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The 'ultimate ski'
At 24 years old, Cyrus Schenck is a college dropout and the founder of a ski company — Renoun — that won a coveted gold prize at an international trade show in Munich, Germany, and may be on the cusp of taking the ski industry by storm.
Tall and lanky, with a quick smile and rapid fire speech that sometimes buries words in an avalanche of unintelligible syllables, Schenck followed an obsession at Clarkson University that took him out of the classroom and into a workshop to build a ski using so-called non-Newtonian material.
Sitting in a small room Schenck pulls a fluorescent orange plug of the material from a small tin and begins stretching it with his hands, like pulling taffy. Or maybe Play-Doh on steroids.
Placing the orange lump on the table, Schenck slams his fist with a bang into the non-Newtonian blob, which instantly stiffens into rock-like hardness. Moments earlier the material had been dripping off his fingers.
What does that mean for Renoun skis, which incorporate a non-Newtonian material into its design? It means the skis instantly change their characteristics to suit conditions, whatever they might be.
"I saw a ski that would be the first in the world to change its performance characteristics based on what you're skiing and how you're skiing it, not based on how you turn the screw on something or what kind of ski you bought," he said. "The closest anyone has ever come to the ultimate one ski."
RENOUN was launched in 2014 and broke even their first year.
Every skivibrates, Schenck said, and the faster you go, the more it vibrates.
"If you zoom into an edge, vibration is just the bouncing of an edge on and off the snow," he said. "Think of that bouncing as something hitting the ski. It's just an impact. So the harder that impact is, the more this stuff reacts to it and the more damp, in this case, it becomes.”
Blue HDT drips down the a ski. The real stuff is housed in 8 channels inside the core.
"The faster and harder you ski, it gets more solid, more rigid, and so as it gets more rigid and solid, that in a ski exudes dampening characteristics, as if the ski is stiffer," he said. "The ski dampens as if somebody put a sheet of metal on top of it."
As you slow, or conditions become more forgiving, it's like scraping away that metal, lessening the dampening, Schenck said. But hit some ice and — boom — more dampening.
"It happens instantly," Schenck said, snapping his fingers. "And it happens exactly where the ski is being hit. So if you're going over some ice, it's changing instantly right there.”
What all this means, according to Schenck, is a ski that allows you to ski better and faster than you ever thought possible, almost without realizing it.
"It's really cool, because you don't notice it," he said. "Any good design you don't notice. You love your phone because it just works. It's just there, like a good ski. How fast are you going? Really fast. Dude, that's an all-mountain ski designed for total middle of the road skiing and you just hit 65 mph and you feel fine.”
Cyrus Schenck poses for a photo in the warehouse.
The Renoun ski does that by taking away the uncertainty you feel from your bouncing, vibrating skis.
"Adding this material to the ski basically takes that jumping and sits on it, and because it happens at a variable rate the faster you go it's like somebody blotting it out," Schenck said.
"We were always nerding out on skis," Schenck said. "We would talk about different dimensions, and wonder why Line didn't do this or that. One day I was like, 'Yeah guys, let's just build some skis.’"
It wasn't easy to tame the non-Newtonian material and get it into a ski. The material is made in bulk by a variety of companies around the world, which other companies then use in various products. Schenck draws a parallel to Gore-Tex, a material that many companies use in many products.
Renoun’s most popular ski model, named the Endurance, after Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship.
"It's a damn good name," Schenck said. "What was his family’s motto? 'By Endurance we conquer.'"
- Words by Dan D'Ambrosio
RENOUN named their first ski after the heroic expedition by Earnest Shaklton. The boat's name? The ENDURANCE.
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