The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Elan Knissel SCX Shaped Ski

1991

The first shaped ski     Photo: Courtesy of Elan

In Slovenia, Elan had a unique ski-building mold with hundreds of tiny screws that allowed designers great variation in determining ski sidecut. Elan’s engineers were using this mold when experimenting with designs for a faster race ski, working with the idea of introducing sidecut that more closely mimicked the turning radius in a Giant Slalom racecourse, when they came up with what would become the SCX.

The first prototype, called the Light Speed parabolic, was sent to “crazy Americans” in Elan’s United States offices for testing. Mike Adams, Elan president, took the protos to ski area personnel for tryouts instead of simply putting them on elite athletes, a tactic many other companies have used to generate interest. Instructors instantly saw how easy it would be to teach new skiers how to turn at slow speeds on these radically shaped skis.

But it wasn’t just beginners who were seeing results. At Vermont’s Sugarbush Resort individuals who previously weren’t on the map won races on shaped skis. People were performing so well with Elan’s new product, that the shaped ski was being called “the cheater ski.”

Elan created grassroots demand, initially selling just to rental shops. The company hit record sales, and it was one of the first times that skis were mentioned in mainstream press.

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