The New DH - Ski Boot Design Proposal & Prototype


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This is a design proposal and prototype documentation of a new downhill ski boot design that I developed for my Human Factors class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

This design takes downhill ski boots for the park and pipe into new territory. Through a process of ethnographic, competitive, and comparative research I have explored the possibilities of merging several technologies from other sports to create the ultimate freestyle ski boot.

The boot is designed to be stiff where freestylers need it, flexible where it should be, super light, and easy to get into and out of. All while looking like nothing else on the market.

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The New DH - Ski Boot Design Proposal & Prototype

  1. 1. Skislopestyle, park, & pipeBoot © 2009 Jake Szymanski
  2. 2. ChallengeDesign a new downhill skiboot concept that is lighterand more comfortablethan existing solutions.
  3. 3. Target AudienceSlopestyle, park, and pipeskiers
  4. 4. ResearchMy research process started with in store observation. I work at a skiand snowboard shop in Baraboo, WI called Wildside Adventure Initial Photoshop SketchSports. While photoshopping my first sketch of my ski boot idea, I also started thinking about how the sole is often the heaviest part of a downhill ski boot. My solution is to use carbon fiber not only in the frame or structure of the boot, but also as the basis for the sole of the boot, much like a cycling shoe. This would eliminate even moreI started thinking about how the light weight lateral stiffness of the weight.carbon fiber supports on the Fischer RCS skate boot might beincorperated into downhill ski boots to reduce weight. After tryingon a few pair of XC boots and actually going out skiing myself, Irealized how much more comfortable XC boots are than downhillboots. After this, I started quesitoning even futher - how could thelight weight comfort of XC ski boots be incorperated into downhillboots?
  5. 5. ResearchUsability ExplorationAfter my initial sketches, I wanted to find out more about current ski Below is the board where I recorded the findings from my Usabilityboot designs and how real people are using them. My first step was Exploration. I found that some ski boots have slippery areas on theto explore a sports store for current products. I went to Hoigaards in upper cuff to make entry easier, and that some boots wereSt. Louis Park, MN and talked with a few salesmen about current becoming a little more freestyle oriented, but are still quite heavy.technologies, took pictures of boots and notes on immediately While at Afton Alps, I whitnessed numerous people slipping andapparent usability issues. generally struggling to walk in their boots, especially up and down stairs.Next, I went to a ski hill - Afton Alps in Afton, MN. There, I spent a fewhours observing skiers in the chalet and skiing on the hill.Key FindingsSki Boots Are:*Heavy and not good for jumps and rails*Hard to get into and out of*Difficult to walk in.
  6. 6. DevelopmentDesign Version 2Following the initial research and observation, I was ready create anew design revision. From my research and observation I hadnoticed differences between freestyle skiers and snowboarders.Snowboarders have all kinds of freedom in their boots to jump, getset up for, and slide rails. However, since skiers have such stiff boots,it is more difficult for them to perform these maneuvers.With this in mind, my second design concept incorporated a stiffsnowboard-boot-like inner that would provide a level of supportreinforced by a revised carbon fiber structure for lateral and forwardstiffness while remaining lightweight. All this would be bonded to atraditional plastic ski boot sole, but with a carbon fiber bridge forweight savings and super direct binding engagement.
  7. 7. Development12 Creative& CriticalOptionsAfter research,observation, and anew design iteration, Iwas ready to stepback from my ideas tomake sure that mymind was open to asmany options aspossible. Using atechnique from myCreative & CriticalThinking class, I cameup with 12 Creative &Critical Options formy ski boot design.
  8. 8. ResearchMidwest MountaineeringExpert Interview on telemark bootsand fit. Key Findings *Telemark boot design focuses more on being light weight because telemark skiers need to hike or ski up the mountain, not just down. *When I asked about the use of carbon fiber in telemark boots, one of the salesman hinted about a new boot that is due to come out soon that will utilize carbon fiber.I came out of my 12 Options exercise with an important insight. Istarted thinking about what other types of footweartechnologies might further inspire the development of my skiboot designs other than just XC ski boots and cycling shoes.What about Telemark boots? I proceeded to visit MidwestMountaineering where I talked to a number of salesmen whowere expert telemark skiers. I gained a variety of knowledge onthe subject, but a few important things stuck out to me.
  9. 9. ResearchResearch So Far Learning from Telemark BootsThe current standard for downhill ski boot design utilizes a hard Manufacturers of telemarkplastic shell and sole. boots have released designs in the last two years thatThis design is good because plastic is inexpensive and makes for make use of carbon fibera stiff and responsive boot. construction to reduce weight and improveHowever, using such a large amount of plastic makes the boot stiffness. Weight is veryextremely heavy; weighing in at as much as 19lbs for a pair. important to telemark skiers since they are hiking orAll the stiff plastic makes this design very difficult to get in and skiing up the mountain asout of. Many skiers also have consistent problems with blisters. well as down. The Stratos byEven after proper fitting. La Sportiva pictured here weighs a mere 2.81lbs.Many new boots make entry and exit easier by addinganti-friction areas on the inside of the boot. In addition, telemark boots also have soles made for walking with tread on the bottom, while they are still able to engage with a full toe and heel binding system similar to a full downhill boot.
  10. 10. ResearchCrowd Sourcing
  11. 11. ResearchSkier Interviews
  12. 12. ResearchCrowd Sourcing and Skier InterviewKey Findings:*Freestyle skiers want a light-weight boot*They are jealous of snowboard boots*Warmth is a large component of comfort*Weight is not as big of a factor for racers*Four buckles equal stiffness in race boots*Women want soft and fuzzy boots*Proper fit is extremely important
  13. 13. Development 3 designs informed by research that meet three price points and levels of technology for the recreational skier, freestyle/park rider, and racer.Low Price Point $ Mid Price Point $$ High Price Point $$$*Comfort focused for reacreational skiers *Lightweight for dedicated freestyle skiers *Race Specific Skeleton*Pastic Frame *Carbon Upper Frame *Full Carbon Frame*Carbon Fiber Split Sole *Plastic Lower Frame *Four buckle rigidity*Two large - simple buckles *Carbon Fiber Split Sole *Carbon Fiber Split Sole*Folding vamp *Snowboard-style ratchets*Soft inner boot *Soft inner boot
  14. 14. DefineNarrow Scope & FocusLet’s bring all this ideation, Design Benefitsresearch, and development back to *Light weight *Innovative carbon chassisour original challenge. The final *Comfortable *Visually appealingdesign must be a new downhill ski *Freestyle flexibility *Increased walkabilityboot concept that is lighter andmore comfortable than existingsolutions. It will be a light weightboot for park, slopetyle, and pipeskiers who demand freestyle Challenges Phase inperfomance coupled with comfortand sharp visual appeal. *How much $$ is carbon? *Start with plastic *Total cost? *Add budget option *R&D / Engineering Cost *Small cut-outs appear *Adoption *Carbon in small amounts *Full carbon
  15. 15. ResearchConcept TestingI developed a SurveyMonkey survey andlet it loose to my freestyle skier friends andan online community of downhill skiers. Atotal of 33 skiers were surveyed.The majority of people surveyed classifiedthemselves as advanced skiers between20 and 30 years of age.The survey showed that mostpark/pipe/slopestyle skiers tend to bejealous of snowboard boots.In addition, almost half of thoseinterviewed said they would be willing tospend more than $500 on a pair of boots.This testing confirms that a high endpark/pipe/slopestyle boot thatincorporates a snowboard-like soft innerboot is on track for the target audience’sboot criteria.
  16. 16. SolutionHybrid Carbon ChassisPark Boot Snowboard-like inner boot provides support whileCarbon fiber chassis is improving comfort.laterally rigid and providesfreestyle performanceoriented forward support. Large vamp strap provides support and control through the carbon chassis .Super light weight carbon chassis Carbon chassis, plastic bindingand bridge bonded to traditional interface, and inner boot areplastic binding interface. bonded together for control.The final design solution is a new downhill ski boot concept that utilizes a super light weight carbon fiber chassis to achieve maximumlateral stiffness while allowing adequate forward flex for popping off kickers and onto rails or jibs. Forward support is achieved in a waysimilar to a snowboard binding. The rigid outer chassis encases a snowboard-like soft inner boot that brings a new level of comfort and easeof entry to downhill ski boots while contributing a portion of the boot’s forward stiffness. The chassis reinforces forward support with a largevamp dual buckle strap similar to a snowboard binding. The large strap distributes pressure throughout the front of the boot for comfort,and folds away when unbuckled to make it easy to take the boot off after a day of hard riding.
  17. 17. PrototypeFinally, I decided to construct a prototype to illustrate my concept in 3D.Since I have been using Flow snowboard After scouring Craigslist for a few weeks, I came upon this pair of Lange CRL 70 skibinding straps in my Photoshop boots. After a quick trip across town to meet at a local ski shop, the boots were minerenderings, I decided to contact Flow to for just $10.see if I could purchase some straps.Christian at Flow was gracious enough tosend me a set of straps !
  18. 18. PrototypeProcess photos from construction of the prototype
  19. 19. PrototypeFinishedPrototype
  20. 20. Process BlogThroughout the development ofthis project, I have been keeping aprocess blog online. The blog canbe viewed at the following URL:
  21. 21. ConnectionsThroughout the project, talking and blogging about my process andideas has lead me to a number of conncetions in different areas ofexpertise who have helped me further develop this project. Pete Schmidtz As the owner of an outdoor sports store, Pete has a wealth of knowledge and industry connections. As my boss and mentor at Wildside, he is always encouraging me. Wildside Christian Abel Christian is the extrordinarily kind customer service representative at Flow Snowboarding that graciously sent me binding straps for my prototype at no charge. Flow Snowboarding Kim Tsujimoto Kim is a Lab Manager at 3M whom I met at Wired for 2020. She was kind enough to show me around 3M and introduce me to their Product Design department. 3M Chas Porter Chas is a designer that I met through Tim Brunelle after a MIMA event. Chas used to race downhill slalom and provided great feedback on my project as well as a potential contact at Nordica. The Attractive
  22. 22. © 2009 Jake Szymanski