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NIS Nordic Integrated System

New Ski & Binding System

Wed, Jan  26, 2005 - By Mike Muha

Rossignol, Madshus, Rottefella, and Alpina announced the Nordic Integrated System (NIS) on Monday, January 24. NIS is an adjustable integrated ski and binding system that is compatible with existing boots and bindings. The binding being mounted and adjusted in 40 seconds. Additional improvements were made to boot soles to take greater advantage of the system.

The ski and binding

Front section of NIS binding  

Both Rossignol and Madshus will produce skis this year that moves the ABS layer from inside to the top of the ski. This layer is factory bonded to the ski using a special adhesive that has been in development for several years. Rather than providing a layer into which the mounting screws would adhere into, this top ABS layer now has side rails. The new binding slides onto these rails rather then being screwed into the ski. Strategically placed ridges lock the binding into one of five positions: at the balance point of the ski plus 5mm or 10 mm in front of and behind the balance point. Thus the binding can be moved a full two centimeters forward or back along the ski. Rossignol claims that the new ski is 10 grams lighter than their existing technology. I did not have time to validate the weight savings with Madshus.

ABS rail, bonded to ski, with heal plate "clicked in." Notice the two sets of "click-ins" that are used for the fore/aft adjustment of the binding.

Existing bindings from other manufactures can be mounted on top the the NIS ABS layer. This means that Solomon Profile and Pilot bindings, for example, can be mounted on the ski.

The binding is essentially an existing NNN Rottefella bindings divided into two parts. The forward portion is essentially the front of the current NNN binding, the part into which the ski boot locks into. The second section is a heal plate. The entire length of the binding is locked on to the ski, unlike traditional bindings that only attach to the ski at the screw points. Existing NNN boots will work unmodified in the new binding.

Bottom of the binding. See the how the binding would slide along the ABS rails?

The NNN boot sole has been modified to be thinner, putting the foot into closer contact with the ski. This new sole is supposed to provide better stability and torsional rigidity which results in better transfer of energy to the ski. and The new sole will work in existing NNN bindings.

Mounting the binding

Mounting the new binding on a NIS ski is a trivial task. As the exclusive video (AVI or WMV format) shows, Rossignol's Nordic Product Technical Advisor Geoff Hurwitch mounts and adjusts the binding in about 40 seconds. And much of that time is fishing for the adjustment tool in his pocket! Removing the binding is just as easy - the process is exactly the reverse of putting the binding on.

For those of you who don't want to download the video, here are the mounting steps:

  1. Take the binding and adjustment tool out of the box. There are no screws to lose.
  2. Slide the rear binding heal plate onto the NIS plate. Use the tool to position the heal plate in the correct "click-on" position.
  3. Slide the front part of the binding onto the NIS plate. Use the tool to position the binding in the correct "click-on" position.
  4. Go ski!

Couldn't be much easier! And is head and shoulders above what shops have to go through today to mount bindings.

Sliding the binding onto the ABS rails.

Claimed Advantages

The NIS system is touted as giving the skier several advantages over existing ski and binding combinations:

  • The new NIS ski and binding together weigh less than a traditionally ski and binding. Moving the ABS layer to the top lightens the ski, the new binding is lighter, and the lack of screws also lightens the combination.
  • The adjustability of the binding - the ability to move it up to a centimeter front of back of the balance point - allows the skier to field-tune the ski to conditions or skiing style using a simple metal tool.
  • The ABS top layer and binding are designed to act like part of the ski and not to interfere with the flex of the ski. Screw-mounted bindings do not allow this kind of flex. And drilling holes also weakens the ski.
  • Mistakes in the drilling of mounting holes are eliminated as is the rocking of a binding that is caused by the edge of the hole sticking up above the top of the ski.
  • It possible to buy one binding and use it on multiple pairs of skis.
  • You can quickly remove the binding when traveling with skis, either to fit more skis in a ski bag or to protect the bindings from shipping damage.
  • You can use you existing NNN boots with the new system - there's no need to invest in new boots.
  • You can mount existing bindings on the new ski and get a 10 gram weight savings per ski.

For the ski shop, there are also some advantages:

  • It takes a lot less time to mount bindings. This saves on labor costs.
  • Customers can get their skis faster because they don't need to wait for the bindings to be mounted. That means happier customers.
  • No skill is need to mount the bindings. This mounting process is foolproof.
  • There's no need for the customer to wait while epoxy dries before skiing on the new skis. Again, happier customer.

Ski with mounted NIS binding.

Downsides?

Alas, there are some downsides. First, the new ski and binding combination is likely to cost $40 more than buying a traditional ski and binding as the manufactures try to recoup some of their R&D costs. Over time and assuming that NIS takes off, this disparity could disappear.

Skis shops will also have to wrestle with whether to carry both the traditional ski (which the manufactures will continue to provide) and the new NIS ski. Carrying both types of skis will increase inventory and costs. Because existing bindings can be mounted on the NIS ski, shops might drop the traditional model and only carry NIS. This increases flexibility.

Mounting existing bindings on a NIS ski raising the binding a millimeter or two higher off the ski. This will make skating skis easier to edge. It's unclear whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, and probably depends more a skier style.

World Cup Results

The NIS system was released to elite World Cup racers on January 11 and already 4 World Cup races have been won on them. I don't know if this means that the ski helped win the races or if the those skiers would have won anyways. It does mean that World Cup skiers were willing to risk racing on the new technology for whatever advantages they perceived NIS gave them.

Industry Impact

A rep from one of the NIS-member companies said that Atomic had been invited to participate in the NIS effort but had declined. No mention was made of Solomon other than their bindings can be mounted on the NIS ski.

The compatibility of the NIS system with existing boots and bindings greatly increases the options for skiers without obsolescing any existing equipment. Old boots can be used on NIS skis. New NIS boots can be used with existing NNN bindings. Skiers can move into the new technology without losing their current investment in equipment.

What remains to be seen is whether skiers are willing to pay for the benefits of this new technology.

The Products

Rossignol will have use NIS technology in four products:

  • NIS X-ium WC Skate Boot in both normal and low-volume (narrow foot) fits
  • NIS X-ium Skate Binding
  • NIS X-ium Skating Ski with a new 42/45/44/44 Cobra racing sidecut profile.
  • NIS X-ium Classic Ski

Two versions of each will be manufactured, the NIS 1 / NIS C1 (fast conditions and soft snow conditions) and NIS 2 / NIS C2 (the most versatile ski across all snow conditions.)

Madshus has two new ski models:

  • Madshus Hypersonic with NIS skate ski
  • Madshus Hypersonic with NIS classic ski

This is the same ski that Alsgaard skis, although with the NIS technology. (One would assume that Alsgaard is now on the NIS ski....)

Rottefella will offer a new binding:

  • Rottefella NNN R4 Racing Binding

The binding will click on to both the Rossi and Madshus skis. There are both skating and classic versions of the binding.

Alpina will offer two new boots:

  • Alpina CCS (Carbon Control Skate) Skate Boot
  • Alpina CCC (Carbon Control Classic) Classic Boot

The sole of both boots cradles higher up the sides of the boot to increase edge control, comfort, and torsional stability.

Impact on other manufacturers

A rep from one of the NIS-member companies said that Atomic had been invited to participate in the NIS effort but had declined. No mention was made of Solomon other than their bindings can be mounted on the NIS ski.

The compatibility of the NIS system with existing boots and bindings greatly increases the options for skiers without obsolescing any existing equipment. Old boots can be used on NIS skis. New NIS boots can be used with existing NNN bindings. Skiers can move into the new technology without losing their current investment in equipment.

What remains to be seen is whether skiers are willing to pay for the benefits of this new technology.

 
Related Links
Video - Mounting the binding (50 seconds):
  • AVI format (4.6 MB)
  • WMV format (867 KB)