Computers have revolutionized ski and boot design. Now that manufacturers use computer-aided design, or CAD, to create new equipment, it's up to engineers such as Salomon's Jerome Avocat to translate ski concepts into digital files. Generally, the process begins with product managers, who study the market to gauge which skis are popular and what types may be missing from their line. If midfat skis are selling well, for example, a product manager may ask engineers to build one with certain specifications. CAD is used to create test molds, from which prototypes are built for on-snow trials. Extensive testing may occur before the best performing ski design emerges. This part of the process is the most costly and may last from six months to more than a year. Once a design is selected, and after its dimensions and construction materials are determined, Avocat prints out an actual-size drawing-similar to an architectural blueprint-to assess the aesthetics of the design. Further prototypes are then built and more on-snow testing occurs. Once a design is finalized, the ski's specifications are saved onto a computer server accessible to others in the factory.
Every new ski model may log more than one million vertical feet of snow and travel across ocean and land up to 7,000 miles before it hits your local shop.