Dynastar MV2: A short history

Seth Masia

The MV2, designed by Jean Liard and introduced in 1964, was a magnificent giant slalom ski, raced to a downhill win at Morzine that winter by Mariel Goitschel, and to World Championship gold medals at Portillo, in 1966, by Goitschel and Guy Périllat. It was unique in its era for having not two but three layers of aluminum -- specifically a hard alloy of Aluminum, zinc and copper called Zicral. Like all top racing skis of the late 1960s, it had a wood core with aluminum layers top and bottom, but the core was reinforced with a third sheet of aluminum, formed into a “hat-section” rib the factory called an omega, for its rough resemblance to the Greek letter Ω. That rib reinforced the MV2 in torsional stiffness, giving it tremendous edgehold when turning on ice.

Historically, the MV2 is unique, blending American and French inventions.

The story begins at the Vought-Sikorsky aircraft factory in Connecticut, in 1945. The factory is best known for the Vought F4U Corsair fighter, one of the fastest and, piloted by U.S. Marine aviators, most capable aircraft of World War II. As it became clear that the end of the war was near, Vought-Sikorsky managers expected aircraft orders to drop sharply, so they looked around for consumer products they could build and sell. Because the company knew how to laminate aluminum to balsa wood, some bright soul decided that Vought could build skis. The project was handed to three of the company’s engineers, who happened to be skiers: Arthur Hunt, Wayne Pearce and Dave Richey. In short order they created the prototype of an aluminum “sandwich” ski -- a lightweight wood core between aluminum top and bottom sheet. The Vought factory ran off 1000 pairs and created the brand name Truflex. It was the first mass-produced aluminum ski.

By 1946, as the French and other European air forces rebuilt after the war, orders flowed in for the Corsair, and the company became busy building helicopters. The ski wasn’t needed, and management killed the Truflex project. Hunt, Pearce and Richey quit and formed their own ski company, introducing the Alu 60 in 1947. In order not to violate the Vought patent, they dropped the wood core and made their ski from two layers of aluminum: a flat base sheet and the hat-section topskin to reinforce it and control flex (see cross-section drawing, top of page). The trio then invented the celluloid-plastic yellow TEY Tape, applied to the aluminum base to improve glide speed (TEY referred to the last letters of their names). Then they invented the snow gun,  which was so successful that they quit making skis. But Adolf Attenhofer, who owned a sizeable ski factory in Switzerland, bought the Alu 60 patent and began marketing the ski as the Attenhofer Metallic. He licensed manufacturing to the French sporting goods firm Charles Dieupart & Fils, who created the Aluflex brand. By adding a strip of wood under the hat-section top, Dieupart smoothed out the ski’s ride and vibration. Beginning in 1954, Aluflex was a big hit in France. Former World Champion James Couttet put his name on it. Aluflex and Couttet skis were widely adopted by ski instructors and even by the French Army’s mountain troops. Actual manufacturer was the metal-products company Les Ressorts du Nord (Northern Springs – as in auto suspensions).

In the mid-50s, fiberglass became available in commercial quantities. In France, Paul Michal’s Dynamic factory, building great wooden slalom skis since 1931, spent seven years experimenting with the new material and learned how to wrap wet fiberglass around a wood core to create, with the help of Charles Bozon, the VR7 of 1960 (VR for verre résine, or resin glass, 7 for the development time). The ski hit the race circuit in 1962 and was an instant success. That year Aluflex formed a partnership with ski-binding distributor Claude Joseph, who had begun building fiberglass skis under the company name Les Plastiques Synthetiques. Ressorts du Nord built a new factory in Sallanches, just down-valley from Chamonix. The glass ski was named Starflex, to be marketed alongside Aluflex.

The chief engineer at the Sallanches factory was Jean “Jeannot” Liard. He developed the Starflex fiberglass ski into a slalom model called the Compound RG5 (RG for resin glass, an Anglicized tribute to the VR7). Air bubbles in the resin caused the tips to break. Liard called on engineers from Dynamic to help iron out the production problem. In order to repair the RG5 reputation, the new company paid Michal for the right to put a Dynamic seal of approval on every RG ski -- then launched the Dynastar brand. Michal and his team weren’t amused by the copy-cat branding, and killed the consulting relationship. Meanwhile, Charles Dieupart fell out with Ressorts du Nord and split, taking Aluflex with him. His new venture didn't last long.

Meanwhile Liard needed a new aluminum ski. Onto the existing Aluflex structure (flat aluminum base, hat-section aluminum top rib) he added a flat aluminum topsheet. The ski now contained three layers of Zicral aluminum and three strips of wood (one under the “hat” rib, one on each side). It was stable, precise and very fast. Liard named the ski MV2 for “mass times velocity squared,” the formula for calculating energy. And that’s the ski you’re looking at here – a direct descendent of the Connecticut-built Alu 60 of 1947. –Seth Masia, International Skiing History Association

This article is based on information from several sources, chiefly Une histoire du ski, by Franck Cochoy; “Eight Classics,” by Morten Lund (SKI Magazine, January 1986); interviews with Michel Arpin and Adrien Duvillard (both now deceased); and Jean Liard. Many thanks to Jean-François Lanvers for interviewing Liard.

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