Purely a matter of feeling
Ski is not the same as ski
Only the co-ordination between material, customer and piste leads to the perfect result. Hans Hofer, ex-professional world champion provides the skis of Bründl with the finishing touch.
I know that there are different ski types, that a ski has a shovel, a waist and a tail, and has an edge and a base at its disposal. Someone, who has watched Hans Hofer at work, however, can hear how fervently he speaks about the perfectly prepared sports device, and senses that a ski is a complex entity.
Hans Hofer is Bründl‘s expert for fine-tuning. He has been leading the newly-founded ski and racing service division in Kaprun since 2010. Hofer is the ski-whisperer. He knows where the shoe, or the ski, pinches. He sums it up to a catchy formula: “A ski that has been well-prepared runs well. A ski that runs well turns well. A ski that turns well requires less effort. In the end this reduces the risk of injury.” So much for the theory.
The ski whisperer
The practice starts in the middle of August. When no one is quite yet thinking about skiing, Hofer tightens his first specimen in his workbench. In October when the buzz begins, customers can already take along various prepared models. Until the end of the season in the beginning of May, Hofer and his assistants will have taken around 12,000 pairs of skis under their wings. In addition there are about 3000 handworked pairs. Because even if state-of-the-art Wintersteiger and Reichmann ski service robots have automated the work, no machine is so good that it can replace the human entirely. Handling the sidewall planer, the edge angle, the straight edge, the various files and all the brushes made of horsehair, copper and synthetic material is an art itself. Not to speak of waxing and ski brushing. Hofer looks at the curvature, checks the structure, and examines the coating. And he tackles the sidewalls, moulds the perfect edge angle. Everything for the momentum and directional stability.
“Here, have a look”, says Hofer. He lets his sidewall plane glide nimbly across the edge. In a single move and with sensitivity he shaves it along the line, without plucking. Metalthreads are released from the ski, curl up like piglet’s tails and fall on to the ground. The sharpened edge gleams and sparkles in the sunlight. “Now it’s your turn”, calls Hofer and gives his tool to me. It doesn’t take long and the plane already gets stuck. The pressure on the ski is way too irregular, the sequence of the motions not harmonious. Instead of neat pellets only a few shavings trickle down. Hofer smiles gently and quickly regrinds across the rutted edge. He knows it can take up to a year before the feeling for the right rhythm develops. With Hofer, it looks like cosmetic surgery played in fast forward. Preparation has become a his second nature.
Tips from the world champion
Ski as a theme runs through his life like a red thread. Hofer was junior world champion and repeated professional world champion. He has skied in the USA for many years. Afterwards he worked for reputable ski manufacturers, most recently in the research and development division of the Austrian Ski Association. Now he is passing on the experience he has accumulated in the name of Bründl: to hobby and professionals skiers alike, in sales as much as in rentals. “If it says Bründl on the outside, there should be Bründl on the inside” says Hofer. They love him for sentences like this one.
And for turning average skis into above-average. “The material must work”, says Hofer, “The customer should be able to enjoy his holiday.” Some bring their skis around in the evening and fetch them the next morning. Thus, Hofer is someone like the Formula 1 mechanic of the ski piste – the pit lane is the rental centre, across from head office. Here he bustles about during the season from early until late at night. He runs courses about preparing skis in the autumn. And in the summer he slips into the role of an alpine farmer. His second life takes place in the Wildkogel area, Hofer’s homeland, where he has an alp with Simmental cattle. He turns the milk to butter and cheese so that hikers can enjoy their “Jause”, a typical Austrian snack. It is almost impossible not to get in touch with Hans Hofer in some way or another.