Friday, November 12, 2010

Fleet Evaluation

I spent the past two days in Canmore working with Kate Brennan on her fleet of skis. Kate is a Madshus sponsored athlete and has amassed an impressively large ski bag over the past few seasons. However, having a large fleet brings inherent challenges and Kate has experienced frustrations in deciding as to which skis to test and ultimately race on for a particular day. Come along for the ride and see what we determined...

One more thing before we get starte
d - as many of you know, I am terrible when it comes to taking pictures. I brought my camera with me to Canmore this weekend with the best of intentions and proceeded to take precisely no photographs. However, using the magic of the internet I have pieced together a few photos of what this process looked like.

Let us begin (for real this time)...

The first step in the process was to spend some time wi
th Kate discussing her fleet. We focused on the general feeling of the skis, when certain pairs worked or didn't work, what she like about her favourites, etc. It is important to understand what the athlete thinks about their skis and what they like. They might not be correct, but it is still important to know :)

(Patrick and Lorris discussing preferences in skis)

Next, each pair of skis was scraped and evaluated. All the skis were first measured by hand to check overall quality and a number of other characteristics. The classic skis were also put up on the flex tester and the pockets marked.

(This isn't actually the flex tester in question, but you get the idea - photo Nordic UltraTune)

With all the information now in hand, I began to make notes on each pair of skis. Thoughts on when to pull them out of the bag, skis to test in conjunction with, etc. Ultimately, a couple of pairs were removed from the fleet either because they were just plain bad or duplicates of other skis. All of this information was summarized on a sheet and Kate and I met again to discuss my findings.
(This is Zach and Noah discussing skis in West Yellowstone last year. Kate and I looked exactly like this, only I am taller than Zach and Kate is different than Noah. - photo Nathan Schultz)

At this point, things took a turn for the worst. Everything we have done so far is purely academic - speculation based on the best information we have available. While we can do a pretty good job at this, ultimately the results of our discussions will need to be corroborated using on snow testing. However, given that Canmore's Frozen Thunder is nothing more than a 1km loop covered in tons of people, on snow testing wasn't really possible this weekend.

(Had there been an opportunity for on snow testing, it would have looked like this. - photo Zach Caldwell)

By now you are probably asking yourself what is the point of this whole process. There are a few mains goals. Obviously, the first goal is to ensure that the athlete's ski bag is complete and that there are satisfactory skis for a variety of conditions. Perhaps more importantly, however, we are attempting to provide the athlete with some information to reduce race day stress. Kate's situation is not uncommon and frequently athletes are unsure as to wha
t they should do with their skis. It is the job of the technical staff to work with the athletes to provide clarity and ensure that they have confidence in their equipment.

Next week I head to West Yellowstone for the opening races of the season. West Yellowstone looks like this:

(West Yellowstone, 2009 - photo Erik Nilsson)

While I'm in West Yellowstone I will pick up my fleet of test skis, as well and Reid's and Paul's new skis. They look like this:

(Yes, those are our actual skis. Only six pairs are mine and the rest are Reid's and Paul's. - photo Erik Nilsson)

Not a bad update for a guy who didn't take a single picture!


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