Straight skis are a thing of the past, and nearly every pair of skis you’ll see these days has a sidecut. From a fundamental point of view, this sidecut helps improve performance and dictates how a specific ski model handles in the snow.
I’m an avid skier who loves everything about the sport. I pay close attention to ski technology and new developments in the industry, and I’ve done plenty of research into sidecuts and how they affect my skiing.
This post will explain that in detail. I’ll further spell out what a sidecut is and how the sidecut radius affects how your skis perform in the snow. It’s not all that complicated, but it can be a little challenging to understand if you’ve never looked into it before.
Keep reading to learn more.
What is Sidecut?
Imagine a straight board lying on the ground. Now imagine that same board with a big, wide shark bite on either side of it. That’s essentially a sidecut, and it leads to the modern hourglass shape that you see on virtually every ski on the mountain these days.
This sidecut will vary from ski to ski, and it plays a role in how they each perform in the snow, what ability level they are best for, and how quickly they will react on your feet. There are other design factors at play here, but the sidecut is important.
Early sidecut designs were seen as somewhat novel and unique. But once skiers used these for a while and realized how much better the skis were in all sorts of conditions than straight skis, sidecut became the law of the land on the mountain.
In essence, the sidecut is what gives shaped skis their shape. Without a sidecut, we wouldn’t get to experience as many different styles and types of skis.
This design feature has been a revolution for skiing and changed the way skis are made for the better.
What is Sidecut Radius?
If you read ski magazines or pay attention to the guys at the ski shop, you’ve probably heard the term sidecut radius. While this sounds somewhat technical, it’s a relatively easy concept to understand by visualizing things out.
Sidecut radius is also called turn radius or turning radius – good information to know as we dive into the details here.
If you were to extend your sidecut as a drawing into the snow with your ski flat on the ground, you would end up with a circle. The sidecut radius is from the center of this circle to the middle point of your ski.
It’s an easy way to measure a ski’s turning ability quickly and the amount of sidecut it has. This is good to know when you buy a new pair and want to understand how it will perform in various conditions.
How Sidecut Radius Affects Skis
The sidecut radius affects how a ski turns as it slides on the snow downhill. That’s why it’s also often called turning radius. This isn’t the only factor that comes into play with knowing how a ski performs, but it’s the most important one relating to turning specifically.
A smaller turning radius, or a smaller sidecut, makes for a ski that is quicker to turn. Short sidecuts will lead to skis that are easy to maneuver, and they will be able to respond quicker underfoot.
Smaller sidecuts can be beneficial for beginners learning the basics of the sport who don’t want to struggle when trying to make turns. It also helps you stay in control because quicker turns can help slow you down.
A larger sidecut, or higher turn radius, leads to longer turns in the snow. It also makes the skis faster because there is more surface area in contact with the snow. A larger sidecut makes that imaginary circle much bigger, requiring more effort to turn the skis.
Larger sidecuts are good for more experienced skiers who have a good grasp of the basics and want the ability to go fast. If you look at big mountain skis or other models built for experts, you’ll typically see a larger sidecut.
How Sidecut is Measured
If you are looking at the specs for a new set of skis, you’ll notice a few numbers that will help indicate how a sidecut is measured. These are usually measured in meters and are the exact radius measurement of that circle I’ve described.
A short sidecut is anywhere in between 10 to 15 meters. A medium sidecut will be anywhere between 15 to 20 meters. And a long sidecut is anything over 20 meters. It’s rare to see a ski with a turning radius under 10 meters.
Beginners will almost always want a shorter sidecut, while intermediate and advanced skiers should match a sidecut to the type of skiing they like to do. I have several pairs of skis with different sidecuts that give me various benefits in different conditions.
Sidecut is a crucial design element of modern skis. It plays a significant role in the turning ability on the mountain and is good to understand so you can know how a ski might perform before you make a purchase and take it out for some runs.
If you want to learn about how your skis are designed and how construction plays a role in performance, be sure to learn about profile elements such as rocker and camber in addition to turning radius.