Category Archives: Interviews

How the Start Haus helped on the new K2 Ski Boots

There’s been a lot of buzz around K2‘s new ski boot line for 2013-14, with some pretty exciting innovations for both alpine and backcountry ski boot design.

What you haven’t read is that Start Haus owner and one of the country’s best boot fitters, Jim Schaffner, had an opportunity to provide design input in the all-new K2 ski boots. Jim is well known for his experience in ski boot R&D, as well as boot fitting and performance tweaking at the highest level of our sport.


“I had my first test in the prototype boots September 2011 in South America,” Jim said. “From there I was invited to be involved in some of their debrief/design improvement sessions, and the re-testing process as design changes were made. Basically providing feedback on fit, skiability and performance.”

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Pro Review: Blizzard Kabookie, Bodacious & Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro

Pro ski mountaineer David Rosenbarger stopped by the Start Haus to get a new pair of Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro backcountry ski boots fit by our experts, and took a few minutes to talk to us about why they’re the boots he’s been waiting for forever.

Sponsored by Blizzard and Tecnica and a Patagonia Ambassador who splits his time between Tahoe and France’s ski mountaineering mecca, Chamonix, Rosenbarger puts his ski equipment to the test.

Rosenbarger depends on his Blizzard/Tecnica ski gear when he’s going deep into the mountains above Chamonix across glaciers and down steep, technical couloirs. He was picked for his expertise to lead famed pro skier Seth Morrison down the Col du Plan off the north face of the Aguille du Midi during the filming of “The Ordinary Skier” about Morrison.

Here’s what he had to say about the Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro:

And here’s what he had to say about his two favorite skis, the Blizzard Kabookie, a versatile new backcountry ski based on the Blizzard Bonafide, and the Blizzard Bodacious, a big mountain powder ski:

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Catch Up: with Keely Kelleher


(Photo Credit: Marcus Caston)

By Lesley LeMasurier

Former World Cup Skier, National Champion, and Rahlves’ Banzai Stop Winner.

Only two athletes hold these multi-titles, one male and one female.  Funny thing is, the latter looked up to the former when she was a kid.

Montana Girl

For Keely Kelleher, skier Daron Rahlves is the man.  “I loved going off jumps pretending to be him when I was a kid,” she reflects.  “I tell all the kids I coach now, Just Daron It!

Just Daron It! is something Kelleher has been doing her entire career.  As a young ski racer, Kelleher was on the smaller side of the field.  “All my coaches called me birdlegs.  I could create these outrageous angles, but I was not fast. I developed so much later than most the girls I was racing against,” Kelleher reflects.

Her first year of FIS racing, Kelleher was a mere 95 lbs and pushing her birdlegs to compete against fully developed phenoms, like fellow 1984’s Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn. Kelleher’s road to the World Cup would require unmatched patience and persistence.

Fortunately for Kelleher, she grew up in Big Sky, Montana, where there was no daycare, but the great outdoors.  Her adventures in alternative babysitting took her down steep chutes, long groomers, and eventually, to the junior ski racing circuit. “I was not a J3 standout as far as speed; however, I had a really solid technique built up from freeskiing so much,” Kelleher recalls.

This freeskiing base—acquired on the open mountain, as well as on the Montana waters, where Kelleher excelled as a freestyle kayaker—shaped a solid and daring technique that would eventually take Kelleher to the top of her game.

Just Birdleg It!

In 2003, Kelleher pushed her small frame down foreign mountains, and hit her stride on the speed tracks of the Europa Cup Circuit.  She quickly earned her spot on the USST, proving her worth on some of the toughest, gnarliest speed tracks around, taking several top results across Austria and Italy.

During her first season with the US Ski Team, Kelleher broke one of her birdlegs.  A wing down, Kelleher was grounded for nearly two seasons, and took another few seasons to fully launch again.  In 2009, she scored her first World Cup points.  In 2010, she earned the US National SG Title.

Kelleher retired from the US Ski Team in 2010, unable to bear the chronic pain caused by the injury.  “I was honestly burnt out on managing the pain all the time on hard ice.  My last season I would take 2 runs while all the other girls were taking 10,” she recalls.

The competitive hunger struck during the first season of the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour in 2011.

“I wasn’t ready to be done with competing when ski racing ended so I continue to push myself in skiing. I want to ski terrain that is just as difficult or more difficult than a world cup downhill course,” she says.

Kelleher won her first entry in the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour, taking the Kirkwood stop in 2011.


Since retiring, Kelleher has set her sights on the Banzai Tour, school at Westminster College, and coaching.  In the summer of 2011, she founded ‘Keely’s Ski Camp for Girls’.  With a group of 22 junior girls ages 12 – 16 and a staff stacked with all-female former Olympians and World Cup athletes, the girls turned Government Camp into Girl’s Camp.

(Coaching Staff: Jess Kelley, Libby Ludlow, Keely Kelleher, Katie Hitchcock, and Tara Hines. Photo: Marcus Caston)

“The aim is to empower girls through ski racing and skiing. The camp motto is ‘Conquering the mountain one girl at a time.’ I see two meanings in it: I want the girls to come away from the camp feeling like they improved—or ‘conquered’—an aspect of their skiing. But the deeper meaning is ‘conquering’ the challenges that ski racing and life throw at them,” says Kelleher.

In addition to her Mt. Hood camp, this spring Kelleher will host a big mountain free ski camp for girls at Snowbird, Utah. The camp will be the first ever of its kind: all mountain, all girls, all time.

Be sure to catch up with Keely Kelleher when the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour kicks off in 2012 at Kirkwood Resort!

Build it Upside Down

Several years ago, a couple reps, company execs, and sponsored skiers were sitting around a dinner table celebrating the success of a new prototype that would revolutionize the way they made skis. The idea was born out of a frustration with rocker technology, which makes skis playful, but also instable and nervous. Ever the tinkering skier, Arne Backstrom proposed a solution that was simple, yet so profound, it should be written down in the ski book of Zen: Build the ski upside down.

Blizzard-Tecnica unveiled their upcoming 2012/2013 lineup for the first time in California and Nevada before an audience of Tahoe skiers and ski industry leaders at a launch party in Squaw Valley. Like last year’s line of Blizzard skis, next year’s models all embrace Flip Core technology, which was inspired by Backstrom and flips the ski’s wood core upside down so it naturally takes on a rocker shape. Incorporated in the Cochise to the Bodacious to an entire new line of woman’s big mountain skis and beyond — thirteen models in total for 2013 — the genius of Backstrom’s idea is that it can be applied to an entire line of skis, not just one pair. And on Tuesday night, there were many converts in the crowd who now believe in Flip Core.

“If I’m going to sell a product to a friend, I have to believe in it,” said Robb Gaffney, who first skied the Cochise prototype three years ago at Kirkwood, and now skis them nearly every time he goes out. “The first run, I believed it. The second run, I believed it more … He [Backstrom] knew what he was talking about.”

Ski writer Jackson Hogen noted that Blizzard isn’t just on the map, it’s leading the charge with its new technology. “They made it [Blizzard] the most important brand in skiing now, because it’s the reference brand,” Hogan said. “It’s all deserved because it’s product … These things aren’t pixie dust. There’s math involved.” Not just math, there was a curious person who was in tune with his equipment.

“A lot of it came down to this drive to understand how things worked,” said Ralph Backstrom, Arne’s younger brother.

Arne Backstrom was at the top of his skiing career when this idea came forward. And at that dinner table on that fortuitous night, the Blizzard-Tecnica crew was not only celebrating the success of the prototype, but also Backstrom’s skiing career. He had just won the first McConkey Cup and was filming with Matchstick and Warren Miller. It was that night that Stefano Mantegazza, Blizzard-Tecnica product director, proposed that the Bodacious become Backstrom’s signature pro model ski.

“It’s not a tribute,” said Clem Smith, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica, about the Bodacious. “This was always his deal. It wasn’t an afterthought.”

Backstrom passed away just as the first line of Flip Core skis went into production. Right before he left for Peru to ski the Cordillera Blanca, Backstrom signed his name five times — a true perfectionist — on a piece of paper that he left with Smith. That signature is now on every pair of Bodacious skis.

“Arne was a man of few words,” Smith said. “But when he spoke, everyone listened.”

New this year from Blizzard is a women’s big mountain line of Flip Core skis, including the aggressive Blizzard Dakota ski, which is the female version of the Cochise. Tecnica is also coming forward with another line of boots inspired by Backstrom’s infamous Frankenboot. The 2012/13 free mountain boots feature interchangeable soles, a walk mode, and can be skied aggressively in bounds or in the backcountry.

“It’s rare to see an athlete have this much inspiration in a global brand,” said Dana Greenwood, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica. “It’s got Squaw DNA … [Backstrom] knew it was a good idea, but he never would believe the impact worldwide that he would have.”

Start Haus named one of the Country’s Best Boot Shops

What do most skiers say when they arrive at the Start Haus for their boot appointment?  “Hey man, where are your boots?” Oh, there are plenty of boots—they just aren’t on display. The fact that there is no traditional boot wall in this race-focused bootfitting operation highlights the Start Haus philosophy that the boot-buying and bootfitting experience should be entirely athlete-based.  Everything starts with an initial assessment of both the athlete’s performance needs and a close evaluation of their foot, lower leg and biomechanical range of motion that determine which boots will be considered for try-on.  According to owner/operator and board-certified pedorthist Jim Schaffner, what starts with a bit of trepidation quickly turns to full cooperation as the shoes and socks come off. “We’re not about leading with specific products, instead we let the athlete’s story dictate the direction we go,” Schaffner said……..


Written By: Skiing Magazine

Milli’s Matter: The Tale of Two World-Cup Bakers

Milliseconds, Milliliters

Megan McJames and Chelsea Marshall aren’t just World Cup skiers, they’re world-class quantifiers.  They became Olympians by sifting seconds down to deci-seconds, down to centi-seconds, down to milli-seconds.   With their knives, they leveled off the top, and carved a recipe for success.

But this isn’t exactly a story about ski racing.

Megan McJames and Chelsea Marshall, in a perfect metric-systematized world, know that milli’s matter in more ways than just holding a tight tuck across the flats.  Measure a milliliter too much of milk, and the frosting won’t spread.  Use too many grams of flour, and the dough sticks.

Physics 101          

Newton’s third law of motion states: “For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction.”

Born in the mid-eighties, raised by ski instructors and taught by the mountains, US Ski Team members by their mid-teens, and first-time Olympians at Vancouver by their early twenties, these two are sisters by symmetry.

And both Chelsea and Megan agree: chocolate chip cookies are the yummiest and trusting yourself when things get tough is a must.

“Be tough in the pursuit of your dreams, no matter what they are,” Megan says.

Megan earned her spot on the US Ski Team when she was eighteen.  I remember standing in the finish arena of a speed race in Montana when Megan was a first year J2.  The way she tipped the ski on edge and juiced the turn put the crowd on their feet.  Somebody in the crowd gasped, “She’s going places.  Fast.”  It didn’t take long for Megan to ski her way to the National Team, and into a World Cup race arena at Aspen.

The best piece of advice a coach ever gave Megan?  Coach Patti Formichelli told her: “Flex your ankles!”

The story is no different for Chelsea Marshall.  She earned her spot on the US Ski Team at sixteen.  Born and raised in Vermont, the Marshall family dominated, and Chelsea was a force to be reckoned with.  Smooth on her skis, balanced, and confident, Chelsea makes it look easy.  And that’s due in part to her brothers: Jesse Marshall (former USST member) and Cody Marshall (current USST member).

“Growing up, I always looked up to my two older brothers. They both competed in ski racing and I was always trying to match their work ethic and keep up with them.”

Chasing brothers taught Chelsea how to find speed in every pocket of the turn.  This speed demon has several World Cup top fifteens under her belt, and an Olympic track on her resume.  The best advice a coach ever gave Chelsea?

“Step out of your comfort zone and really trust yourself.”

Believe in Yourself—And the Rest Will Happen Naturally

Megan’s role model isn’t the name on the tip of your tongue.

Picabo Street, Mia Hamm…Bobby Flay?  (Think Food Network and Truckee’s Squeeze In).

“He is amazing at cooking…how he uses his charisma to inspire and push people in their own kitchens,” says Megan.

Like Bobby Flay, Megan and Chelsea are inspiring in their own kitchen.  And their hired taste tester, fellow Olympian Hailey Duke, approves.

“Scrumdiddlyumptious!” Duke remarked.

So scrumdiddlyumptious they were approached by a friend in May and asked to bake 150 cookies for a wedding.  The result?

Sister Sweet Tooth: a small catering company of baked goods for the Park City area.  Since May, Megan and Chelsea have baked hundreds of tasty treats for weddings and events, including a women’s ski jumping fundraiser in July.

“She heard about our baking through word of mouth, and from there we really branched off with the idea and decided to put together a company to help raise funds for the coming season,” recalls Chelsea.

Life is busy for these two World Cup skiers.  Juggling training, courses at Westminster College, and a baking company on the side is no easy schedule.  But determination has always been part of the program.

According to Chelsea, “We have a passion that drives us. Through a lot of hard work and a strong work ethic we are able to juggle everything and hopefully be successful!”

What’s Next?

Skiing.  School.  Scrumdiddlyumptious Sweets.

“Everybody has an opinion they will try to impose on you, but it is up to you to find the right way for yourself,” Megan says.

The journey to the top is a battle of wins and losses, injuries and recoveries.  Trust in your abilities, pursue your dreams, and as these two echo, this is your experience, grab the reigns and go!

Keep up with Chelsea Marshall and Megan McJames at: and

(Megan Mcjames is currently trying to raise $20,000 for her 2011 – 2012 season.  Please stop by her blog and learn how you can help her compete this winter!)

Left to Right: Hailey Duke, Megan McJames, and Chelsea Marshall in Vancouver