Our mission is to measure all the skis of the world. Our product is an accurate ski comparator. Imagine a website that shows you all skis that match your tastes per category, like NETFLIX does for movies!
Alexis and I go back quite a long time now. We met during our undergrad at Sherbrooke University, in the Faculty of Engineering. Our forward thinking and passion for the outdoors connected us early on. At that time, Alexis did not even ski! On my end, I was an active ski instructor and a bit of a snow park junky, like many skiers of the east coast. Back then, backcountry skiing was still marginal, but this is how Alexis got into skiing. I remember how Alexis had to purchase a few pairs of skis before finding what suited him best, and that seemed to trouble him.
Designing a flex machine for Line/Karhu in 2005
Part of the curriculum in mechanical engineering include a design project in partnership with a client. Alexis’ team included a few skiers who reached out to Francois Sylvain, former ski designer for Line, Karhu and K2. Their team’s goal was to design a flex and vibration testing machine according to ISO norms. This is when Alexis realized that even if the norms are OK for quality control, they are not representative of the full picture of how skis behave. The machine was transferred to K2 in Seattle when Line was acquired.
Welcome to Stanford University
Alexis was quite better than me at school. After ski-bumming with friends for a winter around British Columbia to finally learn to ski, he was able to get accepted and collect enough scholarships to attend Stanford University for a master’s and PhD in mechanical engineering. He studied how animals, mechanisms and robots move. As for myself, I left with my engineering degree and the limited cash I had to rent a room in Squamish and ski full time at Whistler. Alexis used my couch for a few weeks!
Product Design Course: need to build skis!
One of the classes Alexis took at Stanford was product design. For that, designing a custom pair of skis was obviously the most appealing option. To start the design, he researched existing skis. It didn’t take much time to realize that flex and torsional stiffness information were missing, despite their importance in defining how a ski will deform and interact with the snow! To Alexis, this was a huge challenge, because without a desired design target, it made it difficult to develop the appropriate composite layup. Without specs available, it is also hard to learn what your preferences are as a skier even after testing hundreds of skis. Although the ski produced were great, Alexis realized that there are countless good skis available out there. He found that a more interesting challenge was to help skiers choose the right product from all the different options available, by providing them accurate information. That was the seed that started our mission!
Developing Sooth Ski Profiler (SSP) Test Bench
Back to Sherbrooke University, Alexis was now a professor and had to entertain students who were working on their master’s degree. He gave two students, Camille and Jonas, the goal of measuring the fundamental properties of all the skis in the world, in all available sizes. They were able to develop a new method to measure the shape of the skis, but also the flex profile in both bending and torsion, with unmatched speed and accuracy. This technology was further developed through the years, with G3 and Rossignol as development partners. The SSP testbed allows them to think more easily and rigorously about the bending and torsional stiffness distributions (i.e., how stiff a tip is versus the tail and the center section), which are hard to measure and simulate. The technology was also patented and is now licensed to Sooth.
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Helping manufacturers and accumulating data
For almost a decade, while Alexis was improving the tools to measure skis, we had endless discussions on what could we do with those measures. G3 was already using the machine for their designs and other manufacturers started to show some interest. At the same time, we thought that such database was the “ultimate chart” that skiers could use to help them select the right model and length. That’s when we decided to create Sooth Selector Inc.
Rossignol: The largest ski manufacturer of the world was convinced!
One of our friends had a connection at Rossignol headquarters in France. During a trip in Europe in 2018, Alexis was able to present his R&D to the team of designers at Rossignol. This visit convinced us that our vision of documenting and creating the ultimate ski selector system made a lot of sense. We realized we were able to precisely explain design intentions with measured data. Rossignol showed immediate interest and actively participated on other R&D projects with Alexis’ lab.
Checkerspot and WNDR Alpine
Shortly after, Matt Sterbenz, former CEO of 4FRNT and now manager of WNDR Alpine, contacted us. Matt is known as a top freerider, but also a visionary in the ski designing world. The newly established company known as WNDR Alpine integrated the use of our measurement technology to design all of their products, to better understand on-snow feedback and to ensure top quality assurance and control on production with high level of consistency on flex patterns. Matt recently told us that he “does not want to build prototypes anymore without the Sooth data to benchmark against”. You can see a picture of our machine used at WNDR Alpine design lab.
Also, here's a very interesting read with videos about the "character" of skis by G3.
Accumulating data for many years
Throughout those years, we kept putting tremendous efforts each year to perform measuring campaigns that grow our database of commercially available skis. We found that once you get a taste of that data to compare skis, it becomes virtually impossible to do without! We personally wanted more and that is why we kept measuring skis. We found that once you get the hang of it, using data can greatly simplify your shopping experience.
More R&D and more ski manufacturers joining
While accumulating data, the interest from manufacturers continued to grow, as we were contacted by various small and large size companies to perform detailed measurements on specific skis they were designing or producing. The advantage of detailed and complete measurements became very clear to them: design accurately, assess construction alternatives, manage manufacturing expectations, and ensure quality products. Our technology is a game changer in how you get new products from ideas to commercial state, in record time and lower costs.
Sharing measured ski data with everyone
By then, we were convinced that skiers would eventually like to consult the database, but we also knew that interpreting the raw data would be difficult even for knowledgeable skiers. However, such comparators exist in many fields, including electronics equipment and bikes, and we decided to build our own : the Ski Comparator application. Our application is by far the most advanced tool that exists to compare skis. We measure more than 8000 data points on each ski and we added 1200 skis to the database in the fall 2021. With over 3000 measured skis by now, I’m comfortable claiming that we have the most extensive database of measured skis.
In the Ski Comparator Application, you have access to the full raw measurements regarding the ski shape and stiffness, but we also provide many quantities often used to simplify the comparisons (e.g., tip/waist/tail width, rocker height, rocker length, camber, sidecut radius, effective length, running length, surface area, setback, taper, weight, 5-point stiffness, etc.). We are the only one to provide torsional stiffness, a critical property that plays an important role in the playfulness and edge grip of skis. We also calculate some important ratios such as the surface-to-weight ratio. Skis are evolving and every year we see new trends, new shapes, new constructions, new materials… which we’re able to quantify and compare.
What about ski tests and reviews?
Ski tests and ski reviews: we subscribe to their content and we encourage you to do the same. On-snow testing is essential. We think that our database is the perfect complement to any available ski review, considering the review is properly done. When performed properly, on-snow ski reviews provide a very clear picture of each product in different conditions. However, it takes time to perform them in full objectivity. It is also very difficult to review all the skis out there in all their available lengths. This means that many skiers will never read an evaluation of what they actually purchase. Note: It is important to note that scaling “recipes” (how the properties of a ski change as a function of length) are far from being uniform across brand and models. They are often not even uniform for the different length of a model. That mean that each ski is unique and that the conclusions drawn from comparing two skis are only valid for these two skis.
What is unique at Sooth is our ability measure thousands of skis and generate extremely consistent and objective numbers. We think that numbers can be used to accurately describe most ski behaviors. However, you still need to determine what ski behavior you like. The more you understand your preferences, the more the data to compare will be useful to you! As someone said on a forum:
“I would say that for those skiers who have confidence in interpreting the data, they're actually better off starting with these kinds of comparisons rather than relying solely on the subjective reviews from unknown reviewers. Your own experience with your own skiing on your own skis is a fantastic baseline to use when considering your next ski based on measured comparative data.”
I continuously repeat: if you found a ski you like, you can use our comparator to obtain a list of similar options. Equally, if you know a ski you hate, you can use our comparator to strike out all the other ones you’re not going to enjoy. So, ski tests and gear guides are great, but they should look at what we’re doing as we can dramatically expand their options. We can improve accuracy and we can scale the volume.
What about the future?
Imagine a system where we can relate on-snow feelings to measured data. This would mean that we can measure a ski and predict the on-snow feeling. I can tell you we’re already there, with the ability to predict some of the on-snow feelings based on algorithms that extract information from our measurements.
Furthermore, I always thought giving grades to skis is not ideal. The truth is, some skiers will love a ski with a certain behavior, while others will hate it. To properly recommend a ski, you need to understand the skier and the feelings of the ski. This is something the folks at Blister keep repeating and I back this 100%. Imagine a world where a ski rating system or buyers guide is adapted to your very own personal tastes. This principle would essentially reinvent how we market products, rendering the available options ranked specifically for you. Netflix has been doing this for a while, with the predictive percentage matching your tastes. Here again, I can tell your we are well onto that path.
Looking at the image above: every skier has a range of tolerance to a certain behaviors of skis on snow. We essentially tolerate some characters better than others. Some skiers will love one ski that others may not. To us, the future is to adapt ratings to each and every one, based on what they enjoy. Essentially, reproducing what Netflix does with movies.
Affiliation & Relations With Shops
To help us further develop our measuring technology and our Ski Comparator Application, we have integrated some affiliate links and we also refer to shops who have welcomed us to measure the skis they sell. We may receive indirect compensation from shops if you use an affiliate link either from our website or our Ski Comparator Application. We may also refer skiers to shops that support our project by giving us access to measure skis. We thank you for helping us maintain our Ski Comparator Application 100% free.
You are also welcome to contribute with donations. Thank you for supporting us.