Spring is the time of the season that we begin testing skis and boots for the following season. Here are some key reasons why we stress testing now opposed to the summer time:
Snow: When testing products you should test it on a condition that is most similar to what you will be racing on during the season. This all revolves around the feel of the ski or boot. Depending on the condition you will find that there can be differences that will/can eventually add up to a time difference in the course and that can be the separation between you winning or losing.
Tune: Having the ability to test multiple different brands of products with the exact same Start Haus tune. This will result in you being eliminate the tune as being a variable in the test and making it easier for you to feel exactly how the ski feels.
Product: Ultimately you are testing skis or boots to see if you are faster than other brands. When you have the ability to test multiple different skis or boots in one day you are easily able to determine the differences between brands. This is easy because the snow conditions are the same, tune is the same and now the only differences will be product.
These three key elements are all necessary components to an effective test and deciding which brand is the best performing ski or boot for the athlete.
Ski camps will be taking place over the next few weekends through the Squaw Valley Race Program and Sugar Bow Ski Team; both camps will be open to all other programs as well. If you have any inquiries regarding these camps please contact Start Haus at 530.582.5781 or comment here and we will be happy to assist you the best we can.
As some folks may recall, I was on board with the Rossi S7 pretty early. I got a sample pair in the spring before the ski was in general release and then kept it in my quiver for the next two seasons. Initially, I was stunned by the quickness and maneuverability and I found it to be stupid easy to ski in trees and tight spots. Eventually, I skied it a bit more in wider, more open areas and in heavier snow and started to discover a few limitations. The S7 tends to get knocked around a bit in rough conditions and the narrow tail can tend to “wheelie” out from under the skier in a sharp downhill to flat transition. At first, I attributed those issues to the soft tip and tail and the rather abrupt rocker profile. The S7 also skis very short and I suspected that I was slightly undergunned on the 188. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the tapered tip and tail profile also played a part. For all that, the S7 was and is a remarkable tool in untracked snow and in tight areas. As a benefit, the shape and stiff center allows the ski (at least the center potion of it) to rail fairly well on moderately firm packed conditions. During this time period, I also had a conventional cambered Huge Trouble and later the minimally rockered version of the Huge. On many powder days, I found myself starting the day on the S7 but eventually, going back to the car for the less nimble, but more stable Dynastars.
All along, I wanted to combine the attributes of the two skis but never really found the exact answer I was looking for. When the Rossignol Super 7 came out, I tried that and it was a little more stable but really wasn’t the whole answer. I liked all these skis a lot and had a great time on them but was always wondering about tip deflection in crud and that “wheelie” thing. I have heard others complain about tip flappage at higher speeds on packed conditions and it’s true enough that these various S7 models can give you a fair bit of that. Honestly, that never bothered me a whole lot as I don’t care a ton about that within the context of what these skis are really for.
Eventually, I decided to replace the S7 but this is a ski category that I personally don’t use all that often and hence, I don’t replace them at the drop of the hat. As time went on, I tested a lot of other 110+ skis, had a great time on most of them and never felt deprived when I went out on a deep snow day. Nevertheless, I really never found one that I wanted to buy for myself until the latter part of the spring 2011 testing season. That was when I first tested the Nordica Patron and Unleashed Hell.
The 2011-12 Nordicas:
For the 2011-12 season, Nordica introduced these two powder skis that were made with the same dimensions but different constructions and graphics. The Patron is the flagship for the freeride market and is built with a conventional wood core and “scary Gaucho” graphics. The Unleashed is billed as a sidecountry /alpine model and has a light isocore stringer down the center of the core and a more adult oriented graphic. Both skis share the same shape and rocker profile which is a conventional low cambered center section with moderate tip and tail rocker sections and a moderate amount of rise at both extremities. The flex is very similar between the two versions and is relatively soft in the tip and tail with a firmer center section. The flex seems somewhat firmer in the 193 length vs. the 185.
When I first got on the Patron it was at Mammoth last year the conditions were not ideal for powder ski testing. There was a little wind blown new snow that had filled in over an older base that created pockets of soft snow between 8-12” interspersed with areas of wind packed powder and the older, rough base. Some of the groomers had good firm winter conditions. I skied a lot of new models of bigger skis that day and the S7 was still as good as any although there were some that minimized the tip deflection issue to an extent. Unfortunately some of those had no cambered section at all and that just doesn’t fit my preferences. The first of the Nordicas that took out was the Patron in 193 and as I made a long high speed traverse to get to my first off trail pass I noticed that it didn’t have the “greasy” feel underfoot of the non cambered skis. When I cut into the moderately steep face under chair 1 the tip of the Patron felt more solid than expected given the softish flex. Rolling into the first set of short to medium turns in the heavily mixed snow, the tip felt engaged and positive and the ski was very nimble for a 193. Near the bottom of the first pitch, I cut hard left into a long traverse that gave me some more vert as the hill fell away to the left. The second pass on this face was made in longer faster turns and the area was a little more scratchy in between the pockets of soft. The Patron again felt very stable and comfortable but was playful enough for me to bank it off of a sidehill at speed and back into the choppy stuff. When the terrain spit me back out onto the groomers I stopped for a moment to reflect. On this sidehill of rough snow mixed with soft pockets, the Patron had felt more seamless than the skis with abrupt rocker profiles and more solid underfoot than the skis with no camber. I was very danged impressed. On the run back to the bottom of chair 1 and then back across the area to the bottom of chair 2, I was able to test the Patron’s manners on the groomers. In all kinds of turn shapes, the Patron felt “longer” than the S7 and I attribute this to the wider tip and tail profiles. On a tip shape like the Patron, you can get enough engagement to quiet the ski down and minimize the flappage and that’s just not something you generally get with a ski that carries a lot of reverse taper at the extremeties.
There weren’t a lot of these skis available for long term testing last year and the few times that I had one at hand, the conditions weren’t right. I finally had a ski on hand at the right time for some deep snow late in the Epic 2011 season. This time around, I happened to have a 185 Unleashed at hand on a snowy day in March with 18” down overnight at Alpine Meadows. My typical test route at Alpine is to ride the Summit chair and hit the various shots off of peril ridge then traverse into the lower half of Sympathy face, followed by a long traverse out to Gunner’s knob near the bottom. This path usually gives me a variety of pitches and exposures and usually holds good snow a bit longer than the more popular routes off the top. The Unleashed in 185 was really nimble and light feeling and felt just as floaty in the deeper snow and just as quick in tight spots as my 188 S7’s had. The difference was that the Unleashed felt more solid in the tip in the choppy spots and in abrupt transitions, the “wheelie” tendency was gone. This day sort of coalesced my supposition that the radically tapered tail of the Rossi was one of the bigger factors in the wheelie issue. The Unleashed/Patron don’t have that taper and while they really aren’t any stiffer, the tail is more stable. This day was the deciding factor that caused me to go for an Unleashed for the 2012 season as I had finally found a ski that was as much fun as the S7 but was more versatile on soft groomers and less prone to the tip deflection and wheelie issues. Since the Unleashed and Patron had felt nearly identical, I chose the Unleashed due to the more sedate Graphics.
Enter the 2012 season……………and no snow.
So along comes late November and the 2012 ski season. The gear corner in my place has a fresh pair of Bonafides, a Hell and Back and my new Unleashed Hell in 185. And there they stayed. There was so little snow that the 98-113mm skis were just not getting any use at all and the Unleashed wasn’t even mounted. Then came Christmas and then New Years……and my own skis sat. Off I went to SIA at the end of January and I was testing 2013’s……and my skis were sitting gathering dust. I’d gotten the chance to see the 2013 Nordica collection in early fall and among other things, they were showing another new powder ski. This new model was to be called the Helldorado and it took the Enforcer build (wood/metal) and put it in the Patron/Unleashed mold. When we got to SIA, we got to get the whole story and see finished skis. The first thing I noticed was that the Helldorado was not as stiff nor as heavy as I thought it would be. The final graphic which is a semi matte black with sublimated tone on tone was very cool and pretty bad-azz looking. During our meetings in Denver Willy, Booker, (les grandes Fromagge at Nordica) arranged to send us a couple of pairs of Helldorados for a long term test as soon as possible.
The Helldorado shows it’s stuff:
Welllllllso…………….we got back from SIA and immediately jumped into ski testing mode. Given the conditions, we were sorta distracted by the new FA 84 EDT and skis of that ilk and we forgot about the Helldo for a while. When they showed up, we immediately mounted up the 185 and 193 and got them prepped so that we could get them out as soon as conditions permitted. And then finally it snowed, and snowed, and then snowed some more. All through this miracle March and into early April, I’ve been able to back to back with the Nordica Helldorado and the Unleashed in 185 as well as some other skis in this range. I still liked the Unleashed better than I had my S7’s but I found that in some cases, I liked the Helldo even better. The differences are subtle but the Helldorado is simply more damp and stable than the Patron/Unleashed without sacrificing much in the maneuverability capability. In really tight spots, the Unleashed is quicker and more nimble especially at slower speeds. On the other hand, once the snow gets heavied out, the Helldo plows through the crud and feels more stable in rough stuff like slide debris. The Unleashed/Patron are more in the realm of “powder” skis while the Helldorado edges into the “Big Mountain” category. This distinction bears on the stability factor and the ability of the Helldorado to hammer rough conditions that would bounce lesser skis around.
Nordica does a remarkable job with this wood metal layup in skis like the Enforcer and this new Helldorado. While many metal bearing skis are really too stiff to be truly versatile in mixed snow, the Nordicas tend to hit that balance that I always talk about. Both the Helldo and our long favored Enforcer have the benefits of dampening and stability without being so planky that they just don’t flex in deep snow. They also seem to have hit a great mix of rocker and cambered sections giving the skier a solid feel underfoot along with the ease that you’d hope for. One other factor that seems to bear on the stability of the Helldorado is the rocker profile in the tip. The rise on the rockered section is subtley lower than on the Patron/Unleashed which in turn are both lower than the S7 (see the pic above). I think this allows the Nordicas to stay engaged better and hence have more stability while not giving up much of that ultra-short feel that some other skis exhibit. For the tight tree slicer and dicer, or the skier looking for a medium speed powder ski, I’d still pick the Patron/Unleashed. For the skier that wanted that light feel but a higher stability factor, I’d suggest those two in the 193 length. For the higher powered skier, and/or heavier snow in the west, the Helldorado gets the nod.
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.”
Skiing man-made snow is a far cry from those fluffy powder days that we dream about. But skiing firm man-made conditions can be fun too, especially when it’s the only snow around. The first thing you need is a good tune. Sharp edges and a smooth waxed base go a long way in these conditions. In order to take advantage of those sharp edges you gotta tip those skis over. Tipping action originates in the feet and ankles and then moves up the body to include the knees and hips – in that order. Practice rolling your feet and ankles side to side while standing in place, start mellow with just your feet and ankles, then work your way up the body. Next try gliding and tipping the ski side to side by initiating the movement pattern with the feet and ankles. The next move is to take the hill at a diagonal and practice rolling your feet down hill and back up hill as you go across the hill. Once you get comfortable with this move, try tipping the ski through a complete turn. If you ride the side cut of the ski without offering any guidance to turn shape from the legs, you are in for a very fast ride (depending on the radius of your ski). Tipping of the feet, legs and hips must be done in conjunction with guidance from the legs as to the designated arc path that the skis should follow. Good carving skills will give you more purchase on the slick man made snow surface.
Dynastar has been a major player in the race world with many Olympic and World Championship medals as well as World Cup titles in their long history. This racing pedigree really shows in the Dynastar Speed Course TI. The Course TI wears race graphics, carries a racing binding plate, and shares the wood/metal construction characteristics of the World Cup skis. Despite this, it is in fact a pretty different animal than a pure race ski. A wider waist width and rounded tail are the first visual clues that this is not just another race ski. The Course TI has a tight 15m turn radius in the 171 size and it is available in sizes as short as a 159 and as long as 183. This is a very good dual event race ski for non-FIS level competitors and also makes a great “cheater” GS ski for Masters racers. The Speed Course TI is even more than this though. This is a very good ski for someone that doesn’t race at all and is looking for a hard snow biased ski for everyday use.
The first runs I took on the Dynastar Course TI was at Winter Park during the annual SIA intro. The main test run there is an FIS homologated GS trail and has very hard snow most of the time. The upper part of the run is relatively narrow and has a moderate pitch. I used this part of the trail to vary turn shapes between short medium and long radius and then back again. The tapered tail released much more easily than the grippy, squared off tails that you find on real race skis these days. Through this exercise the Course felt amazingly comfortable and compliant through changing turn shapes and the turn release was energetic but manageable. As the trail got steeper it also gets wider and in this section of the trail, I opened up the turn radius and picked up the speeds. While the Course TI is easy enough at slower speeds, it really stands out when skied aggressively. The grip was like a razor even on the spots that were scraped off and shiny and the dampening was on par with a World Cup GS ski. The tighter turn radius kept the ski from running out at the turn finish the way a GS race ski would and when I took it out to the edges of the trail it managed the soft crud very well. For the skier or instructor/coach looking for a hard snow specialty ski, it doesn’t get much better or more versatile than the Speed Course Ti.
Parents often wonder what their role becomes when preparation for the race season is over and the competition season begins. New research published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, investigates the athletes perspective on their parents behavior during competition. Competitive youth (age 12-15) tennis players were studied and although different from ski racing, the information has validity due to the ever present parent/athlete relationship in all youth sports. The findings are described below in order to guide parents to better understand what they can do help their child during the competition season.
Parents should focus on supporting the athlete’s involvement in the sport rather than the outcome of the competition. You want to give them support not put pressure on them . By focusing on the outcome(aka winning) the athlete may become nervous and their performance may decrease. In turn, this could make it even harder for them to focus on their next run or race.
Athletes don’t value technical or tactical tips from their parents if the parents have limited knowledge of the sport. Your athlete knows you are truing to help them but sometimes it just confuses the, causing lack of confidence in their own ability.
Athletes prefer feedback regarding effort and attitude. Athletes are aware when they don’t have their best race don’t need to be reminded by their parents that it was not their best.
Athletes notice when the tone of a parent’s voice does not match the comments made, or the body language. This may make the athlete feel under pressure and become distracted. By staying relaxed and showing support to your athlete they will relax and most likely their performance will improve.
Athletes expressed the need, and like when their parents provide practical support. Parents can help “prepare and recover” for their next race.
The relations between athlete and parent is always complex and the above findings are only a few suggestions to help athletes reach their potential. The most productive way to understand your athlete’s likes and dislikes during the race season is to simply talk about it. Ask your athlete about what helps them have the most confidence and have fun. By Helping them to achieve these two things the will be on their way to finding their potential!
Knight, C. J., Boden, C. M., & Holt, N.L. (2009) Junior Tennis Player’s Preferences for Parental Behaviors. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, 377-391.
It is important to maintain a centered stance over your skis to work the skis effectively. While standing on your skis on flat terrain, try moving your body forward and backward over the skis by using the ankle joint as hinge. This is how we want to re-center our center of mass over the skis. The goal is to maintain a perpendicular relationship of body to the skis. When approaching steep pitches it is natural to move your weight back because you are hesitant and maybe a little nervous. Unfortunately when this happens, you lose the ability to direct and work the ski effectively. You may find that you are suddenly going faster than you want and may be heading out of control. When skiing steeper pitches, concentrate on keeping your body perpendicular to the hill by hinging the body forward through the ankle joint, especially at the start of the turn. This will help to apply pressure on the front of your boots with your shins. The pressure on the front of your boots is conveyed to the tips or your skis and will allow you to control your skis with more precision. Skis are designed to perform best when strong forward pressure is applied to start the turn. It is amazingly easy to adjust the radius of your turns if your weight is centered over the skis. Don’t hesitate when you hit the steeps – be assertive, move your body down the hill and have fun.
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……..
Isn’t safety the #1 concern for all of us when it comes to skiing and riding in the slackcountry, sidecountry, or backcountry? True to NASTC standards, our avalanche instructors are of the highest quality, professionalism, and experience level. This is a 3-day education and certification class in which you earn your AIARE Level I (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education). It’s the minimum amount of know-how if you want to travel, ski, or ride out of bounds safely. There is time spent in the classroom and on the snow daily. Each year more resorts are lifting their boundary lines, allowing us to get to fresh snow and exciting terrain even after the resort itself is “skied out.”
However, the risk has never been greater. You need to know what you’re doing if you are heading out there. A friend may say, “oh I know some avalanche safety stuff…” but really? Do you want to rely on them, or have the knowledge yourself? In this course, among other skills you learn how to plan a trip, what are the “red flags,” how to recognize different types of avalanche terrain and avalanches, how to perform certain observations and snow safety tests, route finding and terrain management, and how to use your beacon.
So often accidents occur not as the result of one bad decision, but several. These human decision-making errors can be avoided. The snow science around avalanche education is truly fascinating, and the Level I curriculum has come a long way. The risk has never been greater, everyone is pushing the envelope. Get certified. You’ll enjoy it and be safer.
Dates for the NASTC AIARE Level I courses:
January 21-23 or February 11-13 $425 (includes instruction, AIARE fees, course manual and field notebook)
As director of the North American Ski Training Center and father of three active kids, I don’t have large chunks of time to spend in the gym. However my skiing performance and fitness is important to me. I’m guessing that’s the way you feel as a passionate skier too?
By staying healthy and fit throughout the season, I can provide my clients with solid skiing instruction and demonstrations and I can keep the wheels from coming off the cart mid-season due to overuse injuries, bad alignment, or illness due to lack of recovery time. Don’t forget well-fit boots and the right skis in your quiver complete the perfect relationship: good fitness, good equipment, and good technique = lots of fun, excellent skiing and reduced risk of injury. Thanks in advance for reading.
The following tips keep me moving athletically throughout the ski season and help prevent injury.
Exercise fads come and go. Make a commitment to keep fit and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
Posture, good or bad, can effect your athleticism. Pay attention to your sitting, standing, walking and exercising posture. Poor posture will result in poor performance; good posture will help you perform like a top athlete.
Focus on a strong core for stability and flexible hips for skiing mobility. Limited range of movement and weak core muscles can over-stress connective tissue. This will limit your performance and body durability.
In the winter, cold weather tells your body to pack on fat for survival. Don’t let it go too far. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits and don’t overdo the high carb foods. Diabetes runs in my family and I’ve seen the damaging effects of the disease. From a young age I have tried to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
The biggest technological breakthroughs in sports in the next decade will include advancements in human performance through food. This will come in the form of body enhancement foods or super foods. Like the tobacco industry 15 years ago, the food industry will be under the microscope over the next 20 years and will be expected to clean up its act. Athletes are ahead of the game and are adjusting their diets to exclude starches, sugars, industrial additives, pesticides and dyes. Athletes’ diets are rich in nutrients and proteins, like raw locally grown fruits and vegetables, nut, whole grains, yogurt and smaller portions of meat.
Change up your work out intensity. Mix up your high intensity days with low intensity days and don’t skimp on sleep for total body recovery.
Ski athletes focus on total body work outs. The best weight training program for ski athletes is NOT the muscle specific routines of bodybuilders, but instead sessions that work out the whole body.
Keep your aerobic engine active throughout the winter. You aerobic levels will slowly dwindle if you forget to get a run in, go for a cross-country ski or backcountry climb regularly. Your aerobic fitness is the furnace that fires your athletic abilities, without it you are running on fumes.
When crunched for time, up the intensity of your work out. Skip rope fast for ten minutes or do 100 split squats for a personal best time. High intensity workouts will force the issue and teach your body to adjust to high power output. Skiing is high power output.
Energize yourself with the youth! Work out with people younger than you. My kids force me out of my comfort zone. “Daddy try this trick on the tramp”, or “Dad, race me to that pole and shimmy to the top, let’s see who wins”. Younger partners will make you rise to a higher level of performance.
Most importantly, remember to have fun with your workouts. This is the single largest indicator that you will continue them regularly throughout the ski season and off-season.