twin-parabolic-ski-designYou better have one of those fancy skin-tight ski suits with… ya know, skulls and shiny shapes on it, cause your skin is gonna peel right off your bones with this new ski concept.

Charles Pyott had the idea of doubling the edge surface on a ski to help skiers maintain speed through turns and avoid energy loss when carving those wicked slopes. I got a chance to talk with Charlie about the ski design and the process he went through.

Here’s the brilliance of all he did in the short design cycle driving the development of one of the coolest looking ski concepts to com along. Be sure to check out all the images after the story. Enjoy.

Hi Charlie. These skis are a really cool and intriguing design. Do you mind filling us in on what programs you use and how you get from start to finish for a design?

Sure, the skis were actually done a little differently than most designs I work on because of a strict 10 week development time to finalize the concept and build a final visual model and a working prototype with the budget coming out of my own pocket (as a student).

Getting started with the design
That being said, the workflow involved the usual sketch exploration to identify design parameters (what the object will need to do and how it will be interacted with) that eventually was resolved into form exploration (combining the design parameters with styling that suits the emotion of the object).

With a vague idea of the function and styling sketched out I created a series of mock-ups from hand cut foam core with toothpicks for hinges to get a rough idea of how the mechanics would work (image below).

Parabolic Ski Mock-up. Click to Enlarge
Parabolic Ski Mock-up in hand cut foam core. Click to Enlarge

Creating the model in SolidWorks
After that I went quickly into SolidWorks to create models that could be used for rapid prototyping mockups. Because of the complexity of all the hinges and clearances involved this was a very critical step that was done with simple hinge elements made from laser cut Masonite (above image). I made a mated assembly that would prove the concept in SolidWorks and then exported the sketches into Illustrator for laser cutting the parts for the working physical model. The important thing there was to establish hard points for all hinging and binding placement that I could verify in real life and then lock down for all future 3D work.

This is where the fun part really starts for me. I knew I wanted an aggressive form for the race ski and had a rough direction from the sketch work so I started to rough out the form in surface lofts inside SW. I usually create a base model that is accurately dimensioned in SolidWorks with a rough form and then move the model back and forth between Alias Studio Tools as IGES files for more advanced surfacing (image2). This keeps the accuracy and mating abilities of SolidWorks but allows for greater control of surface styling in Studio Tools.

Output for rendering in Maya and Photoshop
With the basic model completed I output a copy to Maya as an IGES for rendering with compositing done in Photoshop for stills and After Effects for animations that can be used later for promotional material (see image below).

Rendering in Maya. Compositing in Photoshop. Click to Enlarge.
Rendering in Maya. Compositing in Photoshop. Click to Enlarge.

Modeling for Function and 3D Printing
Back in SolidWorks I set the parts up to be prototyped for the presentation model. The model was design to be semi-working. You would not be able to stand on the skis but if you rolled them on edge all the elements would move like they were fully functioning. This was kind of a stupid move really, to make the mock-up working all the parts would have to be separated and split so the hinging could be assembled (image below). This means that instead of the model being maybe 10 parts it ended up being a total of 77 separate components output from SolidWorks to print for both skis. Ouch.

The SolidWorks model. Click to enlarge.
The SolidWorks model. Click to enlarge.

Because of the budget I had to use starch prints for all the parts as opposed to using something nice like SLA and CNC the skis out of MDF. From there on out it was all hand work. Starch parts were soaked in Zap a Gap for strength then coated with 3-5 layers of catalyzed primer, painted and assembled.

Its just that easy. 🙂

More images to take you through the process

Images via Charlie Pyott’s Portfolio site

Does your design process go a little like that? Absolutely amazing and proof that it takes more than one product and a ton of passion for what you want to create. A big thanks to Charlie for going into all this detail for us. Drop a note or a comment to him to let him know what you think!


Josh is co-founder of EvD Media. He engineers and designs, is the Director of Marketing for Luxion, is CSWP certified for SolidWorks training and support and excels at falling awkwardly. He is editor of and co-host of, a weekly podcast about design, engineering and what makes it all happen.