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87 hours to pick skis

Thu, Jul  7, 2011 - By Rick Halling

For many years the US distributors of the top ski companies have made it a point to bring over their engineers and race directors from Europe to visit American retailers. The visiting Euros have consistently been blown away by the attention to detail and the obsession with fit shown by American dealers and consumers. “No athlete on the Worldcup is as special careful crazy about their skis as what is going on in US Ski Shops,” pointed out one race director.

Fifteen years ago this was seen as annoying and unnecessary by the home offices in Europe. Today, it is seen as highly beneficial that the US has such high expectations and demands. Worldwide ski quality is better for it.

International Race Director Roman Toferer meeting with US retailer Matt Liebsch to review xc ski flex patterns

International Race Director Roman Toferer meeting with US retailer Matt Liebsch to review flex patterns.

So, how do the Euros meet the intense scrutiny of US dealers and consumers? Atomic has found an effective way to measure up to these standards. They have their actual Worldcup race technicians hand inspect each pair of skis for individual US shops the same way they would for Worldcup athletes. This is in addition to the regular computer and human inspection the skis go through post production. Even though the athletes may be relaxed about their skis, the Atomic WC technicians treat them like their personal pairs and they can be demanding. Eighty-seven hours worth of post production inspection was put in by Atomic’s race room picking the fleet of Worldcup race skis sent this summer to the US. Imagine if a bike company took its support staff from the Tour de France, put them in the factory for two weeks, and told them to inspect the frames before they are shipped to US retailers. That is basically what Atomic did.

Even small cross country ski shops like West Yellowstone’s FREE HEEL AND WHEEL receive the same attention by our race department as the big guys.

Even small shops like West Yellowstone’s FREE HEEL AND WHEEL receive the same attention by our race department as the big guys.

Go into your local shop and check out the new Worldcup skis by Atomic. You will see three separate stickers on the skis. That is far more information than anyone needs to get a good fit. However, it shows in detail the extensive testing each pair of skis has received before being packed and shipped to American dealers.

New set of stickers for Atomic race skis.

New set of stickers for Atomic race skis (above). Most of this data can be ignored for fitting, however, this extensive information servers as effective quality control. No other race ski has ever been vetted to the level of Atomic Worldcups.

Andre Jungen won the Birkie in 1995 and his picture is on the wall of winners at the Telemark Lodge. Now, he helps pick skis for Americans to use at the Birkie.

Those of you who have skied the American Birkebeiner might recognize the technician at the back of the skis. Andre Jungen won the Birkie in 1995 and his picture is on the wall of winners at the Telemark Lodge. Now, he helps pick skis for Americans to use at the Birkie.

This team of technicians were pulled away from their Worldcup duties and given the responsibility to pick xc skis for US dealers.

This team of technicians were pulled away from their Worldcup duties and given the responsibility to pick skis for US dealers. They welcomed the challenge.

There is a reason why it took over 87 hours to pick the skis. Too much time was spent gabbing about each individual pair.

There is a reason why it took over 87 hours to pick the skis. Too much time was spent gabbing about each individual pair.

More often than not, it is hard to beat a good paper test to make sure you have skis that will really work!

You can test skis on high tech over priced computer controlled flex machines with Swedish names that are hard to pronounce. Those will be good skis. But more often than not, it is hard to beat a good paper test to make sure you have skis that will really work!