Saving Ski Weight by Deleting or Minimizing Edges


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Regarding eliminating edges at tip and tail to reduce ski weight, a ski engineer sent over specs for how much ski edges weigh. This especially applies to the new Black Diamond Carbon offerings such as Convert and Aspect, which delete many centimeters of tip and tail edges. (See our weight charts.)

Black Diamond (right) trims quite a bit of weight by using minimal extensions of steel edge at tip and tail.

Black Diamond (right) trims quite a bit of weight by eliminating edges at the tip and tail. Sportiva (left) extends their edges farther. I'm in favor of this as a weight saving trick, but consumer testing will determine how much durability is lost. It's perhaps more important to have the edges extending pretty much to the end of the tail (for control when in the backseat on hard snow), while the tip is less important.

According to my source: “…range of edge profiles and stampings out there with significantly different weights. A typical full size alpine ski or snowboard edge (2.0mm high x 2.2mm wide) weighs 53g/m. Thinner edges on some skis in the market (1.3mm high x 1.6mm wide) weigh as little as 27g/m.”

Examples of different edge sizes, measured on skis here at WildSnow HQ after factory finishing (difficult to measure on ski, >< 0.1 mm):
K2 Coomback 2014/15, 1.4 high x 2.0 wide
G3 Synapse Carbon 2014/15, 2.1 high x 2.3 wide
Dynafit Denali 2014/15, 2.2 high, x 1.3 wide
BD Carbon Aspect 2014/15, 1.5 high x 1.3 wide

While it is difficult to know exactly how much the edges on a given brand weigh, for the sake of estimating we can use an average to get an idea how much mass a company such as BD is saving by eliminating edge. Thus, let's say the average edge weight is 40 grams a meter, or .04 grams per millimeter.

That means by eliminating an estimated 88 centimeters of edge from tip/tail of the 180 cm Carbon Convert (I measured), Black Diamond is saving at least 35 grams; more than an ounce per ski. That's noticeable, especially since the weight savings is out on the ends where it makes more of a difference when moving the ski in kick turns and such.

Some of the skis I sampled for edge thickness.

Some of the skis I sampled for edge thickness.

A significant takeaway from this is that skis with full wrap edges could easily weigh 20 grams less per ski by leaving some steel edge off the tips, without the excessive edgeless areas of the Black Diamond skis, especially at the tail. On the other hand, leaving out the edges doesn’t change things much in our charting, as the range of ski weights we cover far exceeds the small differences that edges make. For example, wrapping full tip and tail edges would cause the Convert to score a 71 instead of a 70. Not a huge difference, as the Converts with/without edges would still rank next to each other, between the Goode (lighter) and the G3 Zen C3 (slightly heavier).

All this begs the question, how much do ski edges weigh in total, and how much weight can be saved by using thinner edges? As an example, consider the new G3 Synapse Carbon 101. I measured (rounded to centimeter) 350 centimeters of edge on one 170 centimeter ski.

G3 uses strong thick edges so they’re ultra durable. My theory is that’s necessary because it has something to do with hockey, but I digress. For one Synapse ski the thick G3 edge probably weighs close to the specified 53 grams per meter, or .053 grams per millimeter, for a total edge weight of 185 grams. If the lightest edges are used at the specified .027 grams per millimeter, that’s a total edge weight of 95 grams, resulting in a savings of 90 grams (3 ounces) per ski — significant!

Considering above, I’ll go on the record and say it’s high time for ski companies to make “touring” specific skis that use minimized edge configurations to save considerable weight. For example, say a ski used light edges as well as no edges at tip and tail. Savings from those tweaks alone could be up to 4 ounces or 1/4 pound per ski! Kudos to the companies already experimenting with this.

(It’s worth mentioning that it’s possible to build skis with aluminum edges. While such edges are never as sharp as steel, and most certainly not as durable, they work fine in soft snow. For example, a nordic/alpine ski called the Fischer Expedition had aluminum edges and saw extensive service in the 1970s for big ski traverses and that sort of thing. I used those quite a bit. They worked. Considering this, one has to wonder if a ski company could build a modern AT ski with aluminum edges as the ultimate powder touring machine. Combine that with carbon, and a wide “one kilo” ski would be the result. Perhaps they could even do “hybrid” edges, with steel in a section underfoot and the remainder aluminum.)

Comments

35 Responses to “Saving Ski Weight by Deleting or Minimizing Edges”

  1. Brian April 17th, 2014 9:48 am

    I have a pair of the original Solomon Rocker 2, which I believe was the ski to start the “no edge on the rocker” trend. Ironically this was done to improve swing weight, making it easier to spin in the air. Anyhow, I’ve got three seasons riding these in the backcountry, and had no issues with durability at the interface at all.

  2. Lou Dawson April 17th, 2014 9:59 am

    Thanks Brian. Indeed, I recall a few skis over the years that had edges stopping well before tip and tail. Can’t recall exact models, thanks for pointing out the Solomon. This is a very exciting time in ski design if you’re human powered, things are going to get very light, and that’s what a lot of us want. Lou

  3. lederhosen42 April 17th, 2014 10:37 am

    Furthering the idea of tweaking metal edge thickness….what about varying the thickness throughout the running length? For example, no edge at extreme ends of tips and tails, thinner through forebody and behind binding and thicker underfoot where higher impact zone is more likely to produce damage when hitting rocks or sliding rails, etc? Inspired by double ‘butted’ tubing for bike frames, but reversed, where the thicker ‘butting’ is in the middle, tapered or stepped down to thinner near the ends? The cons could be expensive production cost? But maybe for truly high end, carbon skis…etc..would be worth it? just a thought.

  4. Lou Dawson April 17th, 2014 10:59 am

    Leder, that’s a cool idea. Your mention of rails brings home another point, truly, the vast majority of ski tourers don’t do rail slides… and your mention of such brings up a sore point in that we’re being asked to haul around ski strength/weight that many of us really don’t need. In my view, we should have more choices.

  5. David April 17th, 2014 11:10 am

    Some of the largest snowboard companies have never used edge material on the tip and tail. No major problems as far as I know have resulted.

    In the last decade or so DIY split boards have been in use mostly w/o a center edge. The noticeably lighter weight is an impressive benefit of a DIY split. Certainly durability is a bit compromised but since the cutting and sealing are often amateur projects this can’t just be blamed on the absence of an inner edge. At least one split board manufacture is making their splits with a very short inner edge in order to save weight.

  6. david April 17th, 2014 11:41 am

    Lib and gnu snowboards haven’t had edges in the tip and tail since the early 90′s. It has proven to be durable at least with their technique of tucking the edge ends into the core to prevent them from pulling out. I find it makes for an easier repair a impact damage when their is no puckered edge to deal with, just a missing chunk to seal and fill.

  7. Jim L April 17th, 2014 1:25 pm

    Thin titanium edges!

  8. jbo April 17th, 2014 2:15 pm

    Even La Sportiva is stopping short now. The Vapor Nano edges stop (start?) a little over 9cm from the rockered tip.

  9. Lou Dawson April 17th, 2014 2:33 pm

    But the Sportiva edges go to the end of the tail… as pictured. Lou

  10. Charlie April 17th, 2014 5:52 pm

    I may be a luddite, but full-length edges make me feel good, at least on spring/mountaineering skis. I don’t want an edge to come out when I’m far from the road or in tricky terrain.

    Titanium is an interesting choice, assuming that edge-manufacturers would be willing to make them.

    It’d never have occurred to me to use aluminum for ski edges – were they carefully-tempered?

  11. UpSki Kevin April 17th, 2014 6:05 pm

    the edge is set into the ski with teeth (for reference see: http://www.store.skilab.com/images/skilab_images/Edges_02.jpg) removing. reducing, or changing tooth profile would be another thing to consider. A ski manufacture already has to selectively remove teeth to bend an edge around the ski tip. I don’t jump rails- but I’d still rather have a thick edge, carry the extra grams, and get more years out of the ski. I hit more rocks in deep powder than I do on hardpack. I really like the idea of shortening the edge in the ski tip.

  12. Lou Dawson April 17th, 2014 6:26 pm

    They were not very hard , probably just the usual T6 temper. I remember them getting pretty beat up and rounded over, but they were better than nothing. Lou

  13. travis April 17th, 2014 7:03 pm

    I’d rather have another ounce per ski and more durability! I don’t really care about a full edge profile, but thick edges are important for several season’s worth of tunes.

  14. Lou Dawson April 17th, 2014 7:43 pm

    Kevin, the shorter edge in the tip area is most certainly a valid weight saving measure. Agree on the fact that minimizing edges else where could be problematic, though I can think of many situations where doing so would work fine and the resulting feather light ski would be pretty nice. Lou

  15. See April 17th, 2014 7:52 pm

    If cost, durability etc. aren’t issues, I bet ceramic edges would be intense.

  16. Nick April 17th, 2014 8:27 pm

    I think this calls for some experimentation with a grinder to vary edge height and width from tail to tip. A project for wildsnow? ;-)

    Good luck getting someone to make a small batch of titanium edges at a reasonable cost. Wonder how the standard tuning tools would cope with titanium?

  17. Bob Perlmutter April 17th, 2014 9:35 pm

    The full length edge or lack there of is the one point I did not mention in my recent Carbon Convert review. I’m glad Lou has brought this to our attention. I have to assume it is not just weight savings but also cost savings that go into the equation of full length edge vs. not. My concerns are two fold, the first being the durability of the edge at the interface at the terminus of the edge. The second being whether one is riding on base material only in the initiation and finish phase of the turn. I would hate to skid out of a turn in a situation when I really need it the most. All of that said, given my comments of how one really needs to initiate the turn on the C-Convert at the very tip of the ski for optimum performance(further reinforced today), the tip has always engaged precisely and exactly when and where I wanted. I have never felt like the edge wasn’t there when I needed it.

  18. Lou Dawson April 18th, 2014 5:34 am

    Nick, I was taught by recent generation of skiers that tuning is over rated, unless it’s done on park rails.

    Bob, I think they were pretty careful about where the edges run to at tip and tail. Just enough but no extra, it appears.

    As skis get lighter, saving weight will become more difficult while at the same time the light skis become addictive for human powered skiing. My prediction is that this combination of factors is going to drive experimentation with edges, since it’s an obvious place to save weight. Another thing is we’re only seeing the beginning of how light a ski can be made using carbon products. And more.

    For example, graphene material is one molecule thick and a sheet of it would be so strong it could support an elephant sitting on a pencil — and it conducts electricity. 200 gram skis, anyone, with electric snow grip switch? Graphene is _100 times_ stronger than steel!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene

  19. Morgan April 18th, 2014 8:13 am

    One thing to remember is that a thiner edge will also mean a thinner base and base is heavy. It is also worth mentioning that when you remove edge from a section of ski you add base which while not as heavy as edge it weighs something. You can grind your bases down and shave quite a bit of weight. At our factory we have seen as much as 50 grams come off with a few passes on the belt. I don’t think I would endorse this as a weight shaving technique though as it will effect the durability of your skis.

  20. Lou Dawson April 18th, 2014 8:42 am

    Morgan, thanks for chiming in. Skimo racers have been known to pass their skis through the grinder multiple times for weight reduction, doing so indeed works but yeah, doing so would of course compromise durability to some degree. Me, if I had a pair of touring skis I really liked but they had the ultra thick edges, I actually would consider grinding them down a bit, but not excessively. I’ve always believed that more grinding also made the skis a bit more flexible, which with my lower weight body type can be nice, as skis are frequently too stiff for me in the appropriate length.

    I considered including the weight of the base material in calcs above, but since I was just illustrating a point, doing so seemed to just confuse.

    Another thing that keeps coming up is that the climbing skins are becoming a big factor in weight as skis get lighter. Some are quite heavy, none are really very light. Look for changes in that area as well over coming 24 months.

    Lou

  21. Chamonix April 18th, 2014 5:47 pm

    Back to the future..
    My Europa 77 tele touring skis had full length aluminum edges.. in 1976

  22. Bob Perlmutter April 18th, 2014 7:04 pm

    Funny you should mention Graphene. Next year Head is using Graphene in it’s new line of women’s ski’s. Head is saying 20% lighter than previous wmn’s models though I don’t know the actual weights. Among the models includes one at 98mm and 110mm underfoot. Supposedly they have precut skins available as well. Reports from a number of guys who have skied them is very positive. Food for thought.

  23. rz April 18th, 2014 10:04 pm

    Lou,
    How much does the metal skin clip weigh? I would think that has to weigh as much or more than the edge material….and personally if forced to choose I’d take edge control over skin clip security…

  24. Mark Worley April 18th, 2014 10:42 pm

    Some unusual skis that use a ceramic-like material I spied at Neptune Mountaineering once. They were some adventuring xc skis, perhaps by Asnes? Anyway, I have seen others with some metal where critical, and softer, non-metal edge sections too. I did once ski a nordic ski with aluminum edges, but can’t really recall how well they worked as we were attempting tele turns on the skinny sticks in the soft snow of Yellowstone many years back.

  25. Lenka K. April 19th, 2014 4:10 am

    @Travis

    +1

    I’d actually never consider a Dynafit ski because of the thin edges (noticed them already on the Baltoro a few years back): how many times can you have the ski tuned before the edge is gone? And the issue isn’t super sharp edges, but rather mangled edges that end up icing up and need to be tuned several times a year.

    The quest for light material is fine, but clearly at the cost of durability. I’m sure the manufacturers would be delighted to have backcountry skiers buy a new pair (several pairs?) of skis a year, but that’s not what I’d bargain for. Moreover, I’d like to see a skier who can feel the 40g-difference per ski :).

    And frankly, ever since I started touring on a 4kg-freeride ski this year, I strongly believe that low weight is overrated :).

    Lenka K.

  26. Lou Dawson April 19th, 2014 6:18 am

    Bob, upon study, I seriously doubt they’re using graphene as a stand-alone substance in a ski at this time, but it’s a cool name I’ll bet they just used as a replacement for using the word graphite or the word carbon. Graphene is simply a one atom thick layer of graphite (carbon), e.g., graphite consists of multiple layers of graphene. So they could say the ski has graphene in it if it has carbon in it. Lou

  27. ty April 19th, 2014 9:54 am

    Lenka has the only rational post on this one…

  28. Lou Dawson April 19th, 2014 10:38 am

    LOL

    I’m always glad Lenka sticks around.

  29. Chimeral April 19th, 2014 10:47 am

    Interesting discussion. An earlier poster mentioned a splitboard company using a short inside edge (full discourse: I build those boards). Lou, you’re hitting on an idea that we’ve also been kicking around for years. Pretty early on we realized that even a modest cut in weight on the tips makes a noticeable improvement on swing weight. This year we’ve also been playing around with different (non-metal) edge materials to optimize weight, board feel and durability.

    About durability, one point some people might miss is that partial-wrap edges are, in some ways, tougher than full wraps. In ski/board construction getting, and maintaining, a bond to metal is a weak point. The bond of glass to tipfill and sidewall is much stronger under most circumstances. Partial wrapped edges may be more prone to chipping and minor damage, but the damage from catastrophic impact tends to be less destructive and more manageable than blowing a metal edge.

  30. Lou Dawson April 19th, 2014 1:39 pm

    Thanks Chim!

    “Different (non-metal) edge materials,” I like the sound of that!

    I was also thinking that the ultimate low-mass touring ski could actually be built with two different edges. Inside steel, outside aluminum or composite. That would be super progressive. Although the word progressive is more of a snowboard innovation word — ski makers tend to take years before they’ll make a change (grin).

    Lou

  31. Bob Perlmutter April 19th, 2014 10:42 pm

    http://ispo-mediaservices.com/prj_155/view/index.cfm?lng=2&nv=6.1&elb=155.1180.1807.9.758152

    Check out the link to the youtube video as well. Obviously some marketing hype but interesting. Google Head skis 2014-15 and you’ll find a lot more. I have no vested interest in Head and personally don’t care if the best innovations come from the alpine or AT community. In the end I just want the best possible skis under my feet for whatever application I choose at the time. I have never skied any of these skis and for all I know they could be junk or the best thing since sliced bread.

  32. David B April 20th, 2014 6:29 am

    Decreasing weight is fine provided it doesn’t detract from the skis performance. Decreasing tip weight affects the skis ability to drive through variable snow and increases deflection.

    Re shortening tail edge. I’ve had several occasions where edges on the tail have saved my bacon. For these reasons I am not a fan of shortening the edges.

    Durability of a new edge is paramount and cost. So if the ski boffins can work within the confines of durability and cost then we’re on to something.

    How about Teflon:)

  33. See April 20th, 2014 8:45 am

    “Koroyd” in Head skis? “Kevlar weave composite” in Sportiva Vapor? Maybe the real story isn’t Graphene or nanotubes, but good old honeycomb.

  34. rz April 22nd, 2014 12:42 pm

    Lou,
    may be i should try to rephrase what i was trying to say. How much do you think the metal piece on the back of the convert skis weigh? The piece that is at the very end of the ski where a skin attaches. To me it would seem this would be perferible to remove this piece of metal as apposed to the edges as it is located at the very end of the and appears to be a substantial amount of metal. While i like this feature on my BD skis if i’m trying to cut down on weight this would be one of the first areas i would look at. What are your thoughts on this piece of metal, and if you could tell me what to refer to it as that would be great too. :)

    Cheers,

  35. Lou Dawson April 22nd, 2014 2:11 pm

    RZ, it’s just thin polished aluminum and fills space normally taken by an ABS or alu tail filler. Probably weighs 5 grams. I’d call it a “tail notch protector.” Lou

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