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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

Inside the Factory

Inside the factory. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus
A series of Madshus skis, ready to ship. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Making the Perfect Skis – How is it done?

Simply put: No compromises. Precision and keen attention to detail is the defining factor in our production. But let us show you – take a tour with us inside the factory!

From a foam core to the smartest skis in the world
All of Madshus top racing skis are manufactures in Biri, in the heart of Norway and only a hop and a skip from the Birkebeiner course and Sjusjøen, which is one of our most valuable testing labs. However, the production takes place behind closed door at the Biri factory.

Here is how we turn a foam core into the fastest, smartest skis in the world; pre-ground and race-ready out of the box.

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Take a tour of our factory – where the best skis in the world are born. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Madshus buys most of the materials in bulk rolls or sheets. This allows us to cut the materials just right and according to our molds, and we waste less of the materials, which is good both for the planet and the bottom line.

“There are three things that separate the different lines of race skis: the core, the base and the graphics,” says Bjørn-Ivar Austrem, who is the director of skis and engineering at Madshus.

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

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

Madshus produces 1200 to 1500 pairs of skis per week, and all skis start with a sheet of foam. The sheet is trimmed to ski cores, shaped as much as possible like the final geometry of the ski.

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Ski cores - waiting to be turned into skis. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Ski cores – waiting to be turned into skis. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Then the other construction materials are added in layers: carbon fibers and fiberglass adds rigidity and stability. More carbon makes for a lighter ski, while fiberglass is heavier. Carbon is expensive; fiberglass costs less.

Fiberglass is used to add stiffness and stability to the ski. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Fiberglass is an important part of the ski. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Finally, we pull a knitted “stocking” around the core and the fibers, and the skis move on.

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A lot of our materials come in rolls or sheets. This is both efficient and eco-friendly. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Many of our materials come in rolls or sheets. This is both efficient and eco-friendly: This way, we cut the right length for each ski we produce, and cut down on waste. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

The skis are cast in molds where 20 skis can be cast next to each other. The machines are developed right here at Madshus.

When the molds are shut, we add heat for 15 minutes, which allows the excess epoxy to exit the molds. The overflow is collected in trays adjacent to the molds. Then we add cold water to the molds, cooling the epoxy in the skis and setting the shape of the skis just right. The skis are measured, and if there are any discrepancies, we adjust this with tension screws.

“This is both efficient and clean, and very flexible. We have observed many different industries and models, but never found anything that rivals our own,” Austrem says.

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Tightening bolts along the top of each mold allow us to make final adjustments for each individual ski. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Digital print shop in-house
At Madshus, we also have our own, all-digital print shop right in the factory, where we set the graphic right onto the cap of the ski. We buy the cap materials in big rolls from the manufacturer, set the machine to the correct ski length and cut the material accordingly.

“This process makes us less dependent on the cap material manufacturer,” Austrem says.

All graphics are printed on the inside of the top layer, and we use epoxy-based print from the same epoxy that we use in the ski construction. This creates a very solid fixation, and also helps protect the surface of the skis from scratches and cuts.

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At our in-house print shop, we print the graphics directly onto the skis right at the factory, which saves time, money and the planet. Madshus uses only eco-friendly inks and materials. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Once the skis are out of the casting, with all their layers, base and graphics in place, the tips and tails are trimmed. Then the skis are ground and fine-tuned with a laser.

After trimming and tuning, the skis are headed to the base grinders. In total, the skis are run through eighth different grinding stones and three machines, making sure the skis are race-ready out of the box, whether it’s a factory structure or a specialty grind is ordered.

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Ski exiting one of the grind stations, perfectly cared for by one of our efficient and diligent robots. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Grinding skis. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Finally, we add the NIS binding plate, and the skis are ready to be shipped to the retailers.

The details that make each ski unique
Our compuflex-machine measures all pressure curves, flexes and camber heights. These are the properties that determine what the skis’ ideal use and conditions are.

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All skis have their own unique properties, their own DNA if you will, and this information is recorded on the chip embedded in our SmartSki models. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

All skis have their own unique properties, their own DNA if you will, and this information is recorded on the chip embedded in our SmartSki models. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Everything is measured
Skis with short pressure zones and higher camber are better in wet and warm conditions. In such conditions you want less of the glide zones on the snow to reduce the suctioning effect of the water, and a higher camber allows room for thicker, softer kick waxes.

For cold conditions, the opposite applies: you want longer pressure zones in order to create a thin film of water to increase the glide on the sharp, cold snow crystals. The camber height can be lower, as the kick wax is harder and applied thinner.

“A cold conditions ski will generally have a camber height of 1 to 1.1mm, while a klister/warm condition ski will have about 1.4mm,” Austrem explains.

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robot books

Every spec for each ski and model is recorded, and all skis are checked to their charts before leaving the factory. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Perfect control: Chip
Retailers have their own versions of our Compuflex machine. But with the Madshus SMART skis, we have made it even easier: all the information about the skis’ properties – every detail about flex, camber height and wax zones – is accessible with a quick scan, without having to test each ski individually.

This is how it all starts - with a block of foam. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

This is how it all starts – with a block of foam. Funny really, isn’t it? Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus


Raising the Boot Bar

Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR) at the 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN). Photo: Nordic Focus

Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR) at the 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN). Photo: Nordic Focus

Shatter records and redefine what’s possible. Enter the Super Nano all carbon boot.

Waste no effort. Make every push count.

“The speed you can drive with this boot really amazes me,” says Emil Hegle Svendsen.

The Norwegian biathlete points out that the Nano Carbon boot’s track record with him is solid: Half a dozen World Championship medals and several World Cup victories speak volumes of the innovation and development that goes into the engineering of the boot.

The Super Nano is 47percent more torsionally rigid and 10 percent stiffer than any boot we have ever made. Built to deliver the most efficient power transfer, the one-piece Integrated Carbon Base matches the contours of the foot, minimizing the amount of material between your foot and the ski for a more direct drive.

Lower volume in the forefoot means a more precise fit and optimal control, while the highstretch flex notch system beneath the MemBrain Softshell upper delivers maximum knee drive and range of motion. Pair the Super Nano with the Redline Carbon Skate ski, and you have the ingredients for groundbreaking, World Cup winning performance.

“For me, the revolution came several years ago when I tested the first prototype of these Super Nano boots for the first time. Since then, I have been closely involved in the development process of the Super Nano. It makes me confident and comfortable to know I will be in a really great position in terms of my equipment for the coming years,” says Svendsen, who has collected three Olympic gold medals and a silver medal from three different Olympics, as well as nine World Championship gold medals, five silver medals and two bronze medals since his first IBU World Championships in 2007.

Read more about the RED Super Nano boot

The 2015-16 RED Super Nano. Photo: Madshus

The 2015-16 RED Super Nano. Photo: Madshus


Meet the REDLINE Family

With the addition of the new P200 Plus base, the REDLINE collection now includes seven different models: Three classic models and two skate models as well as two brand new junior models: The REDLINE Carbon Classic Jr. and the REDLINE Carbon Skate Jr. Photo: Madshus

With the addition of the new P200 Nano Black Plus base, the REDLINE ski collection now includes seven different models, including two brand new junior skis. (Photo: Madshus)

We built the REDLINE products to give athletes the confidence to shatter records on courses all over the world.

With specifically designed constructions and unique base materials to tackle cold and warm conditions, and now in a junior-specific model, the REDLINE skis deliver World Cup level performance for all ages.

REDLINE skis and boots are used on the World Cup by top athletes such as Ole-Einar Bjørndalen, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Didrik Tønseth, Pål Goldberg, Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg. But innovation never stops, and for the upcoming season, we are adding several new products to the lineup.

The adult REDLINE series now includes three classic and two skating models, as well as the Super Nano Skate boot. While the Cold and Zero ski models remain unchanged, the Plus version features the new, even faster P200 Nano Black Plus base.

Meet the new base:
For winter 2015/16, Madshus introduces a new base for the above 0°C variations of its top-end REDLINE Carbon Skate and REDLINE Carbon Classic ski. The all-new P200 Nano Black Plus is a further development of the renowned P200 base. The excellent gliding characteristics of the P200 Nano Black Plus help repel dirt in snow and also helps create less suction in wet conditions, making the REDLINE Carbon Skate Plus and the REDLINE Carbon Classic Plus the perfect weapons on race day.

Meet the new generation: Cross-country skis for kids and teens aren’t usually made of World Cup level material. Not at Madshus. For the 2015/16 season, the Norwegian company offers skis from their top line RED for performance-oriented young talents in cross-country skiing. The REDLINE Carbon Classic Jr. and the REDLINE Carbon Skate Jr. are made for tomorrow’s heroes.

Using the same technologies and materials as the skis built for the top World Cup athletes, the REDLINE Carbon Classic Jr. and the REDLINE Carbon Skate Jr. feature specific camber profiles and flexes for junior racers to hone their skills. Of course, both models are “Made in Norway“.

They are unbelievably fast, weigh very little and deliver outstanding control – building the next wave of world champions.

Madshus REDLINE Carbon Classic Jr. (Photo: Madshus)

Madshus REDLINE Carbon Classic Jr. (Photo: Madshus)

Read more about technology, construction and bases 

Reinforcing the Best Marathon Team

Johan Kjoelstad (left) and Oeystein Pettersen join the REDLINE marathon team. Photo: Nordic Focus


Madshus has dominated the long-distance scene for years, and for the upcoming season, the team signs a couple of additional ringers to the marathon team lineup: Swix Ski Classics overall champion 2014 Johan Kjoelstad (NOR) and Oeystein Pettersen (NOR), who both race with the professional long-distance team United Bakeries.


“We are really excited to add Kjoelstad and Pettersen to the marathon team,” says Per Wiik, Global Marketing Director at Madshus.


Kjoelstad and Pettersen switched to Madshus without hesitation after trying the new Redline skis this spring. They join their United Bakeries teammate John Kristian Dahl (NOR), another former national sprint team racer who has been on Madshus skis for years.


“After testing, both Johan Kjoelstad and Oeystein Pettersen firmly believe the Madshus Redline products are superior in the long-distance events,” Wiik says, adding that they are hardly alone.


“With the launch of the Redline products, we have experienced incredible interest in the Madshus team, both from the professional long-distance and World Cup circuits as well as from the general Birkebeiner and Worldloppet segment,” Wiik says.


“Just in the first season, we’ve had literally ten times as much demand for the Redline products than we expected,” he says, noting that results speak loudly.

“The marathon events are becoming more and more popular, both with elite racers as well as recreational skiers. It’s important for us to be present where our customers are,” Wiik says.


Kjoelstad and Pettersen come to the marathon circuit from a national sprint team career. Kjoelstad made the switch from sprint to marathons a couple of years ago, while Pettersen has just completed his final season with the Norwegian national sprint team.


However, Pettersen already got his toes wet on several occasions this season, posting an impressive fourth place in Koenig Ludwiglauf (GER) in February and a 28th place in Vasaloppet on March 2 only 35 seconds behind Vasaloppet winner and Madshus Marathon teammate Dahl – all while still racing World Cup sprint events.


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