Author: Xan Marshland, FOW
We designed the Intention 110 to set the stage for who we are and how we approach product design. It’s a declaration of our identity, and a demonstration of our capability to do things differently.
But more than that, it’s a ski that we loved building for the love of skiing. From the collective knowledge of athletes, mountain professionals, scientists, and designers, the Intention 110 was born.
The first step in the design of the Intention 110 began with a critical look at the materials that currently make up a ski. And while the bulk of recent innovation lies in the composites, resins and carbon reinforcements, an overshadowed critical component of the ski is the core, which defines a ski's character.
Equipped with the tools of biotechnology, we sought to reimagine this application. We knew our science platform could biologically and chemically formulate a new high performance material, where we had the unique ability to target the properties for our desired performance characteristics within a ski. In this case, we targeted a more stable ride, increased torsional stiffness, and a better bulk strength-to-weight ratio.
Nonetheless, getting the material perfect would involve a lot of iteration. So we moved quickly and thoughtfully, using unique strains of microalgae to create new biobased oils, using these oils to create new polyurethanes, subsequently testing these materials in the lab.
When your source oil is produced by a microorganism, you can tweak the outputs rapidly. We can target physical properties of materials by optimizing on both a biological and chemical level. In order to establish a baseline of performance, we began by testing sample materials on their own before utilizing them in a ski build.
We started by evaluating material properties on a small scale. Video: Josh Berman / Level 1 (@level1)
Small scale materials testing gave us a great starting point for designing our own high-performance materials. More specifically, it gave us crucial information on what kind of properties we wanted out of our own materials.
Through this testing process, we honed in on our desired performance characteristics, and then used biology and chemistry to produce these characteristics from materials derived from microalgal oil. The next step was to laminate our materials with traditional ski building materials to create a better performing ski core. With that, an early iteration of our algal composite core was born.
An early version of the Intention 110’s shape.
We soon brought our material to life in a complete ski prototype.
The goal was to create a versatile and balanced backcountry ski that could surf and slash through deep snow, but still hammer through less than perfect conditions. A ski that could tackle big, all day objectives, but wouldn’t back away from an intimidating descent. In short, a ski that would hit that perfect sweet spot that so many of us look for when choosing what weapon we bring with us outside the ropes.
So we started our ski design with a comfortably versatile 22.5 meter turning radius (185cm). Gentle rocker lines to plane at speed, and optimal tip taper for variable, natural snow float and turn initiation. We tackled our approach to materials design and complete ski design simultaneously, leaving nothing up to chance, and making sure that the ski’s geometry and integral materials complemented one another.
On to the fun part: product testing!
We ski'd versions of our prototypes in every kind of terrain and snow conditions imaginable, in countless field testing locations from Colorado to Interior BC. We called upon our crew of athletes, mountain professionals, ski industry veterans, and passionate backcountry lifers to give us their feedback on the Intention 110. Many of these testers are the same Friends of WNDR (FOW) you have, and can be found on the site here.
Throughout the 2019 season, our prototypes climbed and descended classic lines all over the following areas:
- Utah’s Wasatch Range
- The Tetons
- Montana’s Bridger Range
- Rogers Pass
- Golden, BC
- Colorado’s San Juan Range
- Lake Tahoe
- California’s Eastern Sierra
The feedback we received throughout this process was incredibly valuable, as it led to a number of revisions in the ski’s stiffness and flex pattern before arriving on the design we brought to market.
Of course, we weren’t satisfied with simply putting our skis under trusted athletes, high fiving, and calling it a day. That’s why we went back to the lab to evaluate our prototypes.
Utilizing a ski profiling machine developed by researchers at Sherbrooke University in Quebec, permitted us to scrutinize all aspects of the intention 110 characteristics including flex profile, torsional and longitudinal stiffness on multiple prototype iterations. This process enabled the connection to the real-world feedback from our testing team, to real, quantitative data gathered in the lab. Both types of data informed our sense of how modifying both proprietary and non-proprietary materials and ski constructions would affect performance out on the mountain.
Director of Manufacturing Daniel Malmrose M.E. collecting data on a prototype of the Intention 110. Photo: Carson Meyer (@carsonmeyerphoto)
At any point in the development process, we were able to rapidly iterate on materials or other aspects of the ski’s design, until we had successfully designed a ski we were truly proud of. This design, build, and test was enabled by over 100 different chemical formulations, 13 different materials, 12 ski prototypes, dozens of beardsicles, and countless hours of lab testing. Finally, we arrived at the Intention 110.
Numbers don’t say it all, though. Some things must be experienced firsthand...