As a reward to the dealers who were able to sell the most Swix Triac poles and Fischer RCS Carbonlite boots a contest was organized; to the winners a trip to Norway. First a few days in Lillehammer then down to Oslo for the World Championships.
Come on New Jersey
On Monday the nine dealers from all over the United States were supposed to converge in Newark to catch the same flight to Oslo, Norway. That seemed like a fairly easy task until bad weather moved into New Jersey, flights were canceled, delayed several hours, bags were lost and David Peterson (The Ute Mountaineer, Aspen, CO) even got rerouted through Heathrow. Eventually though we all met up in Oslo and headed to Lillehammer.
After a quick stop at our hotel, we were off to lunch at Nicker’s downtown to watch the men’s 15km classic race that was going on back down in Oslo. After watching the race, eating and possibly enjoying a few adult beverages the group headed back to the hotel to check-in to our rooms an change up for a little ski.
Where it all happened
The afternoon ski was a treat in itself as we headed up to the Birkebeineren Ski Stadium which was home to most of the Nordic events at the 1994 olympic games in Lillehammer. While skiing around it was hard not to imagine the same space crowded with thousands of Norwegians cheering on Bjorn Daehlie as he raced Silvio Fauner to the line only to be silenced by the Italian in the men’s 4×10 relay (YouTube video).
The group enjoyed both the more gentle terrain that was the final kilometers of the Norwegian Birkebeiner as well as the much more challenging trails of the Olympic course, where we all tried to keep up with the surges of Eli Brown (Brick Wheels, Traverse City, MI) and Bob Rosso (Elephants Perch, Ketchum, ID).
After skiing for an hour and a half we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and head to dinner downtown at Pepe’s Pizza. Then most everyone headed to bed after a long day of traveling and skiing.
In the morning we were all treated to a spread of typical Norwegian breakfast foods. If you are friends with someone on the trip there is a good possibility that you will be presented with some Bacon Ost upon their return home.
It is important that they are sober
After breakfast the group headed to the Swix Factory for a tour from the legendary Harald Bjerke. It was amazing to see how so few workers are able to run the entire wax production. When asked about it Bjerke commented that, “it is just like cooking, you just follow the recipe, but it is important that they are sober.”
After the tour, Bjerke gave a powerpoint presentation about the history of Swix and developments along the way, including wax and poles – all of which included anecdotes.
Hitting the Birkebeiner race course
From there the group got changed up back at the hotel and headed up to the Birkebeiner trails. As we worked our way backwards along the course we were treated with four classic tracks each separated by a skate lane, all of which was groomed to perfection. Our turnaround point was about 8km out at the highpoint of the course which is 910 meters above sea level. We skied the rolling and mostly flat terrain back to were we started, from there most of us decided it would be fun to ski the remaining fifteen kilometers to the finish of the Birkie and then drop down the hill to our hotel. Although there was a climb here and there, for the most part it was all down and at times quite so.
Dinner at a restaurant called The Cave was amazing and gave way to a ‘few’ hours of socializing with Eivind and some other Lillehammer locals.
Meeting Ulf Bjerknes
Let’s just say the early morning departure was hard for some who were going on little sleep, but two and a half hours later we were back in Oslo at Swix’s main office to meet the company’s president Ulf Bjerknes and pole production manager Svein Pedersen. Bjerknes gave an interesting presentation about what the company is working on; from the production and growth of their apparel line to the challenges that exist in different countries.
Pedersen talked about the innovations in their pole line and the difficulties of always looking for something lighter, stiffer, stronger and with an improved swing.
After that it was time to head to our new hotel in downtown Oslo to meet similar dealer groups from Germany and Sweden. From there it was off to Drammen to test those ‘black’ skis that are Fischer’s new line for the 2011/12 season on the World Cup race course. Although most of the dealers had already tested the line at the SIA show at Devil’s Thumb Ranch last month it was still a great opportunity to provide feedback to some of Fischer’s top employees. On a whole the new skis were just what you would expect from Fischer; light, solid, stable and of course fast and the graphics look even more impressive in person than what you may have already seen on the web.
The highlight of the ski in Drammen was that Fischer had arranged for all the dealers to get personal lessons from Jon Nordby, who is one of the top club coaches in all of Norway and his son Sindre Wiig Nordby, who is rising the ranks and is now just off the national team. Sindre, you may recall, may be best known in the United States for showing up on JohnnyKlister doing his skier imitation.
[A video of him doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation on skis is coming soon, so check back later today.]
Now we head to Mecca
All the dealers would agree that this trip has been amazing and that everyday has brought something new and better than the best from the day before, but today, today we head up the hill to the ‘Kol’, today we go to the World Championships at the Holmenkollen, it does not get any bigger.