Just in case you don’t know what the sidewall of the ski is, it’s the part of the ski that sits above the metal edge. The main purpose of the sidewall is to provide support for the edge of the ski and protect the wood core from the elements.
Take a look at your ski and you’ll see it. Most major commercial skis have a plastic sidewall made from ABS, UMHW, UMHW-PE. It’s usually black , white or sometimes brightly colored. If you can see the sidewall then chances are your ski is a sandwich construction. More on that at another time. But suffice to say, in my opinion, a sandwich construction is usually found in a higher end skis. If you don’t see the sidewall then you have a cap construction. That doesn’t necessarily imply it’s a cheaper ski. But most cheaper skis are cap. In general I’ve found cap construction skis to be a little softer and that may be just want you’re looking for. They are some very good skis that use cap construction.
I’m not trying to confuse you but there are many variables that make a ski one thing or another. But in general a sandwich construction with sidewalls are found in higher end skis, are generally firmer and have good grip.
In keeping with my philosphy of removing as much plastic from the ski as possible and creating a more “green” ski, I’m using a wood sidewall in a sandwich construction. So why use wood? Well, outside of the “green” factor of wood, I think it looks great and when properly maintained is just as durable as plastic. It certainly gets noticed in the lift lines.
Currently I’m using Ash or Ipe depending on the wood core design. Ipe is 2-3 times harder than Ash or Maple. That hardness provides full support over the edge of the ski and gives that grip characteristic sought after in the hard pack New England conditions.
The wood sidewall that I make covers the entire width of the metal edge which is approximately 8mm. That’s a lot of support providing a firmness needed in the ever changing New England conditions.
For folks who already take care of their ski equipement, maintenance of the wood sidewall is minimal. I normally knock the excess snow/water off my skis and a quick wipe before I put them in the rack or when they go back in the basement. That’s it. If you have the side egdes sharpened chances are the finish will be scraped off. Not a big deal. A quick wipe of boiled linseed oil will protect it. There your done. If you forget to do it, it’s not a huge deal. With Ipe it’s so hard and dense it’s practically bullet proof. In fact Ipe is a used in outdoor deck construction because of it’s durabilty. So what about Ash? Samething it’s also hard and durable and can handle some exposure to the elements.
At the end of the season just before you put a coat of wax on the base and edges so the edges don’t rust, put a coat of boiled linseed oil or exterior polyurethane on the sidewall. Now you’re ready for the next season!