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Inside the Factory: Skin skis are coming to the World Cup

World Cup skiers testing Redline Intelligrip skin skis prior to the Lillehammer World Cup in December. Photo: Stefano Zatta

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 Reline Intelligrip skis at the Lillehammer World Cup in December. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Heidi Weng with her Redline Intelligrip skis at the Lillehammer World Cup in December. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Amazing progress
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.

Related: Behind the scenes: A passion for innovation

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The new MOVE bindings allow the skier to move the binding forward and backward on the NIS plate without taking the skis off. Photo: Stefano Zatta

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

Svein Ivar Moen (far left) discussing test results with fellow Madshus product developers. Photo: Stefano Zatta

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.”

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