Weathering Winter with Aluminium Ski Gear

Skiing and other winter sports require tough, durable equipment to keep practitioners safe.
9 December, 2016
For the estimated 125 million (and counting) skiers across the globe, winter is always welcome.
Skiing as a sport is growing steadily in Eastern Europe and Asia, according to a 2016 report on snow and mountain tourism. The research offers a fascinating look at skiing from Belarus to Belgium, where even the lowland country has ski resorts in the Ardennes. In Russia, cross-country skiing has found an enthusiastic new patron in UC Rusal.

In 2016, Rusal (along with parent company EN+) became the official partners of the Russian cross-country skiing federation. In addition to providing support to the national team, they have launched an initiative, Na Lyzhi (On Skis), a charity project aimed at supporting the development of skiing in Siberia and promoting cross-country skiing as one of the most accessible sports for the region. Given the popularity and affordability of cross-country skiing, along with the weather conditions in Siberia, the sport is seen as one of the best ways to improve the physical education of the younger generation.
"On Skis" seeks to increase the interest of young students in the sport and create the right conditions for them to prepare for the Winter Olympics. The comprehensive initiative includes a series of educational seminars for national coaches working with beginners, competitions in the framework of a "Children's Clubs," the promotion of cross-country skiing in schools, and ensuring that existing regional teams have the necessary equipment and supplies.
Cross-country skiing is undeniably a sport in which Siberians must prevail. We want ski racing in Siberia to again become as natural a phenomenon as snow. Our goal is to revive the tradition of national championship in the region and to unlock the potential of today's students. We want to give them an incentive to further develop their skills in their chosen discipline using the tools available, which in the future will allow them to honorably compete for the country on the international circuit.
Elena Vyalybe, President of the Russian Federation's Cross-country Skiing Federation
Three-time Olympic champion and fourteen-time world champion in cross-country skiing
Whether in Russia, Europe, and North America, one thing all skiers have in common is the equipment they share. Much of today's gear, from the skis themselves to poles, racks and other accessories, is made from the lightweight and durable aluminium that has figured prominently in skiing history for decades. Aluminium's prominent role in the sport makes Rusal a natural patron.

American engineer Howard Head is credited with designing the first aluminium skis. As an experienced aircraft engineer, Head saw the possibilities for aluminium in a sport that dates back thousands of years – there are rock paintings of hunters using them – but even in the modern era still relied on wood. He launched his Head Ski Company in 1948 with a patented aluminium ski that enjoyed widespread use.

Image: Wikipedia
While aluminium gave way to plastic for some manufacturers (today, Head makes skis with the latest technology and a carbon-based graphene woven throughout), aluminium remains an important element in most skies today. That is especially true in sidewall construction, and the edging of skis with multiple layers and materials. Even skis that say they have a "titanium laminate" layer over the core are actually made with aluminium, with a small amount of titanium mixed in.

Key to ski performance is the amount of bending and flexing the skis can do at the same time that they maintain a stiffness that prevents cracking or bending. One solution is a material called Titanal, made by the Austrian firm AMAG. Titanal is a very hard, aerospace-grade aluminium alloy that was specifically created for skiing, but despite the trade name, Titanal has no actual titanium in it.
Titanal adds stiffness to skis and is often found in stiff all-mountain skis and racing skis. Even in these high-performance skis, manufacturers typically only use a sheet about a half-millimeter thick. The other great benefit of Titanal is that it damps out vibrations, primarily because its bending stiffness is so different from the other materials surrounding it. The Wagner ski manufacturer recommends that wood skis in sugar maple, with either a white ash or aspen laminate, also work well when paired with aluminium alloy materials to build their structure.
The advantages of aluminium aren't limited to the skis themselves though. Bindings from a range of respected manufacturers are often crafted with aluminium, and come in three basic models. The Bishop 2.0 telemark, for example, uses high-grade aluminum, stainless steel and titanium that is CNC machined with perfect precision to keep the boots tight to the skies and the skier safe on the slopes.

The skis and bindings are the heart of the enthusiast's equipment, but the right poles are critical to both the high-performing skier and the casual lifestyle customer. They need to be sturdy enough to trust and light enough to almost forget they are there. For those precise reasons, many poles are aluminium-built.

Rossignol offers a wide range of ski poles including the 2017 Stove Pipe, described as a no-frills pole in Dural aluminium. There's also the 2017 Snow Flake for women, an aluminium pole with contoured grips, and the 2016 Fat FS – an "ultra-burly" aluminium ski pole with a mount for a camera to share the view. Last but not least, no skier will get very far without good boots: most ski boots buckle up with aluminium, which helps them stand up to wintry climes.
Banner image: Czech Tourism