Tuesday, April 28, 2009

European Shopping Trip

As noted in the March newsletter, I'm shopping for a new grinder in Italy & Austria.

We arrived on Saturday in Pisa, Italy, and spent the weekend recovering, sightseeing, and visiting with Gianluca & Roberta and their great little boy, David. I know Gianluca as the head serviceman for Slovenia, and it has been great to visit with him, meet his partner and family, and have a first-class set of guides for seeing Italy. As they say, "When in Rome..." In this case, it's been Pisa and beyond.

Monday was a long rainy day. Our first appointment was with Mantec in Sarmato (near Milano); a drive of about 300 km. In a rented Nissan Micra, Margaret and I were chasing a crazy Pisano on narrow rainy mountain Italian roads at startling speeds. Needless to say, we arrived on time.

At Mantec, Margaret & I (and Gianluca) met with Rinaldo & Giuseppe Moroni of Technolami/Mantec, and Stefano Vuerich, one of the top ski servicemen in the world. Everyone was very welcoming and very accomodating of our abysmal Italian language skills.

After a very useful meeting, we decided that the best step was to make a change of plans and high-tail it to Stefano's service center in Val di Fiemme. This required another 300 km of driving across northern Italy. I took some minor satisfaction (at my wife's annoyance) of arriving at Val di Fiemme ahead of Stefano, even though we stopped for lunch and gas. Stefano and I were able to have some good shop talk...

Before it got too late, we had another 400km of driving to get to Udine. From Val di Fiemme we crossed Passo San Pelligrino in a snowstorm, and through driving rain the rest of the day. (Let's not discuss getting lost in a maze of traffic circles while trying to find our hotel, at night in a downpour when my wife was tired and hungry...)

Tuesday morning we were up and on the road early to reach Altenmarkt Austria where we met with Franz Schlager from Wintersteiger, plus Norbert Irouschek and Martin (?last name?) of Atomic.

Franz and Martin walked through the features and function of the top-of-the-line Wintersteiger Micro-NC. The machine clearly is capable of top quality work when used by expert servicemen.

Norbert and Martin provided an expert's seminar on picking/fitting skis for world cup skiers. Plus there was a lot of talk about base structures (grinds) that they're using, and banter about upcoming new skis for the next couple seasons... The Atomic race room is a very nice shop, very obviously set up by technicians, and neither dirty nor "overly polished" -- very functional and professional. It all happens here. Cool. It ended up being exceptionall cordial there with a nice long lunch (schnitzle and pancake soup).

The last two days has left us with lots of information and lots to think about in the coming weeks as we close in on a decision on a new grinder for Nordic Ultratune.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Whistler Revisited

This week I've been in Whistler BC with a few members of the Slovenian team.

I met Petra Majdič, coach Ivan Hudač and serviceman Gianlucca Marcolini ("Gianni") at the Vancouver airport on Tuesday and we drove directly to Whistler.

For Petra, Ivan, and Gianni, it's the first time to the Olympic venue, since all three of them missed the January World Cup events. The racing season ended a couple weeks ago, and the Whistler trip is either the tail end of the 2008/2009 checklist, or the beginning of the 09/2010 season's list of tasks; the distinction isn't too important.

Getting familiar with the Olympic courses is imperitive. Almost as important is getting familiar with the overall surroundings - to and from the airport, negotiating Whistler Village, locating grocery stores, and other day-to-day tasks that we take for granted unless we're in an unfamiliar place.

Petra is the winner of this season's Sprint World Cup, and finished 2nd in the overall World Cup standings. Petra is a very talented athlete and very motivated and focused - that's a hard-to-beat triple threat. Petra really enjoys cooking, and this week I learned that she makes terrific, strong, Turkish coffee (photo: Petra in the kitchen) .

There is a lot to do during the Whistler trip, but its not high-stress and not highly structured. No alarm clocks, no fixed schedule. The atmosphere was light. Smiles on every face almost all the time (photo: Gianni & Ivan getting ready to ski).

Also for me it was a chance to do a tiny bit of testing with wet/warm structures. And there is always work to be done when skiing is involved. Warm spring weather turns waxing into an outdoor activity!
There are only about 310 days until the games begin.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Atomic's Nordic Heroes 2008-09

For a little bit of afternoon entertainment, here's a look at an on-line "Magic Moments" show from Atomic.

Nordic 2008-09: Season of Atomic heroes.

Once you've opened it, click on the page-turner on the lower right corner, and you can follow their scrapbook of season highlights.

There are some nice shots of Demong and Lodwick from their incredible season. And of course DiCenta, Aukland, Nystad. Lots of ski jumping stuff, if you're into that. And biathlon. All nordic, though, so it's worth a look.

As a teaser, there's a section near the end (pages 62-64) with some info on the construction of their new Featherlight cross country skis.