Las Lenas 2009: Oakley R&D Heads South to the Snow

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Six days of travel, one cancelled flight, four stomach flus, five colds and one broken lift couldn’t deter the Oakley Field Test team from getting the job done in Las Lenas, Argentina. Hurricane-force winds and downed lifts were no match for the group, which included R&D, Sales, Development, Design, Retail, Sports Marketing and Oakley athletes.

For six days, the 2010 tech outerwear line, backcountry snowpacks, gloves, hats, travel luggage and three prototype goggles were put to the ultimate test in the Andes. As the famed Marte lift was grounded until the last day of the trip, testers were forced to earn their turns the hard way. Daily backcountry missions tested the gear to its full potential.

Led by Oakley athletes Seth Morrison, Kye Peterson, Sammy Luebke and Jen Ashton, the team hit all the Las Lenas classics, like Cerro Martin and Entre Rios, and also notched off the Chamonix Chute of Entre Rios and a line in the Torrecedros.

The Oakley Las Lenas trip is the second round of three testing missions for the 2010 tech outerwear line. Field testing trips like these provide critical, time-sensitive feedback integral to the product’s production life.

“This trip was very successful,” says Oakley R&D Director Jamie Oman. “We were able to bring all variables together and within a week’s time, generate a massive amount of data. We tested fit, function and performance. We had a truly comprehensive team and got every stakeholder’s perspective.”

After summarizing the data compiled by more than 15 field testers, Oakley’s R&D team will return to Foothill Ranch to meet with design, tech design, development, production, sales and marketing to walk through the line and pinpoint what needs to change and what will be considered in creating the next line.

As the product’s lifespan evolves, critical steps such as field testing, fit sessions with Nino and Patricia and round-table discussions are the backbone of Oakley’s production process.

Las Lenas, regarded as the best ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere, usually offers field testers the full gamut of weather, from white-out blizzard conditions to sleet and flat light. Severe conditions offer an optimal testing lab to ensure all of Oakley’s goggles, apparel and accessories meet the highest standards.

This year’s trip brought six days of sunshine, but along with the sun, came “the fan”, a relentless wind that blew for the entire week, erasing the most recent storm’s deposits and delaying the opening of the resort’s best lift—the Marte.

“Marte is why any good skier comes here,” says Morrison, who has been on dozens of South America ski trips throughout his illustrious career. “This lift alone accesses some of the most technical skiing you can do with zero effort put forth to get there.”

With Marte down, effort went from zero to hero, as any technical line was earned by a lengthy skin or bootpack.

The fact Oakley can coordinate the schedules of so many stakeholders, including the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, gather them all in one location and test product under the harshest of elements is true testimony to how much the company values quality control.

“Very few companies pay as much attention to product performance as Oakley,” says Dave Steiner. “Because of our robust R&D program, we are able to field test products and generate feedback other companies can only hypothesize.”

Thanks to Las Lenas Resort, the Virgo Hotel, friend Mark Lasseter from tour operator South AmericaSki.com and Jose Beccar, Oakley’s local guide.