[Deep Dive] Elan Playmaker 101 Review

[Deep Dive] Elan Playmaker 101 Review

Featured Image: by Toni Konrad

Lengths: 164, 172, 180, 188 cm
DIM: 132-101-122 mm
Radius: 18 m @ 180 cm

About three years ago, when executives at Elan were trying to decide which type of new ski should be added to the Slovenian company’s lineup, they leaned on the advice of people who mattered most: the retailers who were going to be tasked with having to sell them. “We asked them directly what ski they thought was missing from our line,” says Ben Fresco, the US Marketing and Product Director for Elan. “They came back and said, ‘You guys are ready to make a twin tip ski that reaches a little younger audience.’”

Almost immediately after that, Elan’s athlete team became involved in the development, giving engineers notes on the types of characteristics they’d like to see in what would become the Playmaker 101: it needed to be playful but powerful, damp but responsive. In early 2021, prototypes were being tested throughout Europe, and by December of that year, prototypes made their way to the US. “We were first able to test the skis at our Ski Week in Vail, Colorado,” says Fresco. “Retailers, sales reps and Glen Plake got a chance to try them there.”

But it wasn’t until that spring at Mount Bachelor, Oregon, that the team made real progress on the ski’s twin tip design. Playing on the mountain’s wind lips, side hits, open slopes and in the trees, the team of athletes, including Josh Bibby, Riley Revallier and Bode Barrett, were able to expose the prototypes’ strengths and weaknesses fully.

The takeaway? The prototypes were great in the terrain park but too soft for freeskiing. “It lacked the power needed for more powerful skiers,” says Fresco. “That’s when we added the 3D construction.”

3D construction consists of poplar and paulownia wood that’s thicker underfoot and then tapered out toward tip and tail. “It creates more rigidity through the midfoot but allows the tip and tail to stay buttery,” says Fresco. “But we still needed to make it more poppy.”

To achieve that, Elan turned to proven technology: the same type of carbon rods that they employ in the lauded Ripstick line of skis. Unlike in the Ripstick, which contains rods that run nearly the length of the ski, the Playmaker 101 only has rods in the mid-body. “That gave the ski plenty of torsional rigidity and rebound without compromising the buttery feel of the tip and tail,” says Fresco.  

But what stands out most about the unisex ski to a lot of people is that, for the first time in a long time, Elan has abandoned the ‘right’ and ‘left’ ski, as has the Playmaker 101’s narrower sibling, the Playmaker 91. The Amphibio and Ripstick have more rocker along the outside edge of the ski and longer camber on the inside edge of the ski which reduces the need to de-camber your inside, uphill edge as much as you do on most skis, resulting in a more natural-feeling turn. “That was especially important to Bibby and Barrett,” says Fresco. “For the skiers these are made for, people who like to slarve, and the way these skis are used—in the park and taking advantage of natural hits—it’s important to have a consistent feel on both edges.”

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