This article is a paid advertisement by Caldwell Sport, a ski grinding service and new ski retail shop operated by Zach and Amy Caldwell in Putney Vermont. Caldwell Sport only does skis, and we have much more fun in the summer than those poor suckers who have to sell bikes as well.
Since 2007 we have made an average of three trips a year to Europe for ski-related work. A lot of that has been coaching and ski service at events ranging from OPA cups and World Junior Championships to World Cups, Tour de Ski and World Championships. But well over half of the days spent in Europe during that whole time have come in the summer. Since FasterSkier is reduced to reporting on multi-sport events, we thought we’d take the opportunity to provide a little content and brag about how much fun we have in the summer.
Our goal is to provide our customers with access to the highest level of knowledge and understanding available. Doing World Cup ski service keeps us in touch with what is happening in the service world at the highest levels of ski racing. But providing the best available skis to our customers requires more than an understanding of World Cup service. We also need to know the skis, inside and out. So we go to the ski factories to learn.
World Cup service is all about making the best of available materials (skis and wax) in a short amount of time. It’s hard work with a great deal of time pressure. In the summer we slow things down, examine materials closely, and ask a ton of questions. We talk to the factory race service guys about what other teams have had success with, and what direction they’re going in the future. And we look at (and select) a lot of skis.
Original ideas are very rare. We can count the number of truly original ideas we’ve had on one hand. Almost everything we know and do with skis is learned, borrowed, adapted or flat-out stolen from something we’ve seen somewhere else. Summer trips to ski factories account for a huge portion of our stolen ideas. There are some amazing people working in the ski industry, and we’re lucky to be able to mine them for understanding.
Our June trip this year is shaping up to be especially fun. Kris Freeman and Noah Hoffman will be flying to Norway at the beginning of June to join the Norwegian National Team for their on-snow camp on the Sognefjell snow fields. Amy and I will fly over to join them for three days on snow at the tail end of their camp, before heading to Lillehammer and Biri to work in the Madshus factory. Noah will also grab a day at Madshus to get an inside look at how his skis are made.
Sognefjell in June is a scene worth checking-out. It’s not a glacier, but high snowfields near the top of a pass in the Jotunheim mountains, not far from the tip of the Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway. There’s not much up there – only what you need for a perfect summer ski training operation. A hotel with great meals, trails groomed and salted twice a day (fresh tracks for classic skiing after lunch), and a measurable portion of the world’s best skiers.
Sognefjell also happens to be an easy drive from Lillehammer, and Biri, the headquarters of Madshus. Most of the ski companies conduct some ski testing with many of their top athletes at Sognefjell in June, but it’s almost like a home base for Madshus – they can come and go with new materials as they like, and it affords them a great opportunity to test new ideas for wet-snow skis.
I was last there in June of 2010 with Nathan Schultz and Erik Nilsson for a couple of great days of skiing and testing. Per Wiik of Madshus had made all our arrangements, but was too busy with product and marketing meetings to come up skiing with us, so he asked Thomas Alsgaard to take us out for dinner on the company. I’m pretty sure Per figured we’d go get a pizza, but Thomas had a different idea. He booked us for a phenomenal meal at a restaurant owned by the chef who cooked for the Norwegian National Team when Thomas was racing. So we had a great meal with Thomas, Jorgen Brink (he’s won the Vasaloppet three times in a row now, but had just won it once at the time), and Stian Grønås, one of the Madshus racing guys (former Factory Team waxer, and Norwegian National Team waxer), and Peter Hale.
During the meal Stian told us a funny story about how they found a pair of Thomas’s skis in the factory – the pair he used to win the relay gold for Norway at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. They mounted NIS plates, put a fresh grind on the skis, and put them out with a batch of new skis for Thomas’s next testing session without telling him anything. We all looked at Thomas for the conclusion of the story. “So, how were the skis?” “I can’t believe I ever skied on such crap”, he said.
Marketing-message interpretation aid for those of you who are not susceptible to subliminal messages:
1 – Caldwell Sport is incredibly cool.
2 – You should go to Sognefjell sometime.
3 – If you’re still skiing on skis from 1998, even if they were the best skis in the world, it’s time for something new.
4 – Order your new skis soon.