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What Does it Entail to Change Ski Brands?

June 24, 2024

Racers often describe the process of changing ski brands as one of the hardest decisions they make in their careers but what does it really mean to swap out all your gear?  

Deciding to change ski brands is among the toughest decisions for elite racers, and for good reason, both emotionally and logistically. 

For starters, they have already carefully built a quiver of skis that they are confident in, a bit like a spice collection in your kitchen cabinet. 

Over the years, they have acquired a selection of skis with different grinds and flexes, different construction and properties designed to excel in all the various conditions they encounter throughout the season. A trusted collection covering everything from bone-dry, squeaky snow at -20C degrees to knee-deep, “mashed potatoes” slush. They will encounter spring temperatures, falling precipitation on either side of freezing, fine-grained powder to coarse granular and transformed snow, machine made and natural snow. 

It is easy to understand that ditching all of that and starting over is not done on a whim.

Additionally, skiers develop a deep relationship with their service reps. They basically leave their most important tools and the key to their success and livelihood in the hands of someone else.

So, what are the factors that trigger and motivate skiers to change brands? How do they go about establishing a new quiver of skis?

Specifically, how do you test and identify the best skis with a new brand and identify what kind of skis you need? How do you work with the factory reps and engineers in this process? What happens from now until the start of the season? 

Madshus caught up with two of our new athletes who have made that switch this spring: French Olympian and World Champion biathlete Emilien Jacquelin, and World Cup cross-country skier Jules Chappaz (FRA). 

Jacquelin has two Olympic medals, nine World Championship medals, including four gold medals, 40 World Cup podiums and one overall crystal ball (pursuit World Cup 2019/20). 

Chappaz, a junior World Champion (2019), won the bronze medal in the sprint at the 2023 World Championships and earned his first World Cup podium last winter. 

Both are now chasing more podiums, Olympic and World Championship medals on Madshus skis and boots with Rottefella bindings after more than ten years with their previous brands. And both trust that they are in good hands when it comes to establishing a new ski collection.

Photo by: Nordic Focus

Why did you decide to change skis and boots?
“I like to win races,” Jacquelin says.

However, the 28-year-old from Villard de Lans in the French Alps admits that the decision to change was a hard one. 

“It was very hard. After ten years, I knew everything about all my skis, good and bad. Building a new quiver of skis from scratch will be a lot of work. But I like challenges, and I know that it (changing brands) was the right thing to do.,” says Jacquelin, explaining that equipment literally can make or break your career. 

“Without the best equipment, you don’t have a chance. Skis often produce the difference between winning and fourth place. I talked a lot with Sturla (Holm Lægreid) and the other guys on Madshus this spring, and I see that this is where I can really optimize the most at this point.”

What exactly happens now?
“We did a lot of quality testing at Sjusjøen (NOR) in the spring. We had all kinds of conditions, from cold to slushy. I got a really good feeling for the skis and a good relationship with the race crew from Madshus. I know what I like, and I feel confident that when I start to ski in November, I will have a really good selection of skis to start working with,” says Jacquelin, adding that there is still work to be done. 

“It’s not just about finding the skis with the best glide. It’s a lot about the ‘ride’ and way the ski feels. That’s where I have to do a lot of testing when we get back on snow. It’s also nice that we can test so close to the factory and to be so close to the process and take part developing the equipment.”

Photo by: Nordic Focus

Chappaz agrees. 

“I tested a lot of skis in April, and I have a good range of pairs already.”

Although for the 24-year-old from Annecy, France, the decision to switch was a no-brainer. 

“I really wasn’t happy with my skis, and I was very frustrated with the lack of consistency. When you don’t feel like you can trust your equipment, it really affects your confidence, and I know that I’ve lost races because of my equipment,” says Chappaz. 

“I have seen that Madshus is totally reliable in terms of consistency and quality. And I feel like they are the brand that is the most interested in development and innovation, always coming out with new features and setting the standard for the rest of the industry.”

What happens from now until the races start? How do you go about building your quiver for the next season?
“I have a lot of confidence in the Madshus service reps. I know them, and I trust that they will continue to test and come up with more skis, so that I’m covered for both skate and classic in all kinds of conditions. And I know that they work closely with the wax techs in the national team,” Jules Chappaz says, and adds: 

“I’m not worried.”

The same goes for Emilien Jacquelin. 

“Madshus and my national team wax techs will take care of all the race skis. All I need, is two or three pairs of skis for training.”