Whoa! Everything has changed with the introduction of the REDline skis. Well, not everything. The product descriptions below are still worth ready, but we’ll be updating everything after our June trip to visit the factory in Biri. For now, read specifics about the REDline skis here. The general information contained in the product reviews below still paints the picture of the direction that Madshus has chosen for their various models, and the chart remains accurate if you simply transpose the old Nanosonic models to the equivalent REDline models. But everything has evolved and improved, and we’ll have to rewrite all of this with a new round of superlatives.
Madshus Skate Skis
Hard Pack Universal Dry. Make no mistake – the 118 model is not a specific hard pack ski whatever the marketing says. The 118 is the standard cold snow construction for high level racing. The 118 has a moderate-high resting camber, and a moderate stiff finishing flex. It took a little while to dial-in the construction after the introduction of the new topsheet shape to World Cup racers during the ’09-’10 season. During the spring of 2010 they changed some of the laminations, and found what they were looking for.
The 118 is a ski built for moving on. They’re considerably more slippery feeling than the previous 186 model, but like the 186, they’re at their best when you’re on edge and moving. They build speed from stride to stride better than any other ski I’ve been on, and are a great platform for active skiing. My feeling is that about 40-50% of the skiers out there are Madshus skiers and don’t realize it.
The 118 feels notably different than most other skis out there. The balance point and mounting position is quite far forward on the ski, which results in a high forebody load. The forebody materials can carry a fair amount of tension, and you do tend to feel both the tension and the load. Compared with, say, a Fischer, the front end of the 118 feels, for lack of a better word, draggy. This is much more perception than actual running speed, and when you put the skis into motion they produce really good average speed. In December last season I ran a test with a pair of 118s, and a pair of Rossignol WCS2s that I really liked the feel of. The Rossis felt much greasier, but the Madshus had a certain special something that the Rossis didn’t have. I skied four five K loops, alternating between the Rossis and the Madshus, and recording heart rate and GPS data. On average I skied 45 seconds faster on the Madshus, with a slightly higher heart rate than on the Rossis, but with less fatigue in my legs. While the data from the test didn’t clearly support one ski over another, my feeling after the experience was that I was a better skier on the Madshus. Certain materials and designs support certain skiers, and finding the right platform is a big part of finding the right skis. If you want a ski that will teach you about the quality of your movement, consider the 118.
Soft Conditions Universal Wet. Another misnomer – the 119 ski is great in a wide range of transformed snow and high moisture conditions. Compared with the 118, the 119 has a lower resting camber, and a stiffer finishing flex. The materials under the back of the foot actually appear to be a little softer than those on the 118, which means that they compress more quickly, providing a shorter lever and therefor a stiffer response. This characteristic also puts a greater proportion of the load on the rear of the ski, lightening the front-end feeling quite a lot. When we pick them for cold conditions, the 119 can provide a more slippery feeling, but it lacks the energy and action that makes the 118 such a great ski. In my opinion, the 119 is best in conditions where a shorter and more focused pressure distribution is necessary. That is mostly in the high moisture found in red and yellow conditions.
Madshus Classic Skis
102 – Cold. In the past two years Madshus has really hit a sweet spot with this ski. It hasn’t come without some experimentation. In the past decade, the skis started really strong, and quite tapered, with a pocket that was hard to kick, but prone to slowing down with too much wax. Then they got really soft finishing, which meant that they had to be fit really high, and were so active they required real precision timing to ski easily. Then the materials at the back of the pocket were strengthed, providing a good balance of strength and action, but the pocket had so much residual camber that kick was an issue. Last year the balance of all the factors – strength, action and shape – made the 102 a really great ski to work with.
The 102 has one of the longest wax pockets available, running from all the way under the heel to around 35cm in front of the balance point. Running speed on the skis is excellent. This is an easy ski to recommend both for high end performance and for ease of use. Very light forebody tension and a bit of tail splay give the 102 the capacity to run well up into the range of red conditions, provided sufficient pocket strength to handle softer waxes.
103 – Wet. Last year there were actually two 103 model skis in circulation, as Madshus introduced a new ski to the production part way through the spring. The old ski was built to deal with klister conditions by utilizing the shape of the pocket. A relatively low but strong pocket with quite a lot of residual camber provides a great ski in wetter and softer conditions. The newer version of the klister ski is a model that we tested on snow at Sognefjell last June, and just loved, especially in the harder conditions at the start of the day. This one has a little less tip and tail splay, and a much higher and stronger finishing pocket, with the high point back under the foot and a very flat close. You have to ski on this model a little differently, standing just a little longer than you expect on the ski, and then kicking in a really relaxed way, rather than trying to “snatch” the kick when your foot is out front. I love this new ski in hard tracks and colder conditions. In the chart above Violet conditions can be covered by either the 102 or the 103 model. That recommendation is based on this new 103 design, which can be picked a little bit low for colder conditions, and can even work well in hardwax.