Friday, December 19, 2014

Mazama Ski Rodeo 10k Skate Dec 31

The views aren't bad from the course.
The Methow Valley is lucky to have plenty of snow this winter.   In fact it's about the only place in Washington state to have gotten (and kept) snow.     The folks at Methow Trails are keeping it all groomed and beautiful for us.
Pint glasses for the first 200 skiers.

If you're looking for a bit of fun during the holidays, why not come out for the annual Mazama Ski Rodeo!    The Ski Rodeo is a fun and friendly 10km skate race in Mazama.     Every year there are some serious hot-shots at the pointy end of the race, and also a whole lot of people out having a great time.  The views from the course are spectacular (if it's not snowing).

This year, the first 200 entries will also receive a commemorative pint glass.

The Ski Rodeo is on Dec 31st.    Click here for info.  So if you're looking at getting a head start on the party, come out and join us!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PNW Events for 2014/15

I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of upcoming 2014/15 events for the Pacific Northwest.

Dec 13/14 - Blackjack NorAm - Rossland BC
Dec 31 - Mazama Ski Rodeo - Skate 10K
Jan 2  - Methow Valley Try Biathlon - Pursuit Format
Jan 3/4 - MBSEF Jr Qual - Bend OR
Jan 10 - Skirennen Leavenworth - Skate 10K
Jan 17/18 - Race of the Methow - Jr Qual
Jan 17 - Reino Keski-Salmi Loppet - 36K Classic - Salmon Arm BC
Jan 18  - Kongsberger Gunnar Hagen Memorial - Classic 30K or 15K
Jan 24/25 - Washington Biathlon Race 1&2 - Individual & Super Sprint
Jan 24/25 - Methow Valley Pursuit - 30K CL & 30K SK
Jan 25/26 - Bend OR JOQ - Jr Qual
Jan 25- Teacup Classic - 30K Classic at Mt Hood
Jan 31 - MBSEF Great Nordeen - Bend OR 18 or 30K skate
Feb 8 - Winthrop Ski Derby - Classic 15km or 30km
Feb 14/15 - Kongsberger  Jr Qual & Stampede -  Jr Qual and Skate race
Feb 14 - Tour of the Methow Valley - Noncompetitive 80K Tour
Feb 8 - Spokane Langlauf - Classic 10K
Feb 21/22 - Washington Biathlon Race 3&4  - Mass Start & Sprint
Feb 28 - Blackjack Loppet - Rossland BC
Mar 7/8 - Washington Biathlon Race 5&6 - Individual & Pursuit
Mar 15  - Kongsberger Ozbaldy - Skate 50K
Mar 15 - Cascade Crest - Skate 30K
April 11 - Washington Biathlon Race 7 - Super Sprint

Friday, November 21, 2014

Casey's on the case. Doing more in Canmore.

Casey Smith is in Canmore preparing for a full season on the Biathlon circuit in North America and Europe.

This morning I got this note from Casey:
Hey Mark
Training in Canmore has been great so far. Skis are awesome. I finally got them all skied in and they are feeling good. Haven't done any specific testing but the RDGs were running super well the other day when it was about -5c and sunny. Next week ill do some more specific testing for the races and can let you know how things run.


Casey in on the USBA National B Team, and is affiliated with Maine Winter Sports Center, though the locals here in the Methow Valley will always consider him a homey.   He skis on Madshus skis and boots.

Casey has the gear geek gene that seems to go with biathlon, and he does a really good job of taking care of his Madshus boards, and also seems to have good objectivity when it comes to evaluating skis and ski testing.     

You can follow Casey on his blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kelsey's in Canmore

Kelsey Dickinson and a few freshly prepared skis.
Ready to start the racing season!
The biathletes have been training and racing in Canmore in the past couple weeks.    

I got a short note and photo from Kelsey Dickinson yesterday, thanking me for speeding up her skis.    A great photo...    

Kelsey is in the USBA Development Group as well as a skier for the College of St Scholastica.      You can keep up with Kelsey at her blog.

To handle the first half of the season, Kelsey chose the XC02, RDG, and R214 grinds from Ultratune.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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 27th. Skis that arrive on Wednesday or earlier will still be in the normal stone grinding batch to be shipped out on Monday Dec 1st.

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).   Of course, the shop is open every weekend, too, so if you're in town drop in and say hello.

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 26th will ship out on Dec 1st.
  • Skis in by Dec 4th will ship out on Dec 8th and arrive to you by Dec 11th
  • Skis arriving by Dec 11th will ship back out on Dec 15th
 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.

Hand Selected New Skis from Nordic Ultratune

Are you looking for new skis to go along with your desire for improved performance? It doesn't matter what level of skier you are. We all want to hit the trails with skis and a grind & wax that are going to give us the best experience. Nordic Ultratune offers skis and world class grinds that help you achieve your best. Yes, we continue to offer our custom ski program tailored just for you this 2014-15 season.

Get the skis you want, selected just for you, from the best possible selection. Check out our available new skis from Atomic, Madshus, and Rossignol on our website!

I work closely with the ski companies, knowledgeable World Cup skiers, coaches and servicemen to get the best possible information on ski fitting for each brand and model that Ultratune sells.

All skis are selected using the Ultratune Digital Flex Press in our shop. Whether you choose a ski from Atomic, Madshus or Rossignol, you'll get a well-fitted ski with a fast base finish that will result in great performance.  Email for info or with any questions!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How To Ship Your Skis

I’m continually asked for advice on the best way to ship skis.  Here’s how I would ship skis.

You can ship skis in a cardboard box, a plastic ski tube, or a ski bag.    If you don't have a plastic ski case or a ski box handy, then the easiest and quickest way to ship skis is to use your ski bag and some bubble-wrap.

FedEx will ship a ski bag without any problems. Before you worry too much about the skis being destroyed, let me assure you that the FedEx employees treat your skis better than airline baggage handlers. Just about the only “planning ahead” you’ll need is a trip to the hardware store for a roll of bubble wrap and a roll of packaging tape. A roll of bubble-wrap cost $3.45 at my local hardware store.
A roll of bubble-wrap costs about $4.

1) First, clean your skis! Use a scraper to remove any storage wax – and don’t for get the grip wax on classic skis.

2) Next, fill out a work-order form completely for each pair of skis. You can tape the work order to the skis. For multiple pairs (hey, why not!), you can put all the work orders in an envelope and tape the envelope securely to one of the pairs of skis.

3) For each pair of skis, rubber-band or tape the pair together. Don’t send your favorite ski ties, or they’ll become part of our growing collection.
Tape the skis together.
4) Next, tape the pairs of skis together into a single solid quiver. If you’re sending 3 pairs, for instance, you’ll have a solid bundle of skis that are easy to protect in the ski bag. Double check to make sure you’ve taped the work orders to the skis.

Mummy-wrap the bundle of skis.
5) Wrap the bundle of skis with the bubble wrap. Make sure you’ve protected the tails and tips of the skis. It doesn’t hurt to mummy-wrap the whole bundle, but take extra care to wrap the tips, tails, and bindings. The bubble wrap goes on the skis as a group, and not wrapped around each individual ski. Mummy-wrap the bundle of skis, and add some extra to the tips and tails.

6) Insert the bundle of skis into the ski bag and secure the bag with the buckles and straps. Stuff the ski bag, you can add extra padding if space allows.

Stuff the wrapped skis into a ski bag.
7) Taping up any loose ends, like straps, with some duct tape will help to keep everything in order. Tape down the loose ends with duct tape.

8) Take the ski bag to a FedEx shipping center. A lot of people are able to use the shipping/receiving department at their workplace, so that’s an option.

As noted, FedEx shipping will take your carefully packed ski bag without batting an eye. They have special hang tags to hold the shipping labels and will help with any questions you might have. FedEx has special plastic hang-tags to hold shipping labels, made just for items like soft luggage and ski bags.

If you’re not in a hurry, use the least expensive shipping method available (FedEx ground in most cases).

Keep in mind that Nordic Ultratune will usually return your skis in the packaging you send them in. Ultratune will send them back to you using FedEx. It’s easy for Ultratune to keep track of your ski bag, and easy for us to re-package your skis for safe shipping back to you in your ski bag, too.
Secure any loose ends.

Odds and Ends:
Some of you have hard-shell ski cases. Packing your skis inside of a hard-shell case is great! FedEx will ship it. No problem.

Boxes?  If you’ve already got a cardboard ski box that’s the right size, then that’s terrific. Use it! But there’s simply no need to pay for a ski box, nor to use an oversized box (an oversized box will cost more to ship).

Use a FedEx hang-tag for the shipping label.
Horror Stories? The most common horror stories are from customers who carry their skis (unpackaged) into a “UPS Store”. They ask for packaging materials and shipping. The clerk at the UPS Store then quotes them a price for a box, packing material (double whammy – they use the dreaded styrofoam peanuts!), and overnight shipping that can run up to triple digits for a single pair of skis!

Lots of skis?  You can fit a lot of skis into a big ski bag. Ski reps and racers send a dozen pair or more in a single bag.
There are 14 pairs of skis in this bag!

Let’s Summarize:
Packing skis in a ski bag is quick, easy, and inexpensive. FedEx treats them well, and a padded ski bag provides about as much protection as a cardboard box.

When they’ve been taped together and mummy wrapped as a group, they’re easy to protect.  Keep in mind that your ski bag might get a bit dirty and travel worn, but that’s what they’re for, right?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autumn Masters Biathlon Camp

Casey picking up a fresh grind at Ultratune
Join nationally ranked biathletes Casey Smith and Raleigh Goessling for a biathlon training camp at Colorado's Snow Mountain Ranch.

Date: October 18-19, 2014
Location: Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado
Cost:  $300
Ages: 20+
Online Registration:

Equipment Needs:  Biathlon rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, ski walking poles (i.e. downhill length ski poles), athletic footwear.

The purpose of this autumn dry-land biathlon training camp is to improve your biathlon skills while supporting biathletes Casey Smith and Raleigh Goessling.    Training sessions will focus on dry firing, live fire, training plans, visualization, dry land training and the individualized needs of masters biathletes.   Previous biathlon experience is required.

Space is limited so register early!   Contact Casey Smith.

Raleigh Goessling leads Casey Smith while sprinting for the title at Nationals.

Grinding Season is On

It's a good time to get your skis in for pre-season service work.

Precision grinding with the
Mantec Skinumericontrol 140
Before things get cold and snowy, you might want to get those skis in for a grind.   Whether it's a good pair of racing boards that need to be brought back to their best form after a season of waxing hot with powders and cold waxes, or a pair of skis with some nasty scratches that need to be cleaned up, it's a perfect time to get them serviced.

Pre-season service on your skis has the advantage of not being quite so time sensitive for YOU.   While the turn-around in the shop is normal, there isn't the looming presence of a big race to make a nervous time crunch for you.

Nordic Ultratune uses a six step process to assure that you get skis that are well prepared and ready to race.

So check out the grind menu, download a work order form, ship your skis, and then you can relax through the summer knowing that you're a step ahead of the game on preparing for next season.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Grinding Season - How much p-tex is removed?

People often ask how much p-tex is removed from the ski during the grinding process.

During the total ski servicing process, there is p-tex removed while steel scraping (before the ski ever goes through the grinder), and then of course during the grinding process.   MOST of the p-tex comes off during the steel scraping part of the process.   The steel scraping is where the bulk of the flattening and scratch removal is done.   (My educated guess is that 80% of the p-tex removal occurs during the steel scraping and the other 20% of p-tex removal is done by the grinder)

While working on a few skis today, I decided it would be a good time to make some measurements.
I collected the p-tex shavings from the steel scraping process for 20 pairs of skis.   None of these were new skis, and it was an assortment of Madshus, Rossignol, Salomon, Atomic, and Fischer skis.   Pretty much a random sample of skis in decent shape.

P-tex shavings from 20 pairs of skis.   About 2.35 grams per ski.
The photo shows a pretty scary big pile of p-tex shavings.   Note the 12 ounce coffee cup and office-sized stapler in the photo to provide a bit of scale.

From 20 pairs I collected 94 grams of dry p-tex shavings.    That's about 2.35 grams per ski.   For comparison, that is about the same weight as half a teaspoon of regular granulated white sugar.     If my estimate is close on the ratio of p-tex removed in the grinder, then about 2/3 gram is removed per ski in the grinder, with a total of approximately 3 grams per ski is taken off.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roller Skis with NIS Binding Plates

It's good to see the Swix roller skis with NIS binding plates.     This is just a sensible thing with so many people on NNN/NIS these days.    Note that the Swix roller skis are also drilled for Salomon bindings, so if you're going that way, you just unscrew the NIS plates and screw down the Salomon bindings.   No drilling required at all.

NIS Plates on Swix Rollerskis
Nordic Ultratune has the skate and classic roller skis in stock if you need a pair.    Just email and I'll try to help you out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Big Wildfire - Back up and running...

You might have heard that there has been a big wildfire here in North Central Washington, in the Methow Valley.  

On Monday, the 14th, lightning storms set off a few fires in the area.    One of them (at "Cougar Flats") was about 2 miles from Ultratune as the crow flies.

The Cougar Flats fire, part of the larger Carlton Complex fire, grew within a few days at an alarming rate to merge, expand, and consume 250,000 acres (about 400 square miles) as well as destroying over 300 homes.

During the worst of it, flames were visible from my house for 4 days straight, just about 2.5 miles east.    I was very fortunate that my little house is upwind from the fire and not downwind.   Fire moved at up to 3 mph during hot, dry, windy evenings and was an absolute firestorm.

Power, phone, internet, radio and TV were all out for about 8 days.

Everyone is helping friends and strangers alike.    We'll get through it; that's what we do in the Methow Valley.

The air here is still a little smoky (smells like bacon!).    There are over 3000 fire fighters camped here in the area fighting the fire and getting things under control (as of today, it's about 70% contained).    Helicopters, water bomber airplanes, a DC10 dropping retardant.   Maybe 1000 wild land fire vehicles.  

Now the power is back on at Ultratune.   Email is working.   The web site is up and running.  The phone works.      No damage at the shop, and everything is fine.  

There's nothing like hot, dry, smoky weather to make you dream of skiing!

If you've got skis that need service, send them any time.   FedEx & UPS are delivering, and I'm back in the shop catching up on grinding!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Have you noticed that the days are already getting shorter?

It's approaching the 4th of July holiday, and time for die-hard skiers to turn their gaze toward winter.    Summer fun certainly doesn't need to be 100% ski focussed for competitive Masters age group skiers and recreation skiers, but it's not hard to add some ski strength to the mix.     Roller skiing, hiking with ski poles, ski bounding, paddling - all these are great ways to get the upper body involved.     The closer it is to real skiing - as specific as possible - the more benefit it will bring to you ski season.  

Meanwhile the skis need to be taken care of.   So spend some time thinking about that.    Did you bother to clean the skis and put storage wax on them?     Did you think about getting the bases cleaned up with a fresh grind to bring them back to their best speed?     Now is a great time for that.

During the summer, Nordic Ultratune has a more relaxed grinding schedule, but the service work keeps on going.     There are no set shop hours for walk in traffic, but I'm happy to meet customers on a "by appointment" basis.      Email or call to work out details.   It's a good time to tune up the skis.

You can beat the autumn rush by sending skis for service early!      A grind and hotbox waxing service will have the skis ready to fly when the snow arrives.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rossi Xium Skate Boot 2014-15: Less is More

Rossi Xium World Cup Skate Boot
Rossignol is updating the Xium Skate boot for the 2014-15 season.    This update is a case of "less is more".   Rossignol has simplified the boot, made it a little bit more user-friendly, enhanced a few items, and kept what was already good.

Functional Changes.    They've gotten rid of the wrap around velcro angle band, which was a bit of an annoyance, and didn't really offer better control or performance.   Kudos for that.     They've gotten rid of the "Sidi Buckle" around the cuff, replacing it with a straight-forward velcro power strap.   Great.      They've ditched the angled zipper, and gone with a 'straight up the middle' version.   This seems completely arbitrary to me, but doesn't seem to be a problem at all.  The carbon heel counter is much more extensive and wrap-around than the old boot, which feels to me much more rigid.    This seems very good, though it could result in some hard contact points for people with finicky, bony, feet.

In addition, the fit seems slightly more snug (comparing same size 2013 vs 2014/15 boots), notably in the forefoot and a little higher in the arch.    For many skiers this will be a benefit; for others not-so-much.   Fit is such a personal thing.     But to their credit, Rossignol has been making a thermo-formable boot for years, and it has always been a big help in getting a good fit.

Straight up the middle zipper,
velcro strap,
more carbon,
updated graphics.
The Xium boot continues to be a very high performance, stiff, controllable, skate boot.   Rossignol was an "early adopter" of the Xcelerator sole, and they continue with that sole in this updated version.

Graphics change a little bit.   They're still very stylish, but color choices have morphed a bit to match the "more red" colors of the new ski graphics.   There is some arguing here at Ultratune about what to call this new color of  red/orange.    I think the best description is Lipstick Red.   Definitely describes it just right.

In terms of price, it's not a cheap boot, and will be priced at $449 at Ultratune.  I think this is a better value than Rossignol's "Premium Skate" which they're targeting at over $650, but which I feel has no real noticeable performance features over the Xium Skate boot.

Features are almost identical
between the Madshus Nano
and Rossignol Xium.
If you're looking for the stiffest skate boot on the market, you still have to look at the Madshus RedLine skate boot at around $750.    However, this new Xium Skate is a bit stiffer than the similar priced Madshus Nano boot that I tested earlier this winter.   The features between the Nano and Xium are now almost identical, but fit is a little different, so if you don't have brand loyalty you can let the fit be the decider.

This new Rossignol Xium World Cup Skate boot, at $449, offers a lot of subtle enhancements over the previous version.    It's not a revolutionary change for the Xium boot, but it is an evolutionary change.   A few features are simplified and easier to use.  I think it's a better boot than Rossignol has offered in the past.


In the Pacific Northwest it has been a particularly rough season on skis.    Very thin snow cover through December and January meant that a lot of skis were getting hammered by twigs and rocks and any of the perils that lurk beneath a meager snow pack.
Precision grinding with the
Mantec Skinumericontrol 140

Rolling into March we've got a ton of snow on the ground in the Methow Valley, but with Daylight Savings Time kicking in this weekend, it's pretty much a given that spring is coming.

So, before things get hot and sweaty and your skis start collecting dust in the corner, you might want to get those skis in for a grind.   Whether it's a good pair of racing boards that need to be brought back to their best form after a season of waxing hot with powders and cold waxes, or a pair of skis with some nasty scratches that need to be cleaned up, it's a perfect time to get them serviced.

Spring service on your skis has the advantage of not being quite so time sensitive for YOU.   While the turn-around in the shop is normal, there isn't the looming presence of a big race to make a nervous time crunch for you.

Nordic Ultratune uses a six step process to assure that you get skis that are well prepared and ready to race.

So check out the grind menu, download a work order form, ship your skis, and then you can relax through the summer knowing that you're a step ahead of the game on preparing for next season.

Friday, February 21, 2014

NIS Binding Plate Retrofit for Flat Top Skis

NIS Plates retrofitted to Atomic World Cup ST skate skis
(updated 2/28 with weight info)
For several years I've been wondering when someone would market a retrofittable NIS binding plate that can be used on flat-top skis (like Atomic, Salomon, and some Fischer, and roller skis too).   Rottefella has done it for the 2014/15 season.    Here's a look.

Top view: the front section.

I received a set of these NIS retrofit plates by FedEx today and mounted them on a set of Atomic World Cup ST skate skis right away.     All season I've been telling people that the new camber and improved mold regulation, has delivered for Atomic the best skate ski I've ever seen from them.    I've told people that the new Atomic is a GREAT skate ski, but that it would be even better with the fore/aft adjustability afforded by the NIS binding plate.      Well, thanks to the new NIS plate that screws down to the flat top skis, the Atomic skate skis are even better.

The NIS plate screws down with a heel plate (2 screws) and a main plate (6 screws).   The main binding plate will allow three position adjustability, with each position separated by 1.0 cm.   This compares to the current "bonded to the deck" NIS plate that has 7 positions separated by 5 mm.

Tech Specs.   Courtesy of Rottefella
The main binding plate seems to be slightly pre-stressed (i.e. slightly curved) to ensure that the fore and aft parts sit snug to the deck when it is screwed down to the ski.     Installation would be simpler with a specific mounting jig, but the sets of screws are at the same width as standard NNN and Salomon bindings, so at least the pairs of screws can be drilled easily.    A bit of careful measuring is needed to assure that the two front pairs are 40mm apart, but it's not a huge hassle (measure twice, drill once, right?).
Very visible in pink.   But production pieces will be black.

Heel plate is separate.
These new retrofittable NIS plates will be useful for anyone using NNN compatible boots who is also using flat deck skis (i.e. Atomic, Salomon).    The fore/aft adjustability is no joke.   Even if you just tweak the position once, and then leave it forever, it really can make a significant difference.    Also, skiers who swap around between wedges, and no wedges, will find this quick changeability to their liking.    It's a no-brainer for the brainiacs.

How does it compare, weight-wise, with the screwed-down R3 skate binding?  The R3 Skate binding (one) weighs 140g with screws (measured).  This new NIS binding adapter with screws weighs 60g (per foot), and the Xcelerator skate binding is 87g (each), making a total of 147g.  So the plate + Xcelerator weighs about 7g more (measured).

For certain these will be available in quantity by autumn (Ultratune has already ordered a bunch of them).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Rossignol Xium WCS Skate Skis 2014-15

New 2014-15 Rossignol Xium WCS S2 skate ski.
I received a big team bag from Rossignol last week, packed with new skate and classic skis, and boots:  New product for the 2014-15 season.

I'll focus now on the Rossignol Xium WCS 1 and 2 skate ski models.

While world cup skiers have always had a wide range of specially made skis available to them, to handle different snow conditions, this really hasn't been the case for recreational racers (consumers).   Rossignol has answered this situation by offering three distinct camber styles.  

Who doesn't love skiing in
fresh falling snow? 
For the 14-15 model year, the cambers have been adjusted.    The S1 has a lower camber, with longer contact areas in the front and rear, and almost no tip splay (while still having a moderately flexible tip).    The S2, their most "universal" camber, is about the same as previous years, with a medium contact zone in the front and rear, relatively high and springy camber.   The 14-15 version seems to have a little bit more tip-splay than past years (at least that's what I'm seeing with the samples that I'm testing).  The S3, which wasn't part of this test (wrong conditions for this ski), is a high camber ski with smaller contact distribution, more tip splay and a white base, and it's intended for moist conditions

The long contact distribution on the S1 is works well on colder snow, from sugar and loose soft conditions up to medium/firm track.  The S1 might feel more sticky when the snow is moist.   The S2 is a very all-around ski, and will ski pretty well in a wide range of conditions, and has a very snappy feel that the Rossignol skate skis are known for. 

In the past, there has been a lot of overlap (in production skis) between the cambers of S2 and S1 skate skis.   Typically, if I tested a bunch of S2 skate skis, I could find some that were similar to the S1 skis.    Rossignol tells me that for the 14-15 season the distribution of cambers will be much more close to "guidelines" for that particular model version.    IE, the S1's will be like S1's, and S2's will be like S2's.  

S1 & S2 Skis
I took the S1 & S2 skate skis out to test over a couple of days in different conditions.   Both pairs were identically prepared and sized very appropriately for me (I'm on a 192cm ski, and weigh about 185 lbs).   Both pairs skied very well, and I think that either pair could make a good "all-around" skate ski for most people.    But they're not the same.   They perform differently, in subtle ways, in different conditions.

I took these skis out in 15F weather in falling new snow.   This was cold packed powder, with temps warming from a cold snap near zero F, and rising with the falling snow, but definitely in the cold powder range.     In these conditions, the three people who were testing the skis all agreed that the S1 felt super stable and relaxed and fast.   

In firmer groomed conditions the S2 is still my favorite of the Rossignol quiver.  When I took the S1 & S2 out in these conditions (22F, fresh grooming, firm track), both pairs ran well, but the S2 felt more free, with a quicker release on climbs.   It has a lot of pop, feels super stable on a straight line on one ski, and also really rewards an aggressive skier who attacks the turns on the downhill.   This is my "quiver of one" skate ski from Rossignol.

 OH Yeah, the new graphics.   I love the new look.   See the pics, that's all I need to say on that.   They look great.

Test info...  Skis were tested for feel.   I was skiing pairs, and also skiing an S1 on one foot and an S2 on the other.  Tested on flats, steep climbs, easy climbs, short downhills.  The two pairs were identically prepared; both had the Ultratune R214 grind (an "almost ready for the retail-menu" new grind) and were waxed with Toko LF Moly & Blue mix.   NIS Bindings were the "normal" (non SSR, no wedge) version, and were set at the middle setting (at the "0").  I was also using a new pair of the Rossignol Xium Premium Skate boots (2014/15 model, size 44).  

How to get these skis?   You can put your name on Ultratune's pick list for autumn of 2014, just email with your info (height/weight, preferences, contact info), and let me know what you want.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boots 2014-15

The 2014-15 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boot.
I got a pair of size 44 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boots by FedEx about a week ago.   These are the newly updated boots for the 2014-15 season, which are an update to the Nano skate boot that you'll remember as the bright red and black boot.  

The new Nano boot is quickly and obviously distinguishable with the new color scheme, the new boots are black with red and white accents (as compared to the old boot which was red/black).

Now with Xcelerator NNN sole.
These Nano boots now feature the Xcelerator sole, so they have a different flex characteristics to the old NNN sole and the slightly lowered heel.   While I feel that the increased foreword flex is very noticeable it doesn't seem to come at the expense of torsional rigidity which is still very good.   If you're a skier who routinely uses wedges, skips the NNN heel piece, or uses the SSR binding, then the lowered heel will feel great, and might allow you to skip some of the other measures you've taken to get your stance comfortable.    On the other hand, if you're using "regular" flat Xcelerator NNN bindings, then you might need a few outings to get used to the dropped heel on the new Nano skate boots.    Madshus isn't alone in their use of the Xcelerator sole - these new soles have been in use for 2 seasons on the Rossignol Xium World Cup skate boot, for instance, so using the Xcelerator sole isn't so much groundbreaking, as it is perhaps 'making up ground'.

Comfy ankle padding, regular laces,
and velcro cuff closure are unchanged.
Materials in the lower part of the boot is new material, a synthetic material (leather-like) that's durable and has some modicum of flexibility.    The upper part of the boot (the gaiter) is again the breathable MemBrain material that worked well on the older boots.   Overall, I like the feel of the boots on my foot, though I had no trouble with durability on the older version.   The interior padding up around the ankle and the rear half of the boot seem virtually identical to the boot's predecessor.

The lacing system, and the ankle strap are definitely sticking with the Madshus pedigree: the laces are tied like an ordinary sneaker, and the ankle cuff is secured with a sturdy velcro strap.  These both seem to work really well, and clearly Madshus felt no need to change these.  

The fit.   The new version of the Nano Carbon Skate boot is a little bit roomier in the toe box than the boot it replaces.   While I wouldn't call it a "wide" boot, I will say that it is a friendly fit for people who have a higher volume foot, or who like a little wiggle room for the toes.

Okay, weights and measures...      These new Madshus boots are actually lighter than last year's boots and also lighter than their RedLine Super Nano boots.     The numbers look like this:

  • 2014-15 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate boot size 44   -  558g per boot
  • 2013-14 Madshus Nano Carbon skate boot size 44    -  606g per boot
  • 2014-15 Madshus Super Nano Skate boot size 44    -  569g per boot

Note that these boots are lighter than similarly priced offerings from other brands.   They are light.

There can be some confusion, because the super-top-end RedLine Super Nano boot is black and not red at all.   While the existing Nano boot is in fact red (color).   Now the Nano Carbon Skate boot will look more akin to the uber-stiff more expensive sibling, though still a very high spec boot in its own right.     The price is a big enough differentiator to keep most people clear in their mind, once they've had a good look.   The SuperNano being the $750 carbon molded version, while the Nano is at around $424.

So what's my verdict and take-away?   This new boot has a different ski feel than the predecessor, largely due to the NNN Xcelerator sole, with its increased forward flex and lowered heel.     Yet the boot retains the torsional stiffness and good fit of the previous boot.  If you liked the fit of the previous version of the Nano boot, then you'll likely find these to be a good fit as well.    Madshus has done it without raising the price, and overall quality is quite good.    These are a first rate, top end race boot that should have enough comfort for long training days for most skiers.

Hand Selected New Skis from Nordic Ultratune

Are you looking for new skis to go along with your desire for improved performance? It doesn't matter what level of skier you are. We all want to hit the trails with skis and a grind & wax that are going to give us the best experience. Nordic Ultratune offers skis and world class grinds that help you achieve your best. Fortunately, we continue to offer our custom ski program tailored just for you this 2013-14 season.

Get the skis you want, selected just for you, from the best possible selection. Check out our available new skis from Atomic, Madshus, and Rossignol on our new website!

I work closely with the ski companies, knowledgeable World Cup skiers, coaches and servicemen to get the best possible information on ski fitting for each brand and model that Ultratune sells.

All skis are selected using the Ultratune Digital Flex Press in our shop. Whether you choose a ski from Atomic, Madshus or Rossignol, you'll get a well-fitted ski with a fast base finish that will result in great performance.  Email for info or with any questions!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Prototype grind tests, and new product tests...

Factory matched test skis.
Here's a pic of a few of the test skis as they're ready to head out the door for testing.     New snow overnight means that I can try the recent prototypes on new snow to compare test results versus the old beat-up snow that's been on the ground the past couple weeks.    Right now there are 5 new prototypes in the bag along with 2 benchmarks for comparison.  

The test skis are factory matched skis that are treated identically except for the grinds.   Same wax, same flex, same camber.    It is the only way to compare grinds effectively - you have to remove all the variable but one, it's that simple.

Meanwhile, I opened a box from Madshus this morning and out popped a brand new pair of the 2015 Nanosonic skate boots in my size.   I'll be testing them in the coming days and let you know what I think.    You can see they're a different color (these are an update to the $424 Nano boot, and not the $$$ RedLine SuperNano boot), and a fit test tells me that they've got a little roomier toe-box than the current production Nano skater.     They've got the Xcelerator sole, too, which has a lower heel and a little different flex feel...      ...but let's wait until I get them on snow for a more thorough discussion, okay?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Poster arrives, well timed..

Brian & Caitlin Gregg
and some Madshus skis and poles.
This poster arrived today, with a thank you note and signed by Brian Gregg & Caitlin Gregg.  Nice photo, although I'd just as soon see them wearing USA hats instead of Norge hats (okay, they're Madshus hats, but still...).  

Congratulations to Brian for being named to the 2014 US Olympic Team!

Stone Grinding Schedule

You've been training  fall and winter to get the most from your skiing, so make sure your skis don't limit all of your hard work!

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 typically 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 races:
  • Skis in by Jan 23rd will ship out on Jan 27th and arrive back to you by the 30th.
  • Skis in by Jan 30th will ship out on  Feb 3rd
  • Skis in by Feb 6th will ship out on Feb 10th
  • Skis in by Feb 13th will ship out on Feb 17th.
You can see that there are still service batches scheduled before the big mid-winter events (JOQ's, Marathons, etc). There is still time to get a fast grind on your skis before the season's biggest races! But don't delay! Fill out our Work Order and get your skis ready! Fast boards are a joy to ski on and they're a real advantage.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

US Olympic Team

Brian Gregg.   USA Olympic Team 2014
The USST officially named the Cross Country Ski team for the Sochi Olympics today.

Represented in the mix are 3 skiers from the Methow Valley (Winthrop/Mazama, WA), and a couple with very close ties.   Five Washington State skiers!      A really big congratulations to all of those skiers -  Erik & Sadie Bjornsen, Holly Brooks, Brian Gregg, and Torin Koos (alphabetically, of course).

I was looking at the FIS points list the other day, and was really struck by the depth that the US is showing now.   The top 10 men and women on distance and sprint lists are very solid, and any of them would be worthy of representing us at the Olympics.    That's such an endorsement that the grass-roots development pipeline is doing something right.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Schempp & Hofer tie for first in Antholz

Hofer & Schempp on the podium.   Double winners.
Photo courtesy of Rossignol.
Germany's Simon Schempp and Italy's Lukas Hofer tied for first place, with a time of 22:44.9 in the Antholz sprint today.      Both were skiing Rossignol.      It coincides with the roll-out of the 2014/15 Rossignol Xium skate ski, with all new graphics.

I'll have a review of the new skate ski in the first week of Feb.   Watch for it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Methow Valley Ski Clinic with Sam Naney

Sam Naney
Photo by Steve Mitchell
Sam Naney will be leading an instructional clinic in the Methow Valley, this coming weekend.

The clinic on Jan 18th will run from 9am - 3pm, and will include a delicious sandwich lunch provided by the Mazama Store kitchens. Sam is limiting participation to the first twenty sign-ups to make sure we've got a great small-group feel (there will be 3 coaches), and will do his best to divvy up the groups by ability level so everyone gets the most focused attention. Focuses will include basic and advanced technique in both skate and classic, as well as more specialized instruction (as applicable) in up/downhills, cornering, and wax selection and application.

But that's not all...

The clinic also has partnered with Madshus Skis to offer equipment demos throughout the day. This demo is open to the public in addition to clinic participants. It will be a great chance to try out the latest Madshus RedLine skate or classic skis. Clinic participants who are anxious to take part in the demos should plan to arrive early to get set up with their demos before the 9am clinic start time.

More info here (click).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gregg + Gregg

Caitlin skied alone today.    Way, way, off the front.
Photo: Ian Harvey / Toko USA
A great day for the Greggs!  

Caitlin threw down some heavy skating and none of the other women could touch her.   She skated free to a 3:36 lead - over a kilometer ahead of 2nd place!  

Brian skied a big last lap and nearly caught Sylvan Ellefson, finishing less than 3 seconds back with a very clear and solid 2nd place for the 30km skate race.      Ellefson skied a great race for the win.

Brian & Caitlin didn't have any time for celebrating their day.     Brian called on the phone while on the way to the airport (no, he wasn't driving...);  he and Caitlin had a 5 o'clock flight to Europe to catch!  
Brian Gregg free skating in the 30K.
Photo:  Ian Harvey / Toko USA

Best luck to Brian & Caitlin in their upcoming World Cup starts.   And best luck in your quest for an Olympic start!

Brian & Caitlin are both skiing on Madshus skis and boots.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another title for Koos

Torin Koos leading the pack in the A Final
Photo by Ian Harvey / Toko USA
Torin Koos won another US National Sprint Title today in Soldier Hollow.    Torin sent this note this afternoon:

From: Torin Koos
Date: Sun, Jan 5, 2014 at 8:11 PM
Subject: RE: nice work

Thanks Mark!
Raced on my grind of choice for SoHo once again, the XCO2. The same ski in the qualifer at 5f at 10am and in the low 20s in the afternoon.