See those three smiling gentlemen in our top photo? Richard Gueraud-Pinet on the right is a Master skimaker at Rossignol experimental factory – sorry, racing workshop at Saint Jean de Moirans. Simon Caprini in the middle is the guy who makes sure that the right skis are chosen, tested and prepared for the race ( working with team waxers, of course). Finally, the job of the guy on the left is to win races on those skis – his name is Alexander Bolshunov and at 22 he’s exceptionally good at that!
Today Bolshunov is to produce his very own skis – that’s the Rossignol’s tradition reserved for the best of athletes competing on the skis from Isere. And we shall follow his progress showing you how it’s done – and what sets the French company apart from the competition
Feature that sets the racing workshop apart is how ” analogue” everything is – barely a computer screen on premises, everything is done by hand – and using skimakers’ judging eye.
Despite being called “workshop”the place is anything but small – it’s bigger than most ( all?) rollerski making factories, for instance. Of course, volume production at Fischer or nearby Salomon/Atomic factories requires much bigger space – but Rossignol sticks to its long-term philosophy: true racing & experimental skis are made here, in France, while volume production, including top-line Premiums – in Spain.
That’s how Rossignol racing skis start their journey towards snow: honeycomb core is extremely light yet torsionally rigid. Like many other producers, Rossignol uses Nomex by DuPont
Noyaux – cores – consist of honeycomb aramid and attached plywood sidewalls. Now cores are ready to start becoming skis….
“apprentice skimaker” Alex Bolshunov inserts the cores of his future C2s into metal form that would hold components together until resins & epoxy firm up. Note that the bases are already in the form.
Richard Gueraud-Pinet is watching intently. Gueraud-Pinet and his team produce some 1200 pairs/year – but, as it turns out, quite a few a being immediately discarded and destroyed: after all, they are experimental skis and if requited characteristics are not met, the new pairs’ life is cut extremely short.
Now it’s time to start assembling the puzzle that modern race skis are – carbon sheet reinforcements in strategic areas, sidewalls protectors in the other – all smudged in epoxy….
..Next to the assembly table is some truly exotic stuff – like Sycamore fig and African Okoume tree finely cut pieces. What are they for? Silence. Every company has its production secrets
..Meanwhile, Bolshunov has finished assembling the puzzle that will soon become his skis…time to send them to the press
This is Julia Mancuso of 2006 – the original, first-ever Lange Girl Athlete. Lange now belongs to Rossignol and Ms. Mancuso is there, observing technology & safety rules compliance at the workshop. And what did you think?
…Meanwhile the skis are out of the press – and need to be trimmed. The job is done by Fabien Chiurazzi ( before Bolshunov is allowed to do his own trimming)
Dozens of Olympic and world champions had come to Rossignol in person through the years – to thank the people who made their skis – and take a photograph together.
Meanwhile, Fabien Chiurazzi does some measurements ( no computers – all by hand, using some tables that you see behind!) and declares Bolshunov-made skis to be a good make. They won’t be send to recycling – on the contrary, it was quickly declared that they are good enough for the Russian to actually run on them in the World Cup. Not a bad first effort, Alex!
ça marche! Happy Alex and his girlfriend, U23 champ Anna Zherebyateva, can now talk to Caprini and the Rossignol production crew as to what would they like to improve & fine-tune in their skis for next season. But that conversation is not for our years, eyes and cameras, so we leave it right here….