Pretty much everyone on the planet over the age of 15 has heard of the inimitable NordicTrack Ski Machines. A wildly popular and original machine that has been around forever and continues to hold a small devoted fan base much like Saab or Volvo. If you have ever tried out one of their skiers, you would not forget your first time. I remember the feeling that I was on ice before I wildly grabbed hold of the frame in order to keep myself from achieving a horizontal position on the floor. I’ve seen people put the skis through walls, dogs and cats start living together, the dawn of the apocalypse…well maybe I’m being overly dramatic. It should suffice to say that learning to use one of their skiers is akin to riding a bicycle. It is not the easiest thing to learn but once you learn it, you have it for life. Towards the end of the run of the original NordicTrack company, they branched off into weight trainers, electric treadmills, manual treadmills, and some products that we won’t discuss because to do so would border on verbal pornography.

The brand was bought by Icon Fitness after the bankruptcy of the original NordicTrack company in 1998 and they have since moved the lineup into more mainstream sales venues such as Sears. The name holds a certain level of cache and Icon has taken advantage of this to bump up into higher pricing brackets than most of their other brands could attain. Unfortunately, until a few years ago the price was the only thing about these machines that was high. If you had one of the original EXP1000 machines, our sympathies are with you. They had problems with everything from the plastic parts, to electronic grounding problems, to failed consoles. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

We believe the big driver of this changeover has been Johnson. The maker of the Horizon brand has given the large sales venues an alternative and while Johnson was producing higher end machines for the US market and moving down in price point, some of the quality carried over. Not to say Johnson hasn’t had their own missteps, but overall they have been a big reason why everyone has had to step up in quality, including Icon.

Over the past few years though the quality of the NordicTrack machines has increased drastically and has forced all reviewers to re-examine the brand. Icon has created a series that hits right at the sweet spot price points (below $1000, $1500-2000, and sub $3000). Brands that have previously dominated these ranges, especially the higher ones, need to watch out for these new products that could grow to dominate them in their own ballparks. Icon has the best distribution and most efficient manufacturing in the industry, these two facts alone mean that they can deliver far greater value than the competition, and now that they have turned their focus on to higher quality their brands-especially NordicTrack-could put the old guard in a world of hurt.

The consumers need look no further than the new NordicTrack S3000 treadmill to prove this point. The machine retails for roughly $2700 and delivers higher quality than brands like Landice and Lifefitness in this price point. In Ellipticals NordicTrack tends to shoot lower in the price categories and the prices most of its models are between $700 and $1500. These are really strong market prices and along with their quality improvements should put NordicTrack in a dominating position. The only Achilles heel of the brand remains in the area of service. Like many big companies, think of your local cable company, Icon does not have the responsiveness of many of the smaller companies. In the past, it has been a headache dealing with Icon if you had a problem and that fact was exacerbated by the fact that their machines were not made with the quality that they are today. Icon has made a big push to improve in this area so we’ll see if the changes have had the desired effect. Time will tell but if they get their act together in service, many companies will go the way of the dodo.

Check out some reviews of the NordicTrack Treadmills and Ellipticals before you take a trip to go buy a new piece of equipment and see what you think. The most important factor in your new treadmill or elliptical is what you think. If it feels good, you will be more likely to use it and that’s the most important thing. You can have the best quality machine in the world but it doesn’t do you any good if it isn’t used regularly.