Saturday, January 27, 2018

Mid Winter Methow Valley Magic

Getting up at 6 to get out to ski when it's 11F seems like a cost.   But a little over-the-shoulder phone pic like this while skiing just a few miles from home?   Priceless.

Mid winter in the Methow Valley can be magical.   We have plenty of snow and the morning light on the front country hills and mountains provides an amazing backdrop for early morning skiing.

In December and early January it is dusky dark when I get out for a morning ski, but in late January the sun is rising at about 8:00 and if there is no cloud cover it is stunning.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sticky falling new snow

I went out to ski today.    Sticky falling new snow at 32 degrees.

So I took a pair of the Atomic C9 Redster Skintec skis.     They were close to ideal.    Certainly they had good grip and good glide the whole time out, whereas I don't think I could have gotten a grip wax or even Zero skis to handle the spectrum of conditions that I skied through in two hours of warming temps and falling snow.

When I started out the snow was falling dry, but air temp was 32F.   As my morning continued, the falling snow became wet, then eventually the snow stopped and the tracks were alternately glazed or filled in with a stew of powder and crud.     But the skins didn't ice up, and I continued along on my way through the woods and open meadows on Jack's Loop in the Early Winters area.

Now, with skin ski technology vastly improved over the skis from just a couple years ago, the top end skin skis on the market are more than just an "alternative".     And the skis will just continue to improve as demand and awareness continues to grown throughout Europe and North America.

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 Jan 18th will ship back out on Jan 22nd.
  • Skis in by Jan 25th will ship back out on Jan 29th.
  • Skis in by Feb 1st will ship back out on Feb 5th
  • Skis in by Feb 8th will ship back out on Feb 12th
  • Skis in by Feb 15th will ship back out on Feb 19th.
  • Skis in by Feb 22nd will ship back out on Feb 26th.
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 biggest races of the season!

      Sunday, January 7, 2018

      Hairsplitting... much do they weigh?

      Okay, I've already gotten the question:    How much do they weigh?

      So, I weighed a few skis this morning.

      Madshus RedLine Intelligrip 205cm with Rottefella Move system and Xcelerator bindings - 1421g.
      Madshus Nanosonic IGC 205cm with Xcelerator bindings - 1374g.
      Atomic C9 Redster Skintec 202cm with ProLink bindings - 1402g.

      The Move knob weighs a bit.    All three of these skis perform really well and feel like a real race ski on your feet.    Each a little different, but all are very good. 

      Saturday, January 6, 2018

      Skiing the 2018/19 Madshus RedLine Intelligrip and Move Binding

      The standard Madshus/Rottefella photo looks better than my
      blurry smartphone pic, so that's what you get.
      For a few days I've been skiing and fiddling with a pair of the 2018/19 Madshus RedLine Intelligrip Classic skis.       These are the new top-end Madshus skin ski based on the incredibly good RedLine.

      The new RedLine IGC (Intelligrip Classic) came to me with the new Rottefella NIS-2 plate and their new Rottefella MOVE Binding.

      So really the conversation is a little messy because the ski is a new thing and the binding is a new thing, and how do you talk about one without talking about the other?   And how do you separate the one from the other?

      But here's a shot.

      Rottefella Move Binding

      First I'm going to talk a little about the bindings because they're very different.     It's pretty obvious that the big knob on the front isn't just there for looks, so of course you have to monkey around with that a bit.    The Move knob does large scale adjustment of the binding position.   In 1/2 turn increments it can adjust the binding forward by 12mm (with 1/2 turn) or backward by 12 or 24 mm (1/2 or a whole turn).    That's a lot of movement and well beyond the fine tuning that has been available with the standard NIS bindings.       Keep in mind that the regular adjustment is still available in the regular 5mm per click, but the big knob twisting business is added beyond that adjustment. 

      The Move binding is attached to the NIS 2.0 binding plate, and it is important to know that the NIS 2.0 can also be used with any of the old versions of NIS bindings (without the Move knob).    Certain versions of the Turnamic binding would presumably also work with the NIS 2.0 plate.

      What's with the big knob and the big movements?     Well, the folks at Rottefella and to some extent the folks at Madshus (separate entities, supposedly, but more like kissing cousins from my perspective), insist that skiers are going to want to stop and turn that knob at the bottom and at the top of climbs to change their position on the ski.   For better grip and for better glide.    Yes, I'm sure there are some people who are actually going to do that.   Some of them are regular customers at Ultratune. 

      Me, though, I'm an old guy who thinks that maybe the ski should work uphill and downhill without a lot of knob twisting and fiddling around.     Hey, I love the NIS and definitely fine-tune my position on a pair of skis.   But then once it's set, I don't mess with it any more.     I don't move my bindings at the bottom of a climb to get better grip, and i don't move my bindings at the top of the climb to get better glide going downhill.     I expect the ski to be constructed adequately (and well fitted), so that I can just ski.       The good news is that 1) even with the Move knob on the ski, I don't have to use it, and; 2) there will be a standard NIS 2.0 plate and binding that don't utilize the Move knob.

      Enough of that.   The Move knob does what it says it will do.   It's clever.    Personally I'd put it in the Museum of Clever Ideas and leave it there.   But it is harmless - it does not adversely affect the performance of the ski, and in fact it could help with better grip and better glide if you take the time to bend over and give it a twist.   

      The Madshus RedLine Intelligrip Ski

      This is the happy part of the conversation.    This ski is SWEET.   I think the people who have skied on a RedLine classic ski fall into two camps:  A) People who like the RedLine a lot, and B) People who think the RedLine is the best classic ski they've ever used by a long margin.     So for people who fall into either of those categories, the new RedLine Intelligrip skin ski is a winner. 

      The new RedLine IGC has a little shorter mohair skin insert (about 3cm shorter than the skin in a Nanosonic IGC).   The RedLine has a medium-high camber with a lot of pop and good grip as long as you can ski with reasonable technique.    And glide is pretty darn good.

      For ski racers, this would be a quiver ski to use when conditions don't favor a klister ski - changing conditions or funkadelic snow.

      For a huge percentage of skiers, though, this is going to be a very high performance everyday ski.  And after skiing on it, I think that's a reasonable plan for a lot of skiers.   The ski is fast and it gets good grip.    And not much fooling around with waxes.

      Comments and notes.   I'm a big guy and usually ski on waxable classic skis with a flex of 51-54 kg.    This pair of skis is marked at 60kg and still had pretty easy kick on everything except certifiable run-up hills, where the herringbone is still the path to the top.     I might have opted for a little softer camber, but since I was only offered this one pair, I went with it.      How much glide would I lose by going to a 54 kg flex?    Hmmm, probably not much as long as I ski efficiently.      (i.e. I get great results on a Nano IGC, so don't expect that the RedLine would be anything but better).


      A few pairs of the RedLine Intelligrip skis will be available yet this winter.    The first release will only be available with the Rottefella Move binding, I'm told, because they're introducing them as a "simultaneous product launch".     Later, the ski will be available without the Move binding.      If you are itching for a pair of these lightweight skin skis, email me and I can see if there's something appropriate for you available.

      Monday, December 25, 2017

      Merry Christmas from Nordic Ultratune!

      Merry Christmas!

      Wishing each of you a day of peace and joy with loved ones.

      AND some time on snow!

      Today I'll be out chasing some fresh snow on skis.    It's snowing here in the Methow Valley and 12 degrees (F).  

      The shop is closed today, but will be open Tuesday (and throughout the rest of the week).

      Methow Valley Ski Rodeo - Dec 27th

      Come to the Ski Rodeo!    It's the start of the Methow Valley race season!      It's a fun skate race for all ages and abilities.   The headline event is a mass start 10K race.

      Where:    McCabe Trails at Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop WA.

      Tuesday, December 19, 2017

      Snowing hard in the Methow

      It's snowing hard in the Methow Valley today.  Six inches arrived overnight and another 7-13" are in the forecast.

      This should open all the remaining trails in the area!

      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.