Biathlon and cross country skiing are popular international winter sports, and certainly one of the most popular in Germany. At competition level, the German Ski Federation (DSV) continually upgrades its equipment in order to ensure that its athletes are using the very latest technologies. One area of focus in the preparation of the ski is in applying the optimal combination of wax to the underside of skis or snowboards in order to match the performance of the ski optimally to the type of snow.
In collaboration with Enrico Heisig, the DSV's chief engineer responsible for the Materials R&D, and the ski wax producer ZIPPS GmbH, Opto developed a special portable microscope designed to optically inspect the many different types of snow, and its properties. The goal of the program is to document a comprehensive matrix of weather and snow crystal conditions in order to create a reference resource for the DSV which defines the optimum wax combination according to the exact properties of the snow and weather conditions. This has a two-fold benefit: firstly by enabling the manufacturers to perfectly optimize their wax compositions, and secondly, by providing the athlete with those critical hundredths of a second which can make the difference between a silver and a gold medal.
Portable and compact, the Opto snow microscope required a special combination of illumination in order to perfectly visualize the shape and size of snow crystals in situ. The inclusion of a standard DSLR camera mount makes it a highly portable microscope whilst enabling rapid, instant assessments of the exact snow situation. The image analysis is then performed on a laptop with a simple software measurement interface designed by the company DHS.
The instrument was designed specifically for use outdoors, with focus on robustness and portability. The instrument features integrated focus, various optimized LED illumination modes and thanks to standard battery power, complete freedom to be used on slopes worldwide. The sturdy mounting stand is precision manufactured from high grade stainless steel and aluminum and is supplied in a carrying case. For comfort and ease of use, the instrument also features special cold grips and a glove optimized light switch enabling comfortable operation even at the lowest temperatures!