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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.

Sweet Protection for Your Brain

As ski technology and accessibility keep getting better, we’re going faster down more diverse terrain on better equipment than ever. But aggressive skiers are also using and protecting their brains: In 2017 U.S. ski resorts reported that 80% of their skiers and riders wear helmets. Start Haus in Truckee can help you stay safe on the slopes with our wide selection of racing and recreational ski helmets, including Sweet Protection from Norway – a dominant force in the European market for years that is becoming more known in the U.S.

Sweet Tech
Sweet Protection offers distinct design and attitude, with high quality materials and advanced manufacturing methods, including MIPS technology now available in their Igniter, Blaster, and Trooper models. Sweet Protection helmets are constructed with interconnected layers of protection, enabling them to create helmets with low volume, light weight and world class impact protection. Along with their distinct style, Sweet Protection helmets are lauded as the most compatible and comfortable with a wide range of goggles.
Sweet Protection helmets are uniquely customized for different skiing styles, techniques and budgets. For hard charging racers, Start Haus carries the Trooper SL Race helmets. With its Thermoplastic Laminated Carbon Fiber (TLC) construction, 2-piece Shell construction and the unique Impact Shields liner (EPS foam is different weights/shapes to react to impact areas based on geometry and head shape), the Trooper is one of the most advanced helmets on the market.
Quickly gaining popularity as a favorite all mountain helmet is the Sweet Protection Igniter, available at Start Haus with MIPS technology. This helmet is one of the lightest (1.2 lbs) and also features 26 vents in a hard-shell package. The Igniter is a versatile performance helmet with superlight shell technology and the unique Impact Shields liner for optimal protection performance. The MIPS technology provides protection for reducing rotational forces. Because of its light weight and plethora of vents, the Igniter is a popular backcountry helmet.
For those looking for a more affordable helmet that will do the job nicely, the Blaster provides comfortable all-mountain protection for cruising groomers or exploring the backcountry. With integrated Impact Shields and ABS hard-shell reinforcement for strength in vulnerable areas, this superlight package sets a new standard for quality and protection in an in-mold helmet.
Come into Start Haus, try on helmets and talk to our experts about the best helmets for you and your family.

A Basic Ski Wax Guide


At Start Haus we’ve had quite a number of people come looking for a way to speed up the bases of their skis in this warm spring snow. Several people have decided to invest in a ski waxing setup to wax their own skis, and we think this is a wise move!

Waxing your own skis means you’re not relying on a shop to turn you skis around. Taking the cost of waxing over time you’ll eventually save money. This of course, is dependent on how often you ski, because a proper wax setup initially is fairly spendy. However, if you ski a lot, or have multiple pairs of skis, the investment will pay off! Waxing your skis regularly protects the base and will result in a longer life of the ski, further protecting your investment. Having a good wax on your base can also reduce the risk of injury due to sticky spring snow.

If you’re the hands-on type, waxing your own skis is a rewarding venture. It’s fairly simple to deliver a basic Iron wax to a pair of skis, and you get the obvious benefit of being faster on the slopes!

To achieve a basic wax you’ll need a ski wax iron, a ski vise, a bench of some sort, some good hydrocarbon wax, a sharp wax scraper, and a wax brush or two

Applying the wax to a clean base is paramount to success. At Start Haus we recommend against base cleaners. Base cleaners are solvents, which actually harm the base by drying it out. The best way to clean a base is to melt a wax onto the base and scrape it off while the wax is still hot. This will pull the detritus out of the base, which is probably clogging up the base structure.

Once the base is clean, drip a good amount of hydrocarbon wax to the entire base of the ski tip to tail. Next iron the wax into the base so that all the wax is melting, but not so slowly you’re seeing smoke come up! The wax packaging should have a recommended temperature setting for the iron, be sure your iron is set to the correct temp. For best results I recommend mixing in a mid temp wax along with the warm snow wax. The warm wax, which is usually yellow in color, will wear off the base quickly in a matter of an hour or so the mid temp will keep your bases waxed throughout the day. You can be scientific and build up layers of wax by applying; cooling, and scraping separate layers, or just melt in two waxes at the same time.

At this point once you are happy with the ironing job the ski should be left to cool completely. The next step is to scrape the ski with a sharp plastic wax scraper. The goal here is to remove all the wax. A solid brushing will remove the excess wax and open the structure of the base back up allowing it break the suction of the snow.

Ski waxing should not be a daunting task, if you’re nervous about any of the aforementioned steps feel free to practice on an old pair of skis until you get the hang of it! If you have further questions feel free to stop into Start Haus or call! We always love to help steer people into the right direction toward a faster more fun time on the slopes!

2015 Ski Consignment Sale: Updated

Time to gear up for the sale of the year!  Starting August 1st, we’ll begin accepting skis, speed suits, and training shorts. Same as last year, any item checked in for the sale is good for 80% store credit, or 60% cash (in the form of a check).


We will accept gear throughout the sale until Sunday evening at closing.  No gear will be accepted on Monday the 7th.  Ski check in will be outside the building near the tents.

The sale itself is the same as always, Labor Day weekend 2015– that’s Friday September 4th through Monday September 7th.

Store Hours are normal:  9AM to 6PM every day

Show up early!  The line can wrap around the building.  And please be courteous where you choose to park and not block our neighboring businesses (or park in the handicap spaces).

Stay tuned for more news and info! Any updates will be posted here on this blog page.

The Season of Sales- UPDATED

Its that time of year in Tahoe- the season of sales!  When we go, we go big.  Here is your guide at a glance to figure out what is on sale, and for what level of discount.

UPDATE:  All winter clothing is now 60% OFF!

50% OFF

All Recreational Skis / All Rec Bindings with purchase of Ski / All Ski Helmets (with the exception of the POC Orbic Comp) / All Goggles / All Gloves / All Poles / All Ski and Boot Bags / All Race Protection and Speed Suits

UPDATESki boots are now 50% OFF with promo code BOOTS50


20% OFF

All Ski Boots / All Race Skis (marked at the sale price, 20% OFF Race) / All Race Bindings with purchase of a Race Ski (please contact us for best match with race bindings).


Any item currently marked on sale is listed at the sale price.  For 2015 skis and bindings, we can’t list our half off sale online, so feel free to use the promo code SKI50 .
Coupon is good for one pair of bindings per ski.

Stockli recreational skis are not on sale- these models carry over to next season.


Grab your gear now and ski happy people!

The Straight Dope on Ski Boot Liners

The heart of the boot story for the 2015 season has most certainly been advancements in ski boot liners.  Several manufacturers have spent significant research and development on creating liners that do three main things; ski well, fit comfortably out of the box, and resisting packing out (feeling too loose) too quickly.

The result of all the hard work is some interesting technology that is sure to trickle down through lines across the board and dictate design trajectories in the future.  First a short history lesson is in order; in the dark ages of boot design vague shell shapes and inferior liners were the obvious issues with performance and long term fit.  Foam injected liners became the primary solution; if you were a serious skier you had to have a serious liner, and spend some serious coin while you were at it.  Foam injected liners still exist and people still use them, however they are far less popular than in years past.

Stock liners have improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade; an injection molding process has replaced over padding and cutting away a material that is disturbingly similar to the material that is placed under a carpet before instillation.  The injection molded foam has far more anatomical shape than previous materials so it fits out of the box far better and will stand the test of time better than ever.

Two manufacturers, Tecnica and Nordica, are at the forefront of new manufacturing processes and materials for this 2014-15 season.  Tecnica produced a trick liner of a new material they are calling C.A.S. or Custom Adaptive Shape in their new model line the Mach1.  The C.A.S. foam is a dense material that fits well and offers great heel hold and shape, it can also be ground with a dremel or punched by a competent boot fitter if you need customization.   The C.A.S. foam has been such a success it is going to be featured several different models next season, and has really been a homerun in sales, and refits- we’ve seen almost none!

Not to be outdone, Nordica has produced a semi-custom liner using a material that is not at all new to the industry but has a proven track record with hundreds of World Cup victories and Olympic medals to its name.  Cork has been used in World Cup liners for quite some time and is the current standard for the elite level.  The cork is usually mixed with petroleum, which allows it to flow or move to the correct crevices.  On their popular NRGy series Nordica placed cork panels in the ankle and navicular area to give great control over the shell and again, a great fit out of the box.  The cork can be heated up for just a few minutes to dial in the fit of the boot, and has had great result from fitters and owners of the boot.

Liners have come a long way in the last decade; they ski far better and fit better than ever before.  More and more skiers are finding they don’t need to invest three to five hundred dollars in custom liners to get their desired fit and feel, and the breaking in process is less painful than ever.  The next few years I expect more research and development in ski boot liners and would expect more exciting innovation.

Happy Holidays & Happy Snow, from the Start Haus Staff

Wishing you plenty of powder, tons of turns, no lift lines and a happy new year!



Alexis, bootfitting and sales.


Allison, warranty & special orders.


Brady, bootfitter


Collin, ski tuning


Doug, bootfitter


Jim Fowler, sales & ski tester


Greyson, web editor


James, bootfitter


Jared, sales


Jason, bootfitter


Krystal, bootfitter & sales


Phil, sales


Jim Schaffner, owner

And the rest of the crew.

Start Haus Style – Part 2

In this week’s Start Haus Style, we take a look at two high performance outfits from Flylow Gear and Mammut. Flylow is a Tahoe company that blends style and performance – resort functionality with backcountry versatility. Mammut’s long history in alpinism and mountaineering makes for some of the most technically advanced ski clothing at the store.

First up, the Flylow Phoebe Jacket and Flylow Chione Pant.

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Next up, the Mammut Niva 3L Jacket and Mammut Vail Pant.

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Start Haus Style – Part 1

We’re really excited about the new winter clothing in stock at Start Haus for the winter, so we decided to show it off a little bit. In this first instillation of Start Haus Style, we put together two outfits, one from Alp-N-Rock and one from Descente.

First up, we have the Alp-N-Rock Winter Edelweiss Reversible Shirt, Alp-N-Rock Geneva Down Vest and Alp-N-Rock Kitzbuhler Down Skirt:




fashion04w Next, we have the Descente Becca Jacket and Descente Selene Pant:




fashion05w Stay tuned for more Start Haus Style.