Saturday, April 24, 2010

skiing: Elite Feet perfecting boots

The Nordica Dobermans I got 5 years ago at Elite Feet still fit well. The foot crushing soon relaxed into a snug fit. But two problems:
  • the sloppy Italians used a velcro™ knockoff for the power strap at the topthat simply doesn't velk — the straps break loose while skiing and slide apart when I carry the boots
  • water gets into the shell and after a few hours of skiing I can feel dampness in the liner
Nordica Doberman with BOOSTER strap and duct tapeI know Cosmo's Footwerks makes beefy power straps but I wanted to stay with Elite Feet who have adjusted and repaired the boots a few times over the years, always for free. I went in mid-week while Christian was around (Elite Feet is busy with a second shop at Northstar) and he replaced Nordica's joke straps with BOOSTER straps. These have a huge vibration-damping pad in front and a solid metal cam closure that locks in tight.

As for the water intrusion, I used the awesome power of duct tape and it's made some improvement. Nordica inexplicably cut a notch into the shell near the first buckle.

Meanwhile a Shred Betty had some problems angulating and engaging her inside ski's outside edge in her Nordica boots. Legendary instructor Tim Reeve recommended Start Haus to her boots and possible canting. But instead of working with the boots she brought, the boot fitter said they were too loose and tried to put her in Dobermans. Rule 1: if someone tries to put you in a tighter boot, they're showing off their boot-fitting prowess above listening to your needs. Instead, Christian at Elite Feet suggested removing her liners, allowing them to swell up and reverse some of the "packing out" that compresses the liner over the years. He tested her for canting using Elite Feet's complex mechanical rig (much better than a plumb bob from the knee, and shaved her boots down, inserting the special red shims in the photo and planing the boots so they engage with bindings.Nordica boots with Elite Feet canting shims
I was hoping a gross misalignment would explain my blown turns to the right with my left ski railing instead of engaging a turn, but no such luck; Christian tested me on the rig and I'm true.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

snow: best piece of gear ever

On a scale of 1 to 10, my baby's a 26
(CHIC, "26").

Arc'teryx Theta SK high-waisted pantsThe XScream had more impact, my whip-thin Scott Limited poles have yet to be equalled, but these Arc'teryx bib pants are hands-down the best winter equipment I've ever owned. I've skied, snowboarded, and hiked in these for 8 years and they're flawless. Zero color fade, everything elastic is still elastic, no damage whatsoever. Even the parts you think would break like this slim velcro closure and exposed snap are immaculate. The famed Arc'teryx surface zippers can't snag on fabric, unlike other zippers.
no defects and barely any wear after 8 years

And the design is perfect. Although there's no insulation, the high-waist design traps heat from your core. (S pities the fools in their low-slung pants, because every time they bend at the waist they pump that core heat into the jacket and out into the cold. Keep it inside.) The stretchy material at the back feels great. The articulation at the knees and the curve of the legs is perfect.

I believe Arc'teryx is still selling these, almost unchanged, as the Theta SK Pant.

And they're made in Vancouver, BC. Go Canada! ("It's not even a real country anyway")

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 4, 2007

skiing: replacing an icon

ripped out edge of Salomon XScreamnicked top edge of Salomon XScreamIn mid-December I skied slightly off to the side of KT22 and hit a rock that not only gouged my base but ripped three inches of the metal edge off. It would cost at least $100 to fix, not worth it for such beat-up skis. Having already replaced my unloved Völkl G41 Vertigo powder skis with ex-demo K2 Apache Chiefs at the end of last season, I was not looking forward to more demoing. As I recounted, in the past I've found nothing that comes close to the XScream Séries.

But this season turned out to have an abundance of riches. I needed an expert ski that could ski everything but powder (and no need for skiing backwards or in the park), with the wrinkle that I love short-radius turns and moguls as well as carving. "All Mountain Expert with emphasis on short turns" is a huge range to cover.

The Völkl AC3
I was dubious on my demo loop, but gave it another run and started to enjoy it. A really tall ski with lots of wood running along the edges, so there's a lot of stiffness in front of your foot. Yet it felt lively and fun and willing to make all kinds of turn shapes. Its big downside is not much radius, so you tip it into a carve and it doesn't turn much. You have to load it up to do a tight carve.
Völkl Allstar
More of a carving ski, this helps you turn and will do a lovely carve. It didn't feel as solid in crud but it's got such a nice turn initiation that you feel confident in bad conditions. Fast into the turn, fast through the turn, but not a lot of acceleration.
Atomic Metron 9
Incredibly lively, with a grabby tip that just digs in, turns sharply, then pops you off into the next turn. Great edge grip on ice. This was a lot of fun but I was dubious about versatility.

Volkl AC3 skiAll three are fine at short-radius turns, though they reward different techniques. You tilt the Metron 9 on edge and the fat tip just digs in and starts turning, the rest of the ski bends into a curve, and if you don't screw up, sharp turns happen; you feel like you're standing at the center of springy rubber bands. You scoop the Allstar tip into a turn and then ride the entire edge through the turn. You guide the solid front of the AC3 into a turn with a combination of tipping and steering, and modulate both throughout the turn. The reviews got it partly right, the AC3 is a fine crusing ski, but you can take it out of that comfort zone and have fun with it. And that ease let me ride it long, in 177 cm instead of 167-172 with some other skis. (I remember when 204 cm was considered short.) I bought the AC3!

The also-rans:
Nordica Nitrous
Easy turning, but too slow
Nordica Top Fuel
Same geometry as the Nitrous but extra metal. That made it stiffer, but no livelier. However, once locked into the one turn shape it wants to make, it's very stable.
Atomic Metron 11
It seems like a great idea to make a ski that's less a hardcore turner than the 9, but this just felt slower and less alive without any great payoff in versatility.

The ones that got away: I really wanted to try the Salomon Tornado which got higher marks than the AC3 in every category in the ski magazine reviews, but couldn't find a pair to demo. Everyone raved about the AC4 and those ski magazine reviews rated it better than the AC3 (I bet next year they come out with an AC5), but I assumed fatter meant less good at short turns. Maybe a Völkl RaceTiger would be a meatier version of the Allstar. I heard good things about the K2 Apache Recon, but just ran out of time and energy to continue demoing. I never got to the Fischer and Head lines, and Blizzard, Elan, etc. are rare on the West coast.

Kudos to John, Dennis, and Cory at Squaw Valley Sport Shop for letting me take demo skis out in low snow conditions with rocks a plenty. Granite Chief and the Gold Coast demo center would not let me demo skis, though to be fair a guy at the demo center pointed to a rack full of damaged demo skis.

Categories: , , ,

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

skiing: hick nicks ripped sticks

hacked-up Volkl G41 and Salomon XScream Séries skisHere are my skis: fat-ish 188cm Volkl G41's from about 2000 and the legendary mid-fat Salomon XScream Séries in one of their weird power ratings from 1998. As you can see I continue to shred the living daylights out of my right ski, which means both need replacing. The XScream seems to take the abuse well, but the Volkl wood core is exposed to moisture and that's not good.

I have a hate-hate-love relationship with the Volkls. They're fast and they work in powder and crud, but they need a lot of manhandling to turn. I have to ride them for two days before I start to enjoy them. I was suckered into buying them by the petite salesperson at Granite Chief who claimed to ride this length in all conditions. I should have got shorter skis or held out for Salomon's All Mountain skis.

The Salomon XScream Séries is just great in any conditions less than 6 inches of powder or major crud. Bumps, carving, speed, short-radius, long-radius, chopped, ice, anything! They're fairly soft but still respond to aggressive moves. I was very dubious about the Prolink bars you can see in the picture — why not make the ski thicker? — until I saw race stock Salomon downhill skis with three sets of these.

I'm sure I would be happier on several powder skis than the G41's, but I spent 2000-2005 demoing replacements for the XScreams and never found a ski as versatile and unfailingly excellent. Besides, until I stop scissoring my left ski into my right and tearing its top edge to shreds, I don't want to subject new skis to the same abuse. Time to go second-hand.

Categories: , , ,

Labels: , , ,

skiing: Salomon's missteps since the XScream

The Salomon XScream Séries from 1997 had more impact than any other ski in the last 20 years. Although Elan came up with super sidecut "parabolic" skis several years earlier, it was the XScream that convinced tens of thousands of skiers to abandon their long skinny skis (in my case, Fischer Vacuum SL 204cm's) for shaped skis. The Rossignol Bandit XX was also influential (back in 1998 it was hard for me to choose between them) but Rossi confused the issue by selling the thinner Bandit X; the K2 Four was another great mid-fat ski from that time but it didn't have any extreme cachet.

The yellow XScream was so stupidly popular that intermediates who couldn't handle the stiff-ish tail were demanding "XScream thingys with double Prolink bars", so Salomon made all kinds of other XScream models. Meanwhile other manufacturers had to come out with yellow skis.

Salomon stopped selling the XScream Séries model a few years ago, mainly I believe because the awful pun on the tired "Extreme" craze embarrassed someone in marketing. But Salomon have yet to make a proper replacement! First they came out with the integrated Pilot binding which dulled response, then they dropped the 'X' and the Prolink bars to make some beefy "Scream" ski that didn't do much except for an "Xtra Hot" model with a chili pepper graphic (so they're embarrassed by an xscream pun but not by sizzling hot jokes?). The closest ski to the XScream was the Crossmax 10 with super! ugly! graphics, but Salomon stopped selling that model. This year they made an 'S' Hot model that was pretty solid, but for next season they're replacing it with an XWing model and replacing the Pilot binding with a rail binding.

Around 1999 Salomon also came out with the fine Pocket Rocket, one of the first and best skis for all-mountain "ripping on planks tilted on edge", and the 1080 twin-tipped park ski. Salomon were deservedly the most dominant manufacturer. But they dropped the Pocket Rocket and replaced it with a new "GUN" name, and the 1080 is now an illegible "FOIL" model ("FILTY"? FTL"?).

Salomon are truly the masters of destroying their own brand equity by destructively renaming and replacing trusted model names.

Categories: , ,

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 5, 2005

snow: New Boots not Panties

(Old Ian Dury and the Blockheads album title)

After 6 years I got new ski boots. Back in 1998 after a disastrous experience with Lange in another store, Christian and Rob at Elite Feet put me in the yellow Head M102 boots with custom foam liners and custom footbeds , and I couldn't imagine anything better. But the boots were getting worn.

I was confident I'd get another pair of Heads, but they convinced me to go for the "hot" boot du jour, the Nordica Doberman. This thing is so low-tech and old-skool it's a wonder you don't lace it up. But it has a great lining and straight from of the box felt suspiciously comfortable in all my trouble spots. I would much rather be in an uncool boot like the Nordica Bichon Frise or Nordia Chihuahua, but what can you do.

Of course I found a new trouble spot: the boots are trying to crush the top of my instep to dust.

Christian and Rob are awesome, the best boot fitters in Lake Tahoe. (Well, maybe "Gunnar" of Granite Chief is great, but with multiple stores to run he's not always around.)

Categories: , ,

Labels: , ,