SANDWICH

PRODUCTION
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09. Jan, 2018 Written by: Gregor Šket
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The production of Elan skis is still based on manual labor. Elans are made by the hands of experienced craftsmen and women, expert wood workers with a long standing tradition. That is why the tag “Handmade in the Alps” is not just an empty phrase but the cornerstone of what we do.

Modern skis are meticulously designed, carefully planned and a masterfully built product. Their form, design and complexity are awe inspiring. But their main characteristics are hidden to the eye. Skis come into their own once you step into the bindings and take off down the mountain. In spite of their cutting edge technology, skis continue to be made largely in the traditional manner - by hand. That is why skis remain one of the few modern-day products in which modern technology and materials are intertwined with decades of tradition in woodworking and an intimate knowledge of traditional materials. “A good pair of skis is made of about 40 to 60 different parts that are glued together into a complete and unified whole.

prepering tip of skis

The most commonly used term in ski manufacturing circles is adherence, the ability of a material to be glued to another,” explains Vinko Avguštin, head of the Elan R&D department. Parts of the ski are made from different materials ranging from steel and titanium, a special aluminium alloy, to different types of plastics, rubber, the transparent top sheet that carries the design and, of course, different types of wood. To assure proper adherence, surfaces are prepared in advance through heating, profiling, chemical treatment, sanding and buffing. “We’ve prepared 407 different ski components for this manufacturing season in order to get as close as possible to the demands of each target customer group. Each model is made in three to seven lengths.

In other words, Elan sends out over 1600 different finished products to the market each year. Such a specialized and fragmented manufacturing process is impossible to automate, so skis are assembled by hand. When making sandwich or sidewall construction skis, workers place components that are pre-impregnated with glue or epoxy resin into a mold, one on top of the other, just like making a deli sandwich. The first layers are the base and the edges and the last one is the top sheet. The mold is then placed into a hydraulic press where the ski is pressed together at a pressure of 10 bar for 25 minutes at 115 degrees Celsius,” says Avguštin.

Of course some of the technological processes used in the preparation of materials and graphics, grinding and the final processing of skis are highly automated. However, the key step in the process, the laying up of skis, is done completely by hand. In this sense, the production of Elan skis is just as it was decades ago.

Wood

Modern skis use a number of modern materials such as titanal, aluminium, carbon fiber and others - but the heart of the ski is still wood. This natural material gives skis their liveliness, response, adaptability and flexibility. “High end skis are predominantly made of wood. It makes up for between 60 and 80 percent of the total volume,” explains Avguštin and adds: “Beech, poplar, paulownia, balsa and okume are the most commonly used types. In fact, most cores are made from a combination of these woods.” Wood type also determines the typical characteristics of a ski. Racing skis need to be dynamic and responsive, so they are mostly made of beech and ash wood. Recreational skis focus more on comfort and lower weight so their cores are made of lighter types of wood.

wood for used for skis

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