Product developer Svein Ivar Moen expects to see skin skis at the World Cup level. Photo: Stefano Zatta
“I suspect that we will se skin skis on the World Cup in not too long,” says Svein Ivar Moen.
The former Norwegian national biathlon team wax tech, personal wax tech for Ole Einar Bjørndalen and product developer at Madshus, is certain that we have only seen the start of the skin ski revolution.
“As product developers, we always assume that the product we are working on will be used at the absolute highest level,” Moen says, explaining that many of the World Cup skiers already have and use skin skis.
With more than 20 years experience as a wax tech, Moen knows that things can get quite hectic in the wax room if conditions change right before a race.
“At this point, most of the World Cup skiers use their skin skis as a backup. They may bring them to the venue as a last resort if conditions change radically right before the race starts and there is no time to prepare another pair of skis. In those cases, the skin skis serve as a safety option. However, I am pretty sure that the skin skis will evolve to a viable race day option,” he says.
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Heidi Weng with her Redline Intelligrip skis at the Lillehammer World Cup in December. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Moen points out that the progress in skin ski technology over the past few years has been mind-blowing, and that skins are now available on the top racing ski models including Redline. At Madshus, the engineers and testers are constantly working on optimizing both the ski construction and the skins themselves.
“We are always working to optimize the camber and flex, and the actual skin composition, the materials used in the skins, the length of the skins, as well as the length and stiffness of the hairs in the skin. This is an area where we are currently working on a lot of different projects,” Moen says.
The bindings will expand the use
Moen points out that the new binding system MOVE, which allows the skier to move the bindings forward and backward on the NIS binding plate without stopping to take the skis off, will make the skin skis even more attractive. These small adjustments can make a huge difference in the skis grip and glide properties.
“Moving the binding backward will improve the glide. Likewise, moving the binding forward will improve your grip. So if you know that you are headed into a section of sustained climbing, you can move your binding forward for better kick, and when you see a long downhill you can move the binding backward. This added flexibility will dramatically widen the use of the skin skis both for elite racers and recreational skiers,” Moen says.
With the new MOVE bindings, skiers can move the binding forward and backward on the NIS plate without taking their skis off. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Skin skis are a game changer
While the experienced wax tech primarily works on providing the World Cup racers with those marginal competitive advantages and mostly on traditional waxable classic skis, Moen considers the skin skis a game changer for cross-country skiing.
“At the end of the day, what really drives and motivates me, is building skis and equipment that fuel that passion for skiing regardless of level – fun experiences every time. Skin skis contribute to lower the barriers to getting started with skiing, and they make it easier to get out on busy weeknights. With skin skis, it’s just as convenient to go for a quick ski as it is to reach for your running shoes and go for a jog. And I’m pretty sure we will see the skin skis on the World Cup as well,” Moen says.
Svein Ivar Moen (far left) discussing test results with fellow Madshus product developers. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Madshus Intelligrip skin skis makes classic skiing a breeze. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus
Skin skis continue to top the sales charts, and it’s easy to see why:
Skin skis make it a breeze to get out for a weeknight workout.
Skin skis lower the entry barrier to Nordic skiing for recreational skiers who find kick waxing to be tricky and time-consuming.
Skin skis are great choice when the conditions change over the course of the day.
Skin skis solve the hairy waxing conundrum when the temperature fluctuates on either side of freezing.
Skin skis work equally well in cold and dry snow, in hard-packed and icy conditions, as in wet, slushy snow.
The skins are made to last several hundred kilometers, and are easily replaced if they get worn out or damaged.
All Madshus Intelligrip skin skis are ready to use right out of the box, as is. However, while skin skis are kick wax-less, they are not entirely maintenance free.
Roger Gråv, who is the head of the Nordic department at Sport1 in Lillehammer, Norway, offers a quick guide to getting the best performance the longest life out of your skin skis.
“There are really just three things to remember: prep, clean and glide,” Gråv says.
The skins can be prepped with a skin-ski specific product to avoid icing up and globbing. Adding a prepping product to the skins can improve overall glide in certain conditions.
The skin prepping products resemble the liquid glider products that have been available for years, and the effect of these would be similar. However, skins require a special product with fewer harsh solvents in order avoid damaging the glue that keeps the skin attached to the base, Gråv explains.
He recommends using a skin-ski specific product.
“The skin-ski specific products are not that different from the regular liquid and spray on glide products, but the skin-ski specific products don’t have the same harsh solvents as the traditional varieties. The solvents can damage the glue, and even cause the skins to come off,” he says.
Skin ski prep is available both as liquids/spray-on bottles and also as pretreated wipes. Prep the skins when needed.
“You will notice when they need prepping. Typically, you will find that the skis don’t glide as well. Also, it’s a good idea to prep if the snow is really wet,” Gråv says.
Generally, skin skis don’t need any special treatment or cleaning. But if you have skied on trails with significant debris or dirty snow, it’s a good idea to clean your skins afterwards.
“You don’t need to clean your skins each time you ski, but if they look dirty or feel draggy, cleaning the skins will improve the glide. This is particularly relevant if you’ve skied on warm and wet or icy tracks where a lot of people would use klister, because your skins can pick up some of that dirt. Just check your skin and see if it’s needed,” says Gråv, noting that with black skins, it can be a bit tricky to spot the dirt.
“If you see areas of the skin that seem duller than the surrounding skin, or the texture appears flattened, that is often a sign that you should clean the skin,” he says.
Cleaning is a simple operation. Gråv recommends using skin ski-specific cleaners, for the same reason as with the prepping products: the skin-specific products don’t have any harsh solvents that can damage the skin or dissolve the glue.
“Traditional base cleaner contains pretty strong solvents, which can cause the skins to detach from the base,” Gråv explains.
Skin ski cleaners are available both as spray-on/liquids and in pretreated wipes.
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Madshus Intelligrip skin skis are ready to use as is, but in certain conditions, using skin ski specific prepping and cleaning products can improve both grip and glide. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus
Like all Nordic skis, skin ski bases should be glide waxed in front of and behind the kick zone (the middle part of the base with the integrated skin).
Glide waxing skin skis is easy, but make sure to cover the skin while applying the glide wax, scraping and brushing, in order to avoid spilling glide wax onto the skin, and protect the skin from scraped wax and wax dust from brushing.
“Covering the skin with a protective tape strip is a simple way to protect the skin while you work on the glide zones. Then just peel off the tape when you’re done and you’re good to go,” Gråv says, adding that most Nordic ski retailers carry such cover tape.
Get the right ski
With increasingly more skin ski models on the market in several different segments, skiers have a variety of skis to choose from: Touring, training and racing skin skis have different properties and qualities.
“It is just as important to get fitted for the right skin ski as with any other ski. Determine what kind of skiing you plan to do with your skin skis to ensure you get a pair that meets your needs and expectations,” Gråv says.
Roger Gråv explains how to get the most from your skin skis. Photo: Submitted
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.
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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.
Forget everything you thought you knew about wax-less skis. Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic redefines the industry.
Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic make classic skiing easy as pie, and perform well enough for 150th place overall at the Vasaloppet, an event that attracts 15800 participants every year.
But more important: The Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic lets you spend ess time in the wax room, which means more time on the trail, and it’s almost as simple as putting on running shoes. In a time-crunched world, these skis might just be the difference between completing the weeknight classic workout on skis rather than alternate training methods or skipping it all together.
Classic racing skis with skins in the kick zone entered the market with a bang last season, and instantly became a hit with World Cup level skiers as well as masters and beginners. These skis are clearly not your traditional variety of wax-less skis. Skin skis are constructed with replaceable skins in the kick zone, rather than wax base or fish scales.
The skin skis work in almost all kinds of snow and temperature conditions, from cold and dry to wet klister, on rock hard and icy tracks as well as velvety smooth. And as opposed to traditional wax-less skis, there is no rattling noise and excellent glide.
All the major manufacturers have their proprietary skin technologies, but all of them are based on the same basic construction: The kick zone has a skin instead of wax or fish scales.
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The new Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic ski features a brand new, innovative skin made from mohair and nylon in the kick zone, eliminating the need for traditional kick wax while still maintaining exceptional glide – and makes classic skiing easy as pie.
Top 150 in Vasaloppet on training skis with skins
At the tail end of the 2014-15 season, Madshus launched the skin ski model Terrasonic IntelliGrip Base, and Vidar Igeltjoern placed 152nd in Vasaloppet on those. He finished the 90-kilometer classic race in 4:56, only 55 minutes behind the Petter Eliassen (NOR), who won the race in 4:01:48. Eliassen raced entirely without kick wax, a growing trend among the elite long-distance skiers.
“I was challenged to race on the skin skis by Per Wiik at Madshus, and I must admit that I was highly skeptical of the idea. Vasaloppet is a fairly flat race with lots of double-poling, so I was concerned that I would have too much suction with the skin skis. But they performed surprisingly well,” Igeltjoern said.
The 42-year-old master skier works full-time at Madshus as an engineering specializing in fine-tuning cambers and flex profiles for classic skis, and was therefore particularly curious how they would perform.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the skin skis would perform so well, especially considering that Vasaloppet is so double-pole-intensive. I had killer kick and outstanding glide for 90 kilometers, while I noticed that the skis of those skiing around me deteriorated significantly over time. At the beginning, I had no worse glide than those skiing on traditional classic skis with klister, but their klister started picking up dirt from the snow which accumulated throughout the course, making their glide even worse,” Igeltjoern says, adding that the skins were in great condition and practically dirt-free after the race.
Igeltjoern reports significantly better glide over the course of the race compared to those skiing on klister, and having kick (rather than going with no kick wax at all), he was able to stride on any up hill terrain, thus saving his arms and allowing him to hit the double-pole sections harder.
And when a master skier with a full-time job can push through the Vasaloppet in sub-five hours, less than an hour behind the overall elite winner, then the wax-less options are starting to look quite attractive.
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Madshus product developer Vidar Igeltjørn raced into 152nd place at Vasaloppet 2015. Photo: Geir Olsen/Madshus
The common denominator for all the skin ski models on the market, is that the base material in the kick zone has been swapped with a glued-on skin made from some sort of proprietary material mix.
The Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic stands out from the others in a couple of areas. For starters, the ski features a progressive skin, which is thicker in the middle and tapers towards the ends, just like you would normally apply kick wax. Furthermore, the skins are set down into the base, rather than attached onto the base, which reduces the weight of the ski significantly compared to its competitors.
The Terrasonic Intelligrip Classic weighs 1060 grams per pair (190cm), while the Rossignol R-Skin weighs 1200 grams per pair (183cm) and Salomon Equipe RC Skin weighs 1300 grams per pair. Fischer weighs 1190 grams per pair, while Atomic don’t list a weight for their skin ski models.
“We removed the base material in the kick zone, making the ski lighter, and the skin feels more like normal kick wax. That feeling is further enhanced by the progressive construction of the skin,” says Per Wiik, global marketing manager at Madshus.
“Madshus also uses a unique blend of mohair and nylon for the skins, which make them extremely durable and enhances the glide. Mohair also prevents the skins from icing up in the tricky conditions just above and below freezing,” Wiik adds.
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The progressive construction of the IntelliGrip skin (taller in the middle and tapered toward the tip and the tail) makes the skin feel more like traditional kick wax, which is layered thicker in the middle.
Easy maintenance: None
If the skins get dirty, you can clean them using regular base cleaner, just as you would with regular kick wax. Wipe the skins, brush them with a regular nylon brush, and the skis are ready to roll again.
If the skins get damaged or worn out after extensive use, they are easily replaced. They are attached with regular hot glue, so just heat gently with a heat gun, pull the skin off and replace with a new skin.
However, the skins are developed to handle several hundred hours of skiing, and even after two seasons with extensive use, Igeltjoern’s skins are still going strong.
What about the Zeros?
Zero-skis were introduced several years ago for the tricky conditions on either side of freezing. They come with a rubberized base material in the kick zone, which has to be sanded and fine-tuned to provide optimal grip and glide for the conditions of the day, and are generally slightly faster than the skin skis. That is important for those racing at the elite level.
But unlike the Zeros, the new skin skis work in a much wider range of temperatures and conditions, from cold and dry to wet and warm. And you don’t have to do a thing to them. For Igeltjoern, this translates to a lot more ski workouts during the week.
“The skin skis perform beyond expectations in almost all conditions,” says Igeltjoern, who has skied on the Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic for the past two seasons.
In his opinion, the skin skis do well in everything from cold powder snow to wet, saturated slush, but they really shine when conditions are icy, hard tracks at high humidity. However, when the mercury drops down into the blue and green wax range with cold, new and fluffy snow, Igeltjoern argues that traditional wax outperforms the skins. However, those are also the conditions that are the least tricky to wax for.
“But in cold conditions with firm tracks, the skin skis don’t have any problems,” he adds.
“I really believe the skin skis are a revolution for classic skiing. I’ve skied on them a lot the last two seasons, and I find that I grab the skin skis eight out of ten times, simply because they ski so well and are so easy to use,” Igeltjoern says.
Bottom line: Get yourself a pair. If you are buying an additional classic pair, the skin skis are the specialty skis that really could contribute to increase your training base. Simply because you probably will ski more. And that’s really what it’s all about.
The Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic lets you spend less time waxing and more time on the trails. Photo: Inge Scheve