Return to Madshus.com

Madshus News

Inside the factory: Testing

In the early summer, the Madshus test crew is working hard on perfecting products. Photo: Madshus
Test skis Sjusjøen April 2017 - Stefano Zatta 680x

How do we test our products, and what do we test? Take a trip with the Madshus test crew. Photo: Madshus

Making the best skis in the world is no coincidence. Before a product ships, there are years of research and development, testing and retesting. How do we test our products, and what do we test?

Take a trip with the Madshus test crew.

Right now, in the early summer, they are super busy getting everything lined up perfectly for the upcoming season. There is testing to be done with the top athletes in biathlon, cross-country, marathon and Nordic Combined, helping them dial in their equipment, as well as testing new models and products. Both of these processes provide invaluable feedback for the test crew and our product developers at the factory.

Story continues below

In the early summer, the Madshus test crew is working hard on perfecting products. Photo: Madshus

In the early summer, the Madshus test crew is working hard on perfecting products. Photo: Madshus

Close to the venues and the community
At Madshus, we are fortunate to have some of the worlds best test arenas and test labs right in our back yard. In April and May, we often do field tests at Sjusjøen and Beitostølen, known for great snow and skiing conditions well into May and accordingly favored locations for the national teams and elite skiers. Then we move to Sognefjellet along with the top skiers when the summer ski center opens there in June.

The Madshus service techs also work closely with the Norwegian national team’s wax techs. The idea is that the national wax teams have a chance to learn the properties of the skis and how to optimize each pair well in advance of the race season. Working side by side with the Madshus service crew, the wax techs have a walking, talking, live help desk on site, and a both sides can exchange experiences and test results, says Madshus service tech Peter Blom.

“The national team wax techs now have all the athletes’ skis for the upcoming season, and can test individually with the athletes. Also, with more time on snow, athletes who were missing race skis for certain conditions can work with us and their wax team to find a pair or two that will fill those holes,” Blom explains.

Story continues below

Madshus marathon racer Øystein Pettersen (NOR) works on his skis during a test camp at Sjusjøen this spring. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Madshus marathon racer Øystein Pettersen (NOR) works on his skis during a test camp at Sjusjøen this spring. Photo: Stefano Zatta

What do we test?
“For each product, we test a lot of different aspects,” says Bjørn Ivar Austrem, head of research and development at Madshus.

One example is how base materials are tested.

“We try a lot of different materials and finishes to determine which bases glide best and are the most dirt resistant in various snow conditions and temperatures. This requires a lot of field testing,” Austrem says.

Story continues below

Ski bases at the factory. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Ski bases at the Madshus factory are the result of years of testing. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Flexes, cambers and properties are other properties of the ski that require extensive testing.

“When we compare flexes, cambers and related properties, we collect data on what glides the best, but also what provides the best ski feel. We record how the skis behave and maneuver in different conditions, and what we can do to improve the skis,” he says, noting that all testing is a combination of working with the athletes and the product developers at the factory.

For each parameter, there is a lot of prep work to do before taking the product to the snow to test it out.

“There are a lot of aspects to test for each parameter, which is what makes proper testing so tricky. You have to make sure you are only testing and comparing one parameter at a time, otherwise you get lost in causes and effects,” Austrem explains.

“We have to be absolutely sure of which factors we are testing, and eliminating everything else,” he says.

Story continues below

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Two years to a new base
Going back to his base testing as an example, Austrem explains that they always start with the manufacturers to get as much information about the potential base products and their properties.

With this data on hand, Madshus manufactures a series of test skis, often with about 10 different bases, and go to work: Which of the bases glide better? This is more than just the downhill speed on a hill.

“You do a glide test. Then you stop, look at the bases, record what you see and experience. Then you ski some more and ski different terrains.”

Then they look at how the bases take to waxing, grooming and prep: How do the bases absorb products? Which are more durable?

Then they take all the field notes and the feedback to the office, compare this information with the lab and factory notes, and try to narrow down the options. When they have done that, they manufacture two or three prototypes. These skis are tested on several World Cup races, in different snow conditions and temperatures. During this field/competition testing the Madshus service techs collect data and feedback from the athletes on performance and feel. Finally, this data is analyzed and some are turned into new models.

“The process of developing new bases typically takes a year and a half to two years, from the initial contact with base material manufacturers, to a new base is shipped to retailers,” Austrem says.

This process is also similar to how Madshus will develop and test various specialty grinds.

Story continues below

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) during a test camp at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) during a test camp at Sognefjellet. Photo: Madshus

Changing environment
Climate change affects both the testing and the end product.

“We notice that the snow is getting a lot more difficult. We have a lot less of the classic Nordic conditions with cold, powdery and natural snow, and a lot more manmade snow. This is particularly tricky during large events such as championships where the skiers use the same venues for a couple of weeks in a row and often the longest loops are three to five kilometers. Toward the end of the event, that snow is completely transformed and dead, Austrem points out.

From idea to product

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

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

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.

Story continues below

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

Comparing feedback in the field. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

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.

Story continues below

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

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

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.

Story continues below

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

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

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

Summer Skiing: Ski Tunnels

Vuokatti (FIN) is home to the oldest ski tunnel in the world. Photo: Vuokatti.fi
Vuokatti (FIN) is home to the oldest ski tunnel in the world. Photo: Vuokatti.fi

Vuokatti (FIN) is home to the oldest ski tunnel in the world. Photo: Vuokatti.fi

Not everyone has access to glaciers, but there are other options for snow skiing in the summer.

There is nothing wrong with the ski tunnel in Torsby (SWE) or in Oberhof (GER), or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, the Torsby ski tunnel is one of Madshus standard test locations, a hangout for national teams, pro teams on the Ski Classics circuit, clubs and masters alike.

But there are other options. Vuokatti is well known to elite skiers, as the small town in east central Finland is host to the Finnish Ski Team training center and the FIS Scandinavian Cup, the race series that has been a stepping stone for racers aiming for the national teams and the World Cup. But while many skiers travel to Vuokatti in the winter, far fewer have experienced the town’s opportunities for dryland training.

As one of the Finnish national team training centers, Vuokatti offers state of the art opportunities for roller skiing, running and other dryland training methods, and a ski tunnel with 1.2-kilometers of groomed tracks and a fully equipped biathlon range. All of this is available in Torsby as well, but Vuokatti also offers indoor snowboarding with rails, jumps and other park features. The snowboarding section of the tunnel, which is 80 meters long and 20 meters wide, is also open to tubing and sledding. The Vuokatti ski tunnel was the first snow tunnel in the world, opening in 1998. The snowboarding department was added on in 2000.

Now that’s all great, but Vuokatti has a final trick up its sleeve: The Angry Birds Theme Park – an activity center with endless entertainment, a huge park with options for all ages and tastes. So if you’re planning a training camp and want convince the whole family to come along, this could be your secret weapon in gaining approval for the project.

Vuokatti (FIN) is known for reliable skiing conditions in the winter, great dryland training, a ski tunnel, and is home to the Finnish national teams. But Vuokatti also features the Angry Birds Theme Park. Photo: Vuokatti.fi

Vuokatti (FIN) is known for reliable skiing conditions in the winter, great dryland training, a ski tunnel, and is home to the Finnish national teams. But Vuokatti also features the Angry Birds Theme Park. Photo: Vuokatti.fi

Vuokatti, Finland.

Vuokatti, Finland.

ABOUT VUOKATTI
Where: The Sotkamo Region, east in Finland
Travel: Fly to Helsinki, then connect with domestic flight to Kajaani (roughly 1 hour) or take train/bus from Helsinki.

 

 

Dialing the Details

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) is happy to help out with equipment testing. Photo: Per Wiik/Madshus
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) is happy to help out with equipment testing. Photo: Per Wiik/Madshus

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR) is happy to help out with equipment testing. Photo: Per Wiik/Madshus

Every June, the Madshus service crew spends weeks on the snow at Sognefjellet (NOR) fine-tuning the gear for optimal performance.

This week, the Madshus service techs have worked with the Norwegian national cross-country team, next week the biathletes arrive. The idea is that the national wax teams have a chance to learn the properties of the skis and how to optimize each pair well in advance of the race season. Working side by side with the Madshus service crew, the wax techs have a walking help desk on site, and a both sides can exchange experiences and test results, says Madshus service tech Peter Blom.

“The national team wax techs now have all the athletes’ skis for the upcoming season, and can test individually with the athletes. Also, with more time on snow, athletes who were missing race skis for certain conditions can work with us and their wax team to find a pair or two that will fill those holes,” explains Blom.

“The plan was to test all the new wet snow and warm conditions skis, but with the weather weve had in the beginning of this week with full on winter blizzards, we could have brought the cold snow skis as well,” says Blom, adding that most of the cold snow skis will be tested in the fall, just prior to the 2015-16 World Cup season.

“We’re actually pretty lucky that we already completed a lot of the warm snow ski testing at Sjusjoen earlier this spring,” Blom says.

In addition to the Madshus ski techs, the athletes will also be able to adjust boot fitting at Sognefjellet. Jon Fewster, Madshus category manager for boots and poles, is on site to help with any fit or equipment issues pertaining his product categories.

The conditions at Sognefjellet this week have been much like mid-winter, despite the calendar showing June! Photo: Sognefjellet Sommerskisenter

The conditions at Sognefjellet this week have been much like mid-winter, despite the calendar showing June! Photo: Sognefjellet Sommerskisenter

 

Testing – testing!

Spring skiing at Beitostoelen. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus
Beitostoelen provided the perfect testing ground for upcoming products and fine-tuning. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Beitostoelen provided the perfect testing ground for upcoming products and fine-tuning. Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus

Madshus athletes and engineers are taking advantage of the late season snow to fine-tune the gear for the 2016 season and experiment with some brand new concept ideas.

Last week engineers from both the factory in Biri, Norway, and the K2 corporate headquarters in Seattle, USA, gathered at Beitostoelen in Norway to test all the new products in the ski, boots and poles categories.

“It’s been a fantastic week at Beito. We’ve had a chance to test in all kinds of conditions. In the beginning of the week, we had a lot of wind and some snow, but by the end of the week it was spectacularly sunny and amazing,” says Stefano Zatta, who works on graphics and layout at the Madshus factory in Biri.

Lead ski engineer Bjoern Ivar Austrem, boot engineer John Svensson and category manager for boots and poles Jon Fewster met with World Cup racers such as Noah Hoffman from the USA, Paal Golberg and Simen Sveen from Norway as well as legendary veteran Thomas Alsgaard, who now owns and manages his own racing project Team LeaseplanGO with racers competing both on the marathon circuit as well as in the traditional cross-country events. The crew tested relentlessly for hours every day, making notes and tweaks to perfect every product on all performance levels and in all categories, from touring and backcountry to World Cup. Stay tuned!

“Most of the gear we tested was products that will be for retail sale in the fall of 2016, but we have also put some of the concept products and designs on the snow this week. The concept products are designs that we are just testing to see if they even work. Some of them will be amazing, and some will never make it to standard production,” Zatta explains, adding that even the marketing and graphic design crew joined the testing.

“We had marketing and strategy meetings in the morning, but almost all of us took advantage of the opportunity to ski with the athletes after the meetings. It was really fun to ski next to some of the top racers in the world,” says Zatta.

Email Sign Up

Keep up to date on the latest contests and events!