Return to Madshus.com

Madshus News

Testing skis is a science

Peter Blom testing skis at Sjusjøen in April. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Peter Blom testing skis at Sjusjøen in April. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Testing skis is both a rigorous science and a labor of love. Photo: Stefano Zatta

At Madshus, we take perfect skis very seriously.

From idea to product to retailer is a process that includes rigorous testing by engineers and product developer, our World Cup athletes, service techs and the best suppliers in the industry, making sure every detail is solid. But what goes into that process.

Close to the venues and the community
At Madshus, we are fortunate to have some of the worlds best test arenas and test labs right in our back yard. In April and May, we often do field tests at Sjusjøen and Beitostølen, known for great snow and skiing conditions well into May and accordingly favored locations for the national teams and elite skiers. Then we move to Sognefjellet along with the top skiers when the summer ski center opens there in June.

The Madshus service techs also work closely with the Norwegian national team’s wax techs. The idea is that the national wax teams have a chance to learn the properties of the skis and how to optimize each pair well in advance of the race season. Working side by side with the Madshus service crew, the wax techs have a walking, talking, live help desk on site, and a both sides can exchange experiences and test results, explains Madshus service tech Peter Blom.

Check out all the Redline ski models 

Story continues below

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

What do we test?
“For each product, we test a lot of different aspects,” says Bjørn Ivar Austrem, head of research and development at Madshus.

For instance, flexes, cambers and other properties of the ski require extensive testing.

“When we compare flexes, cambers and related properties, we collect data on what glides the best, but also what provides the best ski feel. We record how the skis behave and maneuver in different conditions, and what we can do to improve the skis,” he says, noting that all testing is a combination of working with the athletes and the product developers at the factory.

For each parameter, there is a lot of prep work to do before even taking the product to the snow to test it out.

“There are a lot of aspects to test for each parameter, which is what makes proper testing so tricky. You have to make sure you are only testing and comparing one parameter at a time, otherwise you get lost in causes and effects,” Austrem explains.

“We have to be absolutely sure of which factors we are testing, and eliminating everything else,” he says.

Read more:
From Idea to Product
Behind the scenes: A passion for innovation

Story continues below

Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Changing environment
Climate change affects both the testing and the end product.

“We notice that the snow is getting a lot more difficult. We have a lot less of the classic Nordic conditions with cold, powdery and natural snow, and a lot more manmade snow. This is particularly tricky during large events such as championships where the skiers use the same venues for a couple of weeks in a row and often the longest loops are three to five kilometers. Toward the end of the event, that snow is completely transformed and dead, Austrem points out.

Behind the scenes: A passion for innovation

From the World Cup to YOUR race course. Photo: Stefano Zatta
From the World Cup to YOUR race course. Photo: Stefano Zatta

From the World Cup to YOUR race course. Photo: Stefano Zatta

How does Madshus apply World Cup technology to every product level?

Meet Svein Ivar Moen, the head of the Madshus ski testing department.

“I was born curious. I like to challenge the established conventions, and I look for ways to apply new and cutting edge innovation to all of our product lines,” the accomplished test technician says.

Moen came to Madshus in 2016, after more than 20 years as a wax technician and ski tester. From 1998 until 2014, he was the head wax tech with the Norwegian National Biathlon Team. But he has been the personal wax tech and equipment manager for Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the world’s most winning Olympic winter athlete to date, since 1997. Moen says the king of biathlon is a great partner in innovation.

“I’ve known Ole Einar Bjørndalen since we were 12 years old. We were buddies as kids, we went to the same high school, and working with him is great. He is demanding and he is a perfectionist. He is always looking to optimize everything, down to the last detail. If there are 50 factors and he does 49 of them perfectly, then he wants to improve the last one. I have the same approach to skis,” Moen says.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) during a test camp at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) during a test camp at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus

Not all development is progress
“There is innovation and development is basically just change. But change doesn’t necessarily mean progress. You always have to ask: Why are we doing this? Is this truly progress, or are we just making a new thing? This is harsh, and you have to be willing to discard projects you’ve spent a lot of time on, but it’s the only way you actually progress,” Moen says.

Next, he explains, you always have to stay focused on the task.

“It’s important to consider: who are we making the skis for, and what are their needs,” he says.

The World Cup is a test lab
Moen explains that World Cup racers and recreational skiers have different needs and requirements. However, he points out, that doesn’t mean recreational skiers don’t need a top of the line product.

“At Madshus we use the World Cup as our test lab. Everything we bring to the World Cup and test at the very highest level is considered for a broad range of skiers. We use the same geometries, technologies and construction methods for our World Cup skis, our race performance series and our recreational skis, but we adjust the skis properties, such as flex and camber, to fit the different skiers’ needs. Again, it comes down to making sure we serve their needs,” Moen says.

Check out the Madshus Champion ski line 

Testing at the FIS level. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Testing at the FIS level. Photo: Stefano Zatta

What drives you to develop new skis and technology, year after year?
“I have always been curious, and the only thing I know to be true is that there is no set answer to anything, especially when you are working with snow and ice. Conditions are constantly changing and what worked yesterday can be worthless today, even if the temperature is the same and the snow is still white,” says Moen, explaining that this is exactly what triggers him.

“I love the challenge of working with a constantly moving target. So often, things are done a certain way because it’s always been done that way. There are so many myths and a tradition for doing things a certain way without challenging why,” he says.

Moen is different.

“I try to mix the basics and the established principles with new ideas. I keep track, measure and try to get objective answers. And I’m never content. I want to improve.”

What inspires you?
“In one word: Progress. Things can always get better, and I want to find out how. My favorite quote is from the legendary Norwegian soccer coach Nils Arne Eggen: When everyone’s content and in agreement, there is no progress.”

Optimizing the Skin Ski

The all new Madshus Redline Intelligrip with MOVE system binding allows Photo: Madshus

The all new Madshus Redline Intelligrip with MOVE system allows skiers to adjust the binding forward and backward without taking the skis off. Photo: Madshus

With the Madshus Redline Intelligrip ski and MOVE binding system, the skier can adjust grip and glide on the skin ski by moving the binding backward and forward on the binding plate without taking the skis off.

While Rottefella bindings have been movable since the launch of the NIS system more than 10 years ago, the new MOVE concept adds a whole new dimension to adjustable bindings.

“Now the skier can adjust the grip and glide on their skis on the course to match the terrain and changing snow conditions,” says Per Wiik, Global Marketing Director at Madshus.

“For instance, if you are skiing a course, whether in a race or just touring, you can move the binding forward for better grip on long climbs, then once you get to the top, you move the binding backwards for better glide on long descents and for double-pole sections, then forwards again for the next sustained hill, all without ever taking your skis or even gloves off,” Wiik explains.

The MOVE binding is a part of the new NIS system from Rottefella, and consists of a dial on the front of the Rottefella Pro Classic binding and a new NIS plate that is pre-mounted on the ski. Using the dial, the binding can be moved into four different positions on the plate for a total of 48mm, which significantly changes the properties of the ski from one end to the other.

Story continues below

The new binding system is built on an all new binding plate, which lets users adjust the binding forward and backward by turning the dial. Illustration: Madshus

The new binding system is built on an all new NIS integrated binding plate, which lets users adjust the binding forward and backward by turning the dial. Illustration: Madshus

The MOVE binding system is based on a brand new NIS plate, but the MOVE dial system can be added to the Rottefella Pro Classic binding, and for the 2018-19 season and onward, the MOVE system will work with with all NIS-compatible bindings. The MOVE system is approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and is legal to use in all sanctioned competitions.

A limited prelaunch of the new Redline Intelligrip skin skis will be available with the new MOVE system this fall through selected retailers.

The all new Madshus Redline Intelligrip with MOVE.

The all new Madshus Redline Intelligrip with MOVE.

Inside the Factory: Building Skin Skis

How do we build skin skis? Constructing the optimal skin ski presents a handful of added challenges compared to traditional skis.

Most importantly, you want to make a ski that makes you forget that you’re skiing on a skin ski. To do that, you want to make sure you maintain the properties of the ski and make the ski feel and behave like your waxableskis. So how do we accomplish that?

 

How do we build the IntelliGrip® skin skis? Photo: Ian Coble

How do we build the IntelliGrip® skin skis with perfect kick without sacrificing great glide? Photo: Ian Coble

Perfect kick and amazing glide
Madshus head of engineering, Bjørn Ivar Austrem, explains that one major challenge is that you need a skin that provides both secure and reliable grip as well as superior glide, and that is built like perfectly applied layers of wax. To achieve that, Madshus has developed a method to cut a pocket in the base that is deeper toward the ends of the skin, which in turn makes the skin protrude progressively toward the middle and taper to the ends – just like the perfect wax job.

The IntelliGrip® skins are set down into the base, rather than attached onto the base, to create smooth transitions between base and skin and ensure reliable grip without sacrificing glide.

“Progressive skin skis provide better grip than skin skis with a flat skin. When using a progressive skin, a ski that has a normal to high camber will provide better glide. So we found that by folding the skin into the base, we are able to maintain a high camber that keeps the skin off the snow when gliding while the skin is aggressive enough to make contact with the snow in the kick phase. Again, this is exactly the same principle as the perfectly waxed ski,” Austrem says.

A progressive skin that is set down into the base creates a better, more waxlike experience. Photo: Stefano Zatta

A progressive skin that is set down into the base creates a better, more waxlike experience. Photo: Stefano Zatta

The engineering conundrum
At the same time, this progressive skin construction presents a challenge, because the skin has to be folded into the base without compromising the properties of the ski, such as flex and stiffness. These key properties are a result of the thickness of the ski and the distance between the top and bottom layers of the fiberglass and/or carbon fibers that provide stiffness. Adding only a millimeter to the distance between the top and bottom layers of the fibers can make the ski significantly stiffer, and vice versa: placing the layers a millimeter closer can make the ski that much softer, Austrem explains.

“Once we cracked that code, we managed to construct a lively ski that’s stiff enough and fast enough to race.”

Of course, the actual skin matters as well.

“We use a blend of mohair and nylon on most of our models. The mohair provides great glide and reliable kick, while the nylon adds durability and prolongs the life of the skin. On the Redline IntelliGrip® , we use 100 percent mohair,” Austrem says, adding that the skin can easily be replaced if it gets worn out or damaged.

More skiing, less waxing, and still perfect kick and glide. That is the IntelliGrip® skin difference. Photo: Stefano Zatta

More skiing, less waxing, and still perfect kick and glide. That is the IntelliGrip® skin difference. Photo: Stefano Zatta

From idea to product

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com
Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Bjørn Ivar Austrem, the head of research and development at Madshus, explains the long process from idea to product. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Where do product ideas come from, and what steps do they go through before they arrive at the retailers?

Bjørn Ivar Austrem, the head of research and development at Madshus, explains that it can take years from an idea is on the table until the product is for sale. Sometimes the process is much faster. But regardless, it is always a carefully considered development process.

Where do ideas come from?
Some ideas are market driven, and often originate from the sales and marketing teams from around the world. They know a lot about what kind of equipment customers want and need in the different price categories.

“We have a group that meets regularly, get feedback and exchange ideas. Sometimes they tell us we are missing a specific product in a certain category. This might be a slightly wider touring ski, or that we don’t have a ski that fits a specific product segment and price point,” Austrem says.

Other ideas originate from the racers, racing reps and service techs.

“In this area, we and our athletes are always pushing the limits. We are always on the cutting edge of the innovation, and testing new base materials, ski construction geometries, flexes and cambers, to make sure our athletes always have the best possible equipment. We use our experience and feedback from the top racing community to develop skis for the general consumer market,” Austrem says.

Story continues below

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Evolution or revolution?
“Some ideas become products that revolutionize the trade and the industry standard. The new double-pole ski Propulsion is a good example. This ski is designed entirely from scratch, with completely a new geometry that is different from every other ski model, and molded in brand new molds. Other ideas are more like an evolution, a refined version of an existing product. People expect updates. Some of these are bigger things like adjusting flex and camber, other times these updates are new, fresh graphics,” Austrem explains.

“When we get feedback and suggestions from our athletes or the marketing departments, we have to evaluate whether these ideas and determine if we are talking about an evolution, such as a change of graphics, smaller adjustments to the properties of the ski including flex or base materials, or a revolution where we will need to develop entirely new models that will require new molds, new geometries and new construction concepts,” he says.

At the same time as the research and development department processes and handles this external feedback, there is also a constant in-house development process going on where Madshus engineers are developing ideas, researching new materials, product development.

All of these processes also need to fit into the overall development schedule, which typically follows a 2-year cycle that coincides with the major international events, such as the Olympics and the FIS World Championships. Currently, 2018 is the next release cycle. During the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea we will launch our entirely new 2019 Redline models.

Story continues below

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Feedback from athletes is crucial in the development process. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

The revolution process
“If we determine that we need a revolution, we start entirely from scratch. We consider a lot of different elements as well as all feedback from our athletes and marketing departments. The Madshus Propulsion ski is a great example. The double-pole classic ski is a brand new product for an entirely new ski technique, based on a radically different way to ski than traditional classic skiing. We had to start with a whole new geometry for this ski, and it also needs to look new, as we are developing a whole new market with this product,” Austrem explains.

“We had been thinking about building a marathon ski for a while, but what should it be? We had to determine how the ski needed to behave. We know what our elite marathon skiers have been using in previous years when they have won Vasaloppet and other legendary marathon events. But the marathon classic technique today is radically different than even just a few years ago, and it is evolving quickly. As the technique has become more extreme, we recognized how we had to construct the ski in order to meet the needs of our marathon racers,” he says.

The research and development team at the factory receives constant feedback from the top athletes and their equipment managers on the race circuit, and carry a continual dialogue with them through the entire development process.

There are a lot of features to test: Base materials, new varieties of carbon fibers and other construction elements are some. Flex, stiffness and cambers have to be tested and adjusted.

Story continues below

The brand new Madshus Propulsion ski represents an industry revolution. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

The brand new Madshus Propulsion ski represents an industry revolution. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Simultaneously, Austrem and his colleagues are handling their other development projects, which are also taken into consideration in the new Propulsion project, as they are with the evolution of any other ski model.

“We can adjust a lot of the properties that we are considering with equipment that are currently in production, and accordingly, we can produce new prototypes very quickly. We do quite a few rounds of this where we evaluate the feedback carefully before we purchase a new mold. And again, this whole development cycle needs to be coordinated with the overall launch schedule and general product cycles. If we have an entirely new product, this is a great time to launch other news as well, such as redesigned models, new base materials or reinforcements that improve existing models,” Austrem says.

Ski bases, ready to use. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Some new products are updates on existing models, such as new base materials. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Research and innovation
In addition to their internal development and feedback from the athletes the marketing departments, Madshus also works closely with major research institutions on various kinds of innovations. With grants from Forskningsrådets Brukerstyrte innovasjonsarena BIA (Norwegian institute of research and engineering’s user-generated innovation arena), Madshus can cooperate with a number of researchers in different fields and institutions. These include SINTEF, universities such as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and selected corporate research institutions.

“These grants allow us to initiate projects with a higher risk, which have the potential to develop entirely new products with brand new technologies,” says Austrem.

He points out that the Empower app is an example of such innovation partnerships. The Empower app gives the skier and the retailer access to all the specifications and about the properties of one specific ski, which are collected on a chip that is imbedded in the ski.

Also, smart products, the Internet of Things, is just the beginning of an exciting future. At the moment, Madshus is working on various products that analyze biomechanics. By studying biomechanics in real-time, you can discover entirely new ways to see things, which again can be used to develop new products and services, Austrem says.

Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Research, development and innovation are core activities at Madshus. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Email Sign Up

Keep up to date on the latest contests and events!