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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,

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

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

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

From idea to product

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

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

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.

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Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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