Howard Head, Ski Inventor
Aircraft engineer and frustrated athlete Howard
Head used structural principles from the aircraft
industry and different materials to build better
equipment. Head revolutionized skiing by taking
ski design out of the hands of woodcrafters and
putting it into the hands of scientists and technicians.
Head tried skiing for the first time in 1947.
I had a lot of falls, but I knew then that
skiing was to be my sport. Head couldnt
stop thinking about the clumsy, heavy wooden skis
that left him exhausted. Lighter, more efficient
skis would make the sport much easier. Head thought
better skis could be made out of aircraft materials.
His idea was based on a structural principle common
in the aircraft industry: metal-sandwich construction.
Head imagined a ski made of two light layers of
aluminum bonded to sidewalls of thin plywood,
with a center filling of honeycomb plastic.
Head took his first six pairs of skis to the Stowe
resort in Vermont, where instructors tested them.
Some pairs lasted longer than others, but eventually
they all broke.
A pro skier, Neil Robinson, gave Head the encouragement
and opportunity he needed. If you can make
this ski so it wont break, he told
him, Ill try it out.
All winter long, Head made skis--one pair at a
time--and sent them to Robinson, who skied them,
broke them, and sent them back. Each time, Head
figured out why the ski had broken and made changes.
By the end of the winter, he achieved his goal:
a ski as strong as those made out of wood but
only half as heavy.
that the End of the Story? ›