Interview: People Who Make Marwe Rollerskis

The name Marwe stands out in cross country skiing world. Bright yellow/black rollerskis from Finland are used by such a vast array of national skiing and biathlon teams that one would be excused in thinking that Marwe is sponsoring the whole sport. Remarkably, the opposite is true – there are no endorsement deals that became so standard in sport – just a considered choice of so many, who rely on Hyvinkää -produced rollerskis’ legendary reliability and ski-like feel.

While Marwe products are ubiquitous, very little is known about the company and the people who work there. The Daily Skier have decided that it wouldn’t do – and got in touch with the people behind the Marwe rollerskis

Meet Marwe’s Sales Manager Olli Welander and Paul Fletcher, Marketing Manager. Olli represents third generation of the family that owns Marwe and its parent company. Paul is British, a plastics technology engineer by trade, who “enjoys making the world’ best rollerskis”

top-of-the-line 620XC Skating model, 2017 edition (note black mudguards)

1/ In this day and age when self-promotion is everything, there’s very little information available about Marwe (at least in English) – so, please fill the gaps

– Marwe is the subsidiary of Polymer Components Finland (PCF), formerly known as Hyvinkään Kumi (the town of Hyvinkää, 50 kilometers north of Helsinki where the factory is situated + the word “rubber” in Finnish). Hyvinkään Kumi was founded in 1926, and it is one of the oldest plastics and rubber companies which still makes its products in Finland.
Polymer Components Finland has a vast variety of products for example for healthcare, seals for various uses, parts for the largest snowmobile manufacturer in the world and the world’s leading elevator companies. The owner base of PCF consists of mainly of members of the Welander family.

…One of our factory foremen had children who were national ski team level juniors and they needed better training equipment, that´s how basically the roller ski business for us begun. We also had input from some National team biathletes and other top skiers in the beginning.

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…When Hyvinkään Kumi started to produce industrial rubber products in the fifties (earlier production was mainly shoe soles) MARWE was taken as brand name for these products, short from MAURI WELANDER, son of the company founder. From this the trade name was also used for the roller skis.

Today the company’s annual turnover is some EUR 4.5 million, it directly employs 45 people

2/You have a very loyal clientele – online skiing forums the world over are full of users’ praise – particularly regarding the longevity of Marwe wheels. So, what makes your wheels so special?

– We have a very long experience in manufacturing rubber products for different purposes so we can fine-tune the properties of the wheels to the requirements of expert skiers.

3/Regarding the roller skis themselves: it’s known that the core of those composite models of yours consists of cut-off Peltonen skis. What about the aluminum ones – how do you make them and of what? Other manufacturers talk at length about grade of the metal and what process is used in their skis.

– These skis are made from a predefined, specific aluminum alloy, and manufactured by our vendor also in Finland.

610A Pink

4/Any intention of producing carbon monocoque roller skis a-la Globulonero B1 or Quionne Fiber Skate?

– We have considered this but carbon fiber is a too sensitive material for this use. If a carbon fiber frame is slightly damaged by a sharp impact it will fail spectacularly. in other there is a danger that the frame will disintegrate. In addition to this, the frame might be too stiff, thus making the skiing feeling inferior when compared to skiing on composite frame roller skis.
Also, some research has been conducted on similar composite structures, to make the frame more flexi- ble but still having a low weight. Our current composite frame is very good for this purpose but of course improvements area always desirable

5/What about fancy suspensions that seem to be especially popular with North American producers ( Rundle, Pursuit) but also used by some European ones ( Swix/Pro-Ski, Comfortskates)

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– We follow what other companies on the market do, and what kind of trends affect roller skiing to make it safer or more comfortable. We have done our share of research on this issue. However, there are no imminent plans to develop such solutions. This kind of suspension solutions are quite difficult and time- consuming to assemble as they have a lot of moving parts. The other major disadvantage on this kind of skis is that the kick action will eat up the motion energy, making the movement of the skis slower – unless one would use highly responsive wheels.

6/The Achilles heel of the Marwe’s flagship model, 610C (and, to lesser extent, newer 620 XC) was a sudden cracking/breaking of platform. You seem to have addressed the issue by introducing 620s in two different weight categories – please elaborate on that.

– The Standard option is aimed at skiers of the weight class of under 80 kg, and the Stiff frame for skiers over this range or who have a more intense skiing technique. In other words, the standard frame is more flexible. Also, the more heavyweight skiers have found out that the normal frame is often too flexible. (i.e. during the kick motion, the base part of the ski might scrape the ground). In addition to this, the XC frame version skis are also of a higher quality than the previous C-model

7/Cross country ski production remains firmly rooted in Europe and the pool of producers is traditional and stable. However, when it comes to rollerskis, the are many new Chinese entrants to the market. The quality is unknown, but the prices are sweet. Is that something that worries you?

Marwe’s roller skis are made in Finland! ( NB – emphasized by Marwe) Some Finnish companies that moved their production overseas, for example, first to Eastern Europe and then to China, have moved their production back to Finland.
Quite a few are also seriously considering doing so. Logistics taxonomy and quality problems are two of the key issues for these companies to do so.

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We try to concentrate on making products where quality comes first, not the price. The target group for the Chinese skis you mentioned is probably for a different customer audience. This is not a major problem for us, as the user base for rollerskiing should grow anyway.

8/ Finally, as a leading equipment manufacturer for the sport, how do you see the future of cross country skiing/roller skiing? Will there be a day when it would become as popular/mass sport as, say, rollerblading or snowboarding? What needs to happen to increase the amount of people practicing “our sport” say, five- fold? ten-fold?

– Aside of Marwe making a reasonable profit to keep all our personnel employed and hopefully happy, our other main target is to keep humans living on this planet motivated to enjoy being outside, fresh air and the joy what a proper workout will make you feel regardless if it is competition sport or just normal exercising. In the end, the most important thing we have is our health. Classic skiing will probably stay as certain target audience, snowboarding and rollerblading are probably more of a leisure product. Our products are more aimed at active sports people.

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Hope you enjoyed reading the interview with the Marwe captains. What did we forget to ask? Send us your reaction, opinion and additional questions – we’ll try to get Olli and Paul to answer them too. But bear in mind they’re are busy making “world’s best rollerskis”

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