Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ski Testing and the Godzilla Ridge

The past 2 weeks have had unusually stable weather for this time of year in the Methow Valley.

It's the result of a high pressure ridge that's been stuck in the west, causing an inversion which leaves our area on the east slopes of the North Cascades stuck in a cold pool of air with a cloudy lid.    And no new snow.      The weather effect has been referred to as the "Godzilla Ridge" by Cliff Mass.

The 'no new snow' part is a little bit of a bummer.    But the persistent weather pattern makes for great conditions for continued testing of new grinds.     Temperatures have been very stable every day, with daytime variation of only a few degrees.   No sunshine due to the cloud cover means that the snowpack has stayed uniform.    Skate skiing really has been excellent;  not quite as good for classic skiing.

Skiing a bag of test skis day-on-day has been yielding reliable results and the stagnant weather system has been allowing for a good long period of testing.

This season I'm doing testing in groups of 5.    Five individual skis, all factory matched Madshus test skis, prepared identically, but with different grinds.      Testing is for feel, using a blind draw double elimination scorecard.    The strength of this test setup is that the whole test protocol is repeated by 3-4 different skiers, and results are compared.   

When several test grinds are very similar, the results can seem a little uncertain..   There is a bit of peril when I'm the tester and I know which grinds are on the skis - some sort of bias is always a concern.  But if 3 or 4 testers independently reach the same results, then the confidence factor increases dramatically.     I've got a crew of a few guys who have a good feel for snow, who are about the right size, and each of whom are willing to pick up a bag of skis and a scorecard and take them out for a test on short notice.

It's not a gang of 3-4 guys going out and testing skis together.   No, it's one guy, solo, with a bag of skis, picking through a series of comparison tests and making notes.     Then the bag of skis comes back to Ultratune, and then they go to the next guy to test.    Nobody but me knows what grinds are on the skis.   The guys don't really get a chance to compare results with each other.

For me, the group size of 5 skis has just sort of happened (why not 4 or 6 or more?).  One test outing takes about 45 minutes, and the process of managing the double elimination doesn't get too out of hand in terms of complexity.        Too many skis, and the process gets busy with a lot of bookkeeping and loses the focus.        Others would certainly handle it differently, but this is a good, manageable, setup.

The series of tests are nearly completed.    Right now I can tell you there WILL be a new grind on the menu, and a couple grinds will fade away.     I can be sure of that because right now there are 2 prototypes that are clearly outperforming some regular menu grinds.       I am pretty sure the grind menu will be updated by the first of the year. 

Hopefully the ski testing will come to a halt when the Godzilla Ridge breaks down and new snow falls throughout the Methow Valley.   Hopefully soon.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Testing new grinds

Skiing has begun here in the Methow Valley.   Not everywhere, certainly not every kilometer, but we are definitely skiing.    And if you pick your trails right, you can use good skis.     

And if you can use good skis, you can start testing.

Some matched test skis and my daily driver test mules.
I started working with 2 new grind ideas mid-season last year (2016/2017) but ran out of testing weather, and so the ideas sat for several months.     Incubating.  Festering.  Percolating.    Call it what you like, but long solo summer bike rides lead to gedankenexperiments, and those inevitably lead to ideas for ski grinds.    How to work with a small set of variables to optimize performance?  Depth, spacing, and organization of fine grooves cut into a grinding stone with a diamond, and then cut into a polyethylene ski base with a grinding stone.     

Early this autumn, I thought of a simple modification to work in conjunction with the 2 new ideas, and an afternoon of fiddling on the grinder showed that it would work.     A couple different versions were cut and put on test skis, and set aside for testing.

And now there is snow.    And now the ideas are on matched test skis.     And now the testing begins anew. 

In truth, by the time formal testing is done with controlled variables and benchmarks, I already know that a new grind is pretty good.     Hopefully with some cooperative weather in early December I can get the data that's needed to see if there's a shake-up in the Ultratune grind menu. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ski Season Starts in the Methow Valley

Early Season Conditions
Snow in the valley the past few days has led to a few ski trails opening in time for Thanksgiving!

From the Cub Creek trailhead, groomed trails head up through the Rendezvous Basin area.

Check the Methow Trails Grooming Report for the latest updates!








Stone Grinding Schedule


 
You've been training this to get the most from your skiing, so make sure your skis aren't a limiter.

Prepare all of your skis to run their best with a fresh grind and hotbox service. At Nordic Ultratune, a grind batch starts every Thursday and those skis are ready for shipping on the following Monday -- just 4 days later.

Return shipping is by FedEx.  So, typically skis that are shipped out on Monday will typically arrive back to you on Thursday.

Here's the upcoming service schedule at Nordic Ultratune. Use these dates to make sure you get your skis ready before your most important races.
  • Skis in by Nov 22nd will ship back out on Nov 27th (Thanksgiving week)
  • Skis in by Nov 30th will ship back out on Dec 4th.
  • Skis in by Dec 7th will ship back out on Dec 11th
  • Skis in by Dec 14th will ship back out on Dec 18th
  • Skis in by Dec 21st will ship back out on Dec 26th (Christmas week, of course...)
  • Skis in by Dec 28th will ship back out on Jan 2nd.
Shop hours:



  • The shop is open from 11-5 Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon each week.   Closed on Tues/Wed.  Also closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

    • If you're in the Methow Valley, stop in and say Hi!  You can check out the selection of Madshus, Atomic and Rossignol skis and boots, and extensive supply of wax for glide or grip.

      It's time for getting your skis ready for the season!

      Thursday, November 2, 2017

      Will "Phantom" replace wax for recreational skis?

      In the news this week is a Kickstarter campaign for a product that is intended to be a  "one time only" treatment for skis and snowboards to provide improved glide.

      The product is called Phantom, and it is backed by DPS ski company (they make high end backcountry touring and alpine skis).



      If you read their info closely and you'll see that this is not intended to be superior in performance to race waxes, but is advertised primarily as an eco-friendly product that will only have to be used one time.    They claim that it continues working even through several stone grinds.

      Here's a link to their Kickstarter.     And here's a link to a podcast interview with the developer from Blister Gear Review.

      Now, I have not tried this stuff, and I have a few questions about it.
      1. Will it work on extruded base skis (i.e. cheap skis without sintered bases).
      2. Will it really fully permeate an old ski base?     (will it even really permeate a NEW ski base?)
      3. Will this product seal the ski base?   Or will you be able to effectively wax the ski (if you choose) after using the Phantom treatment?
      4. Will skiers drink fewer beers if they don't have to wax their training skis?

      This new product isn't going to keep you out of the wax room on race days, but maybe it will get a bunch of recreational skiers out on snow more often.

      Wednesday, March 29, 2017

      How to make an Atomic Redster Carbon Classic



      A very cool look at the manufacturing process for the Redster.

      These are great skis.    You can pre-order for fall of 2017 if you'd like a carefully selected pair.   Just email for details.

      Sunday, February 5, 2017

      Stone Grinding Schedule

      Stone Grinding Schedule


       
      You've been training this to get the most from your skiing, so make sure your skis aren't a limiter.

      Prepare all of your skis to run their best with a fresh grind and hotbox service. At Nordic Ultratune, a grind batch starts every Thursday and those skis are ready for shipping on the following Monday -- just 4 days later.

      Return shipping is by FedEx.  So, typically skis that are shipped out on Monday will typically arrive back to you on Thursday.

      Here's the upcoming service schedule at Nordic Ultratune. Use these dates to make sure you get your skis ready before your most important races.
      • Skis in by Feb 9th will ship out on Feb 13th.
      • Skis in by Feb 16th will ship back out on Feb 20th
      • Skis in by Feb 23rd will ship back out on Feb 27th
      • Skis in by March 2nd will ship back out on March 6th
      • Skis in by March 9th will ship back out on March 13th.
      Shop hours:

    • The shop is open from 11-5 Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon each week.   Closed on Tues/Wed.

      If you're in the Methow Valley, stop in and say Hi!  You can check out the selection of Madshus, Atomic and Rossignol skis and boots, and extensive supply of wax for glide or grip.

      It's time for getting your skis ready for the season!

      Wednesday, January 4, 2017

      Rendezvous Huts

      Heifer Hut
      After a long stretch from mid-December through the holidays with no real days off (sick on Christmas, bleh...), it's hard to beat spending a couple days off grid and on skis at the Rendezvous Huts.

      Cold temps - below zero fahrenheit - made it a little bit more important to get the clothing layers dialed in, but grooming was perfect, and with a freight haul to the cabin, there's no reason to miss out on creature comforts.

      So it was a great getaway to Heifer Hut, the northernmost and most remote of the five huts in the Rendezvous Huts system.     Located at about 4000 feet, it's high enough to get a bit more snow than the valley floor (which sits at elevation 1800 ft) but you certainly won't worry about dizzy spells.     It's an uphill bit of skiing to get to any of the huts, but they're all located on the groomed trail system.

      The views are fabulous.    I really can't say more than that.   Fabulous mountain views.   Different from each of the huts, but terrific everywhere.      And stars at night.   Billions and billions of them.

      The huts are heated with wood stoves, and cooking is on conventional propane kitchen stoves.     Each of the cabins sleep up to 8-10 people.     It's really a great setup.

      Each cabin has a full kitchen arrangement with pots and pans and dishes provided.   I know for sure that there are Nordic Ultratune coffee cups in a couple of the cabins.   And drinking water is plentiful and restocked daily.   There are outhouses at each hut, just a few yards out the door.     Propane lights keep the card games going into the night, and nowadays there is solar charged battery powered LED lighting as well.  

      With a group of friends sharing a cabin and the freight haul, you could even do both skate and classic skiing (classic in, and have the skaters hauled in and waiting for you!).  

      If you haven't done a trip like this, it's really worth doing.     Yeah, there are huts in other places, but where are you going to find huts that have 200 km of groomed skiing out the door?   Maybe in Norway...  ...but not so common in North America.      The Rendezvous Huts, here in the Methow Valley, are really cool, and a great way to get away from the crowds for a few days.