In an engineering development that may change cross-country skiing as we know it, we learned today that a new ski pole will be unveiled soon. Dubbed "The Emperor", the developer promises that users of this pole will "rule the Nordic world." The new pole promises spectacular weight savings as well as being promoted as the first "all-natural" performance ski pole - one that uses no hydrocarbons in its manufacturing process.
We were recently able to visit the secret test facility for a first-hand view. The manufacturer has hired a local Nordic skier known only as "Z" to carry out its testing protocol. A background investigation revealed that Z has acquired a reputation as a brutalizer of bike and ski equipment, with a checkered past littered with the broken remnants of skis, ski poles, roller skis and bikes. When we were introduced, we asked him point-blank if his tests in fact constitute a torture test of the new equipment. He bristled at the mention of the word "torture", but then relaxed and quickly produced a document that he claimed was a "finding" signed by the head of the F.I.S authorizing him to employ "enhanced stress techniques" in his equipment evaluations.
Although filming was strictly prohibited at the test facility, we were permitted a few still photographs (attached), of some of the less disturbing aspects of the testing protocol (photo credits to Gearhardt Photo Studios).
The first photo shows the deflection test, with a visibly straining Z noting that "deflection cannot even be measured by existing instruments."
The second photo shows him effortlessly balancing an "Emperor" on the tip of a finger:
The third shows him on the test course, after which he proclaimed that the poles have a "lighter than air feel, with unparalleled swing weight characteristics":
We caught up with Z after the day's tests were concluded, and before we could even speak he noted that, "Absolutely nothing compares favorably to these poles." When we noted that his times on the test course were actually 15-20 percent slower than the times that he had recorded with conventional poles, he dismissed us with a shrug. "It always takes a while for technique to fully utilize equipment breakthroughs. Remember all the naysayers who thought that the short-cut skate skis in the early 90's were just a passing fad...OK, bad example, but you know what I mean."
Another reporter noted that there were uncanny parallels between the new poles and the garments produced by the scheming tailors in the children's classic tale, The Emperor's New Clothes. Z was visibly upset by this comment, and said angrily, "You're comparing this engineering marvel to a FAIRY TALE?, as he stalked away.
In a related development we learned that plans to feature the Emperor Poles in the inaugural episode of a weekly Nordic cable program may have fallen through. The developer of the new program, with a working title of Ultimate Gonzo Extreme Nordic Combat Action!, said that, "We thought we had a deal with the Versus Channel, but then they discovered 282 bull-riding episodes at corporate headquarters that they have a contractual obligation to show in the next two weeks. With the hunting season in full swing, that didn't leave a window for us.
"But, we have a back-up plan. We've been talking to the Discovery Channel, and I think that we may have a niche. They could lead off with that guy who works all the crappy jobs, then follow with that survivor guy who jumps out of a plane into the wilderness and wanders around for a few days eating all that slimy sh#t and drinking his own piss, then our show, and cap it all off with that guy with the beret and the walrus mustache and his crew that are always blowing sh#t up. That's a line-up that has Nielsen Sweeps written all over it. I think that it will be a hit with the younger demographic that we're trying to reach. Let's face it, those granola-munchers that have been carrying our sport for the last thirty years are getting a little long in the tooth."
There appears to be yet more trouble on the horizon. We learned through exclusive sources that the initial shipment of "Emperors" to a midwest Nordic retailer appeared to consist entirely of empty boxes. Ski tech/guru Mike Choate agreed to speak to us under condition of anonymity (oops!). Mike noted that he was really amped to to get a look at the new poles. He said, "The company was claiming that their new poles would neither require nor accept any modifications. I took that as a challenge."
When news of this development reached the local distributor, Joe Gollinger was livid. He was heard to comment, "I'll get to the bottom of this! Who does Vandelay think he's dealing with - some punch-drunk palooka!"
The Vandelay to whom he referred was none other that Art Vandelay of Vandelay Import/Export, a shadowy East-coast firm often linked to ne'er-do-well George Costanza. Our call was deflected to the firm's legal counsel, celebrity attorney Jackie Childs, who rose to prominence during the highly publicized Cosmo Kramer latte' case. Attorney Childs stated unequivocally that the charges of fraud were, "Unfair, unfounded and unsubstantiated." He further stated that he was confident that the judicial inquiry into his client's products would conclude that, "They are natural and they are spectacular!"