Once again Elan boldly goes where no ski manufacturer has gone before
Words :: Leslie Anthony
If you track the products that Elan has gifted the alpine world over its storied 75-plus year history, the list of innovations that profoundly changed skiing manifests quickly. Some recent highlights include the first shape-ski dedicated to carving in 1993; the first fully integrated ski-binding system in 2003; and the first dedicated left-right ski technology in 2010.
Elan adds to this list every few years and 2021 sees it crack one of the biggest problems ever presented to ski engineering—something many travelling skiers (is there any other kind?) have pondered as they wrestled skis onto a salt-crusted roof rack, crammed them into a too-small car, or dragged a leviathan ski bag through a busy train station. If you’ve ever wished away these foibles of the ski experience, Elan has news for you: meet Voyager, the world’s first fully functional, folding, all-mountain ski.
If this seems like something from a slapstick movie, know this: I’m not kidding—and neither is Elan. As befits such a technological watershed, the Voyager took Elan’s vaunted design team five years of building, testing and fine-tuning (pun intended) at their headquarters in the picturesque Slovenian Alps.
The story starts with the age-old conundrum of efficiently transporting lengthy, bulky skis when everything else you carry into the mountains is much more compact. While shortening ski poles for transport had long-since been solved with collapsible-tube technology, when it came to skis, all humanity had to show for a century of effort was a grab-bag of very short, non-performing skis—whether for goofing around (think Bigfoot) or for approaching a mountaineering objective much as you’d employ snowshoes. That changed in 2017 when Elan introduced the IBEX Tactix, a fully functional folding touring ski developed in conjunction with the Slovenian army to meet demands of increased mobility, and transport capability. It was a huge feat of engineering and ergonomics. But given the low-performance demands on touring skis there was still ways to go to refine it for the hard-charging, on-piste milieu.
The secret that finally unlocked the Voyager was Connect Technology, a four-axis mechanism that secures and seals all the ski’s components at a folding joint. Combined with a carbon-reinforced fusion plate as a load-bearing platform, these two components provide structural rigidity for superior on-piste handling while allowing the ski to fold into a compact, easy-to-transport package. But there’s even more magic.
Elan also imbued the Voyager with its unique Amphibio technology—the revolutionary design that integrates both rocker and camber profiles dedicated to left and right skis; a cambered inside edge assures edge grip and stability while a rockered outside edge allows for buttery-smooth transitions. Finally, a laminated woodcore, titanium reinforcement, carbon box and RST sidewall guarantee maximum hold from tip to tail—a remarkable achievement.
“Voyager represents a once-in-a-generation advancement in ski technology,” says Elan CEO Jeffrey Tirman, with no small hint of pride. “Nothing like this has ever been successfully done on a commercial basis. Our technical team has pulled-off the seemingly impossible—cutting a ski in half then re-joining it with an articulating, foldable hinge and baseplate. The result is a ski that’s 50 per cent the length for transport, but 100 per cent fun to ski.”
Like all good digital-age inventions, the ski design concentrates on essential-only aspects that make its unique features self-explanatory and intuitive. The fold/unfold is achieved by rotational moves of the binding plate that move snow or ice out of the way. “Functionality, intuition and long-term quality were the three main design drivers,” says Elan’s brand director Melanja Korošec. “The Voyager happily tackles anything a demanding skier can imagine—all without compromising an ounce of performance.”
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. What does a professional racer used to hard substrates and high-speeds think? “The performance of the Voyager is unbelievable,” says Ski Cross World Champion and Elan Ambassador Filip Flisar. “There’s literally no way you can feel that the skis are foldable even on steep, icy slopes. The joint is unbelievably strong.”
While these are meaningful kudos, you may be thinking that while travelling with skis is awkward, most of us have it figured out—so why a folding ski? Marketing for the Voyager addresses that, highlighting the fact that because devoted skiers want to spend the most time possible in the mountains, they’re drawn to anything that makes that goal easier. Simply put, a folding ski is more convenient to transport—whether by hand, car, train or plane—making travel nimble, easy and fast; no oversize luggage issues, no rental lineups. An express lane from your home to the slopes. To this end, Elan has also developed two game-changing travel bags for carrying folded skis and collapsible poles: the world’s most space-efficient roller bag can transport skis, poles, boots, clothes and more in a single package, while a sleek shoulder-strap ski bag fits skis and poles so compactly you can spin around in a doorway.
In other words, with Voyager there’s finally a travelling ski that’s actually built to travel.