Last fall Madshus introduced their new concept, Madshus empower. xc-marathon.com asked Madshus what it is, and what impact it can have for the xc-marathon skier.
The promotional campaign (released in Norway) sets the bar relatively high and promises «Smarski with an integrated chip», «…you can easily adjust the skis after the conditions» and «the certainty that you buy the perfect skis for your needs». These are for sure exciting promises for xc-marathon skiers that – let´s face it – has great potential margins to cut down with revolutionary better equipment. AS I saw the promotional material I got very curious as to what a «smart ski» was, how I could «adjust» the skis and exactly how innovative the technology that Madshus is promoting really is. And what advantages can it represent for a xc-marathon skier?
So I sent a double digit number of questions to Madshus about the skis and the technology. I got a thorough respons within an short time and you can see that answers yourself further down in the article.
My own impression of the technology, on the backgruond of the answers provided, are divided.
Easier to buy, use and prepare the skis. First and foremost I´m certain that many will see this concept as an improvement compared to the traditional offerings of products that we´ve seen for so many years regarding product guidance in the store and ease of use, regarding waxing and grip performance. Excercise and skiing activities are almost always challenged by weather and snow conditions, a growing jungle of waxing products and a variety of different ideas from differend manufacturers on how a xc-ski should look and perform. AS in many other situations in every day life we now solve our challenges with electronics, computers and apps. This is also the solution in this case.
The Empower concept will make it easier to to wax your ski, and it will empower(!) yourself when it comes to knowing your ski better. And that is because with this technology it will be easier to find the skis that perfectly match your height, weight and level of experience. Madshus has actually – as opposed to earlier – measured every single ski individually with advanced equipment, and made the data available for you. And this is actually the concrete core of the new concept; these numbers (data) has been feeded into a chip that is integrated in the ski with an individual ID. So, in theory, you can then transfer all relevant data about excactly your pair of skis anytime, from Madshus´ database.
In short this means that they´re actually making the job for the staff at the store easier. And their considerably increasing the chance for you to bring home the best suited pair of skis.
The background for this strategy is that every single ski being produced at a factory has slightly differing capabilities or properties (or deviance from an ideal standard). And the store where you purchase them can´t produce or apply them just by asking you to stand on the skis or put the ski in a manually operated gauge hanging on the wall. The mechanical tension (the creates the space between the ski and the snow that allows the grip wax to not interfere with the snow gliding performance) in every ski is individually different throughout the ski and thos the waxing zones, thickness of the wax and the level of technical performance the skis demands from the one using them.
in this way, you can now walk out of the store with greater certainty that you will thrive better with your skis and probably go a little faster with them. And you can probably adjust to varying wax/snow conditions or eventual weight- or skills improvements through the years you use the skis with the app from Madshus (more about the app further down).
Still far from any technical revolution
On the other hand, there´s nothing new here, technologogically speaking. Nothing has been patented. The actual skis are the same as before. And many stores, at least in Norway has aquired new measuring machines a lot more advanced than before. So in reality you can have every ski measured from top to bottom in the store now. Precicely the same way Madshus does in the factory.
So, the skis themselves will not perform better than other skis, or earlier introduced skis/technologies. They are the same as before. It´s just the way you relate to the skis that´s made a little bit easier than before.
Still the same challenges with weather and conditions
The app that comes with the concept is intended to give you help when waxing the skis, but an important factor when you wax the skis is the ability to interpret/understand highly local weather data and the snow conditions you meet in different parts of the terrain your in. Admittedly, I haven´t tested the actual app, but if it can handle and solve challenges it certainly derserves credit and appreciation. And still it has to sort out and make sense of different wax brands (the ones you have in your pocket or on your shelf). For excactly the conditions you meet. That day. At your location.
Another question is how to communicate accurately with the app when you find yourself out there – fifteen miles into the woods or far up on the mountain – with difficult skis. Is it sufficient to type «bad grip» and then get a detailed correcting procedure that eliminates your problems? Or tell the app that in contrast to when you bought the skis a year ago your technical skills have improved considerably? I myself am sceptic. From the answers provded by Madshus it is possible to draw the same conclusion (without stating it unquestionably), since the best sposored athletes using the technology only uses it for archiving and sorting skis and information. Not for directly improving the performance of the ski.
My impression is that this is an exciting improvement for a regular xc-skier with easier maintenance, better skiing experiences and better help for waxing. But there are breat limitations as to what the promotional material promises and it´s far from any technological innovation. The tension curve of any ski can (at least in Norway) be measured in most stores, anytime. And hitting the bulls eye with the wax for any day ´s local condition will still be a result from experience and local knowledge.
PS: You can read more about other exciting technological improvements from Atomic and Salomon here.
Answers from Madshus (Per Wiik, Global Marketing Manager) are submitted below.
Q: My perception of the technology is that it consists of an app and «something» within the ski. Most people know about apps, but what is in the ski? And what does it do? Does it need any power?
A: Within the skis is a chip that works as a kind of ID. It communicates data from out database to the app, and it doesnt require any power.
Q: What personal physical values are needed from the user of the ski in the app?
A: For the best optimization physical data such as weight, height and xc-skills should be applied to the personal app.
Q: Do I understand correctly if I say I can´t complete the registration myself, but have to seek up a store to complete the registration of the physical profile? And which stores has the capability to do so?
A: Regarding the consumer app, everyone can do the registration themselves. In the store there is a special store solution that has storage functionality and a more detailed overview and database.
Q: What happens, precicely, when you (from the ad:) …»match the Madshus top skis specifically and precicely to my unique profile»?
A: All data about the skis is stored in our database, all wax zones, tension curves, tension space/height, etc. when you match your profile with the specific ski pair you have. Then you get access to recommended waxing zones, -thickness and so on.
Q: You write about the Madshus empower performance app; is the thought behind it that this app can replace the different excercising apps that´s already in the market today, like Endomondo and Sports Tracker? Or does this one do anthing in addition to these others, as well?
A: The unique thing about the app is that you can optimize the pair of skis you bought with your own xc skier-profile, in addition there are tracking functionality, etc. as extra assets, but the main purpose is not to market this as a specific excercise app like the ones already out there. As already stated is the unique thing the possibility to reveal the skis uinque properties to our customers.
Q: What is the concrete message in the statement that one always «carries the excact DNA along, and that one surprisingly easy can fine tune them after the conditions»? Is this a waxing guide?
A: Waxing guidance excist, if conditions are to change we have different recommendations, if the weight of the skier changes, then the waxinbg recommendations adjust after the data the user applies in the app.
Q: What kind of improvement, when it comes to actual time performance wil a typical xc-marathon skier be able to expect from this technology?
A: XC-marathon skiers get a better overview of the dynamic properties of the ski, detailed waxing recommendations and waxing space (in the grip zone of the ski) information. Vi make the ski sale transparent and one can see what one buys. With the right use of the data we provide it gives great opportunities for better performance.
Q: Will the technology make even the skiing experience better, in addition to the performance?
A: The wax-helper gives good recommendations for waxing, for those from earlier are insecure when it comes to waxing and the immediate help from the app can improve the skiing experience. For those interessted in tracking and saving data and tours, they also have a possibility for better experience.
Q: Do some of the Madshus sposnsored elite athletes use this technology?
A: All athletes and teams are now being intrudced to this technology, we observe that the athletes are going to use the technology to update their ski collection and run statistics, and even when picking the right skis being able to faster find the best suited material.
Q: What expectations do you have regarding the reliability and simplicity of use for sweaty fingers and cold skis for instance in minus ten degrees celcius after two hours out in the tracks?
A: The same expectations as ordinary use of smartphones, etc.
Q: From a promotion brochure I can read about sertified Madshus empower technicians. What does that mean? And the brochures also mentiones the possibilty of keeping tracj of the skis. What does that mean?
A: That there are possibilities for those who owns more than one pair of skis to store and keep statistics on their equipment, preparations of the ski, structure of the sole, and so on.
Q: What´s the difference between this technology and a modern tension machine (that tracks the tension curve all along the ski) many stores now has available, and that can be used for all brands of skis?
Svar: This is what Madshus empower is, we have in advance measured al ski data, stored all curves, tensions, tension heights and all dynamic ski data and stored this in databases, in equipment we have that is very advanced, and secure. Madshus empower communicate this, through our database to stores and end consumers, via retailer tablets and consumer apps.