SoG: The thesis behind Dodge Skis is that boot technology hasn’t kept pace with modern ski and binding technology. Could you expand on that idea?
Bill: The major boot companies are still using not only the same basic design, but also the same injection molding machines that they started with back in the late ’60s. If you take a look at a current Nordica Dobermann or Grand Prix, it’s almost identical to the Grand Prix of 1976.
SoG: So how have you brought boot tech up to speed?
Dave: Well, we pretty much started from scratch. We didn’t start with the premise that we had to injection mold a boot. We started with the idea of using composite materials. Having been in the ski industry and having had quite a lot of experience with composites, we decided to make ski boots out of those materials because they’re much lighter and orders of magnitude stronger and stiffer. And the stiffness doesn’t change with temperature.
Those are all qualities for perfect ski boot material, except that most composites are epoxy based, like in racecars, skis, or fishing rods. For those you want maximum strength and stiffness, but you’re not really interested in damage resistance. So we had to research appropriate materials for ski boots that were also much more damage tolerant and settled on thermal plastic composites. Those are relatively new, so we had to invent a production process to produce the parts we needed. We patented the way we divided the boot into easily manufacturable parts, then developed production equipment to make those parts.
Bill: We even had to develop our own fasteners, like the nuts that hold on the buckles, because our material is so thin compared to what the rest of the industry is using. It required a lot of innovation and invention.
SoG: Okay… so what makes that composite construction better?
Dave: Our custom-designed laminate includes carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar. So it has the same flexibility as a cross section of a typical ski boot, but it’s only a millimeter and a half thick instead of six to seven millimeters. In terms of tension and compression, though, our laminate is exponentially stiffer.
As a skier, you want your boots to conform and wrap around your foot and ankle a little bit. But when you edge, all the load in is tension and compression on either side of the boot. So our custom designed laminates have that flexibility around the foot, but provide stiffness under tension and compression forces.
On top of that, our materials aren’t affected by temperature. Between room temperature and 20 degrees below zero, they stiffen up only 2%. Whereas the thermoplastic polyester material that other manufacturers use stiffens 500% in that range.
Bill: So that’s the technical stuff, but here’s what that means for consumers:
- Our boots are 35% lighter than a traditional ski boot.
- The flex doesn’t change with temperature, so you have the same predictable performance and response no matter what the conditions.
- Because the material itself is stiffer, you don’t have to crush the boot against your foot to get it to conform and perform. You can ski it more loosely buckled, meaning a more comfortable boot and a warmer boot, as you have better blood flow to your feet. But you still have more efficient energy transmission into the ski.