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He also does everything right when it comes to the material

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He also does everything right when it comes to the material

The 26-year-old leads the overall World Cup and three disciplines. He drives development at his outfitter Stöckli, but doesn’t ski any special models, but rather gets more out of the skis than anyone else.

At the age of twelve he found the ski brand that suited him: Marco Odermatt at a Stöckli-Ski presentation.

Urs Flüeler / Keystone

How is that possible? When Marco Odermatt chases his skis through the curves, you get the impression that he is riding on rails. Whether it’s icy or soft, whether the slope is a carpet or a bumpy course – the 26-year-old races in his own world, and the spectators are amazed.

This is all the more astonishing since his most important tools, the skis on his feet, come from a small factory. At the Stöckli ski company, Odermatt is the only athlete in the absolute top class; when building new models, you have to rely almost exclusively on his feedback. It’s almost unbelievable that winning skis are created this way.

Hermann Maier was part of an atomic armada

Let’s compare him with Hermann Maier, the last athlete who, like Odermatt today, was simultaneously number 1 in the world in downhill, super-G and giant slalom. At the time, the Austrian trained in group WC 3, which included all winning riders from the disciplines mentioned above.

A fall made him a legend: Hermann Maier in Nagano in 1998.

In addition to Maier, they were: Stephan Eberharter, Andreas Schifferer, Hans Knauss, Josef Strobl. And everyone rode Atomic skis. A lot of information came together and there was even a shared pool of skis that were exchanged with each other.

Odermatt also seems to be an exceptional athlete when it comes to material. The head of racing at Stöckli is Marc Gisin, once a teammate of today’s dominator in the World Cup. “Odi was very clear-headed early on: mentally, how he approached a race – and also with the material,” says Gisin. In relation to the skis, this means: He knows what he wants and gives very precise feedback. But he doesn’t get bogged down in details.

As an athlete, Gisin himself once considered moving to Stöckli. When the regulations for the construction of racing skis changed in 2014, his then supplier Nordica was extremely challenged. The Swiss chose the French company Rossignol because they were able to rely on the input of numerous top drivers during development.

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The former speed specialist also says: “I was impressed at the time by how Stöckli managed to do it with a small team.” At that time, the Swiss company focused heavily on Tina Maze, who won the overall World Cup in 2013 and became Olympic champion in downhill and giant slalom in 2014.

Marco Odermatt moved to Stöckli at the age of twelve. When the company extended his contract with him in 2022, it revealed how the athlete ended up at Stöckli as a twelve-year-old. He borrowed skis from a colleague during training and was immediately one and a half seconds faster. So his father Walter went to Malters. The son got new material – and won the first race after the change.

He has remained loyal to the company ever since. Continuity seems to be one of Odermatt’s secrets of success. His service man has been called Chris Lödler since 2016. The Austrian prepared the skis on which the man from Nidwalden became five-time junior world champion in 2018, and he plays a crucial role in ensuring that the currently best ski racer in the world always takes the curve with the conviction that everything is working perfectly .

Lödler is the man who bends over Odermatt’s skis in a TV commercial, while his off-camera voice says that success requires “Tüpflischiisser” – people who want to make everything perfect down to the last detail. Stöckli racing director Gisin says: “The two understand each other blindly.”

Marcel Hirscher flew to North America with 20 pairs of skis

Material issues can become a science and one can get lost in it. The most extreme example was probably Marcel Hirscher, who worked tirelessly with his father on the material and sometimes kept his supplier Atomic busy day and night. He once flew to a giant slalom in North America with 20 different pairs of skis.

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Odermatt is much more reserved. According to Gisin, he has around half a dozen models in the giant slalom, which are used depending on the snow conditions, course setting and topography. It happened that Odermatt took a different ski for the second run or changed something on the boots. This winter, however, according to Gisin, he only made marginal adjustments, if at all.

It is often rumored that top athletes use skis that are unskiable for others. Didier Cuche confirmed this when he said in a recent conversation that he got a Hermann Maier ski model when he switched to Atomic. He had this under control on hard surfaces, but had no chance on soft snow.

Gisin says Odermatt actually skis pretty hard, but top 20 skier Thomas Tumler uses the same models. “The difference may be that Marco can still flex the skis fully towards the end of the race.” This builds up energy in the material, which is discharged when the car is released after the curve, thus accelerating the driver.

A little story from this winter shows that, despite the many successes, not everything at Stöckli revolves around Odermatt. The Norwegian Rasmus Windingstad had difficulty getting up to speed with the range of skis available. A new model was built that was particularly suitable for the steep slopes of Val-d’Isère. Windingstad used an older ski in the first run and came 28th. Then he switched – and set the fourth best time in the second run.

Development is a constant topic in the company, says Gisin. Input from drivers and service people is recorded and discussed. The actual development department, headed by engineer Mathieu Fauve, is surprisingly small but efficient with five people. This is also shown by the fact that Odermatt is at the top in three disciplines. If he sees deficiencies in the material, these are addressed immediately.

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A final example of this comes from the speed disciplines. On snow, as is usually the case in Kvitfjell and also in Val Gardena, the Swiss never made progress as desired. That’s why new models were developed for the past season. Since then he has finished on the podium four times in seven races at these two locations, although the topography of the tracks does not favor a technician like him.

Head, technology and material – Marco Odermatt currently has the whole package right. The competition has to ask itself how it can close the gap. And he’s probably already thinking about the next improvements.

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