HE FINDS THE PERFECT PAIR AMONG SO MANY
He has matchmade thousands of pairs – a number that grows daily. We aren’t however talking about a relationship expert or couples therapist. No, we are talking about Thomas Hänsli, 42, who is responsible at Stöckli for ensuring every ski finds its perfect partner.
Skis that are made at the same time in the manufacturing facility or even are in the presses together seldom make up a perfect pair. Although the ski’s individual layers are the same materials and they are pressed with the same pressure, they can’t automatically be pulled together as a pair. As similar as they are, the details may not harmonize sometimes so well.
Why is that? “In production, many different materials are used and that means there could be tiny differences in the materials. Small, but subtle differences which mean that not every ski can simply be paired with any other ski,” Thomas says. Of course, one could combine skis into a pair, but in fact that would just be a pair of skis and not the perfect pair. “Our is mission to find the perfect combination of skis for our customers. That one pair that matches the best.”
And that’s where Thomas Hänsli comes into play. He checks, analyzes, feels, touches, and in the end finds the perfect pair of skis. And then the skis aren’t alone anymore but are shipped out as an inseparable pair.
But what is needed so two skis match perfectly? There are a lot of factors. “Key is the camber and the locking properties,” says Thomas. He has five skis in front of him on the table. The camber is easy to recognize since the skis don’t sit flat but are lightly arched. Seeing that difference however doesn’t make it quite that simple. Indeed, nothing escapes Thomas’ trained eye. He observes it from the top, from the side, presses the ski down, first each one individually, then two at the same time. Until he has found two with the same camber. Then he checks how they fit together. To do so, he puts the potential pair together, base to base, and presses them together. “If all is correct, the skis fit together the same way, from the tail to the binding mount.”
Aesthetics also plays a role. Shape, color and edge width for example have to be observed carefully by Thomas. That doesn’t just need a trained eye, but also a finely honed feel. A feel that not all have. With his eyes closed, Thomas runs his hand across two skis that he had chosen prior. “In this way, I can feel really subtle differences in the height or handfeel of the topsheet.” Sometimes, he trades out the skis and starts all over again to observe and check them. Until one pair is there that not only matches perfectly with its characteristics but also aesthetically. “I am the Ski Chaplain, so to speak. With my blessings, I send the pair into the wide world of ski sports,” says Thomas with a smile.
Into racing, too. Because even the racing skis land in front of him on the table and undergo the same process as mass-produced skis. But in this case the complexity is a little bigger. “You have to know the FIS standards that the skis have to meet,” says Thomas. And takes a little more time. “With a 220 cm downhill ski it takes of course a little bit longer to check everything precisely.”
Thomas has perfected this expertise and feel over his 10 years at Stöckli. He’s matchmade more than 300’000 pairs of skis in this time. He knows exactly what it comes down to. Can check all factors all at once. His eyes and his hands work along the way like a scanner that doesn’t miss a beat.
But as it happens, there can be two or three skis of these 300’000 that simply never find their perfect match. Or at least haven’t found it yet. And Thomas knows a little more about that, too. “With bending a ski a little extra then bending it back at different spots, I can adjust two skis until they match perfectly in the end.” This procedure is called “Aligning”. Per series – that’s 18 pairs of skis – Thomas finds about 15 that match straight away. “With the rest I have to give them a little help.” In the end, no ski is left all alone.
Checking, seeing, feeling, touching, matching – everyday there are new challenges. And that’s exactly what he finds so fascinating with his job. “We can offer our customers the best possible quality only when I can matchmake the right skis, those that harmonize perfectly with each other, without any compromise in finding the perfect pair. That’s what I do my best for each day.”
So off he goes to matchmaking the next 300’000 pairs.