This year has included a lot new for me. A new coach… Jacob Beste, a new wax sponsor… Swix, a new race team… Team Birkie and a new charity/head gear sponsor… Team Strong Heart. Also, I have a new ski, boot, and binding sponsor in Fischer.
Thus far I have been tremendously happy with all my “new” Nordic gear and sponsors. Something I feel is worth mentioning in regards to my equipment is binding position and the NNN spacer/wedge. The first chance I had to test my new equipment came in November at the Super Tour races in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Fischer’s Race Service Director Chris Hall had picked many of my skis in Austria, and Gear West owner Brian Knutson and I added a few “Signature” skis from the store as well. I had reviewed all the pairs with my hands/eyes as well as on the Gear West Flex Tester.
Based on that data, I had a good feel about the quality I was working with and what skis were suited for different conditions. Once in West Yellowstone, I was able to do some on-snow ski testing (the best kind of testing) with Chris Hall. We were able to find some real winners, but one thing was bugging me a bit. A few of the pairs that looked phenomenal in my hands and on the flex tester seemed to underperform just a hair.
Since I am now skiing on the NNN Xcelerator system I was able to play with my ski-boot-binding interaction without messing around with screws, glue, and mounting jigs. The Xcelerator system is great because it works in conjunction with skis equipped with a NIS binding plate. The bindings easily and quickly snap into place and the interaction between the boot, binding and ski is very close… giving great ski feel.
I grabbed a few pairs of my skis that seemed to under-perform and moved the binding position around. This took me all of 30 seconds along the side of the trail. To my surprise, on a few of the pairs, shifting the binding 1 or 2 clicks (0.5 to 1cm) backwards made all the difference in the world! I couldn’t believe how some pairs went from good (everything in my bag is good) to exceptional. Testing of binding position involved skiing on a matched pair with each binding set to a different position. I would usually start with one in position “0” and one in position “-2”… at balance and “-1”cm back. Next, I would proceed to ski the pair in a small closed loop that included climbs, flats and descents. I was concentrating on how the ski accelerated, static speed while climbing and top end speed. I would rotate skis on each foot and then adjust binding position until I felt like I honed in on the “Sweet Spot”… the point which had the best speed characteristics.
The interesting thing to note is that some pairs seemed nearly impervious to binding movement and some pairs would have black and white difference in performance.
In the past, when I was skiing on Salomon, I would always mount each pair of skis a little different to try to find the “sweet” spot on a pair of skis. Now, I can adjust things on the fly. A few things to take home;
- I never had any skate skis perform well if I moved the binding forward of balance.
- Most of my skis performed the best at 0, -1 and -2 on the NIS plate (0 to 1cm back).
- This is a little different since I would always mount my Salomon skis 1 to 2.5cm back from balance.
- Moving the binding back always seems to give better static feel (climbing). However, exercise caution! If you are back too far and not on the sweet spot on the ski, you will give away a lot of top end speed.
- Once you find the “sweet” spot on a ski… it seems to remain the same no matter what conditions.
- On classic skis, I always seem to be at 0 or -1. Back can give more speed but usually kick will suffer a bit… I like a lot of kick!