Late Summer Ski Selection Teaser

We’re off to Quebec this weekend for a last-blast of summer fun, watching mountain bike World Champs. But fall is upon us; we’ve already cranked up the grinding apparatus in the shop, and in a week we’re headed back to Europe to wrap up our ski selection for the season. So this is a reminder to anybody who wants to get on our list to have skis selected from the widest inventory selection possible… now is the time to get in touch!

As a reminder, please review our springtime review/preview articles here:

http://www.caldwellsport.com/2019/03/fischer-reviewpreview-speedmax-3d/

http://www.caldwellsport.com/2019/04/salomon-reviewpreview-new-classic-design/

http://www.caldwellsport.com/2019/04/madshus-redline-2-0-review-preview/

And finally, if you haven’t already studied it, please take a look at our E-Z buyer’s guide to skis. It’s our attempt to relate specific brands and models to the type of on-snow characteristics that really matter to you. Our friend Marshall Peterson has told us that he thinks it’s the “best article you’ve ever written”. So there’s that…

http://www.caldwellsport.com/2019/05/e-z-buyers-guide/

The buyer’s guide has a link to a ski request form. But you’re also welcome to simply email us. For a long-winded explanation of everything, send a note to zc@caldwellsport.com. And for many fewer words, and more understandable information, contact ac@caldwellsport.com.

Since we wrote all of those articles this spring, we’ve had a chance to get our hands on some of the new material for next season. In fact, we’ve already started unpacking the new Fischer material from our spring ski selection. So we can update you on some of the specifics of what we’re seeing.

Fischer

As I explained at length in the spring preview article, the big changes to Fischer skis this year are material changes to the sidewall and the removal of the screw-retention material from the core. We normally have a really good idea of what material changes we’re going to see when we start working with new Fischer models, and indeed, the new skis are as advertised, and discussed. More specifically, we don’t consider this to be a “new model” or “new construction” in the way that Carbonlite was a change from RCS, and Speedmax was a change from Carbonlite. The 3D skis are a more incremental adjustment to the same basic construction. The larger question is always the subtlety of the camber in the specific production that we’re working with. So far we’re very satisfied that the new production will work like we’ve come to expect.

Skate

Fischer3DThe pre-production 3D skate skis that we started testing last winter were notably higher in their resting camber than what we’re accustomed to working with from the past several seasons, and I had some concern that we’d need to be looking at these skis in a different way. I didn’t make a big deal out of it in our preview, because the early production samples are not a reliable guide. As it turns out, the skis we saw in the broader production this spring were very familiar looking. For reference, during last winter we tested early production skate skis with resting cambers in the range of 23-25mm, while the skis we selected in the spring for the coming season were in the familiar range of 16-17mm at the low end, and 20-22mm at the high end.

This is reassuring for us, since it reinforces our confidence in what we already know about how to work with Fischer skis. So we’re happy about that, and are looking forward to continuing to build-out our inventory and fill requests according to our normal procedures.

Classic

There weren’t many classic skis produced when we reviewed inventory this spring, so we’ve got a fair amount of work do on that front. Our current pick list has 52.5% classic skis on it, which I find interesting. I’m quite confident that far more Speedmax skate skis are sold in the US market than classic skis. Maybe this ordering pattern is a reflection of our customer base – which has a lot of dedicated racers who split time between classic and skate pretty evenly. Or maybe people just realize that we’re amazing at picking classic skis. Come to think of, it’s probably that second one. Seems likely.

At any rate, we continue to have a lot of confidence in the 9Q2 camber for all-around use as well as klister. In the past several seasons the finishing hardness on the 9Q2 has crept upward, nudging that model toward a slightly more specific range that includes higher moisture and thicker wax jobs. At the same time, the 8Q2 has evolved to carry enough residual camber to be reliably fast in most hardwax conditions, and we’ve been slowly starting to favor that a bit more in dedicated cold conditions. We still like the camber shape under the foot in the 9Q2, which provides a quicker and more digital feeling access to the kick. The 8Q2 skis persist in having a somewhat higher resting camber and more continuous positive camber behind the foot. So we’re still generally in the 9Q2 hardwax ski camp by personal preference. But the 8Q2 models are really good, and should absolutely be considered for multi-pair fleets.

Madshus

I covered our experience with the new Redline 2.0 skis last year at great length in our spring review/preview article. Anytime a brand-new construction comes out we expect to go through a learning period and break-in period. My spring review was both very positive, and quite plainly critical of the areas where we see room for improvement. When we visited Norway in May we grabbed a day up in Sognefjell with Bjorn Ivar and Connor – the development guys – testing some really new ideas that may find their way to production eventually. But we also got a chance to experience the new production of 2.0 skis, and there are some adjustments.

Skate

One of the comments I made in the spring was that we might have aimed a bit low with some of the end-flex values on the skis that we selected. This underscores a really big issue with skate ski flex measurements in general: end-flex values (or FA from Fischer, or MF from Salomon) are generally a terrible guide for “ski fit”. None of these skate skis are designed to ever close all the way, and generally they’re so stiff in the final few tenths of a mm (where they’re not designed to be loaded by a skier) that the measured “flex” value can vary wildly with a small camber or layup adjustment. For last year, as always, we picked skis using our hands, and our experience on prototype materials, but also leaning a bit on our previous experience with Madshus products and some familiar numeric values. Our winter testing experience on-snow indicated that we could have asked for more from some of the skis that we picked on the soft end of the spectrum.

The challenge here is that in most cases (in all brands) skis that are way too stiff are worse than skis that are way too soft. When the camber is under-expressed, it puts too much load and tension on thin material that is poorly suited to handle the task, and the skis tend to be quite bitey in their snow-touch, as well as being prone to drain energy out of your legs. So there is good reason to be a bit gun-shy regarding end-flex values. The interesting thing about these Madshus Redline 2.0 skis is that the chassis seems very accessible, even at very high end-flex values. I never got on a pair of these skis last year that felt “too stiff”, or where I felt that the camber was difficult to express. There were times when I felt that my gimpy leg had me hanging off the back of the F2 camber, while the F3 felt really good. But that was a bridge position and load distribution issue – not a factor of end flex strength.

fullsizeoutput_16dSo it was interesting, come May, to find a bunch of considerably higher flex values in the new production. The Madshus development guys have been working hard on a variety of ideas, and learning a lot of interesting things for the future. But they also suggested that there has been an inline adjustment to support more elastic response. When we got on the new skis in Sognefjell we found that the snow-touch and accessibility was about the same as before, but the new skis seemed to “levitate” under peak loading, and the high-end acceleration was remarkable.

Madshus has also taken the step of removing the measured end-flex from the NIS plate, where they have printed it for the past couple of seasons. This is in order to encourage shops and customers to test the skis based on the prescribed weight ranges rather than based on measured end flex. Of course, people can still measure the end flex of the skis, and they might be surprised by the high values. But they should ski them on snow before they make up their minds about anything. My feeling is that these skis are both well mannered under passive loading, and very fast and rewarding under dynamic loading.

Back around 2011-12, I put our good friend and longtime testing collaborator Mike Wynn on a pair of 190cm Madshus 118 model skis from the race department HUC construction. It was a strong pair with a high resting camber, very much like the ski that Noah Hoffman had used with really good success in the 2011 World Championship 50km (and also the 2013 World Championship 15km). Since then it’s been nearly impossible to find a similar level of dynamic response and elasticity out of any model from any brand, and Mike has made sure to let us know, every year, that “this new stuff is pretty good, but not like my old HUC blue skis “. Wynnie had better brace himself. These new 2.0s are going to blow his mind.

One other change worth mentioning is confirmation that the extremely low tip that we saw on some of last year’s production has been adjusted toward a more normal level of curvature. It’s still a low-profile tip with quite a pronounced javelin profile. But it looks a bit less like a weapon than some of last year’s skis did.

Classic

IMG_7696 2Unlike the skate material, the classic skis we saw and selected in May are very much the same as what we worked with and really loved last winter. I’ve documented the evolution of this model extensively in the past. The classic 2.0 skis were actually developed before the skate skis, and have been a “finished” product for two full winter seasons of testing and racing. If there is any problem with these skis, it’s the same problem that almost every brand faces – how to balance the pocket camber that actually works best with the pocket camber that everybody wants to see when they measure the skis.

I’m talking about cold skis here, and the problem is that even though the racing world has embraced some residual camber shape in the pocket under full weight for at least 15 years, the traditional concept of a cold classic skis includes a flat finish on the pocket. A flat finish is slow. It just is. You have to work with residual camber shape (a section of pocket that stays open in front of the foot when the pocket is fully compressed under the ball of the foot) to find fast skis. And what’s even crazier is that, for a variety of relatively simple reasons, the flat pockets don’t even kick well in most conditions. We have found quite a few cold model Madshus skis that have much too flat a finish in the pocket. But we know what we’re looking for, and we’re really good with classic skis (I might have mentioned that). So don’t worry.

Thermal Issues?

Madshus has a long-time (and well earned) reputation for being thermally delicate, and for ending up with base deformation very easily. We’ve addressed this a number of times in the past, and are careful to brief all of our Madshus customers with good supporting information on appropriate care and waxing practice. In general, we don’t see this as an issue that should prevent anybody from considering Madshus. Now that we’re into year-two with the Redline 2.0 models, we’re starting to regrind last year’s skis that have been out in the trenches for a full season. What we’re finding is that the year-old skis are holding up well, with very little deformation. We still see issues with older skis. Any older Nanosonic, or first generation Redline, will absolutely require metal scraping in order to get it flat. The same is true of any Carbonlite or RCS model. But the newer models from all brands are showing really good stability.

Salomon

Salomon is the one brand we didn’t get our hands on for selection this spring. We’ll be heading there the week after next, and I will plan to hit hard and fast with our impressions of those skis as soon as we have them in front of us. So keep tuned!

 

 

 

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