We’ve just wrapped up an early season visit with Jean-Marc Draeyer, and the famous ski-farmer Willi Engelhardt (https://youtu.be/NZZ_Q0bNlQk) at Salomon’s factory in Altenmarkt. We selected a handful of skis for our 2018 order, but mostly we spent a bunch of time going over the new inventory – in particular, learning the parameters and variation in production for the new yellow-model skate ski. In addition to the new materials and camber, Salomon has updated their measurement system for quantifying the camber and flex characteristics of the new skate skis. This new measurement system is quite comparable to the system they introduced in recent years for their classic skis, and it is quite comprehensive, with over 20 different values measured to describe each individual ski. The chart that Jean-Marc is holding in the photo above is a quality control report showing the measured values of each ski in a production series. The skis are paired to within tight acceptable tolerances in each of the measured values. Measuring skis precisely does not equate to making them well; if you make a crappy ski and measure it really precisely, then you just get a precisely measured crappy ski. But we know that the designs are really good, and the measurement system helps to ensure that the quality control in production matches the quality of the design.
Back in April when I previewed the new model, I wrote the following:
“I think this material change will accomplish a couple of things for Salomon right up front. First, it will make their production much more consistent. With less reliance on the camber to provide strength, the variations in camber during production will have less of an effect on the characteristics of the skis.”
I actually wrote a whole lot more than that, and the quote itself doesn’t tell the whole story. But that’s not the point. The point is – I was right. It’s a rare enough thing that I’m going to crow about it just a little bit. In the picture to the right, Jean-Marc is showing us the cover sheet of the quality control report from above. That pie chart shows the ski pairs in four different categories – “green” (good in all parameters), “orange” (a bit off, but still acceptable), “red” (something parameter, relationship of parameters, or pairing factor is out of range), and finally, “No Pair”. In this production, 82% of the skis were “green”. That’s very, very good, and it’s a big step from their previous designs, where they were often dealing with much bigger challenges.
It’s interesting to note that Salomon still has some of the widest variation in their production of any of the companies that we work with. The yellow skate ski productions that we’ve been looking at have cambers suitable for all different conditions. But the number of undesirable skis in the new construction is far, far lower than we’ve seen in the past. This is good news for us, of course. But it’s even better news for shops that don’t travel to Europe to select their inventory, or don’t know what to watch out for to differentiate quality. We’re all going to see a lot more good Salomon skis on the snow next winter!
We’ll be back here at the end of the summer to finalize our selections. We could have done a lot more “work” during our visit, and maybe less of what Amy calls “geeking out”, which is what I’m apparently doing in the photo to the right. But being a ski nerd takes a lot of work, and some really deep thought. We’ve got the summer to ponder and process what we’ve learned, and review the skis we’ve had on the snow in light of what we’ve seen in new production. By the time we return we’ll be in great shape to utilize all those measured values to find exactly what we want.