Metal vs. No Metal: The Great Ski Debate // Ski Technology
Metal Vs. No Metal
So you're looking for skis, when you start to realize that some have metal, and others don't. The skis with metal always seem to be a bit more expensive, so you're pretty sure they're a higher quality and something that you want. It's easy to draw these conclusions, and we don't blame you. The fact of the matter is though, a layer of metal in a ski really has more to do with the ski's stiffness than its overall quality. As a result, buying a ski with metal should be based more on the skier's ability than an association between price and quality.
How Does Metal Change a Ski?
In short, adding metal to the construction of a ski makes it stiffer. This is most beneficial for skiers who prefer high speeds, and already have a solid foundation of skills to build on. That said, for many skiers a stiff ski isn't just helpful, it's absolutely necessary for the way that they're skiing. Essentially, having a stiff ski at high speeds is needed for two different reasons.
The first, is in handling what skiers refer to as "chatter." This term refers to the rapid vibration that can occur at the front of your skis when you're moving quickly. "Chatter" is a good word for this vibration, as the vibration is so quick that it can almost sound like chattering teeth when you're on firm, groomed snow. As you can imagine, having a ski that's shaking while you're pushing your speed limit is both unnerving and unstable. In this situation, adding metal to the ski makes the flex stiff enough that the tips of the skis will be less prone to vibrating like this.
The other situation where metal comes in handy, is in making the ski more responsive from edge to edge. All skis have a torsional flex, which is basically how easy or difficult it is to "twist" the ski. Skis with a softer torsional flex are better at turning at lower speeds, as you can kind of mush the ski into the turn. On the contrary, a ski with a stiff torsional rigidity performs much better at higher speeds where the extra force is able to help translate your pressure directly to the edge of the skis. Not only does this help you flip your skis from edge to edge, but increased pressure directly over your edges results in improved edge hold. This is crucial for carving at high speeds as it allows you to really lay into a carve, knowing that your ski's edge will hold you throughout the turn without slipping out.
The result is again, more stability and a more responsive ski at high speeds when compared to a ski without metal. This is vital not only for the overall enjoyment of the ski, but also for situations when the skier may need to stop or turn as quickly as possible. While a ski without metal will turn sideways and skid, a ski with metal will turn sideways and get your pressure directly to the edge of the ski, allowing you to firmly dig into the snow and stop on a dime.
Are Skis With Metal Right for Me?
Of course, metal certainly isn't for every skier. There are a few traits of metal layers that makes these skis a poor choice for most non-experts. For starters, skis with metal are almost always heavier than their counterparts. As a result, children, novice women, and inexperienced men will find them more difficult to maneuver. Secondly, the stiff flex of the skis also hinder their maneuverability, especially at lower speeds. While experts can maneuver these firm skis, those who are still learning the fundamentals of carving and getting on edge will find it nearly impossible on a slow moving, stiff ski.
It's also worth mentioning that not all expert's prefer to use a metal ski, and therefore not all expert skis include metal. For a lot of experts, the soft playfulness of a ski without metal is more fun for every day conditions than a ski with metal. A lot of skis with metal take effort to ski and maneuver, especially when you aren't up to speed. On the contrary, a soft ski can be more fun to push around, especially when it comes to powder. In these conditions, a stiff ski is perfect for big drops, tight lines, and high speeds. There are a lot of expert powder skiers though who find themselves taking a more graceful approach to powder skiing, and enjoy a softer skis ability to really get in and push snow around. Have you ever seen someone "skidding" across powder? Chances are they were using a ski without metal.
So, are skis with metal right for you? If you're a skier who's always pushing their personal speed limit higher and higher, then metal is right for you. If you've ever noticed that your skis have been vibrating or seemed flimsy, then chances are metal is a good option for you. On the other hand, if you've never gone fast enough on skis to experience "chatter" then you probably don't need metal skis. Also, if you're still learning how to really control yourself on skis, then don't bother with metal. And of course, don't rule out your personal preference. If you consider yourself an expert skier, but like a more graceful approach to skiing, then don't hesitate to pick up a ski without metal.
The bottom line? If you're an experienced and fast skier looking for ultimate control, then find some skis with metal. Otherwise, save yourself some money and frustration by finding a ski without it.