Champion Alpine Ski Racer Aksel Lund Svindal Joins the Oakley Family
Norwegian alpine ski champ, Aksel Lund Svindal is a force to be reckoned with. You can find Aksel (if you’re alert enough) flying down some the world’s quickest hills at the most insane speeds imaginable. He is a four-time World Champion, an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time overall World Cup Champion and an outright beast on skis. He blows through gates with precision and power, while blazing down the mountain in lightning fast times. Born to a ski family, Svindal quickly refined his craft and rose to the top of the sport. He’s remained there throughout his remarkably successful career, finishing in the top four in World Cup rankings every year since 2006.
Svindal is not only a savvy skier. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to business, marketing, product and sponsorships. That’s why it made even more sense for him to join the Oakley team. We sat down with him during a recent visit to our Oakley World Headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA to discuss his sport, optics, what it means to him to join the Oakley team and much more.
We’d like to welcome Aksel to the Oakley family and wish him luck in the upcoming season and for years to come!
Oakley: This was your first visit to the Oakley World Headquarters in Foothill Ranch, California. What do you think??
Aksel Lund Svindal: It’s really cool! I met a lot of people. I was also at the Olympics in London and at the offices in Europe too. I’ve met a lot of good people outside of the Oakley offices and it’s easy to see where everyone comes from when you come here to the main office. Nothing is fake, it seems like everything is 100%.
What really impresses me is this cool building. Everything is in the same house. Everything is so close together. Its not JUST a cool story, a good place to bring the media or clients you want to impress. You’ve got it all under the same roof: where the goggle is actually designed and made. So like I said, it’s good to talk to the people that actually make the goggle, but its even better that everyone is sitting under the same roof. You don’t just design it and have someone else make it.
Oakley: You spent some time here in our research and design labs, what was that like for you?
ALS: First I had the whole tour of the building and that was the only room we weren’t allowed to go into and it felt very “top secret.” So then when I got to come back and go in a little later, it was cool to see. There are a lot of glasses and goggle companies that don’t have a lot of research going into their material. For me in the past it’s been a lot more like “figure out what you like and try it.” I never really had the facts behind “why do I like this, or why do I not like that.”
It was cool to see what options I had, talking to the guys who designed it and finding out why things are the way they are; why this works well under these conditions and why another works well under different conditions and to see the studies behind it. It’s always good to be able to talk to the people who actually make the product.
Oakley: Exactly! That’s what we like to stand behind; the hours and hours that go into the research and design of our products. What did you think about the product itself?
ALS: Talking about the new Oakley Canopy goggle: I think it’s the best frame I’ve ever tried on my face when it comes to a goggle. The fit and the size of it; its not just “big” it’s big in a good way. And then with all the colors and different lenses you can adapt to different lighting and the way the lenses are made…everything just feels really good!
Oakley: Vision is obviously pretty important in your sport of alpine ski racing, but after taking some nasty spills in your career, we’re sure impact protection is just as crucial. What does that aspect of the Oakley goggle mean to you after seeing how the technology works?
ALS: Hopefully it’s not that important! I’ve heard about the (impact protection) tests before, but it’s cool to see them in action. Not just for me, for anyone; your vision is so important. If something bad happens to your vision, its almost impossible to fix it, so for any sport, or just in general, to protect your vision is so important.
Looking at it after you’ve seen the tests is actually pretty stupid not to protect it.
On the other side, when it comes to optics, snow is very white. So on good days, you can definitely see the contours well. But on bad days, it’s all white. If you have just a little bit of help to see something, a piece of terrain, you can use that to your advantage to create speed. If you can’t see it, best-case scenario, nothing’s going to happen, but it’s most likely going to slow you down.
If you look at races we’ve had and it’s a perfect day and then it becomes just a little bit cloudy, you can tell right away when the times go up by half a second, maybe even more. Half a second could be the difference between winning and being eighth. So, if the optics can help you with this change, even just a little bit, when you’re fighting over just hundredths of seconds, that’s actually not just a little bit, it may make the difference between winning a race or not.
Another side of it is having energy throughout the day. Especially in GS runs. Maybe the first run is done by 10:30 and you’re in a good position and you’ve got nerves throughout the day preparing for the second run, that takes a lot of energy out of you. Sometimes you don’t even think about it but the muscles around your eyes are constantly working to try and eliminate any flaw in optics too. So by having superior optics and using less energy every day, you have a little more energy to do what you’re really there to do. And you just feel fresher at the end of the day.
Oakley: Now that you’ve toured the building, seen what goes into research and design, gotten to know some of the people, what are your thoughts on becoming part of the Oakley family?
ALS: Even before knowing that much about the Oakley family, you have kind of an idea about what it is, but you haven’t really seen it from the inside. I had a feeling though. I’ve been doing this for ten years now and I do more and more things that I want to do at this point in my career and don’t do the things I don’t want to do. Some things you’re a part of just feel right and other things; they just don’t do that for you. I had that [good] feeling about Oakley without even knowing that much. The few people I had met seemed really cool to work with. The more people I met, this just made a lot of sense. And now I’ve seen the tests too. I feel like you guys have a lot of different business ideas too. That’s what’s so cool about coming here; like I said, everything is under the same roof and its not just a little showroom to show you “this is our product.” From when you walk in the door, you have this showroom and store and that all looks cool, but its like that all the way through the building. You get into the production facility and the research and design and so on. I knew that obviously it was a good company and that Oakley invests a lot in their R&D and optics but I really didn’t know that you could do THAT much with them. I don’t think a lot of people really realize how big the difference is. Your eyes can correct for a lot but it takes energy. I ski probably 250 days a year, so I think that makes a pretty big difference.
Oakley: Well, we’re stoked to have you and welcome to the team!
ALS: I’m stoked to be here! I had heard a ton of good things about coming here and now I know it’s worth it. It really shows you what Oakley is all about. I work with a lot of companies that I think are cool companies but its cool to see somewhere where the product, the marketing, the production and everything is all one unit. Everything happens right here!
Read more about Aksel here: Aksel Lund Svindal Athlete Bio.