Hans Hubinger - "Hubi" - the most important guy at Fischer (when it comes to ski design)
Hans Hubinger – “Hubi” – the most important guy at Fischer (when it comes to ski design)

With the introduction of the Speedmax model Fischer has taken another step toward optimal control in their production environment. We have worked with the new skis for several years in their pre-production racing incarnation, and have made a thorough explanation of the new technology here. After our June trip to Austria to visit the factory we will revise the content and product descriptions on this page. For now, the old content below is just as valid as it ever has been.

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A matter of control
Year after year, Fischer skis dominate podiums and sales figures worldwide. The FIS World Cup brand ranking list shown on the left paints a stark picture of domination, and it is roughly reflected in sales figures worldwide. Other brands are quick to point out that Fischer “buys” so many athletes that it’s really hard to compete. But many of those athletes take less money from Fischer than they could get from other brands in order to ski on Fischer skis. What gives? Are Fischer skis really that much better?

In the end, it comes down to a matter of control and support. Just like retail customers, elite racers need to know that what they are getting is going to work, and Fischer has consistently, for decades, been able to provide that assurance. You may hear stories of World Cup skiers testing hundreds of pairs of skis in order to find a few good race skis. Well, behind each of those stories is a frustrated and infuriated service technician. Nobody wants to have to work that hard to be competitive, and most of those stories are coming from skiers who are not working with Fischer skis!

Michael Grosseger – Fischer Biathlon Race Service Director. When I called him about visiting in Ramsau last June, he said “Perfect! I will make all arrangements! I have control!!”

The Fischer racing department is a small team of guys who work closely together to maintain control. You spend a little time with these guys, and the word “control” is going to surface in the conversation with surprising frequency. The idea of control is built into their team culture and lexicon.

Control of an entire system of production and delivery has deep implications. It starts with perfect understanding of materials and design. Fischer has been working with the same basic core materials and laminations since they introduced the air core in the early 80s. They continually test new ideas and materials, but are quick to acknowledge that they are unable to reproduce the feeling of Fischer skis without using wood in the core.

Control of production is the next major concern. Skis are assembled by hand, and then formed in a press under high heat. The rate of heating and cooling in the press is critical in determining the result. This area is the biggest challenge for Fischer, and the development department engineers are always looking for ways to improve the process to make it more predictable.

Control of post-production processes is equally critical. Skis are produced individually, and then need to be paired up, and finished on the grinding line. The pairing process is automated and robotic. Seven different flex and shape parameters are assessed, and the pairing system can store hundreds of skis at a time, until it finds a match on all seven parameters. I’ve watched this machine in action, and the impressive thing is that it is seldom holding more than about a dozen skis at a time. This is a reflection of the consistency of the production.

Grinding is the other post-production area where control is essential. All companies have a racing department grinding service that makes grinds, by hand, for use on the World Cup. But all companies also have an automated grinding line that finishes all production skis. Fischer has invested a huge amount in controlling the temperature of their grinding water, and the finished quality of their grinds. An automated assembly line cannot produce the same quality as hand work where every ski is visually inspected at every stage of the process, but Fischer is actually producing race quality grinds on their automated line. Kris Freeman raced a World Cup skate race in Kuusamo last December on a production-line grind.

To close the loop on the design and production process you need to have control over testing, feedback and development. At every World Cup event I have ever been to the Fischer racing service guys are out testing their skis for their own information. They’re testing constructions, base materials and grinds, continually, at venues all over the place (mostly in Europe). This testing, and feedback from teams and athletes, keeps them on top of their understanding of their product, and drives the development process in the continual quest for improvement.

A matter of execution
With control of all elements, Fischer is able to consistently show up at the races with a lean inventory of skis that can be put into a race immediately. In the past two years, at the Olympics and the World Championships, it has been remarkable how many brand new skis we’ve seen in races, on top level racers. Fischer consistently delivers top quality products, where they’re needed and when they’re needed.