Monday, 5 December 2011

Early Results

Earlier this year, Fast Trax undertook fleet management projects with Matt Saurette and Ember Large, two of our sponsored athletes. Matt and Ember are both Madshus athletes and each of them have a significant fleet of skis. However, the challenges they were encountering were distinct and worth discussing.

Matt became a Madshus athlete in the 2010-2011 season and his ski bag was full of a lot of good materials. Most of his skis came from Reece at Madshus and were skis that had been passed on from other athletes. A few of the pairs came directly from Beckie and were skis that she had raced on prior to her retirement in 2006. The issue was that while his skis were excellent, Matt's fleet was put together with no overall plan and had some significant holes.

After spending some time with Matt in the spring, we determined that there was room for improvement with respect to both warm and cold skate skis, as well as with respect to hardwax classic skis. Matt's best pair of cold skate skis was a 116 mold from 2010 that we had selected from regular inventory. This skis had worked quite well and Matt was very happy with them, however we suspected there was room for improvement. Matt's only other pair of skate skis was an old 166 mold that had never seen much success (see the discussion on Madshus models here - ski service).

With this in mind, we were able to select some new materials in Norway to help Matt round out his fleet. The addition of a 119 universal warm ski and a 118 universal cold ski means that Matt is well positioned for skating. The addition of a nice 102 universal hardwax classic ski means that Matt now has good options for both hardwax and klister (from his existing fleet).
Testing the new 119 skis in Norway.

Matt's new materials.

Ember, on the other hand, is new to Madshus and inherited a large fleet of skis from Kate Brennan who switched to Fischer for this season. In addition, Ember received a few pairs of new skis that were selected by Reece. As a result, Ember's fleet was nicely put together - she just didn't know what she had or when to use specific skis.

We strongly believe that having a well managed fleet of skis is a crucial asset for any aspiring athlete. There needs to be enough choice in the materials to be able to get the appropriate pair of skis on the snow on the appropriate day. However, the "well managed" part is key. A large, unorganized fleet of skis creates unnecessary stress for both the athlete and the technical staff and makes it virtually impossible to find success. Having a choice in skis should reduce stress rather than create stress!

As there is no snow in Edmonton, the assessment of Ember's fleet was done by hand - literally. We reviewed each pair of skis and identified specific characteristics that indicate under which conditions the skis will be useful. We consider the shape of the running surface, tip/tail pressure, flex, and bridge characteristics as part of the equation.

In the end, we were able to produce a nice summary document for Ember that provides the information she needs to make educated decisions. You can take a look at that document here - Ember Large fleet. We also created some stickers that provided a summary of the same information right on the skis:

Useful information, terrible picture quality.
Now, none of this really means anything until the skis get out on the snow. In his early testing in Lake Louise, Matt's new 119 skis were killing his old warm pair - an excellent sign. More interestingly, however, are the results of competition from the first Alberta Cup in Canmore. Matt handily won both the sprint and distance races using his new 118 and 102 skis. Ember finished first and third in the sprint and distance races respectively. Excellent results!

It should be noted that Ulf, Les, Reid, and Dan put in a ton of work testing wax solutions for the weekend and, by all accounts, the ENSC athletes had amazing skis. Those guys deserve big congratulations - Canmore is usually a pretty easy venue for waxing overall, but a pretty hard venue to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Nicely done!