The value of gradual, incremental progress is often overlooked in the ski industry, which demands leaps and bounds and whatever is next. But there really is no substitute for the careful and deliberate pursuit of perfection. With the release of the Hero line, Rossignol has produced yet another step in the evolution of race skis; another step towards the best race ski possible.
And if you need evidence, Hero skis have 27 medals from the Sochi Olympics to prove it. The foundation of this line isn’t some precarious house of cards with unproven technology and design, but the cap o’ the pyramid that Rossignol has spent years building—over 100 years in fact. In releasing the entire race line under the Hero label, Rossignol is paying homage to more than a century of race history and culture; the races, the medals, the moments of triumph and yes, the Heros. The Hero skis aren’t a quantum leap forward, but rather the result of years of perfecting and tweaking the pinnacle of ski design.
We talked to our man Phil Brown about the development process of the Hero line and the role World Cup athletes like him play in improving the ski’s performance.
“People who are skiing on Rossignol on the World Cup go through extensive amounts of testing. So in a sense, we are the test dummies for what’s going to end up in the store. We try several different models in the season, and whatever we are liking on the world cup, those models will eventually get mass produced and shipped off to the stores to be sold in retail. It’s a trickle down effect, starting with the top athletes—even athletes above me. What ends up in the store is what has been tested the most positively.”
The testing process is a real world evaluation of how fast these skis are in the most demanding racing environments. Designs are approved for production only after they have been given the green light by athletes at all levels of competition. The slower skis, the awkward innovations, the second best are all filtered out so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of a slow run through the gates.
The straightforward titanal sandwich construction within the Hero line is simple, effective and efficient, but the skis come equipped with a few additions that put the icing on the cake. The first bit of the proverbial icing is Prop Technology, a transversal flex system. Prop Tech translates to three longitudinal cuts in the Zicral topsheet to give the ski controlled torsional flex and stability. The result of this added stability is more edge contact, greater power transfer and improved control in cornering.
Secondly, the Power Turn tip rocker on the SL and GS models contributes to quicker turning when getting from edge to edge on more aggressive lines. Phil Brown has been skiing on rockered race skis for a while now. “In slalom it makes a bit of a difference because the length of the ski that’s on the snow is a bit shorter with that rocker, and it also allows the ski to bend a bit more freely. And you get more of a proper radius with that rocker on the tip and the tail. The ski bends and you get more contact.”
The same exact skis available to World Cup and Olympic athletes are available to anyone looking to make it down the course as quickly as humanly possible. The retail Hero line reflects the top technology available; you won’t get a watered down version of a race ski. That is, unless you want one. For those young racers and weekend warriors out there, the Hero skis come in all varieties of shapes, sized and flex; serious race technology diluted a wee bit for those of us who aren’t being timed.
The new Hero line is also a huge branding initiative by Rossignol. It has been quite a few years since Rossi mixed things up in the graphics and marketing department with such a radical change. Phil Brown approves. “I think what they’ve done with the Hero brand is really effective, obviously the color scheme is really in your face, and everybody that I’ve talked to who has seen them and used them is really happy with how everything looks and feels…how it feels is obviously more important, but I think they’ve done a really good job branding the Hero skis.” Agreed, performance is obviously far more important, but it’s a lot easier to go fast when you already feel fast.