharpener in your car or ski bag is always a good idea.
Also Read: Best Ski Edge Sharpener
The very top of your ski is known as the topsheet. This is usually made out of synthetic material and protects all of the inner layers and while providing a way to display graphics and art on the ski.
Topsheets don’t have much of an impact on performance other than holding everything in place. They do help make your skis look cool, though.
Here are a few quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about what skis are made of.
What is the bottom of a ski made of?
Most modern skis have a bottom made up of a strong synthetic material called polyethylene. This is sometimes abbreviated as PE, and there is a layer of a few millimeters on the bottom of every ski that helps them slide on the snow.
How are skis made today?
Most skis are still made by hand today. A typical build will use a laminate construction of several different materials stacked on top of one another. The materials used in this can be a combination of wood, metal, synthetics, and even glass.
Are all skis Wooden?
No, nearly every modern set of skis use wood alongside other materials such as plastics and metals. Older skis might feature an all-wood construction, but you will really never see these on the slopes anymore.
What metal is used in skis?
The most common types of metals used in ski construction are Titanal and carbon fiber. Titanal is a strong but lightweight metal made primarily out of aluminum. Carbon fiber is a bunch of small metal fibers wound together to provide strength and flexibility.
As you can see, your skis are made up of many different materials. Every ski model has a somewhat different construction, and if you want to find out exactly what yours are made of, look at the manufacturer’s website for a full breakdown of materials.
Understanding what your skis are made of can help you make an informed purchasing decision to better match your needs and preferences as a skier.