How the Norwegians are working together with Head for perfection

When you have two racers competing at the top of the sport, having both racers on the same brand of ski makes sense. Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud are proven world cup winners: Svindal has 19 wins on the World Cup and Jansrud the one win. Rainer Salzgeber described his two Vikings as ‘two really strong racers’ after watching Svindal win the Super G in Val Gardena.

For the 2011 – 2012 season both Svindal and Jansrud had their own servicemen doing their skis. While the two servicemen prepared the skis for their own racer, this season, the set up has changed and how it is paying dividends. Salzgeber explains: “They are training together the whole year and they are making the steps together,” with the one serviceman and an assistant, this mean that the team can make changes quicker. With both racers doing the same programme, the same races, this makes it easy.

When Svindal and Jansrud first made the switch to Head three years ago, the set up did not work. “We knew it did not work at first,” explained Salzgeber, “we knew it would take time to work.” Now with Stephan Berthold, who had been tuning for Jansrud, tuning the skis for both, he is assisted by one of the guys whom had been ski testing for Head for the last couple of years. Salzgeber explains: “This definitely helps as if we are short on time, he can help with ski testing and run the skis. We now get the results if the team is close together with Jansrud and Svindal, it makes more sense.”

While Svindal is in perfect shape physically, the work that he has put in on the skis, the boots and the whole set up, this is now paying dividends. “All the experience you get is now on one spot, for testing, for every thing: the skis are working good and the boot set up is perfect. I think we are definitely in a better position than last year.”

How important has Svindal been in developing the equipment? “He is a great guy for that,” explains Salzgeber, “the good thing is that they are two really strong racers, him and Jansrud, they always have the challenge in training, this helps for sure. It is easier if you have two guys for all the information for us. They are training together the whole year and take the steps together. Aksel is focused on the whole set up. It means the boots and skis need to work together, if one is not perfect then he comes up with an idea and that makes it quite good for us.”

It is not just Svindal that has done the testing but also Jansrud who has been helping with the development of the equipment. Svindal took over the direction that Jansrud was taking in the development and this has helped. The whole team has benefited from the work done by these two: Ligety and all the Head racers have benefited.

Slalom has not been the strongest discipline for Head; at many races on the World Cup in the last few years, it has been just Ligety on the start list. Slalom is a hard discipline to set the skis up for Salzgeber explains: “It is a big challenge for a small team. In Slalom we don’t have any real slalom skier because we do not want to push in that direction because it costs a lot of time for the production. In slalom it is so focused on the set up.” This may change now as with two young Austrians coming through: Manuel Feller (who won the Europa Cup in Obereggen) and Marcel Mathis (a stronger GS skier but also very accomplished in Slalom). Salzgeber is looking for these two to provide more input on the slalom skis for the future. “This helps for us a lot,” Salzgeber agreed. “The challenge is to get the athletes that give us the right comments on the equipment.”

The main goal for all the ski manufacturers is to win the Overall and this is what Head are aiming for as well. With Svindal leading the points at the moment, Salzgeber is quick to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go this season.