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INSIDE THE FACTORY: TUNNEL TESTING

Torsby Skitunnel. Photo: Lars Sjöqvist

Torsby Skitunnel. Photo: Lars Sjöqvist

August and September is crunch time for the R&D test crew. Join them on a trip to the ski tunnel.

The dawn of the indoor ski tunnels in the mid-2000s significantly eased the workday for the Madshus research and development department, test crew and service techs.

From August until there is consistent natural snow outside, which usually isn’t until mid-October at best, the Torsby ski tunnel a short drive across the border into Sweden is a part of the their test lab and office.

“With the ski tunnel in Torsby only a few hours away, we can manufacture skis early in the week and be on the snow testing by midweek,” says Peter Blom, who has been part of the Madshus test crew for a decade.

Convenient and reliable = more and better test data
While nothing beats real winter, Blom explains that the tunnels offer some advantages to traditional testing on the glaciers.

For starters, the tunnel is close to the factory, while the glaciers in Central Europe require extended travel, a lot more logistics, and no easy opportunity to come back to the factory, adjust, and retest.

“From August until October, we are in the tunnel almost every week. That means we test a lot more than we would if we had to travel far to test. The more we test, the more we know and the better the skis get. Because the tunnel offers such reliable and consistent conditions, we test a lot, and accumulate a huge amount of testing data that is easily comparable, both day to day and year to year, as well as model to model and case by case,” he explains.

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The Torsby ski tunnel offers the same conditions every day of the year. Photo: Lars Sjöqvist, ute.se

The Torsby ski tunnel offers the same conditions every day of the year. Photo: Lars Sjöqvist, ute.se

Eliminates interfering factors
Also, the snow conditions in the tunnel are more like winter than the summer snow conditions on the glaciers. Additionally, there is no wind, no sudden changes in temperatures or snow consistency in the tunnel, which contributes to make the test data more accurate and reliable.

“The glaciers have very inconsistent temperatures and conditions. Some days it can be a blizzard and bitter cold, the next day you have baking sun and slush. In the tunnel we know exactly what the snow and the temperature will be like,” Blom says, noting that the past few years, the tunnels have become very good at controlling the climate and the snow quality.

“They dropped the temperature slightly, and they no longer groom too often. If you groom the tunnel snow too much, it the snow loses its structure and becomes sugary and “dead.” But this is not that much of an issue anymore,” he says.

Access to the skiers
With near perfect conditions in the tunnel, Blom and his crew frequently run into the Madshus World Cup skiers, their national teams and the World Cup wax techs. This allows for easy interaction, exchange of experiences and improves the testing with real-time, on-site feedback.

 

See you in the tunnel?

Inside the factory: Making use of summer

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 a science. Peter Blom at work during a test camp at Sjusjøen in April. Photo: Stefano Zatta

The snow may be melted, but the Madshus test crew never stops testing. Check out how they pick the perfect skis.

This time of the year, Peter Blom and his fellow Madshus test-crew members are testing and selecting over 1000 pairs of skis for the upcoming World Cup season.

“We have been testing extensively since this winter but the spring and early summer months are particularly intense. That’s when we go out with the national teams and try out many of the new models and bases that we have been working on, and try out the different grinds that we offer and find which run better in various temperatures and snow conditions,” Blom explains.

The extensive testing and data collection not only helps Blom and his crew pick the perfect skis for the World Cup racers. This also benefits skiers at all levels.

“There is really no difference between the skis we pick for the World Cup skiers and the skis you can buy at your local retailer. We pick from the same stock, all made right here at the Biri factory. Sometimes we try new prototypes on the World Cup circuit, just as a part of the testing, but everything that performs well will be available to the consumer market as soon as it has been proven perfect,” Blom says.

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Madshus racers are actively taking part in the testing processes, like here at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus.com

Madshus racers are actively taking part in the testing processes, like here at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus.com

Picking a thousand pairs of skis
The Madshus test crew selects skis for all the different national teams and elite skiers who order directly from the factory.

“We just finished picking skis for Russia, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries and Japan and are shipping those to the distributors in the various countries. Earlier this spring, we selected skis for the elite Norwegian racers and several of the other national teams, so I estimate that we have picked about a thousand pairs so far. Once we have made the selection, we send the skis down to Roger Dahl in the grinding facility at the factory. He is the one who makes sure the skis get the correct grind according to what the teams have ordered,” Blom says, adding that only rarely do they get skis returned from the teams.

“We pick out skis based on the information the teams send us, and based on what we know about the skiers. We often meet them throughout the winter at various races and events, so over time, we get a good idea about which skis and models might be a good fit for the individual racers.”

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Photo: Stefano Zatta

Yet another set of test skis waiting. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Extensive experience
Blom explains that selecting the perfect skis is part science and part experience.

“There are a lot of theories out there on how to pick the right skis, but it’s not so easy to see which ski is the best just by looking at the stats for a certain ski model. Ultimately, it comes down to getting test skis on the snow, trying them in all kinds of conditions, making meticulous notes and keeping track of different skis, bases and grinds over time.”

Accordingly, Blom and his men ski a lot. They ski in sunshine and snow and rain, in cold and warm conditions, on dry snow and wet snow, at high altitudes and at sea level and everything in between.

“I ski at least a few times every week from August until the end of June. So when I go on summer vacation in July, I try not to ski,” he says with a laugh.

Svein Ivar Moen (left), Haakan Nordbäck and Peter Blom comparing their findings during a test camp at Sjusjøen this spring. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Svein Ivar Moen (left), Haakan Nordbäck and Peter Blom comparing their findings during a test camp at Sjusjøen this spring. Photo: Stefano Zatta

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