Meet the Geeks: Matjaz Sarabon

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Meet the Geeks 0903

Vice President of Operations, Elan

It's a familiar quandary in science: Add something new to a system and you risk changing the properties of that system. What's true for chemical solutions is also true for skis. Preserving a ski's flex and response from tip to tail, says Matjaz Sarabon, is the whole point of Elan's new Fusion Integrated Binding System."The problem of every binding that mounts on the ski with screws is that it changes the mechanical properties of the skis," says Sarabon. "The engineers make a ski according to their best knowledge of how a ski should be made, and then afterwards whoever mounts the bindings changes those properties. The bindings influence the skis' performance. It might be in a positive way, but most likely in a negative way."

Over the last decade, Sarabon has helped lead Elan through nothing less than a fundamental reimagining of ski, plate, and binding and, just as significantly, the way all three relate to one another. It began in the early '90s with the SCX, the ski that launched the super-sidecut, then continued with the integrated plate and now builds on the two-quite literally-with the Fusion system. "We built into the ski one holding plate out of titanium, which is the hardest metal, and a second sliding plate, which can move freely inside the ski," says Sarabon. "Once you've attached the binding onto this sliding plate and you bend the ski, the binding can free float inside the ski. The consequence for the skier is that turns are much rounder, much softer, much easier to perform."

Despite owning a degree in technology from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, Sarabon insists that, for the work he's doing, his practical experience as a longtime member of the Slovenian national ski team is far more important. He predicts that the next area of innovation will be materials, which haven't changed appreciably in a quarter of a century or more. "Chemical engineers are becoming more important," he says. "Over the next few years, much more trendy, much more modern materials will be built into skis."