Testing skis is a science

Testing skis is a science
Peter Blom testing skis at Sjusjøen in April. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Testing skis is both a rigorous science and a labor of love. Photo: Stefano Zatta

At Madshus, we take perfect skis very seriously.

From idea to product to retailer is a process that includes rigorous testing by engineers and product developer, our World Cup athletes, service techs and the best suppliers in the industry, making sure every detail is solid. But what goes into that process.

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, explains Madshus service tech Peter Blom.

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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

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.

For instance, flexes, cambers and other properties of the ski 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 even 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.

Read more:
From Idea to Product
Behind the scenes: A passion for innovation

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Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com
Bjørn Ivar Austrem Photo: Stefano Zatta/Madshus.com

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.