søndag 16. juli 2017

An Odd Experience Without the Nordstoga - Telemark

We took upon ourselves to extend what for many is a day tour to Bo Sommarland, a water-fun-park in the midst of Telemark. Boe as I have no oe with a strike through on this keyboard to try and be more precise. A place to live you can translate it as.

Being DNT members only every other year, it fell this year to join up and do something with our limited budget for holiday,  with long standing credit card debts and that other D of cost, decorating, getting in the way of a trip abroad or even a Hardangarvidde cabin tour again. Bo Sommarland however did a very decent package including hotel and breakfast for about 250 euros for all four of us, so that fitted in with budget, but not quite with our style. So a cabin, a hut, a basic over nighting premises was sought.

Like Scottish Youth Hostels, the Tour Society's "huts" in Norway range from shacks and even open lean to's all the way to fully fledged mountain hotels with full board if you so desire. After you join you find out also by experience that in fact the huts out in the sticks are not all that cheap to live in actually per night for a family of four, especially once you've paid for hermetic and dessicated food and drinks. Our last trip I worked out was about the same as shopping around for a hotel or 'pensjonat' with breakfast included, given you can either quite legally make a packed lunch from the 'smorgasbord' of bread slices and various goodies or just pinch one anyway.

So far with our iPad-android kids it has been hard to get them to do any serious cabin trips, They love the cabin experience but motivating them for a 17km hike in, which seems to be a rough average to the first hut in a tour of cabins, is just too difficult. Last time 10km into Kildebu ( Bu being the same meaning as Boe, kilde meaning spring or source) on Hardangarvidde. A spectacular high plateau with glacier in distance experience it was, the unusually high termperatures made for a hot afternoon and evening's tour in over the moor. We had cheated even more the previous days by staying at Hallingskeid which is a DNT hut right at the station. The only other partakers of such idleness were older ladies with bad joints and some Romanian beggars who werent allowed in to help themselves to the over priced larder. It gave them a good feel for the "Hytte" and high mountain experience, but it was only myself who actually made it up to the top of the peak, at 1500m, a cheat too, higher than Ben Nevis but only like a walk in the Pentlands to conquer from the Bergensbane station roof.

This time we cheated even morre just to give the kids a reminder tasting of the finer things of cabin life. Mosquitos and a bad night's sleep in a room with curtains which seem to be phosphorescant is par for the course. 'Kjerringa" my dear other half of the Norsk persuasion,  planned one hut on the Bo side of things, which we could really cheat with by driving up to and then only having a half hour to get to the amusement  park next day. That one was booked, for obvious reason, it is near a lot of good places to walk and visit in a car. The next one looked very near in fact on the map when  at large scale, but we were about to discover some of the ins-and-outs of Telemark and this type of easy access hut.

FIrstly we had to pick up the keys at the region's office in Skien and not out at some petrol station or the likes in the sticks. This however did not look like much of any a diversion, and in fact could be put on the way. Delivering the keys back was then an issue, because it was about 120 degrees and 60 km the wrong direction for Boe. Ok, we could post them. Ah, nope, they were down to emergency last chance key sets because it was high season for their own local members. I didnt even need to bite my lip for once and just went with the flow, the kids had said they love car tours, as indeed I did when I was wee, just give us the chance to run around every couple of hours outside and play a while, plus  some picnicing and chocolates.

Next thing was that no matter the need to deliver keys, our Hut of choice was bound in by the valley system which you find along the whole south of Norway, The valleys run with the direction of the ice from that age which ended 10,000 years ago of course,. That is North-South. Where valleys give way to higher ground, usually there are large barren areas, VIddas, like the famous one in the Hardangar area and east over. which ends incidentally in Telemark. Our Cabin was about as far up the valley as you can get before it is just lakes , stoney outcrops and bogs. Now in places like Hardangarvidde or Dovrefjell and so on, the need to get twixt main cities has driven rail and then road over the tops, akin to Rannoch Moor in dear green Caledonia.  Not for darkest Telemark. A mere 30 km as the crow flies with about an extra 100 to actually get down the valleys and up them again to reach Bo. Keys out of the picture  there was a very slight short cut which follows the Grenlandsbane up the east side of the innappropos 'North Sea: lake up towards Bo.

The cabin was seemingly a very traditional one with cream yellow walls, green beams and blood red edging like many a traditional farm house. One outhouse, the shitter and woodshed as it turned out, was at least a hundred years old, a log cabin, but it transpired from the concrete foundation and damp course that our cabin was in the cosmetic style of a trad hut but completed by Telemark Tour Society TTF in the nineties. Very nice though it was too, with a boat at hand to chill out on the little creek outside, and a morning bathe to be had there in too. The kids had drunken cola, diet variety and after 7pm. After a joyous arrival, fetching of pales of water from the brook, and chilling out with the mandatory installed board game, the kids did  not want to sleep. All the woes of the world and combinations of who would sleep where and get mummy and up bunk bed or down, side room or main 'stua' living area ensued until midnight, and us with a suppioosed 8am departure.

Now I had not mentioned that this road went mostly up from Skien and deterioated into gravel after 20 of its 70 or so km, and had a boom with when the going got really into the sticks. The hut turned out to be at around 1800 ft above sea level, and thus cool in the morning so dips in the creek were quickly forgotten, and good old Norwegain kettle cooked coffee ensued in great volumes. We went down a gear in both mentality and in the car to bring us back down from the high chaparal, and into the valley south. However fate would conspire to give us a yet longer tour back to Skien. For some unknown reason, I could blame 'kjerringa's navigation and presumption or route, we took a 90 cegree wrong turn and ended up bamboozled. The sun at one point seemed wrong to me, being on the right and not the left, but I put this town to the convoluted nature of the roads. Soon we found ourselves negotiating a one in six climb to what surely must be the way out, when we came to a dead end, and a real kind of banjo land feeling about the woodsmans houses we came across. We scurried down ,and retraced our tyre tracks, realising we had driven up a dead end, and had merely missed one crossing and one sign,

Soon it dawned on me that the sun was on the right side now that we had done a 180. We carried on with the name of one road secured as correct, and the solar compass telling me to carry on south., At some point we went over our mistaken 90 degree out junction without even noticing it, until the next junction seemed familiar and the sign to Sommarseter was confirmed as one of many we had really in actual fact seen, Refering to the map one more time at a subsequent junction, I could see we had driven a long way in the wrong direction, But we had a two day pass at the Sommarland and in any case it takes time for the air to warm up, with the mid afternoon being most comfortable for water shoots and river runs., Lost once again, we found ourselfves driving into yet another farm yard, with the prospect of shotguns casually over thighs on rocking chairs, cocked and ready though just in case. We were actually back in Christian civilisation had we cared to scan the tree line for Luksefjell church spire. The chapel could fit ooh maybe fifteen parishoners at a guess. The internet of its day for the remote valley.

The rest of the tour was just boring really with me driving as fast as I dared on gravel tracks down towards Skien and then remembering to keep my license by holding the snails pace town speed limits here. Key delivered, we turned another 180 approximately and headed off up the other side of the North Sea to Bo.

The water-park was really much more than we had expected, given we had two days to enjoy what we wanted there. The first series of flooms are built onto a handy hillside, making for a great deal of walking and indeed, eager running back up to the top., Queues were an issue on all the rides where you could either go with someone or compete against someone. and on the twisty classic floom, which slung a fatish, muscleyish middle aged man like me out of it at twice the speed and considerable more force than kiddie  winkies went on it. The scariest were the straight liners, either the big  drop man and madness test , a 20 meter near vert' drop into a trough with I guess about 50mph being achieved, and even the three lane racer was quite a scare. Corners slow you down, give you a centrifugal thrll and hide the obvious fall to death from your eyes, where as straight down is like a certain death, only like a parachute, the water arrests your descent safely, if a little violently,

Day one I had slept four hours and was not in the mood for much, think I went round the river too, but the long slide twice or three times otherwise was my lot, lacking the will to climb stairs and stand in qeues, I put my reflective sun glasses on and milf spotted away most of the afternoon. Overpriced junk food duly consumed, we started to plan day two with our own packed lunch, and getting a good pitch at the top round river section early.

The hotel was at Akkerhaig in Gvarv, with names to places like Nordagutu it all seemed rather alien to standard Norsk, but of course Telemark is a reknowned source of the wildest of dialects. Our hotel had a lakeside view and you could see the Telemark canal section heading off north towards Notodden and Rjukan. A well kept secret internationally methinks, Norske motorboaters delight in this tour whcih rather like the Caledonian canal, sews together a series of lakes and slow flowing rivers with locks to take you to the finest inside fillet of Telemark and the famous lake where the Heroes of the film, no americans sorry Kirk, bombed the heavy water wagons into the deep., It must rank as amongst the most very scenic canal journeys in the world, and should I coil up my sheets and roll my sails, a stink boater I, those waters would be plied with a putt-putt diesel cabin cruiser.

Day two at the splashy fun park started actually almost as late as day one, a good lie in had until 0830 at the hotel followed by gernerous brekkie al. fresco. Wonderful stay, apart from some rudeness over DIY waffles.  I got rather agitated with a woman making it seemed a hundred of the, patiently and persistently and lying about more mix comng in the bowl. Park reached we felt like old hands, and got on the choo choo train to see the whole park all be it at a snails pace. Being 24 degrees forecast, and being very wet in the west of the country, it seemed half of Bergen had fled the rain there and sat themselves down in a camp for climate refugees, We did not get a decent place to sit, let alone any sun loungers, and ended up on a picnic lawn out of sight of any attractions. This being the missuses decision, instead of securing a as yet shadowy, but strategic sunny spot on the main slope, I buggered off with the kids for an hour, determined to take all the medium tough runs and see If I could build up to the big drop or rubber dinghy rollercoaster. We played and played and thrived in the joy of it all, witth the wee man bounding up a one  in six as if carried by the wind,.I had to 'paddle' ski technique to keep up with him.

:Laterr we try to encamp at the circular river attraction, and after some debate and a false start by the paddling pool, found a nice spot on some rocks which was like being on a the 'Svaberg' so many noggies love to escape to along the coast and rivers. We baked and enjoyed dips to cool down, before endulging in the wave dump they sent round the river on the hour, every hour or more often, Pretty cool it was too!  Clouds gathered, kicked up from the damp north sea westerly wind and the crowds started to thin out. We took a final few circuits  on what proived to be the kids favourie, a triple funnel drum affair with twon man figure of eight bathing rings to go two up in or single donuts to enjoy being slung into a conical flaks on its side, with fate and physics deciding if you would be slung out backwards or not. Time marrched on, with a five minute wait or so each time round, and soon the clouds rolled up more, threatening thunder, and we were a bit cool and ready for a warm car.

Final retail opportunity trap sprung with momentos made in China, we took off through southern Telemark to our next desitnation on the Aust Agder coast. A jig saw puzzle for me to fit the last bits into place, we wanted to avoid the boring main road and take a short cut over some hills, THis prove to have less straights than Bennets night club in Glasgow of a saturday eve. I kept the pace on without scaring the kids and ``
from Lunde over the top and down to Drangedal, The same was true of the road south of there, the 38, which must be frustrating for any 'muist get past' ego., A white van man appeared in my rear view, only to realise that my breaking at chevrons was good common sense and backing off, We missed our magical short cut through Gjerstad somehow. Everything in retrospevctive carotgrapchical review, works in diamonds in this part of the land, with us missing the jucntion on the second of two diamond road patterns, me looking for familiarities on the first. Soon though we were at the Kragero junction to the Main E18 southbound trunk route, and the smooth road and lack of 30mph corners made up for the lsightly longer route. White van man, who was creating paranoic feelings in my other half, backed off at his chance to whizzx pass us in a three lane section, and I hit the gas pedal there after maintaining a crafty 10 percent or so above the signage, my speedometer being oh so very over optimistic,. Home came in the late gloaming for us, a tired and  super satisfied little clan, mini break fully enjoyed,

mandag 12. juni 2017

Companies That Give Up on Norway

Here in South Norway we have a major crisis in the demise of thousands of industry jobs, mainly on shore. This is not just in the oil industry, the trend for companies to outsource abroad has hastened in the last three years, despite many of those companies actually being profitable at the time, or having been profitable for decades and reaching a crisis to sort out.

In some of the companies, outside the offshore oil business, which I have worked with I see that they have actaully quite thin gross margin. This is a big signal for any high wage, high skill economy that things are not going well. Production and engineering services companies need to have high value added products. The issue is that very often they are letting their customers have high margin products by continuing to respond to calls for more competitive pricing. They often loose a focus on cooperative innovation on costs in the supply chain, and instead go back to their workshops and start cutting corners with materials, manhours per unit designs for manufacturing ease rather than long term durability and ease of repair.

There are two alternatives here of course. You firstly offer innovation and not just some flashy USP type 'difference', but something which offers more to the end user. This is often more revolution than evolution! It is then the time to find out which customers are quick adopters and willing to cooperate on new technology introduction, or if you can achieve a branded draw-throuugh in the supply chain where customers down the line are specifying the innovation or brand. You can then command a higher margin, and perhaps in your innovation design you have included process and material savings- more being less, the main goal of margin-management.

The second is to find the customers who truly value your product by putting prices up in line with margin desires, and on a wide product range, reducing to the most sold, and the already highest margin products. High volume, low margin products in a Norwegian SME is just a route to dig your own grave, because you actually incur higher costs through out the company  in the noise of making more stuff. To some this sounds like a viscious and respectless 'creaming strategy' but it is in fact for two companies at least I have advised on other matters, a survival strategy they should follow before it is too late.

Admitting defeat in production and completely outsourcing while having just an office based company in Norway is seemingly all 'knowledge economy' strategy and good stuff, but in fact for either a new innovtator or an  established company it can be a road to hidden costs and crisis in customer confidence. For both companies, the switch to overseas production is usually to low cost countries like Poland, the North of Spain, Portugal, Brasil and the Far East with China being particularly popular a few years ago. In an ideal world you should be able to send a set of drawings, part lists and specifications to a contract manufacturer and let them get on with it, turn key, but for an SME in Norway what they have to understand, even at the larger end of medium size, is that on a world basis they may be a small customer to a large supplier. The reverse can be true, that the SME choose a small CM or one with sub suppliers who are small and do not have in particular the quality assurance infrastructure.

Qaulity assurance is the over riding main issue with outsourcing. Second  to this is project coordination such that they are delivered in time. The two factors above work very much against Norwegian businesses abroad, who are not prepared to pay the cost for having an effective inspection and project management prescence on site. That costs a lot of money per head, per product. The supplier is often in a position in these countries where credit is less available and they live more from cash flow,  and in addition working capital levered short term loans in the author's experience. This means there is a pressure to finish your project and argue about it later, especially when a larger spend customer has new orders or larger orders to be finished.

In essence for the offshore and shipping industries, the demands on quality for GL-DNW of American Bureau of Shiipping certification means that all production systems and all manufaddcturing procedures are qualified by the SME. In some equipment, for each item, every single critical stage of constrcution of every individual product has to be overseen and inspected, such as welding or electronic wiring for example.

Quality is in practice a combination of a quality system, excellent design, ownership, pride in work, experience on the workshop floor. In outsourcing you risk losing absolutely all of these, especially if you have taken several rounds of price negotiations. The negative side of forcing price down with a work shop to the lowest nearest bid, is that you risk being a cheap and quick customer. They operate in the same way as any business, man hours per project per unit, and that is where you risk losing most on the quality side. You also risk being the sacrificial cow for postponements if you are marginally profitable to the supplier.

Quality is one thing that can cost companies very dearly if there are deviation at factory-acceptance-test time, or failures in operation. It is very much related to practical on the workshop floor experience with a documentation system reflecting this. When you outsource, those two elements have to entwine with the supplier and that involves an investment.

One area of Quailty in terms of ISO systematic development and initial deliveries to customers stands very much in favour of domestic production in house or in geographically 'cosey'  workshop. Even when this prototyping and and first-of-type-to-market stands at a loss in a larger serial production of the product or is a risk venture on outset, it is worth keeping production facilties local such that the degree of involvement with the practical realitty of the product is immediate and many employees can contribute with no travel costs. This type of lead engineering also can help integrate further into your customer's innovation processes and set you apart as a higher value partner rather than an also ran supplier on the three bid rounds process.

Quality is an unavoidable cost which in turn should be passed on to the customer in BOTH a higher out price and within that a higher margin than for lower qaulity assured production.

An area which is though a major source for revenue in Norway which is in danger of loosing traction due to the decimation of domestic production is life cycle servicing. There are some companies in specialist areas of safety equipment or other critical items for offshore, who make far more money from a delivery in its' lifecycle than when new, because that work is all then very high margin, up in terms of 50% on labour and travel costs and often quire astounding the matter of 80-100% for parts and other materials. Apart from being an income source from the customer, it is also a point to integrate to the customer on, and discover if they have new purchases, are interested in wider upgrades or innovative replacements. Additionally, if they have stopped buying, to then find out reasons as to why.

In terms of manufacturing experience on site this means that those who built it and designed it are very often best placed to be able to fix it or predict what will wear out on it first. Losing this knowledge base through cross board redundancies can be very costly when highly qualified service engineers with no product history are confronted with the on site complexities of ageing products.

Really quality and life cycle are the two areas which western manufacturing firms in general should be focusing  on in terms of maintiaing about average margins. Instead of letting some customers determine a falling top line while the cost line increases, SMEs in Norway would be better finding not what new product to sell, but which new form of relationship to build and which bad form of relationship, the cost driven one, to walk away from. This may mean  of course finding new customers on a global basis, but it means also better integrating to some existing customers and becoming a supplier who solves problems -at a cost - which then avoid costly mistakes down the line in terms of quality failures and poor serviceablility in the field.

onsdag 7. juni 2017

Hvorfor er det lettere å få en ny jobb når du sitter i en stilling enn når man er ledig?

Det er en liten gåte. I Aust Agder sitter det en i fire i voksen alder uten jobb og en del yngre som ikke får lærlingsplass. Ledigheten mynker hvis ikke det stuper nå for denne kvartalen. Varigheten av folks ledighet er ikke en statistikk som vi høre mye om, men de over 18 måneder er i et stigende tall i Agder fylker.

Flere enn en i fire NAVver i Aust Agder. Det er et svartehull for ledige arbeidsplasser som bare kan sammenliknes med Finnmark med hensyn til utlyste stillinger. I tillegg til skyhøy ledighet blant voksen og god vosken folk,  er det mange uføre mennesker som er syke eller tja 'syke' nok til å NAVver hele livet. De skal ikke forsvinne fra NAV uten flere lave terskel jobb. Men de uten jobb som er ofte fullstendig overkvalifiserte ta opp de jobbene fordi det vil være i arbeid slikt det er lettere å komme i en bedre jobb.

Det er en liten paradoks her selvsagt, vi alle har hørt om. At det er alltid lettere å finne en ny jobb når du allerede er i en jobb. Eller egentlig ikke helt sant. Hvis du er kvalifisert eller i et bestemt industri eller strørre konsern, då er det mye lettere å skaffe en jobb 'internt' til firmaet eller industrien. Hvis du sitter på kassen i Rema, då er det kanskje ikke så sannsynlig at den lille ventejobben vil bære frukt. Oppsigelsesperioden stiger etter fastansettelse, butikkbransjen vil også ha lojale medarbeider som ikke forsvinner overnatt til tross for ryktet om mye midlertidig sysselsetning. Faktisk mange gode kvalifiserte folk blir sittende i en 'ventejobb' og mange yngre mennesker med bachelors går flere år fra en ventejobb til det neste. De blir stemplet med lave ambisjoner og initiativ for å bygge en karrière i det det lærte på universitetet, tross for etterspørsel i deres yrket. Yngre, ivrige folk begynne å forbi kjøre dem i hele prosessen.

Men senere i livet er en ventejobb sett på som positiv. Du har vært utsatt for nedbemanning, du kanskje ellers skulle har gått ledig, og en jobb i en hagesenter er engasjerende for deg mens du venter på den nye jobb med stor J i livet ditt. Nå i Aust Agder man konkurrerer ekstremt om ikke bare slike ventejobb men også arbeidspraksisplass som har muligheter å få deg en vente jobb ved erfaring eller avlate for videre ansettelse som NAV inngår. Man konkurrerer med kvoteflyktninger og 'yrkes NAVvere' som er plassert ut i de laveterskel jobbene. Situasjonen er svart og vi kan kanskje forvente at de mange millioner krone regjeringen setter inn blir brukt på flere attførings -konsulenter som smiler og er veldig glad i å hjelpe andre mennesker men har ingen evner til å skape reelle arbeidsplasser for folk som er ledige.

Hovedsakelig det er lettere å få en jobb når du sitter i en jobb fordi man lukter ferskt vare. En fangst, En kupp. Du kan løpe fra dag en når du flytter fra jobb som er likt eller i det samme kunnskaps området, då blir du fort i gang og tilbringe nye kapasitet umiddelbart.  Verdt å vente de tre måneders oppsigelsestid. Kan begynne i en jobb i morgen? Altfor lett-vindt, billige vare.

Største av alle to helt forferdelige fordømmelser mot arbeidsledige folk er  1) De har noe dårlige grunner for at de ble sparket eller valgt som mindre verdt når nedbemannings kniven falt.  2) De er late og mangler en viss motivasjon eller noe sosiale evner som bidrar til at de er ledige og då lukter de dårligere.

Som sagt er ventejobb en veldig, veldig god idee hvis det er noe for deg og kanskje en ventejobb åpner nye veier er til et nytt yrke? Det er også nettverk å vurdere. I jobb og omkring. For eksempel å jobbe i en vente jobb i det offentlige ofte føre til en bedre jobb i en annen etat eller avdeling. En bekjente av min som er innvandre slet med å få jobb til og med hun jobbet deltid midlertidig i kommunen, og så ble hun anbefalte til en jobb i NAV som saksbehandler med sosiale klienter. Jobb i butikk er dessverre på bunnen av muligheter for slike nettverking, det har få muligheter for selveste heltidsjobb. Men en jobb i butikk kan føre til en høyere vurdering av deg i din etablerte nettverk. Så er det 'Walmart økonomi' biten at du kan jobbe egentlig 50%, NAVver ved siden av, og står på CV som i jobb og ikke uten.

En annen sak som jeg leser om er at arbeidsledige folk er for ivrige, slikt de lukter enda vondere tydeligvis. De smisker og pisker opp CVen og vil viser seg fram som super motiverte kandidater som kan utføre jobben bedre enn noen har noensinne. Men de artikkelen overdriver en del. Kanskje. Eller er Janteloven så sterkt at man skal alltid under-selger deg selv og la dem leser mellom linjene? Jeg har uten å være helt oppmerksom på det, over-solgt meg selv inn på et par stillinger i mitt tid her i Norge og i utland. Jeg presterte ikke helt etter forventninger og små feil som ellers skulle ha gått i glemmeboken, ble til svarte merker og spørsmåltegn.

Det største grunnet til at folk i jobb får jobb, uansett oppsigelsestid, er at det er veldig dyrt å ansette i Norge, og en nye ansatte må være veldig produktivt i stillingen. Feil ansettelse koster ikke bare i rekruttering avgifter, men også i tapt produktivitet. Snitt lønn i Norge er 550k NOK med sosialeavgifter og diverse godteri er det nærmere en million krone per år i kostnader. Hver ansatte i en bedrift som har folk med høye ferdigheter/kunnskap/osv då må beregne enn omstilling relaterte til den stillingen av minst 2 millioner krone. I Aust Agder er lønn betydelige lavere for 'on-shore' arbeidere men inntekten til lokale service bedrifter er også vesentlig mindre. Det er verdt å vente på den riktige personen enn å ta inn en som kanskje ikke er helt 'opp og løpende'. Verre for meg, det er 'team fit' i bildet- hvordan en ansatte som skal investeres i med opplæring og innkjøringsperioden passer inn i laget og med hvilke positive evner vil de takle jobben deretter?  Jeg passer ikke i alle lag, særlig når sjefen er en liten selvgod Hitler og jeg har medarbeider som gjerne dumpe noe av deres verste oppgaver på meg.

Folk i jobb får jobb mer ofte på de to hoved grunner. De er opp og gående i det systemet, arbeidsflyt, kundegruppe, teknologi, programvare, verktøy eller generelt fag og ikke hjemme med et usynlig spørsmåltegn på CVen. Så får de høre om jobb, og dessuten anbefalte for jobb før jobben blir utlyste. I det offentlige og private med forskrifter om dette, vil stillingen bli utlyst bare som en bekreftelse at den interne eller bekjente kandidat er god nok, og fordi det kreves av organisasjonen eller lovverket. Dessverre er det ofte slikt at prosessen med to runder intervju foregår allikevel som er kjedelig. Intervjupraksis ja.

Jeg er en NAVver nå, føler som yrkes skattesvindler egentlig. Jeg får ikke en sjanse til å jobbe selveste gratis mellom tiltaket som regjeringen kom med i fjor. Det blir ingenting av. Flere muligheter, men ofte i bedrifter eller etater som forventet kutt i budsjett. Nå forventer jeg svært lite av den nye innsats/tiltak pakke når det ankommer Sørlandet og blir svelget av innleide konsulenter og midlertidige rådgivere. Tja, så jeg skulle søke om en slikt stilling meg selv! Mitt alternative er egentlig å ta en liten ventejobb noen timer i uken for å få enn litt bedre ventejobb med flere arbeidstimer, til å få neste antageligvis ventejobb med litt dårlig lønn men fastansettelse og så videre til og med jeg pensjonere meg selv. Slikt føles det. Og jeg må virkelig kjempe om å få en dritta møkka jobb som de uten kvalifikasjoner skulle heller ta og ha som inntekt i stedet for NAVving etter de vandre ut av skolen for siste gang.

mandag 8. mai 2017

Happy Birthday Fred Nordman !

Today is liberation day in both France and Norway. 72 years ago many boys born on the day or the following week were given the first name Fred, which means Peace in Norwegian too.

Happy Birthday Freds ! You have lived through an amazing peace, uneasy with youur Russian neighbour, but reconcilled with your once conquerors and united in many ways with Europe and the democratic world, and a go to touch stone for peace negotiations indeed, as the long tradition of Nobels' snub to Sweden for his peace prize continues to influence international politics, with today Japanese news perhaps being the first to report that peace talks between the US and North Korea will take place in Norway.

Me, well Fred is just a nickname and a useful handle for ranting and discussing the hypothetical, a bit like Kirkegaard but not as profound nor as influential. I hope that you Freds in the dales and cities of Norway, along the fjords and half way up the mountain live many more years in peace and security.

torsdag 23. mars 2017

Utrente Gubber Oppmuntres til å Delta

Med litt grått hår og første tegningene av en god solar-panel for opplading meg selv når eg fyller 60 år, er det nå eller aldri for å komme i form.

Jeg var nokså topptrent som 21 åring, med et hvilende hjerterytme på 36-42, og på sykkel 8 timer minst fra April til Oktober, pluss langtur i de skotske fjellene i blant, pluss litt kampsport, svømming osv. Jeg er ikke noe idrettsmann i utgangspunkt, uten særlig talent og uten kanskje en "VO2 Maks" som er i nærheten av noen som virkelig var trent da.

Nå sliter jeg med norske forhold som middelalders idiot i spandex-bokser. Jeg liker dårlig å løpe. Jeg liker dårlig skiføre som er enten blaut eller isete. Jeg er ikke villig å ta min 'god' eller min trofast terrengsykkel ut på veiene som er saltet eller skogsveier som har tilfeldig isflekker i skyggene, når det er ingen skispor. Jeg prøvde løping is skaugene i fjor, men jeg fikk, som i alle forsøk før i tiden, skader og en dårlig rygg.

"Ærlige Unnskyldninger. Jeg er i for mye
 av et tidsklem for å være føresnobb" 

Ærlige unnskyldninger- jeg er i for mye av et tidsklem til å være en føresnobb. Løsning kan være å flytte på meg til Lillehammer og bo på hytte der oppe ved Sjusjøen. Og så reiser til det mystiske, varme landet som heter Syden, som ikke er i Britiske feriebrosjyre forresten, men som Nordmenn er kjempe glad i å besøke.

Jeg giddet ikke gidder en gidd for å bli med i en treningstudio i fjor, og holdt meg til sykkel tur om vår og sommeren og krysset fingrene når snøen kom i store mengder i seint November. Det ble lite av, og det var ikke ideelt, men gøyal var det i en uke. Silkeføre et par dager! Og her på Sørlandet! Då besøkte jeg Vegårshei og Kleivvann på besøk i Aust Agder og fikk stor skiglede! The Joy of Ski ! Ah! Å! Ø!

Men problemet er at jeg mister formen litt i de månedene mellom sykkel og ski, og sommer svømming som det blir mye av nå i ferskvann, er nesten utbrent når det gjelder gjenværende effekt så snart skistaver finner plass på potene mine. Jeg har ikke god nok form for å komme i form!!

Jeg ser for meg at jeg kan bare løse dette problemet ved å kjøpe rulleski. Eller bli med i en studio med fancy 'turbo' ski maskin som isolerer musklene i et litt kjedelig, fastbundet,intense, svette,  innendørs type tortur foran mange andre, bedre trent og noen skeptiske kjerringer som flirer på sarkastisk måte.

 "...det er mye bedre for kroppen min 
å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, 
men i stedet til å trene to - tre dager på rad"

Men det som var godt med sesongen var en liten oppdagelse om treningsform og planer - det er veldig usikkert i disse dagene om vi får snø med brukbar skiføre i mer enn en uke, og hvis jeg må ta oppdrag i "supply chain" konsulent-tjenester et annet sted uten tid for å gå på ski. Altså, når snøen kom i November og jeg var ledig (og fattig!) for oppdrag, var jeg ute og gikk på ski ofte, særlig når jeg så de blå tallene i langtidsvarslet på Yr.no, forsvinner til fordel for syv plussgrader. Pøh!

Men jeg fant ut at jeg nå er jeg blitt gubbete og at jeg ikke er så trent og heller ikke forventer " å pushe" meg selv, å gi bånn gass med det første. Det viser seg at det er mye bedre for kroppen min  å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, men å trene to-tre dager på rad. Innenfor de rammene har jeg fått mye større fordel enn å holde meg til å trene tre dager i uken men ta det med ro i og mellom hver trenings tokt/økt.

Hviling er mest viktig etter at man har påført en stor belastning på hjerte, lungene og musklene. Så er det viktig å la immunforsvaret å komme seg fordi det dempes ved de hardeste øktene. Ole Einar Bjørndalen er paranoiker over at han skal bli smittet og bor på egen bo-bil med luftfukterapparat slikt han ikke blir tørr i neseborene og halsen og utsatt for virus.  Kroppen reparerer seg selv, og hjerte pumper langt og høyt en god stund etter de tøffeste eller lengste turene. Men for en gubbe som meg, jeg ikke oppnår slike ved sesongstartet. Jeg vet jeg begynner sakte og jeg vet at det skal være litt vondt, og nå vil jeg unngå så mye av det. Kroppen min er klar for en ny belastning neste dag slikt det lære seg å bli trent igjen.

Det er ikke så rart. Vi egentlig huske ikke når vi folk fleste som har tullete litt med å komme i kjempe form når vi ikke en gang hadde nådde 24 år gammel, at det var vondt og vi fikk skader, og vi måte tøye, og at vi hadde noen større smerter som betydde vi måtte hvile en helg eller glipper en konkurranse. Vi bare glemmer alt om hvor hardt det var, og huske hvor bra det var å være så trent, og hvor raskt vi kunne , hvor langt, hvor lenge, osv osv.

 En eldre kropp (under 75 -80 år) trenger litt mer tid å komme seg i form, og vil aldri oppnå toppformen en 21 eller 33 åring vil avhengig på hvilken idrett de var med i. Folk flest blir letter skadd fordi de ikke har trent hardt i flere år og de trekker for hardt! Det tok meg tre år, tre sesonger å komme i så god form som jeg var på sykkelen, delvis fordi kroppen fortsatt å vokse men også fordi sykkelsport er tøff særlig når du er litt større. Det skulle kanskje ta meg like langt med 8 timers trening per uke for 'å runde merket ' i Birke'n nå. Har jeg tid til slikt tull?

Ok, så treningsøkter to eller tre dager på rad før litt hviling. Selvfølgelig er det variasjon i treningsøkter  Med skitur og på sykkelen er det alltid en del interval-trening, det kommer med fremgangsmåten i seg selv. Men det er å tenke gjennom litt når du skal først ut den første dagen i en to -tre dagers serie.  Å ta kroppen opp til høyt fart litt raskere og vare litt kortere tid, eller å varme opp godt og å tøye seg før enn lengre tur?

Etter min mening skal silkeføre benyttes til lengre tur i langsommere tempo, med mye fokus på teknikk frem for konsentrasjon om intensitet.

Men det er ofteste skiføre som har største betydning for meg i alle fall. Silkeføre og då er det fristende å gå hardt inn på det fordi føret tilgir mye smått i dårlig fraspark og staking. Men då er det nøyaktige tidspunktet å planlege to mil som skal slukes. ( 2 mil forresten, i litt 'pace' er langt for meg, mer om dette snarlig) Langtur med fokus på utholdenhet og teknikk, nyt det gode føret til å føle maks glid og effekt fra fraspark og dobbeltak med fraspark. Konsentrerer deg om pusting og å holde 'hjulane i gong' ved den høye virkningsgraden i spark-stak-glid ligningen at du finner fram til i de første halvtime.

"Jeg Streber å Bli Mosjonist. 
Jeg er Bevegonist!"

Vi har langs kysten ofte skiftende forhold i været og til følge, skiføret.  I år er jeg glad for å ha fått 'pelskledde' "skin" ski, fordi en dag er det blå, så neste dag blir det lilla, så over til rødt og så clister men vent litt, her kommer ny snøfall og ti kuldegrader. Skiene funker jo og ikke blir slit i løpet av en sesong i henhold til en god universal-klister jobb som for meg, på siste ganske trøtte, myke ski, varte kanskje 2 mil maks. Jeg har blogge ganske mye på engelsk om de, men de hjelper. Med så skiftene og ofte dårlige fører (hmm, hvis det er flertall i føre), isete i skyggene og blaut der solen smiler ned hele dagen, det skulle være en hel sesongs eksperiment å bruke mye tid på gode smøring- eller clister- jobb og sammenlikner skiene i en halvtime. Føre har ikke vært bra i snitt, men skiene får feste når det teller. Så lenge det er tekstur og krystaller i sporene så vil skiene finne feste, og en veldig god del glid uten at man ligger merk til pelsen som er i midten som en 'brasiliansk' jobb på yngre damer. Når det er blaut og renner litt vann, så suger de en del grunnet være venusberget på bunnen, og når det var kram snø, var det for mye spenn i dem.

Igjen vil jeg si at jeg ofte har ikke tid  til å trene 8 timer hver uke. Eller jeg gidder ikke nok for å slkive ut tiden med familie og koseblogging osv.....Jeg strebe faktisk å bli mosjonist. Jeg er bevegonist! Jeg beveger meg opp ut av sofaen i blant når føre er greit nok. Jeg finner på lite fysiske aktivitet , ikke nok i allefall, i de saltet, skittne måneder mellom sykkeltur og skitur.

Jeg tok min aller siste skitur i går. Deilig og litt slitsomt i påskeføre med et underlag av is. Motstanden noen steder var stor men det var fordelaktig for å få mer ut av treningsøkten. Korreksjon, hvis jeg får en unnskyldning for å reise til fjells så tar jeg det som siste skitur før neste vinteren kommer i september. Hvis jeg får meg ut i påske då gir jeg litt tips til dem Northug og Nordhaug ;-)

onsdag 22. mars 2017

Atomic Skintec 4000s - Are skin Skis the Way to Go for Training and Fitness Skiing?

Just to give my own personal skis and experience over a few hundred kilometers on them. To summarise, as before in an earlier blog, the ski's are pretty much as good as the conditions.

 You can't expect to really get the most of a ski with a hard arch tension and a mohair insert which will have some friction and waterlogging effects, on the type of conditions we get here need the coast.

'Last Couple of Day's Conditions. We often get thaw back to this and then new snow in spring. At least it was firm and the slush wasn't too deep today.

Today the conditions were actually not bad because the ice had been churned by the machines not that long ago, and the sun as you see was melting the structure a fair bit to a softer texture. In truth it looked like a far better day for skate skis.

The ski went well today, but it made me think about how much better a good clister job would have done on a slightly softer pair of skis. There is the dilema, you need then more than one pair of skis anyway! 

Today proved though that the skintec works on any condition where there is compacted snow which is still crystaline. Blue through purple to red hard waxes, and purple to silver and of course universal clister to the point when clister will work better on harder surfaces ( but suffer abrasion down to little again after 15 km) 

For list lovers then: Plusses and Minusses: 

+ Works on Wax Conditions with Old and New Laid Tracks
+ Works in the wetter easter snow
+ Really good kick and glide in 'silky' blue and purple with firm track bases.
+ Perhaps in lillac/ blue conditions, you can scale a steeper hill before fishboning comes in
+ Seem to avoid icing while keeping good grip in Zero conditions or mild air on cold tracks too
+ (ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is good for glide and double pole with kicking
+ Works better than wax it seems in the mid lane out of the tramlines
+ Can skate on them usually because they do not 'snag' on the mid lane and they are high tension

- Doesn't work at all on very icey (where ice clister would be best) or very hard, transformed compacted tracks
- Doesn't work well at all on fine, cold new snow. 
- Gets waterlogged it seems, and looses some traction
- Can suck on downhills when waterlogged 
(ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is a little hard for soft conditions

They Suck - But Not Often

That would be the biggest issue there above underlined- I noticed these spring days that the skin will suck right down on even a fast down hill when the ski finds a soft spot or the contour fills the arch, and it is like putting the brakes on a bike on. 

Then to release it you have to rock back to your heels and the ski flies off again, which is of course to be expected with a pretention in that arch matching 100-120kg skiers. On a faster section you can forgive this a bit, but not if you were racing or if you then needed to step out of the tram line, or one ski plough brake, because that might knock you off balance with a thump. 

This also shows itself in undulating terratory when it gets wet or porridgey in the tracks- the ski will not glide well, although you dont feel it like brake blocks coming on, it just is there. 

I would guess that the ski skin glider / protector sprays are the way to go. I tried and HFC shoe polish style rub a couple of times, and I think it helped with waterlogging, but also I think I lost a little traction when I needed it most in the shadowy sections where the tracks hadn't started melting.

Ski For Your Weight and Style

Here comes a little of the rub. Atomic have made a training ski which is used by some pros in their team, which has quite probably a very consistent arch tension (spenn) due to carbon being used in the construction. They are a mid to high range ski, depending on your tastes and local shop and prices. However they have made the 208 cm model a monster ski which a 125kg, 2 m high giant could use as skate skis. They have a tension which is just too much for soft conditions, and quite hard work in good conditions, while in the hard conditions it seems it works against itself too, but does allow for a really fast poling ski. 

So what were they thinking of? There are very few competitive skiers over 90kg let alone 100kg, so an advanced, stiff semi racing ski is not going to be ideal for the presumably less fit buyer and actually less trained yours tuly.  Well I did get a pair of these on the tension tester machine, and 208 was correct because the feeler gauge just got to the tip of the skin with some tiny friction the last inch or so. But the thing is that the skin is quite slipply in fact in glide phase because it seems never to pick up ice crystals, it brushes them backwards of course! Also this 4000 version is a built in skin, unlike its immediate predecessor which looks very similar as a ski, which has the magnetic removable insert, with two versions. So they maybe placed the skin too far forward. 

Another guy I met and paced with had the Fischer trainer-tourer skin ski with the thinner, twin skins and a traditional groove. He had poorer glide, yet about the same grip, and he didnt seem overweight. 

Skis vary as do conditions, so I would say have a think about your average conditions and if you have a good old wax pair for softer conditions, or if you want a skin ski for soft conditions and then a hard 'clister' ski for hard conditiions. The longer the insert, and the broader it is, the more it will create possible friction and waterlogging. Get the skis on the test meter and see where the feeler gauge meets fur ! Then do the floor test too for old times sake, both skis with a sheet of A4 paper under. 

I would say buying two pairs of skin skis is going to be a bit of a bad thing to do, a soft and a hard, because then you get into conditions where the skin doesnt work anyway  ie new snow, or ice, or waterlogged when the arch is not that hard in the ski. You are better thinking if you do most of your skiing on high mountain conditions to get a skin ski and then a soft ski for blue waxing through to the spring thaw melting and harder conditions for clistering them up. Some ski areas in the Rockies and Canada, tend to get a large early dump of snow and then the tracks get older and firmer for most of the season. So that would suit the idea above, a harder skinski and a soft, loose day and end of season waxed ski which is softer in arch tension.

I conclude this year, being the sixth not very great season in a row after two seven month -blue and lillac stonkers in 2010-2011, that it is the conditions and not my skis which are the issue!! However I can see that I need a softer pair of skin skis,  and I need to get hold of a pair of clister skis, again not quite as hard as the 4000s because I feel I need a quicker contact with clister - to be able to feel how hard I need to 'paw' or slide on the harder base conditions. 

With shorter seasons, the hard spenn skis are tough to work up to pace on, a bit like a high geared track bike needing more power and technique to be built up over time. 

So picking your ski is a bit of a Science for your own personal art - a soft ski is easy to get up and going, but will limit your speed and development of a powerful kick (perhaps!) Even for a new beginner a soft ski can be a mistake for mountain conditions, especially if they are investing a bit of money in the sport there and then. 

A hard ski - correctly measured for your weight that is, not too hard -  will allow you to grow in style and keep 'the wheel rolling' - for example double pole with or without kick will be much more effective and once good in technique, energy efficient on a hard spenn ski. 

A medium spenn ski is going to be a good allrounder for your style as a fitness skier I would say, because you are most likely concentrating on diagonal style. Also it will help you build up strength for the season, rather than for the ski,  like with mine! When we perhaps see a skin ski in shop like this, we look for approximately right length for your height and then check the arch tension for your weight. I would say take it down 10kg and see how the feeler works, then up 10 kg too. Here you get an idea for the different loadings caused by hard or softer bases, and can see how the ski might suck too much if it is too soft. I say you can allow for some feeler 'rub' on the skins at the front on your own weight, and not be looking to have the skin off the snow completely ie feeler guage all the way forward and into plastic before it finds friction. Mine are about an inch and a half of friction on the scale, perhaps then two to two and a half would be better, but then that would suck more on wet conditions.

lørdag 18. mars 2017

Birkebenrennet - Do-Able for Me ?

Birken run went today in glorious weather with a massive margin on the win for Martin Sundby, surviging even a Skidoo attack on the closing miles! Unfortunetly that was all which I have seen televised today as I was hoping for the type of coverage from the national channel akin to the BBC, which is NRK here.

Seemingly NRK had called the ski run's organisers bluff and not paid for TV rights at all, perhaps I am cynical. Anyway this was the very year I would want to see the course on TV and hear the race reports from different competitors, or participants as many are, on conditions, ski waxing etc.  I have half a mind to train up for it!

The run is 54km which at current appaling fitness level would take me 5 hours odd, at a measly 10km/h,. and that is without thiniking about the weighted rucksack you must carry all the way. The furthest I recall logging in a session has been 22km, on a partiuclarily crisp day when I was a little under clothed and got cramps in my legs. I could have managed 30 km. Also my skis seem a little slow, I was on my fast touring skis, not my atomic training slim n' straight ones. It was only a couple of km longer than my very first day on skis at Geilo, when the instrtuctor said I was a little fool hardy doing the 'round the fjord' 14km after our session first had been up about 6km. I couldnt walk the next day for any distance and the thought of snowboarding which I had planned for the next two days,  sent me back to bed with a hot drink.

Ski choice though is important for getting the most efficeincy out of your efforts of course, as is waxing or having the right conditions if you have 'furry soled' waxless like my Atomic Skintec 4000s. I noted Sundby was going like a train with relatively broad skis, presumably because of the extra weight he had to carry, and perhaps some soft conditions. Oh, breadth, length and arch tension..... how many pairs of skis to think about!!

Ideally then you may want to have a soft pair , possiobly a bit broader for new snow or slushy conditions to encourage float and make kicking adhesion work better. These would then not be skin skis, because these are conditions they do not work in, not all that well. In new snow they grip badly at lower temperatures , typical blue conditions, while in sliush they get waterlogged. They have an advamntage in zero conditions though, which you may experience underway.  Then  you could have your hard pair as skin skis, which would cover any older snow condtions right up to very firm, but not glazed conditions.

An akternative to both wax or skin skis, would be using Start grip tape, with a good application using a hair dryer or wax iron to a very clean, rubbed base. This stuff realluy does what it says on the box, and covers much the same range as skin skis,  but tackling loose and wet snow much better. It is very resistant to wear in normal conditions, and tends to neither pick up too many hard crystals nor hold onto them that long. They have a race version I have not tried, but this would be a good alternative if  you get to try them out on your skis first in a range of conditions, and get the length of application right, which in my experience is longer than clister zone, but shorter at the front and at the sole than a blue wax job. I had one applicatiion last a couple of months in mid winter, doing maybe 200 km in total, before though just two days 15km total took them down to almost bare.

Skinsks have the appeal for runs like Birke'n in that they dont need to be rewaxed as long as there are crystaline conditions and clean tracks without new snow, hard ice or slush. The issue with climbing is that you need a soft wax like purple to get under way and do the major diagonals on the way up (VR 50 VR 55 swix recommended today, on a clister binder with melted in green base known as a pro level endurance job) while the temperature usually drops and snow copnditions become mountain over the top and towards Sjusjoen. Soince there seems to be a good degree of double-poling (staking) once the first ascent is out the way, you could do a 'pocket only' job with lillac wax and hope it is grippy enough yet wears off enough so as not to clog with the colder, harder crystals over the top sections of the course.

Skin skis then today, would have been ideal with a range expected at my start time of almost zero at the start and down to minus 3 to minus six on the highest points. There would be little risk given the tracks were of course run through the night after any last snowfall was expected and done with decent weight onto a good base prepared in forehand. However the wrong arch tension could have made a messy day for you. Skinskis also by in large have a clister zone insert, which ends half way down the sole of the foot. So you could add about three to four inches of wax, or dare I say clister or even grip tape if conditions were to be loose or particularily hard on some portions of the Briken or any other run.

My 4000s are a bit too hard arch tension (spenn) for my current style as soon as the snow base becomes a little soft or gets icey. However it looked like they would have done fine today, and I would have been able to pole effectively much of the slack way down from the highest point witthout hindrance. However I think I could compromise with a little less in order to train up in longer, lighter tours and build my technique a little more, especially in the 'keep the wheel rolling' double pole with kick, which for me suits a softer ski I think. A softer skin ski may be a mistake though, because the skin might drag too much. However what really tires you physically and mentally is back slipping or not getting your effect of double pole kick over the semi fast sections. Staking over flat and softer snow down hill is very tiring, although fast for lighter skiers, it is not as efficient for a big skier like me as double with kick I beleive at least.

So I would be opting for about a 10% less stiff skin ski for the distance as in todays blue/violet, or over to older,cold hard snow and up to zero conditions. For pluss conditions I would opt for a softer pair of clistered skis with a green spray and ironed in wax, and rilling and glider done by a pro at the specialist shop here. For a new snow forecast , or possibility for a lot of wind blown snow, then I would opt for the same softer skis and do a day wax ontop of a good base and blue mid layer. VR seems to work a lot better in terms of durabilituy than no flourinated Blue and Lillac, but beware the temperature ranges are little different than standard wax.

Back to training up. Because we often have soft, new and melting snow here near the coast, I could not see myself doing forty km training sessions on my 4000s 2.08m long planks. I do see skins work well because one day it is blue, the next red, so purple so clister and I would save hours on end stripping and reapplying waxes. My 4000s would then be used for shorter, intense sessions where I practice sustained glide and timing the repowere after each glide phase on each leg optimally. You just cannot be lazy with them, they need a hard press down each time to release that carbon fibre insert.

Training up means about 8  hours a week until two weeks before apparently, when you do one last full lenght run or even 60km and then you scale back to intensity, before a light session three days out, and just stretching and suppleness two days up to it. To come in at 12km an hour, in just under five, then I would need to do that 8 hours a week for about three months, which would require either a good old fashioned winter, or access to a cabin above 500 m. lacking that, a gymn with specialist ski machines would help, or even roller skis of course. We are lucky to have 15 km of fairly gentle cycle lane alongside the route of the main road, with very little fish bone  and only a couple of iffy downhills for yours truly. It really is an option with short sessions with the ratchet on, and longer round tours with skate style for endurance.

Given though very silky conditions on the day with snow just a couple of days old, and a stable temperature profile, ort one which favours skin skis, then I can see i could complete it with a lot less training, and having actually not done the whole distance before. But that would not really give me the satisfaction of peaking out from a good season.

Logistically it is annoying and expensive, but some clubs get packages together win bus and hotel combis to get you there and back., and there are some showers lorried in i believe. A bath tub is what is needed, and a sauna after, so an overnight stop in telemark somewhere on the way home, with poissibility for a morning swim in a heated indoor pool would be the ideal. All in all this is looking at not much change from a bout a thousand pounds, for entry, bus,. hotel and food. For me that would make it once in a life time.

If next season proves to be a good one, with an artic oscillation and the scandinavian high dominating from early winter, then I am determined to trian up for a 42km run, either the Telemarkhelten or one of our own concotion with my offshore mates if that does not match, or it is blown off or too cold. I am then not fussed if it becomes 42km on mountain touring skis, or in nicely laid tracks, as long as it isnt four times round a 10km course.

So I need three things, A softer pair of skis, skin or not, a good winter and a goal of 42 km before I decide to invest time and money in a future birken,. Next year it reaches 80 years old, but for me what ever year I do it will be the right year for me!

lørdag 11. mars 2017

XC Ski Season 2017 - And Goals for 2018!

Here we are again! Another short season, helped out a little with a dump in late november which gave us some fun for a week or so back then.

Summary of the Winter 2016-17 then:


 Variable, with shallow bases making the whole set up a little firmer than last winter's dump. Ideal test for using skintec 'furry' skis which performed well on almost every day, from new snow, wet easter snow to hard snow.


I found that I respond much better to going out several days in a row rather than every other day. I could literally feel the tone and condition in my muscles coming on over the course of the first three days I got out at the beginning of February.

For me personally this is a bit of a break through in training philosophy, because before I used to do a hard hour sweat sess', rest day, long easy session day, rest day and avoid going every day.

Double poling and double pole with single kick have been techniques I have worked a little upon, especially the latter, and had pretty good response.

Due to the shallow snow I found that I was getting much better efficiency for all the techniques, with some days when the skin was giving ideal kick-glide pay off, being as if my skis were electrically assisted.

I have varied my training with up to three hour, steady sessions but always with some pushing of my envelope. No sessions have been less than an hour, and I have tried to peak in the shorter sessions after a careful warm up, and attempt a warm down.

My back as usual has been crampy the first few times out, especially with a bum-bag, so I will need to do more pilates and find a new, specific exercise for the classic langrenn stance.


This winter (in the spell in November too) I have been concentrating solely on classic style. This is because I wanted to really test out my new Atomic Skintecs to see if they were the allround training ski I was looking for ( I got them for a bargain 600 kr in VGC!!). They have proven to be as good as the conditions!

The hard 'spenn' ie stiff pre-tension, of the Skintec I have with carbon section in the walls, is challenging for me but I have concentrated a lot on getting the style of pressing with the whole sole of the foot as the hip swings under the body weight. In soft conditions I have had to use a more 'bull pawing' technique with the ball of the foot so as to get the ski in and down to attain grip and this is quite tiring.

Also I have been trying to get the swing forward to work such that the ski lands more parallel and does not clap down. I have exagerrated this a bit and also tried to find glide and fit tempo to glide, with great success. Before I was trying to stick to a tempo and perhaps miss glide opportunities.

This year I failed to concentrate more on balance and manoevrability which lead to me losing my bottle on what may be the last day of the season. As mentioned, skate skiing should be part of my first few hours out of a season to get back that sense of balance and confidence to power off and step turn on one ski.

Double pole with kick has beena  technique I found difficult and I felt outright clumsy using it. Now though I have been able to improve my timing/coordination and sneak the ski forward before kicking and it all seemed a lot more natural this year, with very surprising improvments in speed over 'slack' sections where poling alone is slow and diagonal a little too 'glidey'. This year the shallower snow has no doubt helped my improvement in this technique because I found last year that it was sucking me of energy for little actual propulsion on my newly aquired, stiffer skis. I was either not getting kick or having to dig and brake a little in finding it last season.

If anything this year I am most pleased then, with my improvement in Double Pole with single kick, because it should be an efficient technique in 'keeping the wheel turning'. I found I had really amazing return on investment so to speak when using this, with the profit in speed and maintaining momentum vastly outweighing the input of energy and concentration.

Having said all this I do now see that the racing brigade in the club and especially the sixty somethings, have much better efficiency than me. They are at least 40kg light than me though, and forty years more experienced than me, so I win on moral handicap. I see that my fitness only needs to come on about say 20% to enjoy training runs with the better folk in club, while my technique for the day's conditions needs a bit more work perhaps. If I am serious about trying to keep up with the better guys in their easy to medium sessions, then I had better get a softer pair of skis for softer conditions.


I have been soley using my Atomic Skintec, and found them to be excellent if conditions are not fully 'polished' hard, concrete like, or on the other end of the scale very soft. New snow with a lot of air (kramsnø) presents a problem which may mean I revert to my broader tour skis on such days which float my weight much better.

I havent used my skate skis at all this year for various reasons, having only combi boots and classic poles holding me back a little, but more that there has been gravel or soft conditions in the mid sections of the runs, and the best place for beginners like me in this art, was only opened last week and will be closed later today when the rain sets in unfortunately.

This is a real shame because I am moving job to Østfold where they often have very little snow in winter, and I would like to get into roller skiing in skate style as a form of out of season training. Also as I noted yesterday on what may be my last outing, my balance on hard, rilled suurfaces was really poor so a few sessions out plodding around on skate skis would have helped once again!

I recommend that anyone interested in taking up the sport or doing back country tours, learns first to skate on skis because it will improve you balance and general manoevrability enormously over just sticking to the tram lines and sliding your skis as most new beginners do.

Goals for 2018

Well I suspect I need a big goal, and that would be today's run in fact, the Telemark Helten (Hero of Telemark) in Rauland. This is a 42km race with varied height but is not as extreme as Birk'en and for me a lot more manageable logistics from home.

This will mean training sessions of up to 4 hours, or two three hour sessions in a day, which will mean using winter holiday to get the miles in to the legs while enjpoying varied scenery and good conditions up in the mountains rather than purely relying on the now variable and poor lowland conditions we seem to be getting in south Norway now.

I aim to start the season on skate skis, or perhaps try Skikes or roller skis in the summer even. THis summer I will concentrate on cycling with a comnbination of steady sessions, hill climbing and sprinty interval sessions. I also intend to do some elg hoofing in the autumn up in woodlands, once the salt gets put on the roads. I find my brisk walking helped this year because I pushed it to over 10km once or twice a week, and kept up a good series spurned on by borrowing a neighbours dog. But it isn't quite intense enough. I should be able to join a gymn and work on treadmills and weights, plus pilates.

Over the summer I have to loose some weight !

Equipment next year

I have stretched my combi boots out this year too, despite them being a little worn in places. Jens Stoltenberg has a pair! They help a bit with ankle control on longer down hills and if you of course want to skate a bit, which you can usually do very well on skin skis btw. The boots have a mediocre lining which has given way around my spurred heels, and are patched over with spinnaker tape for now. Next year I need two sets of boots and a set of longer skate poles! So I am in for quite a big hit in terms of cash.

I would like to have a softer pair of skis for softer conditions next year, but there is a company which will machine out sections of the sole and stick in what looks like velcro (and probably is). Otherwise grip tape does a good job until it gets hard in the tracks.

Given my boots survive and I get used equipment then I would be better spending the cash saved on some Cabin tours with pals, to enjoy 'blue wax' conditions and do some longer days slow, steady training.

I will also have to look at cleaning my skins and maybe using a spray on them. I used a roll on glider over them which has seemed to give benefit, if a little loss of grip perhaps, difficult to say in this year's variable conditions.

Given wads of cash, I would like to have another, softer pair of skin skis which would be the alternative for those times i have been slogging away.

torsdag 9. mars 2017

"Your Skis Maybe a Bit Over Excited"? - XC Ski Flex - Arch Tension and Choosing the Right Ski.

Ah the dangers of Google Translate. If you ask it to take the Norwegian  for what a ski's "spenn" means,  Google will give you 'excitement'..... because 'spenn' has a meaning somewhere around 'tense' and is used for excitment as well as the pre-tension in your ski bend!

However getting the right 'spenn' in the skis you choose is a science. As with all good science there are equations and formulas, where you have to input the data and pre-conditions to get a correct or at least appropriate answer out of it. It is all too easy to get things wrong and end up with a pair of skis which are incorrect for your ability, your usual local coniditons or for that Birkebeiner once in a life time ski-run. 

Trend to Stiffer Skis at Elite Level

For those of you who don't follow the sport, there has been a trend over the last five years or so,  where skiers in the classic, kicking style have moved towards a predominant 'double poling' technique  (Staking in Norwegian) with skiers not doing any diagonal kicking at all, and using a 'service' kick wax to comply with the rules. Mandatory 'diagonal' ie kicking sections have now been introduced but on some runs like the Marcialonga it pays to go fast and pole along.

 Skis for this are accordingly harder in their arches - they have higher pre tensioning in their design, such that the skier is held above the snow and glides on the optimal sections with a good contact area. Also there is a degree of return-spring which helps lift the skier up for the next full body compression which thrusts them forward.

In effect these specialist skis are getting quite like skating skis. You can indeed say that classic (when not fishboning up a hill) is actually parallel skating if you are doing it correctly, with the base of the ski providing the resistance rather than the edge when you power outwards and backwards in skating.

However this type of hard, poling ski is just not going to be anywhere near the ideal ski for a new beginner or even the average club competitor. 

The Wrong Skis Gromit!

This trend to harder sprung skis is too much of a good thing in classic, both for the FIS and perhaps for yours truly! It is a myth that for the average fitness skier or club level competitor, a softer ski gives necessarily bad. (try running this through google translate from some aficionados in Oslo) . 

Take me as a perfect example. I wanted a pair of sports skis, or training skis as they are often called, which are thinner and nearly straight along their legnth, and designed therefore only for prepared runs. I would say that my tour skis were neither all that good for 'tram lines' nor for back country, but after some reflection they have their place and certainly if you are carrying weight or have long down hills, then some in swing on the side and a 2.5 inch or so broad ski is of benefit, especially in new snow. I digress, I had noticed as I wrote yesterday, that pensioners were flying past med despite my good efforts, and they just seemed to have more efficiency out of skinny skis. 

Now as it happens Atomic chose to launch a quite advanced training ski, pretty much pro level, with a 'mohair' insert as their Skintec TM waxless solution. They have been out at least four seasons now, and I saw their distinctive orange markings more and more often over time, especially amongst pensioners who choose to have another round of coffee and cake rather than be bent over a pair of skis in the waxing shed. I was more sure about the tension technology in fact than the waxless because it is a carbon supported system which is compliant until you press in the swing and kick, when they in theory then go through to a new phase when they act like a softer ski. ( Read Yesterday's blog for the skin technology verdict).

The skis work really well in a variety of conditions, but and here is the but, they do not like soft base snow. Here it is hard to get a kick because you seem to just keep digging for traction, while also it is hard to double pole well because the narrow skis on my weight plough down into the substrate. I don't feel the skin is to blame at all. I just really hadn't thought about how the average conditions the last three years or so have been down here, near sea level in South Norway.

Factoring in Variables When You Get *Fitted* for New Skis

There is then a rule of thumb here with conditions. So this should be an input to what level of 'excitement' your skis have ( a particle physcisist may be quite happy with the use of 'excitement' in the direct translation for level of pre-tension, flex or arch stiffness as you like to call it) The first inputs to your skis though are as follows.

1) Weight
2) Style - ability-  goal for season
3) Expected average conditions
4) Height

Usually the common-or-garden shop assistant would have sold you a ski using a height scale ten years ago here, but now luckily they have tensioning machines with feeler gauges at hand in most any decent shop or sports' chain-store. My 208cm skis are the same as those I had measured up for three winters ago, when the kind chap in the ski section showed me that at 110 kg I would just be experiencing some friction on the skin. 

However there in lies the myth- you do not really need to be fully suspended above the snow in the kick section. 

A really good kick waxing job will present very little friction - in fact if you look at the bottom of Pro's ski's while they walk to the start line, you will hardly be able to spot the wax. On a standard ski as well, you don't have to stick to the full legnth kick-zone all the way to wax mark (a good shop should put on by using the aforementioned machine!) and you should also remember that clister is at least an inch back from this at the front of the ski and the heel. In softer conditions and new snow, the whole ski will be in contact with the snow, but in gliding or downhill the most pressure will be where you want it, and a good wax or clister job will not pick up any excess crystals, and in fact should shed them during glide.

So you begin to see that this is not a descending order of factors, it is a set of inputs to the equation which will give an appropriate answer, with some small print.

Weight will give you then a guide for the tension of the ski you need, and height will help a shop assistant a little here if they don't have the skis premarked for kg skier weight as quite a few shops do now. This is because wooden core skis, the majority of amateur training skis, vary from ski to ski. They are luckily for us,  first matched as a pair in the factory, but they usually do not mark the ideal weight because it varies with style you see ! 

Style and ability now comes into play. If you are a keen sports skier, used to 'staking' ie double poling, and you have a powerful kick, plus a knowledge of waxing,  then a stiffer ski is appropriate ie the wax zone is measured as being free by the feeler gauge, or by the old fashioned A4 paper sheet on the floor with both feet on the skis. However, if you live in the North of Norway or ski most often at some altitude, then a softer pair will be better for the softer conditions you will encounter. 

Conditional Rule of Thumb Nr 2

Think of where you are going to be skiing and when you do most skiing:  

Do they prepare good tracks with a heavy machine, which would suit a harder 'spenn' in a ski?

 Do you get a lot of new snowfall or do you tend to ski a lot in older, harder tracks after an inital dump of snow each winter? 

This is then the second rule of thumb- for softer expected conditions, a softer ski will be better ande vice-versa. In hard, abrasive conditions, you want to heave your wax zone off the snow and limit the time the ski engages with the hard snow base, while often using clisters. Also you have the opportunity to double pole more which is proven to be more efficient, hence top elite atheletes are doing it more and more as I mentioned above. 

A softer ski will have less of the recommended wax zone off the snow, but there will be so little pressure exerted there onto soft snow bases that it will not slow the ski down. Over the course of a 10km ski run, you getting frustrated with how hard it is to kick down for grip will be far worse, and any back slipping or reversion to fish-bone style early will not be welcomed. 

Soft skis however have a disadvantage in soft, wet conditions, when the ski can suck more because it is all deeper into the substrate, but a nice thin clister job will help, or gliding the skin with glider spray will stop it becoming water logged and 'sucking' - which was quite extreme one day last week for me as the sun worked its way up a good downhill - it felt like being on a bike and slamming the brakes on as the skin entered a suck from being waterlogged! 

Now I put height at the bottom here, where as traditionally it was at the top. It could be that you rather like a bit of skating, or combi skiing under way just for fun, and are happy to pole along at your own sweet pace. Alternatively you may have poor tramlines or none at all, and need to find both grip and glide on beaten down flat snow. Here a higher amount of stiffness would be what to get, but not so high that you would struggle to get kick-grip.

Height has something to say with stability of the ski and balance such that the leverage of your body is matched by the legnth of the ski, but as said above, it is kind of a rough guide. Some manufacturers like fischer, have a 'short cut' design which is really saying you get a bit better spring from a shorter ski than would be traditional. My racing ski fits I have looked at, are all up at the very longest in the range, from 208 to 212 cm (2.08m- 2.11m) long due to my imodest total weight. 

Vary Your Wax Zone with Conditions

Once you understand the relationship between style, ability, weight and conditions, you can think about what length of wax zone will help get the most out of your skis. 

In softer, cold, new snow conditions you can choose to use a very hard base wax on the legnth of the zone, green or white, while then applying the day wax a good few inches back in, and perhaps stopping a couple of inches in from the heel towards the midsole. Go out and do some test kicks once the ski cools that is. You may get away with the day's wax just under the 'pocket' of the ski where there will usually be crystals when ever you care to look.

 A lighter skier can also use a slightly softer wax, so you could use a purple in the middle of the "pyramid" ie under the boot sole,  if you find the traction a little lacking  - even as cold as minus ten in new snow. The same will be true of a harder ski, which you may compensate for with a 'pyramid peak' of softer wax when conditions are soft.

Fluctuating 'zero' conditions are annoying because you get icing on the ski, or suck if water starts to form under the ski. Some skiers use a combination of a flourinated purple on some of the lenght of the foremost half of the kick zone, as far as the toes of the boot/binding area, and then stop here and use a clister under the sole in the 'pocket' which does not reach as far back as the heel. Thus any crystals which do get picked up will created minimal friction in the glide, and you get a good combination of grip as the temperature rises and falls. 

Hard, icey clister conditions entail that a softer ski has a shorter waxed zone, and once again you can test this out before you commit to the journey with an application which is not as far as the heel, and two to three inches short of the usual wax mark at the front half of the ski. A harder spent ski should be marked with a clister mark , which is usually in my brief glances at good skier's skis, about an inch and a half inboard of the usual mark so to speak. 

Slushy, Easter Conditions  The main thing you want to avoid here is suction onto the snow and water mix, so a shorter kick zone and use of a clister once again not as far back as the heel should be employed. There will be plenty of grip most of the time, unless it freezes back or you enter shadowy or higher areas where conditions are usually hard, 

You have a little challenge here in Easter sun slush,  because ideally you need to glide all the rest of the ski to prevent suction, so you will need to clean off glider to lay clister further out if needs be for more grip. You can compensate for a glider free zone by 'rilling' or just scraping up the areas you have not glided where you may want to extend clister, such that the water finds channels to run from and you avoid suction. Use a rough herring bone pattern to affect this under the heel and longer up the 'reserve' kick zone on the toe end. 

Kick Beats Glide on Longer Runs

Excluding the mostly down hill 'Marcialonga' in Italy, most longer ski runs have significant amounts of diagonal classic kicking. Experienced competitors will tell you that good kick is better than extremely good glide. That is rather to say that even a small percentage of back slipping and frustration will slow you more than a little extra friction. Bad glide though, where the kick wax holds crystals or clumps up even, or as above you experience suck in wet conditions, It is then a combination of 'nailed kicking' and good efficient, "profit" in glide from each kick and on faster, non kicking sections which counts. 

There is then a slight bias to allowing for better kick, so for example on the Birkebeinet which rises several hundred meters in its' arduous 54 km course, you will see some people choosing a little too soft a wax for the uphill and having to scrape and apply harder wax once they encounter a lot of crystals being embedded on their kick wax. Some wise old foxes wax with just one layer of soft wax and let it deterioate up hill, thus reaching colder snow and the harder wax beneath takes over!

This is a very good rule of thumb Nr 3 for ski touring from cabin to cabin, or not wanting to bother waxing much while on holiday or a longer day run. You can always lay a softer wax onto a harder one, and clister will sit on blue wax (if not maybe purple) if the sun melts the nice cold snow in the course of the day, or as you come round the ridge to the sunny side!  This is really where skin-skis (felleski) come into their own, as long as conditions don't verge towards 'blue ice clister'.

Limits of Ski Fun in Poorer Conditions

On that last point, ice-clister days, then I do declare that there is no perfect ski for diagonal kicking style. A reasonable ice clister job for me will last around about 10 km before the skis are bare on my older, softer tour skis. You will see people staking in these conditions a lot on the stiffer, sportier skis and you can presume that their blue clister is going to last longer as a kind of reserve for the sections which are between staking and fishboning. However as you see in big competitions, diagonal can be excluded from most all routes! 

A factor then we experience often here along the coast is thaw back and freeze, which has its worst effect of course on the bases of the 'tramlines' such that a wax job based on temperature is useless, and you have to use and take with you universal clister to make the tour possible with any diagonal kicking. 

Now having said this, if I had bought the Atomic training ski without the skin, then I would get some benefit from 'preserving and reserving' a blue clister job which would ride above the icey substrate, and then the ski would whip down in its' fancy carbon fibre mediated implosion, thus propelling me up the slopes. But that would be another pair of skis, which would be hard to use on the soft, easter conditions we seem to get as early as january these days! 

Two Pairs Are The Answer?

Unless you are very lucky or just ski for a short season, or holiday with stable weather and snow conditions, the actual qaulity of the snow is going to vary greatly over the course of a season. I know some of our local boys just use clister on their favourite pair of training skis,  because there is so often old snow from thaw-freeze events. Easter comes, and the sun shines brightly in the mountains, meaning you may want to either get the tour out of the way early on hard wax, or wait until the nice red wax conditions come in later in the morning. 

If you are just planning for a single long tour, then perhaps hiring skis when you get there is the best solution, and paying the shop to do atleast a good base wax and glider job if needs be for where you are going. The pair should then have a medium to soft 'spenn' such that you cover a range of eventualities if there is the chance for vairation in weather and snow base conditions. 

Planning your tour you want to think about how those base conditions will vary: Runs where they use just a skidoo to lay track will be softer in their bases that a piste machine so think of this too, this being even more true where you are likely to just be following other skiers tracks in the snow. Here you want to think about using a broader tour ski, although you do encounter people on sports skis following well defined back country routes.

Ideally though you want to think about two pairs of skis if you are going to do a lot of training over the course of a long season. One pair with hard flex as recommended for good, firm and hard conditions, and a soft pair for new snow, softer prepared bases, "off piste" ie back country,  and easter conditions. 

How About A Third Pair? 

The typical mid life crisis of 2010 it seems, entailed that the man of the house or lady of the clubhouse would invest in skate-ski kit. For those of you not au fait with XC skiing, there was a great 'Schism' caused by a guy called Koch, who gave up on kicking in the tram lines and propelled himself by a skating style. It was forced out to the sidelines as 'freestyle' only to really beocme a very prominent face of the sport when the ski-shooting biathaletes found it an easier style with a rifle on your back. Now it has eaven taken over the World Championship's longest events, the 30 and 50km for women and men respc. 

As mentioned above, skate skis have a very different look in their pre-bend. They are stiffer and the bend is longer. This means the skier is carried a little more a-loft of the snow, and relies on a fairly pronounced side swipe on the inner edge of the pushing ski, as well as a good deal of use of the entire body and arms to propell, rather gracefully, the whole show forward. 

Now I bought a pair, without investing in the proper boots or longer poles which are 'necessary' and have had some great fun learning. More over they have revolutionised my previously stiff mobility our of the tracks, by vastly improving my balance on skis. When refining my diaganol technique I worked out that in fact it is a parallell skate, with all the weight and thus glide pushed on to the leading ski. 

The real advantage of skate skis is perhaps in being able to go out on days when the bottoms of those tram lines have become concrete-like. I find quite often that the centre 'skate' lane on the forrest roads they prepare here, has a good deal more texture or 'bite' in,  that the concrete of the well worn tramlines, so you can get a very nice skate on the go, and then double pole at high speed in the tramlines. 

I would whole heartedly recommend that someone taking up XC skiing for fitness start off with skate skis (or maybe 'combi' skis if there are still any on the market) or in fact given my own instructive feel from about ten sessions on them, any beginner should be given a go at this 'freestyle' before being confined by the tramlines. 

søndag 5. mars 2017

Furry Skis? The verdict on skin-skis (felleski)

Apparently skis with an integrated mohair skins are nothing all that new, and since patents  ran out accordongly some time ago, all the main XC makers now offer 'furry soled skis'. However is this all just a fad?

Historical Beginners Skis

Patterned waxless skis got a bad name because they were mostly the reserve of beginners' products. However Atomic offer quite a few tour good skis with pattern,  for the North American market in particular it seems, and Salomon also have some better skis with rough patterns. Fischer have a near pro level ski (XCS carbon if I remember right) with their own patented pattern, which work quite well in my personal experience, and many an  "Oslo 50" or Birkebeiner competitor has a pair of these in reserve in the car in case conditions are going to vary greatly.

With Waxless patterned skis, by in large you get a longer zone which is patterned than that which is waxed or clistered up, because it has to grip in all conditions. This means they usually make a lot of noise on down hills, which means friction of course in what should be the glide zone. I would recommend grinding off and polishing the front of many of the patterned sections and taking either a short skin or clister with you for the more difficult days, rather than enduring the noise and extra friciton of one-size-fits all.  Also in some conditions the bare plastic will ball up with snow, so in fact they are no totally preparation free, they need to be glided.

Do the new integrated skin-skis make up for the short-comings of the older waxless, patterned skis?

Enter the Flush Furry Ski-:Skintec TM from Atomic.

Furry skis got a far more serious start with Atomic betting on a high end training ski, almost three times the peice of a cheap waxless starter ski. The magnetic system was all verry high tech, but it wasn't long before they glued in a standard, inch across skin on a wider range of training skis. We say training,  but these skis have already been used by many amateurs in Birkebeiner and other races where height and /or snow conditions are likely to change dramatically, making a clister or soft wax lowland wax job a balling mess in the new snow of the hill.

Since their inception, I have been itching to get my hands on a pair, but the investment /percieved risk held me back. Last season I managed to pick up a pair of used 208cm atomic skintecs with glued-in skin. This was a good two birds with oine stone purchase, because they were also my first "straight" sports skis ie minimal side cut and no concession to 'off piste'..... also my first with any carbon fibre in them.

 Pleased ? Yes very much so, but only as pleased as I could be with the conditions !

All Skis Have Their Limits or 'Envelope' of Performance

In truth, getting out in the ski-tracks without worrying is a bit misleading. As with your ordinary, common-or-garden training skis, there are going to be days when the spring (aka flex or spenn) in the ski is too hard - soft conditions render a hard tensioned ski like mine difficult- they become a labour, while ordinary or firm conditions seem to be no problem.

 Then we come to snow type, and here we have limitations of the untreated skin-ski. They don't like fine, new snow, and at the other extreme, very compressed or 'transformed' snow, aka concrete in the tram lines, neither of which are good for traction. Unfortunetly, both of which are typical of our southern Norwegian winter with dumps, wind blown poweder and then also thaw back or long term ing of old snow in cold , dry periods.

However in typical blue' and 'Lillac' conditions, to be found in  higher 'pastures' or better days, ie silky ski runs, then the skis are mile-eaters, with zero prep' (if you have the glider right or have Kuzmin scraped them!) . In slightly softer base snow then you get quite a lot of wirring noise but the friction seems minimal.

 You can easily argue that even a 5 minute,  cabin porch job of blue or purple fluoro' wax could behave just the same without any of the accompanying skin friction. There is the 'rub' then, just to be punny. In good conditions you would expect a simple, good wax job to grip and last.

When you get up to red-wax and clister conditions and into wet snow, the skin works really well until it obviously becomes waterlogged, when a decided suck happens. This required a 'rock' from toe to heel in order to break the suction on an otherwise fast down hill for me last week. In soft, wet conditions with a poor base, my skis are also so hard tensioned in their arch, that the tour becomes a slog in standard, kicking diagonal technique, and unrewardingly slow down hill due to friction and the narrow ski digging in. I've noticed that before, that my tour skis are nicer on softer base while folk were struggling. 

Everyone and their dog under 70 here however,  uses sports skis for "ski jogging' and I see why, like a racing bike with 120 psi tyres versus a shopper, you get a faster run in good conditions. But a wide skis have their time and place.

When you go over to concrete-like tram lines,  then you can forget a hard tension ski with a skin imho. There is no real traction more than a bare friction. Perhaps a softer spenn/flex will make for more press into the substrate crystals, but I am sceptical. However since the skis I have are hard tensioned, then I can double pole and then go over to fish bone, or be surprised with how grippy they are in the "skating" section between tracks. Here you get the first of two centre section surprises.

Firstly - The skin-ski grips well on coarse, crystalised or machine ground snow on the centre lane, where a waxed ski would either not grip well, or pick up crystals. 

Surprise two- this being because the skin usually has no pick up of snow crystals, unlike clister, red or sometimes even purple. The ski skates very, very well. Okay they are too long, and the poles will be too short, but I found all three main techniques worked well with the skis, where as wax skis will tend to judder and catch, or on coarse snow, loose their kick wax faster.

Conclusions - The Pros and Cons

So there are a couple of fringe benefits but what is the main thing? Well we get a lot of variable conditions here and sometimes a forecast of rain and sleet becomes heavy snow in reality. The main plus for me is then not having to strip back a soft wax or clister job. In hard conditions I get only about 12 km out of my best clister job, so i could rather pick a ski run where i can double pole, which is fantastic physical training.

In picking a ski, it is best to have grip for your style and expected snow conditions. So a hard spring (flex) in a ski can make for a lot more back slipping if you are not prepared to learn a more energetic technique innpushing down harder in a racing style.

We get a lot of conditions here in Southern Norway when one day is blue, the next red, then the tracks get old and need mechanical churning, then the crystals stick to your clister, then there is a freeze and new snow comes......Also the ski locations vary from 15m above sea level to 600m within a couple of hours from here, so you can expect to encounter variation day to day, place to place.

My last ski run though showed both the good and the evil of this particular pair of Atomics, with the eastern run to "Østertjenn" better for skins than waxes I believe, and a joy in all techniques, while the western section towards "Hekketjenn" had had sun and mild wind on it, and was just horrid for both the grip from the skin and the hard flex from the ski. That really brought it home to me, how poorer conditions are irritating!

Waxing Issues

So far I really, really enjoy these skis in good conditions and am prepared to try out the various products now available for keeping them waterlogg free, grippy or even clister grippy on the hard stuff, which is my main bug bear to date. No grip on the hard stuff, where an Ice Clister would be working for a while at least.

My next area of experiment is then in using wax and sprays ! This may seem to defy the point of skin skis. However the skis should be cleaned properly and then there are 'zero' conditioons when clogging crystals will be an issue, or wet condions when you get water logging and 'suck'. Swix have a cleaner spray and a prep' "skin glider" for this now.  There is also a spray wax which is for - i believe- new snow and icey conditions, which works a little like a hard wax but is optimised for the hairy substrate.
You can see that the skin does not reach further than half way up the sole of the binding, so you could -I suppose- wax this part on a hard day when the skin does not work or for soft, fine new snow.
Furthermore, on my skis and a couple of other models from the main manufacturers, the skin only comes back as far as the mid-sole. So there is a couple of inches in the "pocket" where i could use, for example, a blue-ice crystal.

Now I had tried "do it all" Start Grip Tape, with great success, but it had the same kind of limitations on hard packed snow, being a bit better on new snow though. However it wore out fairly quickly for the price on hard snow. Also I wanted to change to sportier skis, so I hit those two birds and am very pleased GIVEN good conditions. Crap conditions are just that, and I need a new indoor sport, or to splash out on Skate Ski Poles and boots for my end of sesson bargain skis i got and have toyed around with.

There is now a range of training skis and at least one, more tour oriented and so broader ski ( Salomon) on the market. I dare say there will be some back country skis with even longer fixed on skins, and perhaps the Salomon style slot system for adding a full legnth skin for steeper stuff. After all synthetic skins were first used for back country, and are now big sellers for the Randonee skier market.

Jumble Sale, soft flex , waxless skis, fun for slushy conditions !
I also have a pair of 'shopping' skis from a jumble sale, real 1979 types which are a wooden ski with a P-tex sole, and a classsic, long fish scale waxless pattern, over a 2 inch . These I had to force a tenner into the hand of the church elder for at the end of the jumble sale, he wanted rid off them! In 'old' snow I have a great time toddling around on these, skating and kicking, and relaxing. Not taking it too seriously in end of season slush, or up the pavement to the shops before the council scrape the snow off.

The moral here is think about what your level is, the right lengtrh and pre-tension in the ski for you and your ability or ambitions, and where and when you will be skiing. As a new beginner, if you are just going to do a weeks holiday or the odd weekend or dash out once a week, then a pair of well fitted patterned waxless will save you maybe a hundred quid/euros over a pair of skin skis. If though, you live in the mountains and want to get out often in well made tracks, and do some seruious training then yep, get a pair of skin skis with a kind of medium pre-tension for your weight, and also pay for some lessons with the money you save from buying a wax kit.

At the other end of the scale, as a ski racer, then a skin ski is going to be an extra ski for training. The atomic Skintec are quite a high end training ski with carbon fibre spring elements, at the price of racing skis, and were launched into this market.

 It will take you just about the life time of the ski to save back what you would have spent on grip waxes I dare say, it is more about saving time when conditions are changeable day to day or with altitude over the course of a race or tour.

So it is kind of horses for courses, and the greatest benefit are for those who never want to learn to wax up, or those where conditions are regularily from minus ten to plus three.


Addenum - 11th March 2017

I am even more pleased with the skis after a week of skiing in what you could call typical easter conditions. Wet snow some days, some new, heavy snow others and finally a few days with 'trasnformed' snow churned and relayed by the machines.

Yesterday was a good example - the skins performed really well in the cold snow of morning , which was churned and firm to hard, but still with a light crystaline surface which gave excellent grip. Fish boning came in a little earlier than with softer snow of course.   As the day went on, the strong spring sunshine softened many areas and the ski continued to perform really well. So in a nutshell you may have gone out waxed on red only to find universal clister conditions prevailed later, thus you see the benefit of the skin.

My complaint about the day, was nothing to do with the skins, but the hard conditions on the pisted mid sections meant that my long, hard flex skis were very unstable in half plough or full plough and I fell really often, bottling out when I saw rocks ahead or streams showing through the tracks! With such good glide on firm snow available, a more 'compliant' soft.


If you can get a pair of Skin skis which match your height, weight and ability (see next blog!) then I would say for the average fun & fitness skier there is nothing holding you back. As a pair of training skis, it looks like all the top manufacturers are offering models which would please the hardest Oslo 50 'mile eater' amateur and even the odd Pro' could find these handy for training in variable conditions over say rising altitudes.

I look forward to integrated skins being included in a wider range of types of ski, towards the more tour oriented and the out and out race ski.