Here at Folsom, we’re always looking to innovate our ski building technology, but we also know that the recipes we’ve been using over the years work pretty darn well. The addition of a new additive – graphene – to our skis has been something we’ve been trying to achieve in the right way, and are excited to be moving forward with. Functionalized graphene additives can be used in fiber-reinforced materials to increase mechanical performance, durability, and product longevity. With the use of a specific graphene from MITO Material Solutions, the following is the experience of Folsom athlete Doug Mock through the prototyping process…
During the COVID summer of 2020, Folsom HQ made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The team had just acquired a new material. Their description made the stuff sound like Wolverine’s Adamantium skeleton: a thousand times stronger than steel, the most resilient material known to man. Only a single molecule thick. Sub-feather-light. Fully space age, totally incredible, but pretty well unproven and unknown. Folsom was starting to put it in skis, and needed an honest opinion. Did it suck? Was it totally hype? The kind of material other brands put in their boards to sell at premium prices while pumping up the marketing jargon? Or was there something to this crazy recipe, this graphene, that might in fact make Folsom Customs, already the world’s greatest skis, somehow even that much better? If they built me a pair—the first ultralight, freeride-touring, backcountry shred-sticks with graphene—would I be able to separate hype from value? I was honored, and humbled. And unbelievably stoked.
Throughout my ten years with the brand, every single pair of skis Folsom has built me has been a revelation. I never knew a ski could push this hard, hold so strong, feel so sweet, be so durable! So I expected the graphene boards to rip. But did they shred because of the graphene? There was only one way to know for sure.
I spent the first half of ski season getting acquainted with a new pair of touring-specific, full-carbon Primary 104s (note: no graphene added). The build was stable at mach-speed, poppy and playful, and darn near skimo-racing light. Every day from deep blower, to burly windboard, to recycled-on-crust, to chopped-up crud – an absolute blast in the backcountry, a flawless one-ski-quiver, my go to for even the deepest days. Honestly, I didn’t think a touring ski could possibly get any better.
A message from Folsom HQ arrived at the beginning of March: “got those graphenes done, eager to hear what you think.” The build was identical to my best-ski-ever (Primary 104): same aspen/bamboo core, identical structural carbon, same Directional Rocker. The only difference was an addition of ten grams of MITO’s graphene blend to the epoxy during layup.
In-house testing revealed no significant differences from my trad-build skis. Same stiffness, same weight, measured flex nearly identical as well. From what we could tell before putting them on the snow, there was one single contrast between the graphene build and the regular one: the original build had the Typeface topsheet graphic in blue, while the graphene ones looked extra sweet with a new orange Pee-Chee graphic.
We mounted them with the same Marker Alpinists as my blue 104s, and I left the shop with an injunction to be totally, brutally honest.
The First Day
Approaches in the Indian Peaks are long. That’s why I like my skis light. Skinning in along the road, then up many switchbacks, and finally ascending an alpine ridge in glorious sunshine, the graphene prototypes felt just like the traditional Primary 104s on the way up: easy to get along with, and fast. I didn’t expect much difference there – light skis are great uphill.
We ripped skins on the summit with 1400 vertical feet of flawless pow below. One of those days every skier lives for, and here I was about to make first turns on first-of-their-kind boards. Dreams really do come true. The line’s initial 700’ is a wide-open, 36 degree, high-alpine ramp. I pressed shins to cuffs, pushed off, made about eight turns. Stability at speed? Check. These things are rippers! But the other skis had no problems shredding perfect blower either. Folsoms just feel great at speed.
Then the ramp takes a hard dogleg left, changing aspect from due north to due west, and steepening to 42 degrees between tall rock walls. The wind has been up to its old tricks overnight. Where the north face was primo-soft, that west couloir was firm as linoleum. But beneath my boots, the orange skis didn’t chatter, didn’t slip. On that first hard-pan turn, my blue skis would have demanded a speed check. But the graphene boards subtly whispered, “Bro. I got you. Send it.” I hammered that couloir at 40 mph, confident as any downhill racer banging gates and howled in joy like the very wind that firmed the snow overnight.
The graphene skis were like a drug. I couldn’t get enough. Flying up ascents, then just skiing like a hooligan on the way down. They sure didn’t ski like ultralights!
I don’t know how the graphene does what it does; space age materials have magical properties (note: more on this soon…). The skis had no speed limit. They were damp as any build I’d skied, never deflecting in chunder. They popped turns and held edges in technical terrain far better than my blue, graphene-less Primary 104s. They constantly dared me to push them harder. I was in heaven.
Yet the graphene boards also did a crazy thing at the other end of the performance spectrum. As a backcountry-only athlete, as much as I love steeps, the honest truth is: I ski an awful lot of hippie pow. Bouncing, bounding arcs in low angle meadows. Milking 28 degree alpine bowls for as many turns as they’ll hold. Keeping it real on the high avy days, which last season offered so frequently. And the incredible thing about the graphene skis was on cruiser terrain and at lower speeds—despite their incredible charging prowess, mind you—they were every bit as fun. Not too stiff, not too planky. Just as eager to play in any snow condition as I am.
Side By Side
With an orange ski on one foot and a blue one on the other, I couldn’t tell a difference when playing in low-angle trees. All turn shapes, playful as a puppy. When it came time to push my limits in the steeps though, and blue ones kinda said, “You sure about this?” while those orange ones just wanted more. Which offered me something of a key to the graphene skis’ unique secret.
An Immaculate Balance
I skied the graphene skis a ton. Most days just on their own, but sometimes swapping laps with the blue ones, occasionally putting on one of each foot, always with an eye for their differences, subtle or overt. For the hard charging backcountry skier, the graphene skis were like being handed the keys to a full-on F1 car, when you were used to doing your track laps in some average, run of the mill Ferrari. They go faster, push harder, drive more precisely and more playfully. With virtually zero weight penalty, they are a far burlier board, which is pretty well unheard of in my reasonably-long experience. And for all that performance, they don’t sacrifice ease or fun-loving on the low-angle days either. Truly, just a gem touring ski. Every day, as hard as you want to go, they whisper, if not shout: “Buddy, let’s have some fun!”
But honestly, I believe the greatest advantage of a graphene build might be found by the progression-oriented skier, who maybe isn’t pushing their gear the hardest they can, everyday. Or not yet, at least.
Imagine a ski that’s the exact, perfect flex for how you ski today when it arrives at your door. That ski is gonna be dope, sure. But you’re gonna improve this year, and next year too.
Now imagine that that same ski can grow with you. Without being too stiff on day one, it’s got reserves of strength, dampness, and power for when you’re twice as strong in the second half of the season, and twice as strong again the season after that. Your graphene skis are forgiving and fun on the easy days, but simultaneously stoked to step up when you’ve found yourself atop a chute that’s looking spicy, then ready to rail when you’ve skied that chute a dozen times and are just gonna send it!
Graphene is a giant leap forward in ski construction and performance. It creates skis with characteristics that were simply not possible before. I didn’t think I could truly smile any bigger on a powder day, but here I am…
We know that this is just the opinion of one skier, and recognize that this skier is also a Folsom athlete who’s opinions may be slightly biased. The graphene ski construction is still in the final prototyping phases, but we are excited to have you experience the difference this material makes. The response internally has been unanimous on the performance attributes resulting from graphene, stay tuned for more updates coming soon.