Last season, we introduced Recommended Construction Combinations to our ski shape pages. Custom skis are magical when they use the right materials for the end user, but if you’re not an expert in ski materials and construction, how are you supposed to know what options to choose?
This blog will first take you through our wood core options and composite options, then explain why certain combinations work and why some just don’t make any sense at all.
Core Blend Options
Folsom offers 3 different core material blend options for your custom skis. These options are: (1) Aspen & Bamboo, (2) Poplar & Bamboo, and (3) Poplar, Maple & Bamboo. Each core is best used in certain situations and that ultimately comes down to the density of each kind of wood. First thing’s first though, we need to answer the “Why do all off your cores have bamboo in them?” question. Overall it just makes for a much quieter, more composed core without sacrificing performance. Bamboo is a wood that has a very high strength to weight ratio, is very flexible and makes incredibly smooth feeling skis in rough terrain. Since the density of bamboo is so different from any other material in the rest of the ski, it acts like a sponge that will soak up the minute vibrational frequencies experienced when skiing.
“So why don’t you make cores completely out of bamboo?” – While bamboo is very damp and makes a ski feel more smooth, the low density of the wood does not provide enough support for ample edge hold, responsiveness, and it would be quiet heavy. Poplar, Maple, and Aspen are all woods that offer far greater composure due to their higher densities and allow the skier to have a much stronger ski underfoot. By using multiple types of wood in each core, it yields the best upsides of each species.
Now, onto the options. As mentioned, each wood (aspen, poplar, and maple) all have very different properties to them and can be best compared by discussing their densities. When thinking about density, you also have to think about weight: the more dense a wood core is the better it’s going to ski downhill through rough conditions and the less dense it is, the lighter it’s going to be.
Aspen & Bamboo
As you can see in the image above Aspen is the least dense wood, Poplar is more dense, and Maple is densest. Because of this, Aspen & Bamboo is our lightest core offering which makes it the least stable in choppy conditions, but the most advantageous for touring applications. We recommend using the Aspen & Bamboo core for backcountry touring or resort use for smaller / lighter skiers.
Poplar & Bamboo
We recommend the Poplar & Bamboo core for intermediate to advanced skiers to use on the resort. Poplar is in the middle of the pack in density, which provides the user with a snappy and lively ski, that doesn’t weight too much.
Poplar, Maple & Bamboo
The Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core is the most dense (and most torsionally rigid) which makes it the heaviest but also the most composed core in crud and choppy conditions. For these reasons, we recommend this core for fast, aggressive resort use, particularly for heavier and more experienced skiers.
Now, there are exceptions to the rules. For example, if you are a smaller individual around 100 lbs looking to get into skiing, the Aspen & Bamboo core may make the most sense because it will save weight, keep your skis maneuverable, and will feel more than damp enough for skiing at slower speeds. Another exception is for the kind of snow you’ll be skiing. For coastal, moisture heavy snow, we will generally recommend a more dense core to make sure the ski is stable going through icier snow. For example, if you’re looking for a daily use touring ski for the Pacific North West (PNW for all you pros out there) we may actually recommend the Poplar & Bamboo core over the Aspen & Bamboo core so you have a ski that is much more composed and will deflect less in that kind of snow, although at a slightly heavier weight.
With composites, we’re dealing with a very similar story – the story of mass and density to strength and weight. Again we have three options for you, and these are all relative ratios of how much fiberglass and / or carbon fiber we use in the ski (i.e.. “90 / 10 Glass Carbon” is 90% fiberglass, 10% carbon fiber).
Before exploring the options, lets take a moment to look at fiberglass and carbon fiber individually as the layers of composite that hold your skis together. You may have heard or be under the assumption that carbon skis are much lighter, but why is that?
As you can see from the picture above, two similarly sized pieces of fiberglass (left) and carbon fiber (right) weigh drastically different. This is because the carbon fiber lacks the overall mass of fiberglass. It works as a composite because it’s woven and can a ski together with epoxy, but it has significantly less mass than fiberglass. As a result, skis with more carbon fiber will not be as strong as the fiberglass counterparts. An additional small difference through this discrepancy is that a carbon fiber composite ski will feel about ~10% softer on a hand flex than a fiberglass ski of the exact same construction. (At Folsom Skis, we can account for that with how thick we make the core.)
So what does all of that mean for skiing? Because fiberglass has more mass to it, as a ski composite it’s going to be heavier which means your skis will feel more damp and will track better in changing snow conditions. Carbon fiber still skis well, but using it for a carving or all-mountain ski means that you’ll feel a lot more imperfections in the snow and the skis will deflect more naturally (often called “chatter”).
When it comes to Folsom’s composite options, there’s an easy scale to think about here and a general rule to follow is that more fiberglass makes the ski more appropriate for resort skiing. Since the 90 / 10 Glass Carbon option is 90% fiberglass with carbon fiber stringers placed in precise locations on the ski (~10%), we recommend that composite for most resort specific skis due its damping and durability.
If you’re looking to save a little weight on your resort skis or maybe you need a 1 ski quiver, 50/50 resort and touring ski, we offer a 70 / 30 Glass Carbon blend that replaces approximately 20% of the fiberglass with carbon fiber when compared to a standard resort build. The weight savings are not tremendous, but they’re noticeable.
Finally, because of the lightweight nature of carbon fiber, we will recommend the 100% Carbon Fiber composite for dedicated touring skis. It’s going to be lightest so uphill is more enjoyable, and softer, more consistent backcountry snow will have less impact on how the 100% Carbon composite skis.
1.) Standard Resort Build: Poplar & Bamboo, 90 / 10 Glass Carbon
The first of two resort-based pairings, both of which utilize the 90 / 10 Glass Carbon composite structure for damping and durability. In-bounds is where there are the fastest changing conditions, so a ski that’s heavier will simply perform and feel better, and trust us that a heavier ski is not a bad thing by any means. If you are not an large individual (under ~200 lbs), and if you’re looking to ski casually we recommend the Poplar & Bamboo core. It’s a very responsive and agile core and makes for an amazing daily driver for most individuals in a variety of condition types.
2.) Aggressive Resort Build: Poplar, Maple & Bamboo, 90 / 10 Glass Carbon
If you’re looking to go fast through crud, are a larger individual (~200 lbs or greater), or have race experience, we recommend bumping up to the Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core (again, paired with the 90 / 10 Glass Carbon composite structure). This is a heavier core, but it offers even greater damping and significantly stronger torsional rigidity, resulting in better and more predictable edge hold. Smaller individuals can use this core as well, however the added damping and weight will sometimes leave you more tired after a long day.
3.) Hybrid Resort / Touring Build: Aspen & Bamboo, 70 / 30 Glass Carbon
Both the Hybrid and Dedicated Resort builds utilize the Aspen & Bamboo core. It can work as a resort core (typically for smaller skiers) but because of its lighter weight and lower density, it can get deflected easier when the snow conditions are not smooth. For the Hybrid Resort / Touring ski, we recommend pairing the Aspen & Bamboo core with the 70 / 30 Glass Carbon option. You will save significant weight from the resort builds listed above, and with a fiberglass dominant composite, you’ll get a well composed ski that can deal with changing snow conditions. All in a bundle that’ll remain light enough to not hate yourself on the uphill.
4.) Dedicated Touring Build: Aspen & Bamboo, 100% Carbon
Finally, for dedicated touring skis that have weight savings as the highest priority, we recommend pairing light with light: the Aspen & Bamboo core with the 100% Carbon composite. It skis very well in the backcountry and tours uphill like a dream, although it is not a combination we would necessarily recommend for resort skiing, especially in moisture-heavy snow conditions.
Hopefully at this point, you’re starting to think about what combinations are possible with these core and composite combinations. While we are here to help, we also want to make you aware of two combinations that don’t happen often, and they both have to do with the Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core. We build custom skis for every kind of skier, which ultimately means there will be outlier individuals with specific needs that other brands simply can’t fulfill. Because this is the heaviest, hardest charging core available, it doesn’t make sense typically to pair it with any composite but the 90/10 Glass Carbon. Again, this is individual specific and our ski design experts will take steps outside of this to get a specific feel out of the skis, although it’s rare.
1.) Poplar, Maple & Bamboo, 100% Carbon
One combination that doesn’t always make sense is to pair the Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core with the 100% Carbon composite. Pairing the heaviest core with the lightest composite gives you an awkwardly balanced ski that does not feel good. The carbon composite and maple additives to the core do not work in tandem and will effectively be fighting against each other, making the ski hard to control. If you’re using the carbon composite to make up for the added weight of maple, we’d recommend using the Poplar & Bamboo core at a greater core thickness. (We can help with this.)
2.) Poplar, Maple & Bamboo, 70/30 Glass Carbon
Not as disliked from our perspective, but still counterintuitive again involves the Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core. We typically don’t recommend the 70 / 30 Glass Carbon option either when you’re just looking to counter weight. If you are looking to use the Poplar, Maple & Bamboo core for the resort, weight savings are minimal with the 70 / 30 compared to the 90 / 10, and the added damping of the 90 / 10 just makes for a much better feeling, more stable ski. Folsom Skis are generally lighter than many other resort skis on the market, so don’t let the weight factor intimate you. We feel strongly that keep the ski heavier and sucking weight from your setup on the binding is a better route to go.
We hope this blog gives you a better understanding of our core and composite options individually, as well as why certain combinations work and some don’t. With ski design, there is always a balance of construction to be had to end up with a really great snow tool. And while there will be outlier scenarios to these recommended construction combinations, these are just some of our go-to’s.
If you would like to discuss your choice more in-depth or are still unsure of what you should pick, that’s totally okay! Fill out a Custom Fit Form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with one of our expert ski designers.