Because, really, why wouldn’t I come up with a new grand unification theory just when everybody has gotten accustomed to the old way of thinking? In order to keep things interesting, I’ve been developing a new color-based system to describe conditions, and categorize skis and grinds. As always, the goal is to make the system simple without making it stupid.
In the past I have discouraged people from using temperature and humidity to describe snow conditions because these variables often fail to describe the way the snow acts. Instead I focused on crystal type and moisture content to get a step closer to the factors that really matter. However, this is still a multi-variable arrangement (inherently complex), and it still fails to accurately describe the behavior of the snow.
This new system will look familiar. Pretty much every wax company ever has used colors to designate waxes for different conditions, and Magnar Dalen has categorized skis using colors. With apologies to Magnar and all those wax companies, I’m borrowing an elegant idea.
The idea of snow behaving is a little odd, but we all understand that different snow does different things when we play with it. For instance, if you try to make a snowball, your success will vary depending on the type of snow you’re working with. Likewise, as you ski on the snow, it responds in different ways depending on its characteristics. In essence we’re talking about the response of the snow to energy input – solar energy, wind energy, or the work applied to the snow by grooming it or skiing on it. Each of the categories I have identified describes a type of response to energy input. It’s a little hard to understand at first, but once you’ve thought about it, you’ll realize that you’re totally familiar with all of these types of conditions.
The various conditions I’ve identified demand various different qualities from skis. Part of the elegance of this system is that I can categorize skis by color. This is a bit of a trick because a “green” ski from Fischer might look quite different from a “green” ski from Madshus, depending on the specifics of the materials and design. Categorizing skis depends heavily on experience with the product lines. Experience is one thing I’ve got quite a lot of, working with a wide variety of high level athletes (with large ski fleets) on ski selection and grinding. In my experience, the range of conditions in which a given ski excels generally corresponds to one of the categories that I’ve identified.
In the past I have worked on broad-range solutions with my grind designs. For example, ZR1 or CV0 are both grinds that work well in almost all snow types from just below freezing down to below-legal race temperatures. This remains a valuable and viable approach to grinds, but it doesn’t get the job done at a World Cup level. ZR1 and CV0 have seen only one or two World Cup starts between them. The grinds that can compete, and even provide an advantage at a World Cup level also need to have broad ranges, but they do tend to be more specialized to a certain type of energy response. The color-scheme break-down corresponds really well to the ranges of my most competitive World Cup grinds.
You can probably see where this is going. With both skis and grinds subject to relatively simple categorization by specific condition, choosing grinds and managing fleets becomes considerably simplified. As always, simplicity is a major asset. A simple system that can work at the highest levels of competition is the major goal, and I think we’re close to that goal with this system.
Please check-out the description of the different snow conditions by visiting the about snow page.