Saturday, December 24, 2011

Snow Likely

Wishing everyone a Christmas that is full of joy and contentment.   

And hoping there's a little new snow for everyone, too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kids Holiday Ski Camp with Sadie & Erik

Sadie and Erik Bjornsen will be back at home in the Methow Valley for the holidays.

While they're at home, they will be putting on a FREE ski clinic for kids.

The Cascade Challenge Camp (clicky for camp flyer)  will be on Wednesday, Dec 21st, at the Mazama Community Center, and it's for all J3, J4, and J5 skiers.  Registration can be done online HERE.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SNS, NNN, NIS, Wedges, Plates

Why isn't someone making a wedge that will click onto a NIS plate, and which has threaded inserts for attaching a Pilot SNS bindings?

This seems simple enough.      It would allow fore/aft adjustment of the SNS binding, even if it might require removal of a few screws.

It's hard for me to believe that after 7 years of the NIS binding, and with the obvious and well documented advantages that it provides, that the Salomon folks still haven't brought to market a positionally adjustable binding or adapter.    

Wood screws to attach bindings?   Seriously?     I mean, furniture isn't even held together with wood screws anymore!

As a comparison, during that time period, cell/mobile technology has gone from a device that makes person-to-person voice calls to the iphone...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Ski Service Schedule

Brian Gregg of CXC has well prepared skis.
Photo:  Ian Harvey / Toko
You've been training 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 stone grind and hotbox service. At Nordic Ultratune, a stone grinding batch starts every Thursday and those skis are ready for shipping on the following Monday -- just 4 days later. Return shipping is FedEx Express Saver, which is 3rd day delivery. So, skis that are shipped out on Monday will 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 events.
  • Skis in by Dec 1st will ship out on Dec 5th and arrive back to you by Dec 8th.
  • Skis in by Dec 8th will ship out on Dec 12th.
  • Skis in by Dec 15th will ship out on Dec 19th and arrive to you by the 22nd.
  • Skis in by Dec 22nd will ship out on Dec 26th.
You can see that there are still a few service batches scheduled before Christmas and the post-holiday races (including Sr Nationals!).     There is still time to get a fast grind on your skis before your biggest events! But don't delay... boards are a joy to ski on, and they're a real advantage.

Monday, November 28, 2011

PNW Racing

I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of upcoming events for the Pacific Northwest.

Dec 31 - Mazama Ski Rodeo - Skate 10K
Jan 1  - Methow Valley Biathlon - Pursuit Format
Jan 7/8 - Bend OR JOQ - Jr Qual and PNSA Masters Championships
Jan 14 - Leavenworth Skirennen - Skate 10K
Jan 14 - Reino Keski-Salmi Loppet - 36K Classic - Salmon Arm BC
Jan 15  - Kongsberger Gunnar Hagen Memorial - Classic 30K or 15K
Jan 21/22 - Methow Valley Pursuit - Classic Individual Start, Skate Pursuit
Jan 21/22 - Methow Valley Biathlon Bang  - WBA Series Events
Jan 29 - Teacup Classic - 30K Classic at Mt Hood
Feb 4/5 - Bavarian Cup JOQ - Leavenworth Jr Qual
Feb 11/12 WA Biathlon Race Weekend - Mass Start; Super Sprint
Feb 19 - Kongsberger Stampede -  15K Skate
Feb 18 - Tour of the Methow Valley - Noncompetitive 80K Tour
Feb 12 - Spokane Langlauf - Classic 10K
Feb 18/19 Spokane  JOQ - 2 day Pursuit
Feb 25/26 WA Biathlon Race Weekend - Sprint, Pursuit
Mar 10/11 WA Biathlon Race Weekend - Individual; Super Sprint
Mar 11  - Kongsberger Ozbaldy - Skate 50K
Mar 18 - Cascade Crest - Skate 30K

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeding Time

Again this year, the 'groom-box' is back on the Goat Creek Trail in Mazama.       For the past 10 years or so, I've kept a box at the side of the ski trail, behind our house, with treats for the groomer.    Usually a few cookies; but sometimes there are surprises.  When we moved from our old house a few years ago, the groom-box moved with us.

Treat the groomer well.   Early season snow on the Goat Creek Trail.
Grooming is off to an early start this year.  The trails saw the Pisten-Bully for the first time yesterday, after being rolled out with a snowmobile for a few days.    The MVSTA trails are now officially open for the season!

When the red flag is up on the trailside box, it certainly gets the attention of the groomer and hopefully the sugar keeps them alert as they lay the carefully carved corduroy.    This ski season is off to a great early start in the Methow Valley.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Schedule

Franz Goering
Photo:  Atomic Skis, GEPA/Felix Roittner
Thanksgiving is coming up. Here's an update on the schedule for Nordic Ultratune.

The shop will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Nov 24th. Skis that arrive on Wednesday or earlier will still be in the normal stone grinding batch to be shipped out on Monday Nov 28th.

Nordic Ultratune is closed every week on Tues/Wed, and the Thanksgiving week is the same -- this means I'll get 3 days off! (no worries, FedEx and UPS deliver even when the shop is closed)

To repeat - the stone grinding schedule carries on without interruption. Nordic Ultratune places a big emphasis on getting skis serviced and returned in the shortest time possible.

Here's what the stone grinding schedule looks like for the next few weeks:
  • Skis in by Nov 24th will ship out on Nov 28th
  • Skis in by Dec 1st will ship out on Dec 12th and arrive to you by Dec 8th
  • Skis arriving by Dec 8th will ship back out on Dec 19th
  There is plenty of time to get a fast stone grind on your cross country skis before the season really gets moving!     Why wait? here for workorder form download.

November 2011 Nordic Ultratune Newsletter
A lot more than I can post here. It's a twelve page newsletter with lots of good information. Take a look (click here).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We're On Snow

Temps at -2C, grip with Rode Violet Multigrade
Lots of people have been asking if we're skiing here yet.    The answer is YES!

Although there have been some groomed tracks for several days, I finally got out today for some laps on the classic tracks at Lone Fir Campground, an early season option in the North Cascades, a few miles east of Washington Pass.

And very sunny...
As the snows move down the mountain toward the valley floor, the grooming moves down the mountain, too.    If the weather forecast is accurate, we should be skiing at Klipchuck in a few days, which allows for  longer and more interesting loops.      The season is really here now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 2011 Nordic Ultratune Newsletter

Lots more than I can post here.    It's 14 pages of news and info.    Take a look (click here).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Forecast Calls for Snow

Snow arrived early in the east, and in Colorado, and Alaskans are already skiing on good snow.   So I'm happy to see that snow is finally on the way to us here in the Methow Valley.

Most mornings are well below freezing now, so when the precipitation arrives, it should be in the form of snow!   Bring it on.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Alaska to Vermont

Mark & the Mantec Grinder - it's the busy season.
The first half of October has passed, and the 'busy season' is certainly in full gear now.     The line-up of this Monday's outbound packages have labels that span from Alaska to Vermont, and cover the entire snow belt like a list of stops on a transcontinental road trip.

Pre-season orders for skis are being sent out quickly.   About 1/2 of the total are done and shipped; about another eighth are staged, waiting for details from clients.      As the new skis are picked, the "big wall of skis" slowly starts to lose its bulge.     A couple hundred pairs of Rossignol Xium, Madshus Nanosonic, and Atomic World Cup skis.    No "2nd tier" skis in the mix -- it's all top shelf stuff.

All new skis are carefully selected, and they all include your stone grinding choice, and hotbox waxing service.

The stone grinding season is in full swing, too.   Get your skis in for a tune.

Here's a pic of some of the new Madshus Nanosonic skate skis - already diminished by the pick list.  

Among the odd bits of activity has been the quick purchase of the skate and classic boots this fall.  I've already had to re-order certain sizes, and holes will certainly develop in the size runs.   

Even though the skis are flying away, there is still a big inventory.    And plenty of time to get new skis before the snow flies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SuperTour Distance Title goes to Brian Gregg

Congratulations to Brian Gregg of CXC Elite!    Brian won the season's SuperTour Distance title for the 2010/11 season.

Brian Gregg
Here's a note I got from Brian after Saturday's final race in Sun Valley:


Subject: Racing for 2 Grand on the M1D
From:    "Brian Gregg"
Date:    Sat, April 2, 2011 3:54 pm
To:      "Nordic Ultratune"

Hey Mark,

Had one of my best races ever up the hill climb on the final day of Super
Tour Finals today.  Lars and I were in a close battle for the Super Tour
Distance Title ($2,000 cash prize).  I started the race with a 7 point lead,
but Lars has beaten me in every skate race we have both been in this year.
 My skis were flying today.  I have been waiting for some warm wet snow to
use my M1D.  They were ridiculous. That grind and those skis are awesome.  I
needed to beat Lars today to win the title and the money.  I ended up third
overall on the day which is awesome. Thanks for the killer skis.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Birkie Recap

Margaret skiing with her "Birkie Pack" a couple days before the event.
If you ski the Norwegian Birkebeiner from the 20th wave, don't plan to ski it fast.    If you're in a hurry it will be 'hurry up and wait'.

However, if you're able to enjoy yourself in gridlock traffic, skiers lined up from here to tomorrow, wall to wall and stretched to the horizon - then it is definitely a ski that you'll remember forever.

From Sjusjoen, there's a 2 hour bus ride to the start in Rena.   So we were on the bus by 6:00 a.m. for our start at 9:50.     At the start in Rena, there is a carnival sized area for staging the start, as well as a ski testing track, hundreds of standard blue porta-pottis, and dozens of trucks arranged to shuttle bags back to the finish.     Everything was very well organized and intuitively arranged, but on a huge scale.

An abundance of blue huts meant that the lines weren't long.
Conditions for the Birkie were pretty slow, but good snow.     New snow on Friday left things soft and loose, and tracks washed out a bit especially for the later skiers.    "Maxtime" (aka "Mark Times", a measure of performance based on % back from age group leaders) were typically a half-hour slower than most years.

I was skiing with bib 14,144 and that's like starting behind all of the field from the USA Birkie times 4. There were 3700 finishers at the American Birkie this year, if you'd like to use that for perspective.

We had very good skis.    I tested grips on Friday and picked a new Start grip wax ("01932 Racing Extra -2/-8").     It had excellent grip and durability.    I didn't have to touch the skis through the event, and both of us had enough wax to ski 25km on Sunday without touching them up!     It's tough to get free-running skis for the whole race (while also having good grip), since Rena and the plateau are very different.   The plateau is open and dryer and about 1600 feet higher.    Both of us were running on the "i5" grind, which was good for the conditions.   Excellent skis really make the experience more fun.

Margaret got her "Mark" diploma (meaning that she finished within the prescribed % behind the winner), which is commendable with bib 14,000+.   She gets bonus points, since she also was skiing with an upper respiratory infection.      Margaret had back surgery 18 months ago to install an artificial disc, and the Birkie trip was both a celebration of her recovery, and training motivation - a carrot - for the past year.    She was really happy with the entire experience (except for being sick during the trip, which was a bummer).

My day was pedestrian as intended, and it was my longest ski of the year by about 25km.   Having said that, it was a motivating thing but there is simply no hope of skiing fast from Wave 20.    But it was a blast - super fun.

Perfect corduroy on the day after the Birkie.
Funny...   ...the front of our wave ran into the back of Wave 19 within 2km of the start!     Then it was a matter of standing at the bottom of each steep section to queue up for the walk up the hill.   Even where it's 10 lanes wide, you're still having to double pole on the margins and between lanes.   Life would have been much easier in an early wave.

Also, the big descents in the last 15km were a real mess - they looked like the site of a demolition derby for monster trucks.   Huge berms and ruts and no sign of anything resembling tracks.   Yard sale crashes left, right, and center.

The finish is in the Olympic stadium, from the '94 Olympics.   That is pretty cool.   After 54km, it's still wall-to-wall skiers and resembled a cattle drive.

Overall, it was a super experience.    Everyone who has ever said,  'Every skier should sometime ski the Norwegian Birke', is absolutely correct.

Now I'm trying to figure out if I can get back there next year, start in an earlier wave, and take a shot at skiing it at speed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just another day in Norway

Sjusjoen is a tiny village, but is surrounded by 6,500 ski cabins.

How far to Lillehammer?
Today was another great day of skiing.   Temps were a little warmer, and the tracks seemed a little greasy.     After a relaxed morning ski, checking out  the downhills from Sjusjoen down to Lillehammer, followed by lunch, I went out in the afternoon and did some ski and wax testing.

Although there isn't a big variation in temperature in the area, the tracks vary somewhat within a radius of a few km's from the hotel.   

It's still a few days until the Birkie, and conditions are bound to change a fair bit, but it is a good exercise to compare skis and fiddle with a few wax combinations.

It's no surprise that Swix Blue Extra (V40) has such a following here - you can make it work almost all the time.     Today it wasn't the best - a little bit of drag under the foot - but you could still make it work.     A couple other waxes seemed to have better grip and easier glide.      But the Blue Extra was still getting it done for those skiers with just two sticks of wax in their pocket.

Quick Lunch!     The grocery store is a cultural experience.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pretty close to ideal.

Sod roof, and of course, Norwegian Wood.
Skiing here in Sjusjoen is everything you've heard about skiing in Norway.   Deluxe.    We skied almost 3 hours this morning on VR40, at -5C and lightly falling snow.    There are trails all over the area.    This tiny village is surrounded by 1000km of trails, and I'm pretty certain that I could ski all the way to Stockholm (if I had enough time and energy and places to sleep along the way).

I'd like to give a big Thank You to Mike Myers for loaning me a nice pair of Rossignol Xium classic skis today.    My skis haven't arrived here yet, and Mike's skis were great!     Mike used to live in the USA and was part of the Rossignol ski team; now he lives in Sjusjoen and is part of the family at the Rustad Hotell

A few of my favorite things, all in one place:
Rode, Maplus, Start, Swix, Toko, Rex.
We skied a big circle, heading south-east from Sjusjoen, and skiing through the valleys and over high hills, before heading north and looping back, finishing on a few kilometers of the Birkebeiner trail.     It happened that the Half-Birkie was taking place today, so we skied along with the racers for a few km (staying out of the way, which isn't hard when there are 6 sets of tracks).     It was just the perfect finish to a great morning of skiing, and definitely got a bit of pre-Birkie ski stoke going.

Skiers are everywhere here.    Young, old.   Teenagers.    Teenagers skiing with other teenagers, with no coaches supervising.    And they seemed to be enjoying it.      When we can get that mojo going in the USA, then we'll really have succeeded in growing our sport.   

And they ski well.   Mostly.    But what seemed most striking to me was that everyone simply looks comfortable on skis.

off track...
Our clothes and skis have arrived at the Oslo airport, and are supposed to arrive here at the hotel late this afternoon.    With a bit of luck we'll be on our own skis on Monday afternoon.

Speaking of Monday...     ...We'll be visiting Per Wiik at Madshus ski company in Biri bright and early on Monday.      

Okay...   Naturally you can watch the World Cup cross country ski races live on the television here (on two different channels, I might add), but it was in Norsk or German.     Dang, no british eurosport!    If that's the most that I can complain about, then life is pretty good.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Arrival in Sjusjoen

We flew from Seattle on Friday morning, and arrived in Sjusjoen on Saturday afternoon.

It was over 24 hours of traveling and Margaret & I are both excited and tired.

The bad news is that the skis and one clothing bag did not arrive with us.   Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow. There will be plenty to do for one day without the skis if necessary.

Sjusjoen is a small village about 15km from Lillehammer, and it is absolutely packed with cross country skiers!

Being further north, it immediately struck me that the sky looks like our home in the middle of January, even though it's mid-March here now.    The sun still seems pretty low in the sky.

The snow is terrific here - cold hardwax conditions - Rode blue multigrade, I'd guess.

More later, and photos, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Schedule - Off to Norway!

Nordic Ultratune will be closed from March 10th to March 22nd.     My wife and I will be traveling to Norway for the Birkebeiner!

Service work that arrives during my absence will be taken care of as soon as I return.   Don't worry - FedEx and UPS will still make deliveries while I'm gone, and the skis will be give careful attention as soon as I'm back in the shop.     If you have any questions, just send an email - I should be able to send replies from the road.    

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Atomic HT Skate info - and Schedule Info

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review of the new Atomic HT (hard track) skate ski.    Click here for that review.

Today I found a video in which Roman Toferer describes the Atomic HT in detail.      It's definitely worth watching.    Take a look!

Want some?
If you'd like to pre-order some of the Atomic skate skis, either the new World Cup HT or the all-around ST version, just send an email and you'll be added to the pick list for autumn 2011 delivery.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NIS Xcelerator Wedge - Details and Photos

I got my hands on a pair of the new NNN/NIS Wedges that are designed for use with the Xcelerator skate bindings.       Here are some details and some photos.    You can click any of the pics for a bigger view.
Profile of the Xcelerator Wedge on a 2011 Xium WCS skate ski.
Wedges have been showing up for a few years on Salomon bindings.   Also they've been seen on screwed-down NNN bindings.    The NIS bindings were difficult to adapt, so Rottefella made an adaptor for skiers who want to use the wedge.

Unlike the Atomic and Salomon versions, the Xcelerator Wedge is only under the front part of the binding, and the heel plate sits on the ski in the normal position.    The effect is the same.

The Rottefella NIS Wedge is a molded plastic piece and outlined to match the Xcelerator's  shape.
The Rottefella Xcelerator Wedge is injection molded plastic (my sample has a mold date of Dec 2010, so it's pretty new).    The photos make the wedge look red, but let me tell you, they're PINK.    They almost look like promo items for Fast & Female.       They're functional and stand out brightly against any ski.
First adjust the wedge fore/aft on the NIS plate, then install the binding.
Interesting to note that the fore/aft adjustment takes place with the interface between the wedge and the NIS plate.     The binding-to-wedge attachment locks in to a single location.     Thus, when you want to adjust the position of the binding, you first adjust the position of the wedge, then install the Xcelerator binding on top of it.    Very simple, no redundancy.
There is approximately 3.4mm rise in 145mm run; an angle of about 1.3 degrees
The very front tip of the binding sits about 8mm higher than the NIS plate, but it's a little less further back under the middle of the foot, of course.  I did a little trigonometry to measure the rise angle on the wedge - it's about 1.34 degrees.   For those of you who haven't played with binding wedges yet, the wedge places the rise in the FRONT of the binding, not in the back.       Children of the 1960's will laugh when I compare skiing with a wedge to the feeling of skate skiing in Earth Shoes, although less pronounced (more angle on an Earth Shoe).
At Nordic Ultratune, I do a lot of measuring.
The Rottefella Xcelerator wedges aren't available in shops yet, but I'm sure they'll be available for the 2011/2012 season.     If you've got a sharp eye and look closely at the pictures, you'll see them on a few skis at the World Championships in Oslo.

I've discussed wedges in previous articles.  (Look HERE and HERE).   On snow, the Rottefella Xcelerator wedge has the same feeling as other wedge versions, but it's set up to use with NNN boots and especially with NIS plates.   The effect, while skating, is that the wedge lifts the toes very slightly, which encourages weighting of your foot a bit further back, unless you consciously roll further forward on the foot.

For me, after using them for a few days, I don't notice them any more... ...but for a few sessions they feel different under the foot. For a skier who is accustomed to making continual adjustment of their position on the ski for optimum performance, I personally don't feel that they offer a huge advantage.

However, if you get used to them, then you'll probably want them installed on most of your skis (if not all of them) so that they will have the same feel under your feet.

Overall, just like the wedges for Salomon bindings, you might like them or you might not.     But you should try them for yourself to see if you feel like they help you.

One nice thing with the NIS version - if you decide to remove them, or try them on another pair of NIS skis, then it's a quick fix. No screws, no glue, no muss, no fuss. Click-click! All done! With the NIS bindings, you can try them forward, or further back, and now with or without a toe lift.    Customized, optimized. With no screws and no drilling. This is definitely a good thing.

Odds and ends.    The wedge doesn't affect how you get in and out of the binding.   The wedges do add a bit of weight.        I've discovered that in a pinch you can use one as a door stop.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Birkie Reports

In the few days following the American Birkebeiner, I've gotten some nice race reports from skiers.

Here are a few notable email comments.    

From Bryan Cook of CXC Elite, who finished 5th overall, and was the highest placing American.

Hey Mark,
It was really cold for most of the race, single digits for sure and the first half was rock-hard, fast and a little dirty,while the second half was soft with more new snow mixed in. This resulted in really different conditions, but I used my best universal pair that I had you put the S1 grind on. I thought that my skis were good in the first half and actually a little better than some of the others for the second half.  
It was a tactical race with the Norwegians really working well together towards the end of the race. I was pretty happy with my finish but asalways I was looking for the win!
Thanks again for all your support!
Best regards,

The second report is from Brian Gregg, also from CXC Elite, who finished 8th and was the second fastest American.

Hi Mark,
Just wanted to let you know I had some sweet skis in the Birkie.  The lead pack was pretty big but even still I found myself gapping the field on several of the downhills early on in the race.  I tested my entire fleet several times before the race and waxed up my xc02 and S1 pairs.  Testing race morning they were pretty similar, but I liked the xc02 pair best.  My xc02 pair is stiffer and does better on the rock solid corduroy.  I finished 8th in a sprint to the line with the main pack and feel pretty good about that.  I have two more 50k this season and am looking forward to them.
Take Care, Brian

Also a few comments from Laura McCabe, who was the 9th place woman, and had trouble with the cold weather -- a reminder that good skis will only get you so far if the cold weather keeps the engine from running.

Hey I just wanted to let you know that my skis were GREAT.  My body was not, hard day for me, I did not dress properly for -9 to -3 and just got really wobbly.  Oh well, some days are good some are not, but it was great to be there and I had a fantastic week.   
Thank you so much Mark, 

These reports often don't tell the whole story by themselves, but when several reports come in from a single race, I can get a good idea of what's working.    

I'm also honored that so many skiers trust me to prepare their skis for important events like the Birkie.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stone Grinding Schedule for Birkie and Masters World Cup

Anna Haag skiing fast at the Tour de Ski
Photo:  GEPA Pictures / Amir Beganovic

There is still time to get your race skis prepped for the American Birkie or  Masters World Cup.    Fast skis can cut a few percent from your race time, which can mean finishing minutes earlier.

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

Return shipping is FedEx Express Saver, which is 3rd day delivery. So, skis that are shipped out on Monday will 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 the Birkie or MWC2011.
  • Skis in by Feb 17th will ship out on Feb 21st and arrive to you by Feb 24th.
  • Skis in by Feb 24th will ship out on Feb 28th and arrive to you by March 3rd.
There is still  time to get a fast grind on your skis before these events!     But don't delay... boards are a joy to ski on, and they're a real advantage.

Hey, if you're driving to the Masters Championships at SilverStar Mtn from the south, you could stop at Nordic Ultratune on the way.   Ultratune is located in Winthrop, WA, about 4 hours south of the WMC location.

New Skis?
Need new racing skis?    Nordic Ultratune still has a great selection of new race ready skate and classic skis.   Call or email for details.

Monday, February 14, 2011

NEW Atomic World Cup HT skate ski

Atomic is bringing a new skate ski to the table that should have everyone licking their chops.   
Atomic World Cup HT

Atomic calls it the World Cup HT skate ski.    “HT” is for Hard Track, and the new ski isn’t just a tweaked version of their all-around favorite, but a whole new ski, straight from the pressure-cooker testing lab that is the World Cup.

This new ski is differentiated from the “regular” Atomic World Cup Red Cheetah Featherlight (now designated as the “ST”) in the following ways:
  •      Firmer tip flex - more pressure further forward in the ski.
  •      Straight edge profile for more edge engagement on hard, icy, tracks.
  •      Greater torsional rigidity, especially in the fore-body of the ski
  •      Double groove base, for better tracking
The firmer tip, combined with a more torsionally rigid construction, extends the weight distribution further forward.   Add the straight profile, and it adds up to firm contact and edge engagement on a greater length of the running surface on a hard track.    
When I say "hard track", I'm referring to a skating platform that's firm enough to use roller-ski poles without punching through the surface.    Firm, icy, boiler-plate, concrete, bullet-proof - call it what you want, but if it's hard enough to use roller-ski pole tips, it's "hard track".
Although it is designated as a "hard track" ski, it will certainly be used in medium to hard track conditions, and also will be used as an all-around ski by skiers looking for extra stability.
Atomic uses a bit of extra material in the front end of the ski, dropping their “Beta construction” on the HT in favor of a stout flat-top box section.    The ski really is noticeably stiffer torsionally.      It is still a cap construction with a distinct hard edge flange that helps with edging and control; this remains a hallmark of the Atomic skate skis, dating back to the early 1990’s.

The bindings will need to be positioned with care, and probably a little further back of the ski’s balance point in order for it to feel neutral, based on my experience.   My bet would be 1.5-2.0cm behind balance point, but I’ll be following up with Atomic Austria to get some guidance on their recommendation.

Two grooves for tracking.
Ultratune grind for speed!
Double grooves. The double grooves are another shot at making the ski track well in tough conditions.   The bottom of the HT skate ski looks like a Rossi skater!     Except that the grooves are beefier – a little deeper and wider. I think this is welcome – it makes it easier to work on the ski when the grooves are more pronounced.  The all around ski (the “ST”) will still keep the single groove.

The base material is the same as the World Cup Red Cheetah, and they’re very easy to work on – the bases are flat and stay flat, they hold wax well, and the p-tex is slightly softer than many of the other brands.  

On the snow the HT skate ski is solid and stable.    I got the opportunity to use these skis in icy, transformed conditions that included short sections of melt/freeze (water ice), and long stretches of consolidated large-grained old snow that hadn’t been groomed for a couple of days.   Also, I got to use the new skis on groomed track that wasn't icy but simply firm.    For me, I could really feel a more solid footing.   I noticed it in the tail of the HT as much as the tip, even though the emphasis from Atomic has been on the front-end construction.   I suspect they firmed up the tail as well, and there is a slight flare of the ski in the final 6 inches of the tail which helps accentuate the gliding platform while on a flat ski (V2, field skate, etc).    On a flat ski, the HT doesn’t wander or squirm; it feels secure.    On steep, icy, climbs, the edges stay engaged and don’t wash out.

The trade-off with the HT is that when you’re skiing in soft snow some of the lively supple feel of the standard “ST” skater is a little bit diminished.     To me, I think their standard soft/medium track ST skate ski is still my preferred all around choice.    But as a 2nd pair, the HT really offers an important compliment to address the realities of skiing in firm snow conditions, or in hard, transformed, crusty, or icy conditions.      The fastest skis are the pair that get you to the finish line most quickly, and having a straight tracking and stable ski on a hard surface is crucial.

Oh yes, they tune up nicely
Usage for the two offerings will have some overlap.    Soft/medium for the ST, and medium/firm for the HT version.     But skiers who prefer an extra stable ski may find the HT to their liking as their primary ski.
The firmer tip flex on the Atomic HT should be considered in context.   The HT still has a more supple fore-body than the "regular" ski from a few of the other ski brands!'s simply more firm than the Atomic ST version.    This is definitely not a board-stiff snow plow.
Picking the appropriate flex will be important for performance, as always.    The Atomic HT skate skis will need to be picked on the firmer side, I think, compared to the ST version.    I’ve only had the opportunity to ski on two pairs, so I don’t have a huge base of testing data.    I’ll be doing some background work to get recommendations from the race room guys in Altenmarkt in order to get the best fits for skiers.

If you’re a citizen racer, the HT plus the ST make a terrific 2-pair combo.    For competitors with a full bag of ski options, a combination of HT and ST choices will allow you to select flexes and grinds to handle the full matrix of possibilities without compromise.

A squared-off tip.  A firm tip flex, but still more supple
than some other brands offer on their "all-around" ski.
A small detail but with the squared-off tip and the double-groove base, you'll be able to distinguish the HT from the ST in the dark when you stick your hand into your ski bag!

I think Atomic has done their homework and they’ve paid attention to feedback from the racers.    They needed a hard track ski, and they came through.  

What would I do differently?    Okay, I’ll say it again…   …they would set off church bells if they’d put a NIS plate on their skis.    It would make the business of binding placement much easier (at least for NNN boot users).     Not likely to happen, I realize, but objectively it would benefit the ski.     Small potatoes, but I find the graphics to be a little bit busy.    This has no bearing on anything, and I’m not exactly an art major, but that’s my opinion.

I applaud Atomic for making a true hard track choice in their skate ski offerings.    Instead of two very similar skis (cold/warm), they’re offering two distinctly different skis that complement each other.    One is an excellent, supple, fast, all-around ski for soft and medium track (plus sugar found in mass start races); the other is a firm, stable platform for use in medium to hard-track conditions or for skiers who place a high priority on extra stable skating.

Want some?
If you'd like to pre-order some of the Atomic skate skis, either the new HT or the all-around ST version, just send an email and you'll be added to the pick list for autumn 2011 delivery.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mid-Winter Ski & Structure Testing

During mid-winter and late season, there are more opportunities for in-depth ski testing.    By this time of year activity in the shop has settled into a steady (busy) pace and there's time to prepare and test grinds and new grind ideas.
Ski testing with factory-matched identical test skis.
This season, I'm placing some focus on carefully dialing-in the range limits on some of the existing grinds, and I'm also testing a couple of effective broad-range structures for classic skis.     Temp range, new snow vs. old snow, etc.

Testing and introducing new structures is not a simple business.    First of all, anything "new" needs to be very good and very versatile.    It needs to be better than something that's already on the menu, which is a tall order, since the grind menu at Nordic Ultratune has very good, very verstatile grinds.

The on-snow part of ski testing is much less than half of the work.    The test skis preparation takes more time than the on-snow testing, and the data entry and data analysis is a bit of time.    Documentation, carefully, creates a record of testing and processes that is very important.

Good results depends on good data;  I use factory matched test skis that are identically prepared in order to minimize the possibility of false results due to the influence of uncontrolled or unanticipated variables.

But the testing continues.    It's one of the most fun parts of the job.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Choose Your Language

Hey, I added a language translator widget.

In the upper right corner.

Try it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nordic Ultratune February 2011 Newsletter

A lot more than I can post here. It's a ten page newsletter with lots of good information.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weighing in on wing wedges

There has been a bit of buzz about the 60mm wedges that can be used with Pilot bindings.    Here's some info and pics.

Wings provide a wider base of support under the forefoot.
The "wing wedges" have been seen on the World Cup for the past 3 seasons.    I first saw them on Atomic skis while working at the World Cup events during the winter of 2008/2009.      There has been plenty of experimenting and tweaking in the past couple of years to give the manufacturer confidence that they have some merit.    And finally they make it to the consumer so that anyone can give it a try.

The intent of the wings or outriggers is to provide an extended platform under the forefoot, providing better control of the ski.     This has been the premise of the NNN binding design since 1998 when they introduced their wide platform R3 skate binding, and it has shown over the past decade that it's a good idea.    

The wing wedges provide a space for the Pilot binding to sit down in a channel so that the wings are at the same surface level as the foot platform of the Pilot binding.   Because of the inset dimensions, the wedges work very, very nicely with the Pilot but are not compatible with any other version of Salomon binding.   It's not intended for use with the Profil, ProPulse, or Pilot Classic binding.

The wings - the lateral support extensions - seem pretty obvious and intuitive in their benefit, yet the idea of the wedge that lifts the toes by 5mm seems less clear-cut.        While some marketing articles claim that the ski will spurt forward like a wet bar of soap ( ?? ) if you simply add this wedge, I find that the effect is subtle.     It has 5mm lift over a length of 300mm.    Sharpen your pencil:  that's about a 1 degree angle.

How much toe lift?   The wedge is about a 1 degree angle.   
With the toe lifting wedge, I think there is some initial accentuation of the sensitivity to fore/aft foot pressure on the ski.   But competent skate skiers will adapt quickly and really won't notice much difference in feel after a few days on the skis.      The wedge component of the setup seems to have received a mixed reception - whether it helps or doesn't - but the consensus is that at least is doesn't harm performance.

My opinion after testing skis with the wing-wedge, and without them, is that the wings definitely improve the feel of the skis.     The wedge (toe lift) aspect, to me, is somewhat inconsequential.

The wing wedges are not an expensive item, they're less than $20/pr and include longer screws to replace the front-end screws on the Pilot binding.     If you're retrofitting skis, the change-over is simple and quick and doesn't require any drilling - you can use the same holes as long as you don't mess anything up when removing the bindings.    

At the relatively modest price, and with such minimal impact on the ski setup, it's something that anyone could try themselves and make their own decision on whether wing wedges are a benefit or not.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Methow Valley Pursuit

I spent Saturday morning out on the Methow Valley's race trails, helping to prepare skis for racers at the Methow Valley Pursuit.    Day 1 was a 10km individual start classic race. Conditions were hard-track klister skiing, with a track snow temperature of -4C.
Applying klister at the side of the track.
The race trails here are challenging - up and down and repeat - and good grip wax is a priority. As usual, the best skiers made it look easy. Congratulations to everyone who raced!

Results for the Methow Valley Pursuit can be found here.     And race photos can be found here for Day 1 and Day 2 photos can be found here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wet weather fails to dampen the ski season

The Mantec Ski Numericontrol 140 at Nordic Ultratune
A warm wet "pineapple express" has brought rain and balmy weather to the inland Northwest, melting about 1/3 of our local snowpack.     Fortunately we have plenty of snow to survive this weekend warm-up, and the forecast is calling for cooler temps and a bit of fresh snow to return us to our regularly scheduled winter.      The sooner the better!

Meanwhile, the ski service work continues to churn along - it's the busiest season ever at Nordic Ultratune.    Gold, silver and bronze medals were won at the recent national championships on skis prepared on the Nordic Ultratune grinder.      The Technolami Mantec Ski Numericontrol 140 NC continues to turn out beautiful skis.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wedges for NIS?

Check out the FIS video from the Rossignol wax hut at the Tour de Ski.

Noteworthy is the presentation of wedges for NIS plates, used with skate skis.     Interesting stuff.

Of course, as long as someone is making adapters for NIS plates, why not make an adapter/wedge combo for Pilot bindings?        I guess it's asking too much to think that Salomon and Rottafella would cooperate so that the end user might benefit with a better product for everyone.

By the way, those Rossignol boots really are awesome.