Salomon is a leading brand in the trail running industry that has pushed the sport to new heights in recent years. The company sponsors many of the world’s best trail runners, created the Golden Trail Series (which attracts elite athletes around the world to compete in its races), and has an extensive team innovating some of the most respected trail running gear including Salomon Soft Flak XA Filter, running vests and trail running shoes.
Recently I caught up with Mike Ambrose, Product Line Manager for Trail Running at Salomon, about his involvement with Salomon and what we have to look forward to from the brand in 2021.
[TAYTE POLLMANN] Could you describe your role at Salomon and how did you get this job?
[MIKE AMBROSE] Basically, my job is to bring products to life based on runner needs, market trends, and evolution of the sport. It’s a great job for me because I enjoy getting people out on trails and into trail running. I feel a responsibility to help grow the sport and empower runners. Prior to joining the product team in France, I was the Marketing Manager for Salomon Running in North America. I began working with Salomon in 2015 as a tech representative in the New England area.
[TAYTE] Let’s talk more about your relocation to the French Alps (c’est la vie!). What is it like working and living abroad in France?
[MIKE] I underestimated the challenge at first. I loved coming here for business trips, and of course on vacation in the Alps, but I underestimated how challenging it would be to move my life here, learn a new job, and begin to work in a different culture. It’s different working abroad. I tried getting advice and reading books on the subject, but I learned you have to experience it to fully understand. Luckily, I have a great boss and team around me. The first year here was amazing. My wife and I ran, raced, and travelled frequently. The past year has been difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we feel fortunate to be healthy and employed.
One interesting part of life in France I had to get used to was going to lunch as a company. Everyone goes to lunch together in the work cafeteria. I was so used to doing my own thing, eating at my desk, bringing leftovers, etc. Here, everyone collectively has lunch together in the cafeteria. I’ve come to love it and look forward to it. It’s a little funny, but it also takes getting used to having so much vacation time. Someone will unexpectedly ask for vacation and be gone for two weeks. Once you get in the swing of things, you become the person gone for a few weeks and everything works out.
[TAYTE] Describe your background as a trail runner and how did you got into the sport?
[MIKE] I began trail running in my early twenties. I was running on roads at the time to stay in shape and connected with the idea of trail running. I liked surfing and being outdoors my whole life, but when I ‘learned’ you could run on trails I was hooked. I first discovered trail running on Patagonia’s website, which brought me to videos about trail runner Krissy Moehl. Later that year, I met a Salomon tech representative at a race who gave me a Salomon DVD about one of the world’s best known trail runners, Kilian Jornet. I remember being in my apartment in Philadelphia a few months later and falling in love with the sport, Salomon, and the Alps. As my obsession with trail running grew, I eventually quit my city job and moved to Colorado. I had to be running in the mountains!
[TAYTE] How do French and American trail running cultures compare? Are there advantages and disadvantages to each?
[MIKE] In the US, trail running is still a small sport (although growing), and is on the fringe of the athletic scene. In many ways I find the sport to be more fun in the US because of that small and down-to-earth feel. It’s low key and grassroots, which relates to the history of trail running in the US. That experience of trail running will always be special to me.
In Europe, trail running feels much more supported and funded. Specifically the Alps, it’s just as big as any other sport in the region. Races are bigger, even small “village races” have three or four hundred participants, and can be extremely competitive. Many people come out to spectate and often early in the morning to meet runners on top of big climbs. As much as I love the small races in the US, there is something amazing about grinding out a big climb with people screaming your name, or cruising through a village during a race being greeted by a thousand people. The energy is unreal. It’s similar to how I felt running the Boston Marathon and being greeted by thousands of cheering spectators.
Another difference is the terrain. In the Alps, trails tend to be steep, wet, and technical. It’s similar to my experiences running in New England, but when you climb 4,000 feet out of the French Chamonix valley, the mountain peaks are still another 6,000 to 8,000 feet above you. Out in the American West, trails are smoother, rolling, and have switchbacks. All in all, both American and French trail running experiences are special and beautiful in their own ways.
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[TAYTE] What are some recent and upcoming projects you’ve been working on at Salomon?
[MIKE] The S /Lab Pulsar was released earlier this year and that product is amazing. It’s light and fast, and is what Kilian Jornet used to break the Sierre Zinal course record in 2019. Coming in June 2021 is a new shoe, The Ultra Glide, which should be a great addition to the Salomon Trail Running brand. In 2022 we have some new concepts and the renewal of some of our iconic products. I can’t quite speak on these yet, but we are excited to see them come to life.
[TAYTE] Could you describe more about what makes The Ultra Glide unique?
[MIKE] The Ultra Glide is unique because it combines soft comfort, precise foothold and excellent grip. Many companies aim to provide two to three of these features in a shoe, but we wanted all three. Although we already have several amazing shoes designed for ultra trail running competitions, we hadn’t yet designed one with a soft, comfortable feel. Salomon is often known for fit and grip, but we wanted to include soft comfort in this mix. We use the Energy Surge midsole foam in the Ultra Glide, which is incredibly light, soft, and bouncy. A standard men’s shoe weighs 260g and a women’s 220g.
The shoe is action packed. It has Sensifit Wings to hold the foot in place during descents, while being designed for forefoot accommodation. It’s precise and accommodating. The grip is our Contagrip MA, which performs well on wet surfaces and mixed terrain. We’ve had our elite athletes, recreational runners, and Salomon employees test The Ultra Glide and it’s quickly becoming everyone’s favorite shoe.
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