L'atelier de prototypage de skis et snowboard wed'ze visite

Zoom on Wed'ze's ski and snowboard prototype workshop

At the Mountain Store in Passy, Wed'ze's team have so many ideas to create the products you will use on the slopes. They have on site two great allies to help them fulfill their mission: Fabien Bontaz et Christian Pissard, in charge of the workshop, where your skis and your snowboards come to life. They confided in us, when we visited them in the workshop, and told us all the secrets of the Wed'ze gear development. Almost...


Big doors, the beep of an access badge. A long hallway, ski racks. Machines all over the place, noise: we are indeed at the industrial prototyping workshop (IPW), or just the Workshop. With a smile in his eyes and on his face, however a little nervous, Christian Pissard welcomes us "we are not used to being the ones to talk, you know, this is not our job...". His job? Put together different kind of materials according to diverse processes to create skis and snowboards, prototypes that will then be tested, on the field and in the Workshop's laboratory, to end up at your feet, on the slopes.

 

l'atelier Wed'ze : les prototypes de skis et snow

 

Here, it all starts with an idea, a request from a product manager or an engineer. Fabien and Christian, the two Workshop's technicians, go to work: they cut, they cook in the oven (a big one), create molds, squeeze, press... In 4 to 5 days, a complete prototype comes out of the Workshop and goes off to the testing phase. "An engineer or a product manager comes with a request, we choose materials according to final use and target, meaning for example a ski for the slopes and for beginners. We work alongside the product engineer, on the choice of materials and above all where they will be placed in the ski."  The beginning of what will be, might be, your next pair of skis.

 

Christian is an expert in ski and snowboard prototype making, and he's been part of the Wed'ze team for 8 years now. Before he came to work at the Wed'ze Workshop, he spent 23 years making ski and snowboard prototypes in a workshop just like Wed'ze's. "I arrived here in 2008, soon after the creation of the Workshop. Making prototypes is not something you learn at school, but with experience. Since I have been here, I visited about 15 factories and mùanufactures, I learned a lot about different manufacturing processes, adding knowledge to my years of experience."

 

l'atelier Wed'ze : les protos de skis et snow

 

While we're talking, Christina shows us the different machines around the Workshop: a professional press, the machine that allows you to squeeze different layers of materials together in a mold in order to obtain a ski, but also an heating chamber, a 5 axes numerical contrl cutting machine, a machine to manufacture edges... There are fiberglass rolls, the bindings, that will be mounted on the skis or the snowboards so tehy can be tested on the slopes, are stored in the back. And all the machines that are used ot prepare the skis and snowboards before they go on the snow: everything to prepare the sole, wax the skis, sharpen the edges.

 

Then there is the laboratory, where the prototypes undergo al sorts of destructive testing, to make sure they comply with Wed'ze's internal safety norms, but also with the international ones. The prototypes are tested and monitored all along the development process to ensure quality and safety, until the expected result is reached. 

 

l'atelier Wed'ze : les prototypes de skis et snow

 

And there, behind us, the door of the "deco room". Here you'll find a cutting plotter tabler and a normal cutting table, a desk where you can manage the projects, and a dye sublimation printing machine, a technique that allows the ink to penetrate in plastic materials, essentially used for clothes. This is Fabien Bontaz's room, the second half fo the Workshop's dream team. His job? Taking care of the dye printing, buying the materials, maintaining and working the machines. He is the one who makes the pieces that will, once assembled together, serve as a mold to make skis and snowboards.

 

l'atelier Wed'ze : la pièce déco

 

Born and raised in the mont Blanc Valley, this tall guy with an open smile is a specialist in precision mechanics. He has been working in the Decathlon group for over 10 years, and he is the point person in his field of expertise, to the point where the other brands of the group ask him to develop specific parts of their products. Even more so because Wed'ze's Workshop is special, the oinly workshop in the group with a professional press that can manufacture sandwich composite materials.

 

What he likes? "We start from a blank page and we get to the final product, like the one that will get out of the manufacture. We exchange a lot with the product engineers. Prototype making is about compromise. Evertyhing is empricial when it commes to making skis. You can have the perfect measurements for a ski taht will be just crap once on the snow. And on the contrary, skis that look like nothing on paper but that will be total fun when skiing. It's our job to find the right recipe, by mixing the right ingredients to the right amount."

 

Fabien could talk for hours about this job that he loves. Cutting, adjusting, making, re-adjusting... Developing a ski or a snowboard takes you sometimes on unexpected paths. And without a prototype making workshop, it would be just impossible to create unique products that will give you so much sensations on the snow. This alchemy is as much in the recipe, made up by the engineers and prodcut managers, as it is in the expertise of this dream team where complicity and strong complementarity are a motto. It is here, in the Workshop, with Fabien and Christian, that begins the story of your best days skiing and snowboarding.

 

L'atelier de prototypage de skis et snowboard wed'ze

 

Emily - EN
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