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Skiing has been around for at least eight millennia. Skis from 6000 BCE have been found in northern Russia, while 5000-year-old cave paintings in China appear to show people skiing. These early skis would have been bio-based, that is made from an organic material: wood.
Modern skis, however, are a little different. Generally, they have a core that is often wood, sandwiched between layer of composite material and finished off with a topsheet and a sliding base, which can be made from a variety of materials. And snowboards are very similar. The composite layers of skis and snowboards are normally made from plastic and carbon or glass fibres. But large companies are increasingly adding flax strands to the mix.
Years - Flax - Fibres - Paul - Sherratt
Over the last five years, flax fibres have become much more prevalent, according to Paul Sherratt of the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University in the U.K. This comes with a drive towards more sustainable products.
In addition to being more environmentally friendly, flax is becoming more popular because it offers some technical advantages over glass and carbon fibres, Sherratt says. In particular, flax fibres produce less vibration in use. "Flax is much better at dampening, so it helps reduce vibrations and improves the feel of products, which is an incredibly complicated area within sport," Sherratt explains.
Ignaas - Verpoest - Composite - Materials - Group
Ignaas Verpoest of the Composite Materials Group at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium, says there is a simple reason why vibrations disappear faster: the structure of flax. A carbon or glass fibre is a solid filament, while a flax fibre is a made up of tiny elementary fibres, which dissipate energy and produce fewer vibrations.
"If you have a full carbon layer on a ski and you are skiing on hard, icy snow it's disgusting, you feel everything under your foot, all the vibrations," says former professional skier Patrick...
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