On Saturday Amy and I will return to Europe for our second ski selection trip of the year, and we’ll spend a week in Norway where we’ll be working with the first full production of Madshus Redline 2.0 skis. The Redline 2.0 model is coming for the 2018-19 season in a limited release. The standard Redline models are still being produced for the broad market and will fill the needs of most retailers and skiers. But the Madshus race department is now fully invested in the 2.0 model, and that’s what will be distributed through racing channels.
Project Objective – Broad Range Solutions
The Redline 2.0 models have evolved out of a process of evaluating weaknesses, and striving toward broad range solutions. Specifically, the Madshus race team has felt that they needed better skis for softer and slower conditions, and more reliable broad-range performance from their race models. Madshus has produced great skis for all conditions, but many of their skis have had narrow ranges of optimal conditions, with evident liabilities outside of their optimal range.
One (New) Base Material
One of the most notable changes to the line-up is the introduction of a brand new base material. This material comes from a new supplier; a large company with excellent quality control and very consistent production, but very little presence in the ski industry. The new base was first tested as a wet base, and it’s performance in wet (and especially dirty) conditions has surpassed anything that Madshus has tested in the past, including their clear-base options. The bigger surprise has been that the same material has won tests down to -20C, all over the world, with near-perfect consistency. A single universal base material that is best in all conditions is a bit of a holy-grail, so Madshus is understandably excited.
Two Classic Models & Two Skate Models
Redline 2.0 Classic skis will be offered in the following models:
K1 Cold for specific hardwax conditions. These skis have a long and low wax pocket with long and low residual camber, low release angles, long contact areas, and long, low tip and tail splay.
K2 Plus for universal plus conditions, binder, soft hardwax, and klisters conditions. These skis have a higher camber arch in the pocket, with more residual camber, steeper release angles, and shorter contact areas.
For specific race applications there is also a K3 model within the race department; a dedicated klister ski with a shorter and higher pocket, for soft and breaking klister conditions.
What’s new? The Redline 2.0 classic models have a new geometry, with a straighter sidecut than the previous model. The new skis are wider in the pocket, under foot, and the widest point of the shovel has been repositioned to complement a new thickness profile. Following a couple of seasons of testing with added laminations, the thickness of the thin materials in the tip and tail have been increased to provide better floatation in soft conditions. The 2.0 models still consolidate most of the strength of the carrying capacity in the pocket, which means that they sit-down in the track quickly, and provide consistent and reliable access to kick with a clear differentiation between kick and glide.
Redline 2.0 Skate skis will be offered in the following models:
F2 for harder tracks and higher speeds. These skis have a moderately high resting camber and a long bridge, providing an elastic and energetic response to active skiing, and optimal stability and speed in hard tracks and at high speeds.
F3 for softer tracks and lower speeds. These skis have a lower resting camber and a shorter bridge. The offer a more “slippery” feeling under foot, and good low-speed performance. They also have higher contact angles.
There is also an F1 model in development by the race department for specific race application. This is intended to be a higher-camber model than the F2, and we anticipate that it will have limited application.
What’s New? The new skate models are visibly very different from previous Redline skate skis – most notably because the distinctively round tip-profile has been traded for an aggressive-looking dagger-tip. The new tip profile is an extension of a reconfigured sidecut in the forebody, which has a distinctive javelin from the wide-point forward. The thickness profile of the skis has also been extensively reworked, and like the classic skis, the thin materials at the tip and tail have been thickened to provide better floatation. The new geometry has been complemented with entirely new camber configurations aimed at very specific contact-area specifications and release angles.
What about “Cold” and “Plus” models? Because of the broad range base material, Madshus has dispensed with the cold/plus differentiation. Both the F2 and F3 models have very broad range performance profile and can operate well throughout the temperature range. They are differentiated more clearly by the track conditions that they address. Like with all brands and models, skis within the F2 and F3 model ranges can be selected for more specifically cold or warm conditions, and can be ground to complement and enhance the strengths of their specific camber characteristics.
Up to now, Madshus has remained the only ski company with “traditional” length designations at round 5cm increments; 180, 185, 190, 195. This has been changed, and the change reflects a consolidation of lengths. That 180-195 series of four skate lengths is now 182, 187, 192. In the classic models, 195, 200, 205, 210 have become 197, 202, 207. Presumable these new lengths will be complemented by shorter skis but we’re not sure when that will happen or how short those lengths will go.
You’ve probably heard about the MOVE binding from Rottefella – that’s the one with the knob up front allowing you to reposition the binding fore-aft on the skis without taking your foot out of the binding. The MOVE system requires a new style of plate bonded onto the ski. The new plate is compatible with both the regular NIS bindings, and with the MOVE system. And all the new skis are being manufactured with the MOVE binding plate. Some of our selections from the spring trip have normal NIS plates, because that adjustment hadn’t been made in race production yet. But going forward, the MOVE plate will be the standard. We haven’t tested the MOVE binding on anything aside from skin skis, and we don’t anticipate it being widely used in racing. But given the capability to play with it, we may give it a shot. Even on waxable classic skis, one could envision a benefit to bringing the bindings way back off the pocket for sustained downhills in the tracks. In the meantime, there is no downside to the MOVE plate instead of the NIS plate, aside from the requirement of a clear plastic insert to use with the Xcelerator bindings (as shown in the photo).
Back Story Review and Outlook
(Amy says this next part is “nerdy” so you can skip it if you want, but you should read the conclusion because she says that’s important).
We’re written a couple of different articles tracking the development of these skis over the past two seasons. You can review those here:
There are a lot of words in there, but it boils down to a simple story. The classic ski adjustments came easily, based on testing skis that utilized laminations to model varied stiffness profiles. These adjustments were then built into the thickness profile of a new model, and the testing was immediately positive. So the Redline 2.0 classic ski has essentially been a finished product for over a year, and has a full race season of proof behind it.
The skate models have undergone a more comprehensive redesign, and extensive testing has been done on a wide range of cambers and geometries, including sidecut profiles. Along the way Madshus has produced at least three entirely new molds to land at their current design, and the progression has been steady. The first round of new molds produced promising but unsatisfactory skis. The second round is what was distributed for race testing last season, and it saw considerable World Cup and Olympic success. But it was not difficult to identify gaps in the performance profile and snow-touch of the skis.
At the conclusion of our testing last season we were very satisfied with the performance of the new model when it was good, and hopeful that the F1 model they had been working on would fill the gap. Our plan was to pick 2.0 model skis where we knew they would be good, and to continue testing new stuff, but focus on selling original Redline model skis for the conditions where we were uncertain about the 2.0.
But then we tried the final, production version. The Madshus testing team had seen the same problems with the skis that we saw, and the identified a need for an addition adjustment to the thickness profile of the model. The previous design was intended to provide very strong bridge integrity, with a limited amount of rearward migration under load of the contact point at the front of the bridge. This is a quality that they correlated strongly with good performance, and they certainly built it into the skis. But it resulted in an inflexible and “wooden” feeling front end, with sub-optimal snow-touch, and a limited range of really good performance.
As soon as we saw the new design in May, it looked and felt as though they had completely addressed the issue. The redistribution of material softened the interface at the front end of the bridge, and it allowed them to really control the bridge length and contact angles with camber manipulations. So we were optimistic.
Then we put the skis on snow at Sognefjell. I set-up a bit of a blind test – two pairs of F3s with the same cosmetic, and very similar overall flex and camber characteristics, but one was the old geometry, and one was the new geometry. Amy and I tried the skis as pairs, and after swapping so we both had skied each pair, we agreed that the difference was stark. While the old ski felt familiar, and quite good in the hard, salted summer snow at Sognefjell, the new ski felt far more accessible and friendly under foot. It had softer snow touch, and more reactive and elastic camber response, and better speed both at initial contact, and at high speed. Better in every respect. Better, better, best.
Conclusion (start paying attention again here)
Every time we select skis, we’re working with a production we haven’t seen before. Finding the best skis is a process of evaluating what’s been built, and measuring it against our expectation of what we want to see. That expectation is heavily informed by our on-snow testing time, but also by our experience with materials, and the lessons we learn from other productions, and even other models and brands.
The newest 2.0 skis have us convinced. They felt “right” and balanced in both materials and expression when we worked with them in the factory. We selected a handful of pairs of skis that we expected to behave slightly differently, and then we skied on hard, frozen granular snow until it broke and got extremely wet and soft, and the skis we selected behaved as we felt that they should based on our expectation. We sent a bunch of new 2.0 ski down to New Zealand for tested, and divided them into “cold”, “uni”, and “wet” test groups, and they’re behaving as we expected them to down there, and beating out the older skis in testing. They’re also demonstrating really good performance in a wide range of conditions. In short, we’re seeing what we need to see. Our new plan is to go all-in on the Redline 2.0 models. Any customers who specifically want an original Redline model can get one if they ask for it prior to Sept 17, but otherwise we’ll be a 2.0 shop, because these skis are a meaningful step forward.