anon-m2

Anon M2 Ski Goggle Review (with Video)

The Anon M2 goggles have been getting a lot of attention this year, thanks to their magnetic interchangeable lens design. They’re touted as the easiest lens change on a ski goggle, and playing around with them in the shop, it’s hard to argue.

But I decided to put them to the test over the weekend on the snow, skiing in bright and overcast conditions, mild temps and in a cold wind. My normal goggles are photochromatic – which change darkness in response to ambient light, so swapping lenses would be a change of pace.

First off, the fit. These large goggles have great coverage that also translated into a wide field of view. The face foam is comfortable and without any gaps to let in cold air, and no pressure points to make them uncomfortable. A person with a smaller face may find these pushed down too low by their helmet, but that’s why you should try on goggles with a helmet when you can.

The optics are great. I’m not normally a fan of a gray base lens, but these are sharp and without distortion, and plenty dark for the bright sunlight. Switching to the yellow storm lens (included), they are also very clear, and offered a ton of contrast in flat light, exactly what you want on stormy days.

Speaking of swapping the lenses, the Anon M2 live up to expectations. It’s a little different when on your face vs in hand, but after a few swaps I had it down – the key is to rock the top edge away from the goggle, rather than trying to pull the whole lens away from your face (the elastic band just stretches when you try to do that). Putting the new lens on is as easy as setting the lens in place – the magnets take care of the rest.

I had no issues with fogging, slipping or other possible annoyances with goggles. The two lenses it comes with are very dark and very bright, so the initial switch can leave you blinking or straining to adjust, but this range gives you a lot of versatility.

Overall, these goggles are highly recommended. Check them out at Start Haus or online here.

scarpa-freedom-sl

Scarpa Freedom SL Backcountry Ski Boot Review

At the Start Haus we don’t bring in new boots lightly, and when we bring in a new brand, we do it after serious testing and consideration.

This year we brought in Scarpa, specifically for their new Freedom SL. The Scarpa Freedom SL (also available in a women’s boot), in our opinion, strikes a great balance between tourability and skiability, perhaps better than almost anything else on the market.

scarpa-freedom-sl

Their are backcountry boots that are stiffer for the downhill, there are boots that are lighter for the uphill – but if you want something that will perform in the skin track on the way up, then feel close to your alpine boot on the down, the Scarpa Freedom SL is worth serious consideration.

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xc-ski-tunning

Cross Country Ski Tuning & Wax at Start Haus

Start Haus is well known for our World Cup caliber downhill ski tuning and waxing, but what you may not know is we bring the same level of excellence to cross country skis. One could argue (maybe not with a World Cup ski racer) that a proper tune and wax is even more critical on xc skis than on alpine because you have to work for every inch of movement, rather than with the aid of gravity.

First thing on a cross country skiers list should always be the bases – are they flat? A concave base, sometimes caused by lack of waxing, makes the ski slower and harder to turn. A convex base, caused by normal usage and wear, is also slow and makes the ski unstable. A grind will flatten out the base, clean up any nicks or dings, and take away oxidized base material that can make it harder for fresh wax to stick.

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The grind also sets the pattern of the base – critical to the glide of the ski in different snow conditions. Using our Wintersteiger grinder, we can set different patterns – two of which are most common for xc skis. A fine parallel pattern is the smoothest on cold snow, and is best if you’re an advanced skier who hand sets your own patterns. More common, what we call the Sierra grind, is a deeper chevron pattern, great for braking suction in wetter conditions.

Next up and just as critical; proper waxing. Aside from our signature hot scrape and iron wax service, which gives significantly better results than chemical cleaners, we offer hot box cycles for cross country skis. One hot box cycle left overnight at Start Haus gives your skis the wax penetration of roughly 15-20 hand waxings, meaning longer lasting wax that continuously comes out of the base as you ski.

And while these are high end services, they’re also great values – we offer a grind for $40, a wax for $20, or a grind and a hot box package for $65 – less than a third of some other cross country ski services.

Once the Start Haus techs have your skis dialed in, you can also stock up from our full selection of waxes, tools, corks and more to keep your skis going. From hydrocarbons to pure fluoro overlays, we’ve got you covered.

Lange-RX90W

Bootfitter’s Notes: Lange RX 90W Women’s Ski Boot Review

One of the questions we get a lot in the boot room is, “what is your most comfortable boot”, or “what is your best boot?” The answer to these questions is an infuriating, “that depends entirely on your foot.”  What’s good for the goose may not always in fact be good for the gander, if you have a wide foot a narrow boot is obviously not going to be comfortable and vice versa.

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However, one boot we have extraordinary luck with for the intermediate or advanced woman skier is the Lange RX 90W. The Lange RX 90W is 100mm wide at the forefoot, and has a medium instep height. If you truly have an average foot shape the RX 90W is one of the most successful boots we have in the category.

The RX 90W has a superb liner which does a great job of combining comfort and performance, meaning the liner skis well and isn’t lumpy or obtrusive.  Usually when a manufacturer makes a comfortable liner it is too soft to ski well, and many a high end “good skiing” liner is uncomfortable for the advanced skier let alone the intermediate.

No doubt the Lange RX 90W had become the benchmark medium fit women’s boot in the industry, sell-through is always strong and 2014-15 numbers don’t appear to be any different than the last several years the boot has been around.

The skiability of the RX 90W is very, very good. The heel shape and instep fit quite well and make for a responsive sharp skiing boot that both experienced testers and first time boot buyers love. The 90 flex is progressive and snappy and matches up nicely with a wide range of skiers from the cautious intermediate to the aggressive advanced all-mountain skier.

These attributes have made the Lange RX 90W a no-brainer as a try on for the medium fit category intermediate or advanced lady looking for a quality boot that blends comfort and performance.

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Bootfitter’s Notes: Bootfitting for the Backcountry

Several years ago out in the Mount Rose backcountry I had my first day of real backcountry skiing in Tahoe.

At the time the Marker Duke was introducing a new generation of skier to the backcountry, and I was part of the new class.

For that first excursion I was using my regular Lange alpine boots clicked into the Duke, I was relatively comfortable in an incredibly heavy set up, and having the time of my life. My friend and partner that day had Dynafit bindings on backcountry skis and some super lightweight touring boots.

Watching him come down 30+ inches of fairly damp pineapple express snow, one thing was obvious, the boots weren’t a great fit.

Start Haus Owner Jim Schaffner skinning up Hidden Peak on Tahoe's west shore.

Start Haus Owner Jim Schaffner skinning up Hidden Peak on Tahoe’s west shore.

Normally a very aggressive skier, he struggled to find the sweet spot in his boots to drive the ski through the snow. With downsized Lange boots custom fit for me, by me, I was not having the same problem.  However, going uphill was a different matter; with no releasable cuff I got fatigued much more quickly than I would when I got my first pair of touring boots.

I am pleased to say touring boots have improved about 100 percent since that day; companies like Scarpa and Dynafit are building backcountry ski boots with a much more precise fit than ever before, perhaps a trickle down from the major manufacturers getting in the touring game.

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philgaper

11 Ski Gear Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

At Start Haus, we have some of the most passionate, knowledgeable and savvy customers around – but everybody makes mistakes. Over the years, patterns emerge, and our top ski testers, bootfitters, tuners and experts weigh in on the most common mistakes – and how you can avoid them.

Ski Tuning:
1: “People don’t wax their skis often enough – most of the bases that come into Start Haus are dry. That makes them slow, the bases aren’t as well protected, and if they get really dry, the bases can get warped. Some people wax every time they ski, but you should at least every 2 or 3 days on the snow.” – Collin, ski tuner.
2: “Not drying skis off and leaving them on the roof rack or in the car all night is another big one – the edges will rust and ruin your tune. Wipe them down with a towel and keep them inside. It also helps to pull them apart instead of storing them base to base.” – Collin, ski tuner.

Ski Buying:
3: “Skiers need to be honest with themselves and realistic about where and what they’ll actually be skiing, rather than what they dream of skiing because of the pictures in the magazines or shots in a ski film. Don’t get swept up in the hype of the latest trend when it may not be right for you. In Tahoe, that may mean a narrower ski than you think, for example.” – Jim, Start Haus owner.

Ski Boots:
4: “Ninety percent of the boots we see bought at big box stores are the wrong size. People buy them to be comfy and cushy out of the box … but then the boots break in. When the boots are new, they shouldn’t be painful, but they should be firm. It takes about 10 days of skiing for boots to brake in and be comfy. We build a foundation with a footbed, make the adjustments that need to be made, but you still need to break in the boot.” – Jason, bootfitter.
5: “A simple one is getting your heel properly seated in the heel pocket. People put their feet in boots and their toes feel too tight, but you need to properly buckle the boot and flex into it a couple times to seat your heel to get the correct fit. If the toes fit without doing that, the boot is probably too big,” – Doug, bootfitter.
6: “Putting ski boots on cold is a big one. You should get boots as warm as you can – don’t leave them in the trunk overnight. Your feet will be cold all day, they’re harder to put on and get off, and they’ll be less comfortable. Get a boot drier like this or a heated boot bag like this.” – James, bootfitter.

Ski Binding:
7: “When you’re buying a binding, you’re buying the housing, not the DIN rating. This is getting more important with wider skis – I’ll see people that are technically in the right DIN range with the binding, but the frame is just overpowered by the skier, so they don’t get the same control over the ski. The body of the binding can’t handle the shock.” – Phil, sales.

Clothing:
8: “The worst I see is people wearing cotton as a base layer – it absorbs moisture and keeps you cold all day long. You’re best bet? Pick up a synthetic or wool base layer, you’ll be warmer, dryer and more comfortable.” – Jennifer, soft goods sales.”People who don’t wash their clothes is another big one.
9: “Dirt and oil are ruining the DWR treatment on your pants and jacket and clogging up the pores on the waterproof membrane, so your shells won’t keep you dry. Get a detergent made for technical outerwear – like the TOKO wash – and follow the directions on your clothing label.” – Jennifer, soft goods sales.

Ski Goggles:
10: “People get too aggressive with their goggles – they’re a piece of eye wear, so you don’t want to manhandle them. I see a lot of goggles with severely scratched lenses or broken straps – don’t use the finger of your gloves and don’t pull too hard on the straps.” – Allison, warranty & special orders.

Ski Helmets:
11: “I see people with helmets that are too big all the time. It should fit like a firm handshake – snug but not tight, it shouldn’t rattle around at all. You should also replace your helmet after a good crash, or every five years.” Jennifer, soft goods sales.

 

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Bootfitter’s Notes: Lange XT 130 Ski Boot

The Lange XT 130 LV is a high-end expert ski boot with a great snug fit and a hike/ski function that releases the cuff.

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Now on its second year, the XT has proven itself as a workhorse boot, and is an excellent choice for those who’ve been skiing performance fit boots or race boots and shudder at the thought of going to a mushy roomy alpine touring boot.

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fronstside-carver-review

2015 Frontside Carver Comparison – SierraJim

As a western (Tahoe) based ski shop, we at Start Haus have a lot of demand for wide-ish waisted, soft snow biased skis, and for sure, we carry a wide array and sell a lot of stuff in the 88-110mm range.

However, even on a “normal” year in this snow-rich area, there are periods when it doesn’t snow for a week or more. For the 2012-13 and 2013-14 ski seasons, we just didn’t get much snow at all for most of the season. For the hard snow periods in those mythical “normal” years, and then especially for seasons like the last two, it really pays to have a good hard snow ski.

For the last two seasons, we have had a lot of demand for this category of ski in Tahoe because they put fun and excitement into a day on the groomers. We also shouldn’t forget that there are many skiers who just prefer this type of skiing, regardless of the year, and there are places in the country where these firm conditions are the norm basically most of the time.

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reign_advanced_review

2015 Giant Reign 27.5 Review

One of the bikes everybody is talking about for 2015, Giant or otherwise, is definitely the new Giant Reign 27.5. Updated for the coming year, the Reign got the tweener 27.5 or 650B wheel size, 160 mm of travel, front and rear, and new geometry that epitomizes the modern all-mountain, enduro-inspired genre.

Jared, his Reign and riding companion Zee.

Jared, his Reign and riding companion Zee.

Jared, a Start Haus sales person and resident paddle sports guru, has spent the fall on a new Reign 27.5, and his experiences have reflected the glowing reviews bike magazines and websites have been posting up. He came from a 26 inch wheeled Trail bike with shorter travel.

“I wanted more travel without compromising on pedaling too much on longer rides,” Jared said. “I wanted to be able to hit bigger stuff and go faster, and I don’t need to race uphill.”

The Reign didn’t disappoint, not giving up ground on the uphill, thanks to the efficient Maestro suspension design. “There’s almost zero bob,” he said. On longer climbs, Jared flips both the rear and front shocks into pedal mode, and on steeper climbs, he drops the travel on the fork to get a steeper head angle, lowering the bars for a more efficient position.

With the bigger wheels, super-plush suspension and slacker geometry, downhill performance is almost a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t that long ago that something with 160 mm travel and a 65 degree headtube would have been called a downhill racebike.

“It’s super plush, and the bigger wheels just go over everything,” Jared said. “It’s just super easy and fun.”

The Pike fork lives up the the hype, and has been specially-modified by Giant to complement the bike’s geometry, and the Maestro suspension is perfectly dialed for everything from small stutter bumps to big square-edged hits.

Jared said he’s had to adjust to the lower bottom bracket – which makes for amazing in-the-bike handling, but means a few more pedal strikes, and the wide bars take a little more attention in tight, technical switchbacks – but Jared was having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with any complaints.

“There’s nothing I could do on my old bike that I can’t do on the Reign, and all my ride times are faster,” he said.