R&D: Great skis are made in the summer

R&D: Great skis are made in the summer

Why travel across the planet to test skis when the ski tunnel is only a few hours away by car?

Testing skis at Snow Farm in New Zealand this summer. Photo: Madshus

Catch up with the Madshus product development crew about their recent test trip to New Zealand. Connor Green and Svein Ivar Moen, who are two of the lead ski developers, explain how they test and what they are finding.

– What are you testing right now? 
We are isolating the various parameters that make up a ski, such as materials, laminate structures, camber concepts, and a few other secret things, and looking into how we can optimize each of these variables. So we are not testing multiple series of production skis looking for the ones that are slightly better due to natural variation, but rather testing specific, physical changes to help guide future design decisions.

– How do you go about collecting accurate data on this?
The test methods we use are entirely dependent on the information we wish to receive. For example, when testing something like base material, we are primarily interested in ski speed while gliding. Here we will often use repeated timed runs over a specific section of track. Other things, like camber, require more qualitative feedback, which often involves skiing intervals at race pace and then providing a rating for different characteristics such as stability, glide feeling, and so on. This is where it is important to have a tester or athlete who can clearly articulate what they’re feeling, and who is also able to play around with small adjustments in technique to get the most out of the prototype they’re currently testing. There are other tests that we run, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how we go about designing a test program to provide the desired data for each group of prototypes.

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Testing skis is a rigorous process that fortunately includes lots and lots of skiing, which is what we are passionate about here at Madshus. Photo: Madshus

– Why do you travel across the planet to test when there is consistent snow year-round in the ski tunnel only a few hours away?
Ski tunnels are fabulous for testing many different things during the summer, but they have their limitations. They’re limited in terrain and snow type, and the conditions in the tunnels are not always representative of what the skier race in out on the World Cup and in the regions where most people ski. Making design decisions to optimize skis based on tunnel testing alone could lead down a suboptimal development path, and it is therefore critical that we are able to test in the most representative conditions possible.

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Grooming and conditions at Snow Farm in New Zealand is impeccable, making the ski area an ideal destination for testing in the southern hemisphere. Photo: Madshus

– What makes New Zealand so great for testing – compared to Patagonia or other places in the southern hemisphere? 
National teams have been hosting training camps at the Snow Farm in New Zealand for many years, so for Madshus it was a logical choice. We knew people who had been there before, and they all assured us that the facilities were top notch and could facilitate meaningful testing. It would be a shame to travel halfway around the world to find out that the skiing infrastructure and grooming weren’t high enough quality and none of the tests would be representative. So while there may be other fantastic options elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, the Snow Farm provided a high level of security that we would get trustworthy, actionable information from testing.

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Testing starts early and ends late, but Svein Ivar Moen has a smile on his face the whole day. Photo: Madshus

– When will we see these skis/this technology in skis at our local retailers?  
All the different technologies we tested have different timelines to production, so it’s therefore difficult to pinpoint an exact date. Some things, such as camber, are constantly being tweaked, refined and improved, and skis in shops this winter will certainly benefit from the information collected during this testing camp. More physical changes, such as materials or geometry, require longer lead times and a higher level of certainty before they make their way into full-scale production. We know that our product is very good now, so we want to be certain that any changes we make are moving us in the right direction.

Connor Green is certain that some of the test results will end up in products that are headed to retailers this season. Photo: Madshus