Völkl Early Releases! 2019 Mantra M5 and Women’s Secret

Tahoe’s “Miracle March” has skiers celebrating and calling in sick to work. Start Haus got another great score in March – an early release of the new version of Volkl’s iconic ski, the M5 Mantra and the women’s 2019 Völkl Secret.

The Mantra has been an innovative leader in all mountain skis since it first hit shops in 2005, earning a loyal following that has held strong for more than a dozen years among competition that rushed to add metal to their all mountain skis. The Mantra’s composition of Titanial sandwiching with a solid wood core inspired a whole new segment of 90-100mm waist width category skis.

But with the M5 (named for the 5th generation of the Mantra), Volkl is raising the bar again by heavily modifying the first layer of Titanal, resulting in a lighter ski with the same Mantra chargeability. The M5 brings back the traditional camber underfoot, with a rocker/camber/rocker profile. There is a full sheet of Titanal underneath the wood core, but the first layer only has Titanal in U-shaped forks in the tip and tail, which Völkl calls the Titanal Frame. They also decreased the waist width from 100 to 96 and gave it a shorter turn radius (19.8m radius in the 177cm length). Völkl engineers also added carbon in the tip of the shovel, adding rigidity and sharpness turn to turn.

The Mantra M5 and the narrower Secret (the women’s version that replaces the Aura) still have a full sidewall and sandwich construction, providing Völkl’s signature stability. The skis are available in the same lengths, ranging from 170 cm up to 191 cm.

Early testers have nothing but love for the Mantra M5. According to SKI Magazine, “The Mantra M5 provides an unmatched combination of stability, smoothness and, more so than ever before, liveliness that made it incredibly fun to ski in all types of snow conditions.”

Swing by the shop to check them out!



Home Ski Care 101 – Part 2

Home Ski Care 101 – Part 2

Last week we talked about the first step you can take in home ski maintenance – waxing. This week we’ll take a step up in technique and tools for edge tuning. This can be a little more intimidating than waxing, and if in doubt the expert tuners at Start Haus will get your skis singing – but if you’re ready, follow this simple guide.

Like last week, we’ll assume you aren’t a ski racer for today’s blog. For most of us, a few files and a few guides to set base and edge angles will give all the performance we’re looking for.

Guides – Setting the Angles:

The most common ski tune at the Start Haus is a 1-2, or a 1 degree base bevel and a 2 degree side bevel. That’ sharp without being crazy sharp, keeps the ski from catching when it’s not on edge, and works in a variety of conditions.

So we’ll need a 1 degree base bevel guide and a 2 degree side bevel guide.

It isn’t required, but a custom clamp will help keep the file on the guide.

Files – Shaping and Smoothing:

We start with a first cut file to shape the ski. Then we move on to a second cut file to start smoothing things out.

Finally, we wrap up with a polishing stone to really get the ski edges running smooth and fast.

It’s easier to show, not tell how to use these tools, so take a look:


As always, our experts are here to answer any questions as you dive into the world of ski tuning.


New Gear Alert! Salomon to Reinvent BC

Salomon Shift – Shaking Up Backcountry Bindings

For a long time now, backcountry skiers had a fundamental choice to make: the lightest, most efficient binding design for going uphill, or the best performing, safest for going downhill.

Tech bindings, pioneered by Dynafit, are light and efficient, using toe pins to rotate with each stride in the skin track. Frame bindings, like Marker’s venerable Duke, skied like a real alpine binding but are heavy, and stay attached to your foot while in walk mode, meaning you lift the binding with each stride.

Salomon’s new S/Lab Shift binding, available at Start Haus next fall, promises to deliver the best of both worlds for the first time. Sure, the Marker Kingpin gave the touring function of a tech toe and the skiing prowess of a alpine heal, but the S/Lab takes it a step farther, giving alpine toe piece performance to complete the package.

Basically, a new mechanism lets you seamlessly swap between a tech toe and an alpine toe while on the hill. It’s easier to see than to explain:

What does this mean? It means you get the most efficient binding while touring, and the safest, highest performance setup on the descent. Beyond the backcountry, this becomes a serious option for those who want one ski/binding setup for both the resort and out of bounds.

The details:

  • DIN: 6-13
  • Elastic travel: 47mm (same as the gold standard alpine binding STH2)
  • Weight: 1.7 kg per pair (3.74 lbs)
  • Brakes: 90-120mm in 10mm increments
  • Climbing aids: 2 and 10 degrees

We anticipate these flying off the shelves this fall, so sign up for our email list to be the first to know when they arrive!


Driving Tips to Survive the Winter

Get to the Slopes Safely: Winter Driving Tips

A lot of people have the misconception that winter driving in Tahoe is all about chains and treachery. That’s not true – chains are mostly required only during active snow storms, and sometimes for a few days after in higher elevation neighborhoods/off the main roads. But, as you’ve read on the Caltrans leaderboards, “Weather can be unpredictable; carry chains” (unless you have an AWD vehicle with snow tires). Here are some tips for driving in the mountains.

  1. Check the weather forecast. The National Weather Service (NOAA) for the greater Lake Tahoe area is very reliable, as is Weather Underground. For longer range forecasts, try the Tahoe Daily Snow Report. Bryan Allegretto at is all about giving hope to the multitudes who are praying for snow (but with no candy coating; he’s usually very accurate). If you see winter storm warnings, it’s best to drive to Tahoe before or after the storms are predicted. And if the NOAA issues a blizzard warning and says to stay home, you should do it and drive later.
  2. Check the road conditions. Caltrans has frequently updated maps of traffic in the greater Lake Tahoe area and also traffic videos in key intersections along the way, so you can see the road conditions, weather, and traffic for yourself. Pre-program the number for Caltrans Highway Information Network in your cell phone: 800-427-7623. It’s updated as conditions change and is voice-activated for safety and convenience.
  3. Make sure your car is well maintained. Check that your brakes and tires are in good condition and check the tire pressure. You probably should replace your windshield fluid – often it is diluted with water and will freeze when you try to use it in cold conditions. Make sure your gas tank is full before heading into the mountains.
  4. Carry chains and know which wheels to put them on. You’d be surprised how many people put chains on the front wheels of their car when they have a rear-wheel drive vehicle. It’s not a no-brainer – not always the front. If you don’t know, google the make and model of your car to find out. Chains on the wrong wheels do you no good.
  5. Carry winter emergency travel supplies:
  • ice scraper/de-icer and broom
  • shovel
  • sand, cat litter, or burlap sack for traction if stuck
  • extra food and water
  • flashlight/road flare
  • warm blanket and extra clothes
  1. Drive slowly. It’s more difficult to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. Increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
  2. Test your brakes. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up. If you’re on an icy road on a straightaway with no cars around, give your brakes a test. It’s much safer to see how they’ll react when you can easily correct than with other cars around.
  3. Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it. Yes, they are traveling painfully slowly, but they also make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently. You don’t want to tangle with a snow plow.
  4. Don’t get out of your car unless absolutely necessary. This is a “for god’s sake!” one. People are killed because they pulled over in an unsafe place. Remember, visibility is bad and roads are icy – nobody wants to hit you, but it may be beyond their control. If you’re stopped because everyone else is or in an emergency situation, use extreme caution and get back in your vehicle as quickly as possible. If it’s not an emergency, it’s much better to have that chain smacking against the underside of your car for another mile until you can pull of at an exit than to risk being hit on the side of the road.
  5. If you are stopped for a long period of time, don’t run your car the whole time with the windows up. This is rare, but asphyxiation is a concern. If you must run your vehicle, make sure you aren’t backed up against a wall of snow (your exhaust pipe) and run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm.

Once you’ve made it to Tahoe, unless it’s still dumping, chances are you won’t need your chains. Caltrans is very good about clearing and sanding the roads. Be sure to remove chains in a safe spot. Slow down and enjoy your time in the snow!



Home Ski Care 101 – Part 1

There’s nothing like a freshly tuned and waxed pair of skis from the Start Haus award-winning ski tuners. But many of our customers like to take on some of the regular tasks of keeping there skis running smooth and fast, and we’ve got the tools to get you started.

First, let’s talk waxing- a great way to regularly keep your skis running smooth.

We’ll assume you aren’t a ski racer today – who have there own special waxing needs for training and race day. The rest of us can get a whole lot of benefit from a much simpler regime done regularly.

The Wax:

While racers deal in all sorts of high-tech additives, overlays and such, the rest of us can happily start off with simple hydrocarbon wax. Regardless of brand, colors typically correlate to temperature ratings.

Swix CH6

Swix CH6 Blue

Blue Hydrocarbon: for the coldest conditions we see in the Tahoe-Truckee area. It’s harder wax to stand up to the sharp crystals of truly cold temperatures (below 21 degrees F).


Swix CH8 Red

Red Hydrocarbon: If you just want to buy one bar of wax, red is the way to go for the vast majority of Tahoe-area conditions. Rated to between 34 and 25 degrees F, it’s durable, versatile and keeps up with changing snow conditions from powder to groomers.


Swix CH10 Yellow

Yellow Hydrocarbon: When spring skiing is in full swing, yellow wax will help with that sticky, on the brakes sensation in wet patches of warm snow. Rated 32 to 50 degrees F).

There’s a few other specialty colors, but those three will cover your bases. Each one comes with a recommended iron temperature – you want to melt the wax, but smoke means things are too hot.

The Technique:

Once you have your wax, first you want to do a hot scrape. Either using a base care prep wax or something like red hydrocarbons, drip melted wax off the iron onto the ski base, then spread it evenly with the iron across the ski.

Unlike the finishing wax, you’ll take your scraper, and pull off as much wax as you can – the warm wax will clean out the bases, taking out dirt, oils and other contaminants with it.

Once scraped, apply your finishing wax the same way – dripping and spreading it with the iron. This time, let the ski bases cool to room temperature.

Then scrape the skis again, removing as much wax as possible, followed by brushing. We’ll cover brushing with different brush materials in the finishing part of this series down the road.

Wax your skis regularly and they’ll perform better, the bases won’t dry out and deform, and they’ll last longer too. Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Start Haus for technique, tool and wax advice.


The Return of Winter

With storm windows opening up and some systems lining up (albeit small ones) now is the time to dust off that all-mountain quiver!  Storms are rolling in through the 10 day forecast window and Start Haus is stoke level is increasing with every day!  Keep an eye on these storms- they might dump more and they might dump less.  Keep doing those snow dances!

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The Best MTB Tires for Tahoe

With somewhere north of one million tread patterns, casings, rubber compounds and sizes, picking the right set of tires for your mountain bike can be a little daunting. It boils down to where you ride, how you ride and what you enjoy.

First, let’s take a look at where. Here in the Truckee-Tahoe area, we predominantly have loose soil, decomposed granite, sand and dust (and more rocks) to make traction challenging, with the occasional after-thunderstorm hero dirt and granite slabs thrown in. Generally, that makes more aggressive tires the choice for our region.

How you ride boils down to technique and speed – some tires work better under an aggressive, more advanced rider that commits to a turn, while others give a little more wiggle room for those still figuring things out.

What you enjoy is personal preference, something you’ll work out over time. Do you like a fast-rolling rear tire to make climbing easier? Or do you want locked-in traction for railing corners?

Let’s take a look at some of our top picks for the region.

Maxxis Minion DHF

The Name DHF came from the tire’s origin, downhill tire, front. Now considered a gold standard for aggressive all-around tires, many Tahoe riders have used it both front and rear.

Large, blocky cornering knobs down each side separated from ramped center knobs offer some of the best cornering traction around – but the gap between the shoulder knobs and center require that the bike be leaned over to get ahold of that traction. Don’t commit to a corner and the tire can get drifty.

Rolling resistance is about average for an aggressive tire, and the 2.3 feels narrow on a modern trail bike. This makes the 2.5 a great option for those who have room. As with all Maxxis tires, the DHF’s rubber balances grip and durability, and tough “Double Down” sidewalls are available for those who are prone to slashing tires on sharp rocks, while EXO saves some weight.

The DHF is still the go-to front tire for many Tahoe-area riders, and is available in widths from 2.3 to 2.8 to cover all bike types from standard to “plus.”

Maxxis Minion DHR II

Building off of the DHF, the DHR II was meant as a rear tire with broader, paddle-shaped center knobs that give better pedaling traction uphill and braking traction downhill. Many have adopted the DHR II as a front tire where it doesn’t require quite the same lean-angle to get good cornering traction, but it gives up some of the ultimate bite of the DHF. (Don’t even think about the first generation DHR. Just put it out of your mind).

The DHR II offers better braking but also sacrifices some cornering grip when you’re at the limit. Available up to a 2.8 inch width for ultimate plus-bike traction, this is a great aggressive rear tire when traction is a top priority.

Maxxis High Roller II

An old-school classic with more widely-spaced tread than either Minion, the High Roller can dig into loose, soft trail surfaces in the right hands, or get a little loose in others. The wide spacing makes these tires shed mud well, so if you’re making trips down the hill in the winter, this can be a great choice.

Available in 2.3 and 2.4 inch widths.

WTB Vigilante

Like the Minion, the Vigilante is an aggressive tire with widely spaced blocky knobs designed to dig into the soil for tons of traction. But where the Minion leaves a gap between cornering knobs and the center, the Vigilante has “transition knobs” in that space. In practice, that means more consistent traction at a variety of lean angles, but it gives up top-end traction at the tire’s limits while cornering.

Great in really soft soil and with tons of braking power, the Vigilante comes in a fast rolling or high grip compound (go high grip or fast if running in the front, fast rolling in the rear), and a tough casing (that’s really, really tough) or light casing (that’s more prone to cuts in rough conditions).

WTB Breakout

With a round profile and aggressive knobs more closely spaced together, the Breakout has become something of a cult favorite as a rear tire. Without the square edge of a Minion or Magic Mary, it doesn’t have quite the full-tilt cornering bite of the most aggressive tires, but has gobs of traction in dry and loose conditions at lesser angles. Despite its grippyness, it rolls quickly, and its heavy-duty casing and higher volume make it a great choice for a burly rear tire that won’t slow you down on the climbs.

WTB Trail Boss

Lots of smaller knobs stacked closer together make this one of the smoother, faster rolling tires in the bunch. Great for those who don’t need as much high-speed traction and want low resistance rolling down the trail – it pairs well as a rear tire with a more aggressive front tire.
Available in a 3.0 width, the Trail Boss is also a great plus tire both front and rear.

So which tire is for you? Part-time downhillers with a season pass at Northstar are best served by the tougher endure oriented casing- otherwise our true DH bikes are going to be wire bead and 2-ply sidewalls.

Aggressive trail riders will love the reliable Minions, both DHF and DHR II. The can get a little more speed on climbs with a Nobby Nic or Trail Boss in the back, or really reduce rolling resistance with the Rock Razor.

More tentative riders venturing into challenging terrain will get consistent, dependable traction from the Vigilante, Breakout or the Hans Dampf, and more XC-oriented riders who still want to get around in Tahoe’s unique soil will want to look at the Trail Boss or Noby Nic front and rear.

So what do we ride on our trail bikes? We’ll go with the DHF 2.5 EXO and the WTB Vigilante tough (speaking of which, don’t be afraid to mix brands when the combo is right). Come by Start Haus and talk to one of our experts – we’ll find the right tires for you.


The Importance of Mouth Guards

Small but Mighty: Mouth Guards for Skiing

A mouth guard is one of the least expensive pieces of ski gear you can buy, and it not only protects your teeth — it can also help prevent concussions. Start Haus in Truckee carries both UA ArmourShield™ Mouthguard and UA Braces Mouthguard for wear over braces.

The mouth guard trend is increasing on the slopes, both for racers and freestyle. The US Ski Team recommends mouth guards for their SL racers not only for protecting teeth from getting cracked when hit by a pole, but for their effectiveness in concussion prevention. Mouth guards are strongly recommended for any level, but particularly for younger racers because as less-skilled athletes, the probability that something can happen is higher.

Many concussions are caused by the force of the jaw banging into the upper mouth. Mouth guards prevent bone-on-bone contact, dramatically absorbing the blow from a fall. And we’re seeing more mouth guards in the freestyle parks too. Dental work is not only miserable but expensive.

Under Armour’s mouth guards are latex-free, made with ArmourShield™ technology, to provide patented Bite Flex™ and ArmourPlate™ to provide higher-impact protection to teeth, jaws, and gums. The ArmourPlate™ insert delivers improved protection while Bite Flex™ absorbs energy on impact. The ArmourFit technology provides a dentist-like fit, chew resistance, and allows you to talk and breathe easily. They are made in the U.S., meet NFHS rules, have a convertible strap/strapless tether, and come with a $32,000 dental warranty. Try to find something with that much protection and technology packed into a small, inexpensive package. Or just come in and get one and check out more protective gear available at Start Haus.

Check out the ArmourShield here.