THE FIRST PROTOTYPE
Being east coast skiers, where we can ski on solid ice and mashed potato like snow all in one day on the same mountain, we figured it’d be great if we could consolidate a quiver into a single ski that could handle different conditions by making the skis softer or stiffer as needed. And as they say, the rest is history, and Verispellis was born. Conceived on Mount Sunapee in NH, where many bouts of ambient, snow and ski temperatures were recorded over different weather conditions, Verispellis was born in Boston, first in our computers, where we designed the ski and simulated skiing on different types of snow and conditions (carving at different angles…) using finite element analysis, followed by building our first fully skiable prototype.
This first prototype has a single 1 mm layer of nitinol inside sandwiched between the usual wood and/or fiberglass layers. Adjacent to the nitinol, there are small heating elements connected to a lithium ion battery pack. You can then turn on the electronics that activate the heating element with a switch on the battery or remotely (via Bluetooth) using a smartphone app. When you ski without the heat on, you will have the usual standard ski stiffness defined primarily by the regular ski components (wood, fiberglass), as the nitinol inside remains unheated and very flexible. Upon encountering conditions that would make you want to enhance the stiffness of the skis, all you have to do is turn on the heating element, which heats the core just the few degrees needed to make is change, and the nitinol layer changes stiffness, thereby increasing the stiffness of your skis in just a few seconds.
You can actually get very fancy with how you lay down the nitinol in the ski when you manufacture it. For instance, you can put different nitinol strips on different parts of the ski and you can heat some as needed, but not others so that you can change the stiffness of the ski only in some areas such as in the front or the back or whatever combinations that you may like. Alternatively, you could also stack up a couple of layers of nitinol in the same location that change phase at slightly different temperatures. Then as you start heating up the first element the stiffness will increase a bit and then when the temperature continues to rise (if you so want to) and reaches the transition temperature for the second layer, it gets even stiffer. So, you can graduate the stiffness of the ski both in intensity and location as you wish. All this is controlled with some simple electronics from a smartphone and some basic feedback circuitry built into the ski and our low-profile controller box that sits behind the binding. You can turn the heating element in different parts of the ski on or off based on what your needs are, or you can let the app select your stiffness for you based on conditions and your skiing style.
The idea really took off quickly, and everyone in the industry that we communicated with thought that it was the most innovative concept they had heard in the business for some time. A lot of people think this technology has the potential to change the sport of skiing and snowboarding in a significant way. Actually, due to the large surface of the snowboard, you can really change the properties of your board more dramatically for riding and park as you wish. So far, we have conducted a lot of finite element analysis and have designed the skis and the electronics and built first- and second-generation prototypes.
Here we have presented a photo essay of the making of our first prototype. We used a high quality wooden core ski as our base and machined out the necessary space required for the metal, the heaters and the wiring. Upon placing the components into the skis and fishing out the wire ends out of the ski, the remaining process was identical to how a ski is manufactured today.