Mattias and Micah Evangelista are some of the only true Mt. Baker locals. They ski circles around most people and yet neither of them are old enough to buy a beer - in fact only one of them is old enough to vote. That being said, they are rightfully taking their place amongst the other sibling powerhouses of the industry. I had a chance to talk w/ Mattias recently about their film project “North Cascades Productions”, where they came from, and where they are going.
How long have you been skiing and who taught you?
I was first in on the hill at one week old. My dad took me up in his jacket and skied around with me all day. He carried me in a backpack until I was on snow on my own at two. My dad taught me to ski. We would go up every week and he would ski around with me between his legs, then on a leash, and finally he would follow behind me. My parents are definitely one of the biggest reasons why I’m where I am today.
Who’s in your NCP crew?
It’s a pretty small crew really. Usually it will be just Micah and I, with our friend Dylan Hallett shooting photos. Our good friend Conlon Kiffney also helps us out quite a bit, both behind and in front of the lens. The four of us are the main crew. Our friends Doug and Sadie, along with a few others, will come out pretty frequently too. When the snow is good it’s not uncommon for our buddies Eliel Hindert and Essex Prescott to come down from Whistler, or the homies from Dubstach Collective to come and shred for a few days.
For an area known for hardcore locals, it seems many of the most vocal locals moved herefrom somewhere else. Along with the DeBaris, you’re some of the only TRUE Baker locals. What do you think about everyone moving to your home turf and claiming local status? Is it “the more the merrier” or “GO HOME” or something in between?
That’s a tough question for me to answer without sounding like a total asshole. I would say it’s a mix of both, but sometimes I definitely lean toward the “Go back to Jackson” mentality. I’m pretty jaded so I’m never stoked to see some bro from Tahoe tracking out one of my lines and then bragging about how sick Baker is later that night in Chair 9. But, I try not to get too annoyed because I know everyone loves skiing and is just having fun. I do more than anyone to advertise Baker so I can’t really be too bummed when more and more people start showing up. In the end it’s really not that big a deal and I’m just happy to be in the mountains having fun.
When did NCP start? Whose idea was it and what was the reason behind it?
It stared in 2010 so, about three years ago. I guess the reason for it was to create a way for us to showcase our skiing to the public. We didn’t really have a plan or expectations, but both knew we liked skiing and filmmaking so putting the two together seemed like a no brainer. Basically it just started as something we did because we loved it.
There’s no park at Mt. Baker. How do you guys learn all those tricks?
It’s kinda cliché to say, but Baker really is one big terrain park. With so many fun natural jumps and drops there are plenty of opportunity to get in the air.
Who are your main influences as far as skiing and filming? The guys at Nimbus are huge. Growing up, and still today they are probably my favorite crew out there. I try and emulate their style both with filming and skiing. Along with Nimbus, Jeff Thomas is someone who I really look up to and respect in the film world. Everything he does is so creative and unique it’s really inspiring. Every time I see a Salomon Freeski TV episode it almost makes we wish I rode for Salomon just so I could go out and shoot more with Jeff. The guys at Sweetgrass are also a huge inspiration. Valhalla changed the way I view skiing and filming. One of my goals as an athlete is to film a segment with those guys.
When you’re out shooting, do you have a predetermined plan of attack or do you take a more organic “see what happens” approach?
A little of both. This year we are trying to be more planned and organized just so we can maximize our time and be as efficient as possible. Still, there are days where we just ski all day with the camera pack, shooting whatever looks good or fun. I think the combination of the two makes for good edits. High level production is only half of the skiing story, the most authentic moments are those when the camera isn’t the focus and I think capturing that really adds to a film.
Do you have any interest in competing? Freeride World Tour or Dew Tour or anything of that nature.
Not really. That’s just not a style of skiing that I enjoy. I have the utmost respect for the guys that do those events year round; I just don’t really think it’s for me. I’d rather focus more on style, fun, and creativity then hucking onto hardpack. Finding sponsors that support that has been huge, and I’m super grateful to work with companies supporting that vision. That being said, I really like some of the events Red Bull has been putting on over the past few years. If I ever got the chance to do Cold Rush or Linecatcher I would be stoked!
Is there any sibling rivalry between you guys? Mattias, how does it feel to have your younger brother get the first cover between you two?
I would be lying if I said there wasn’t, but I like to think we’re pretty positive and supportive of each other most of the time. Micah getting that cover was huge and I was nothing but stoked for him! That’s not something I get upset about at all, I’m just happy to see my brother succeed. I know my time will come, and I’ve had more shots published in magazine galleries than him…but who’s keeping track ;)
Any trips you have planned for this year? Any places on your dream tick list?
Nothing too crazy. Trying to put a Japan trip together at the end of January, and hoping to spend quite a bit of time in Nelson, but who knows. Traveling isn’t something that I get too hung up on. If can get out and explore that’s great! If not then I’ll be at home skiing pow which is just as good. I’d love to get up to AK and travel through Europe at some point, hopefully those trips could happen in the near future.
What were some highlights from last season?
For me, the highlight of last year was an early season storm in December. It ended up snowing so much they had to close to road because trees were falling due to the weight of the snow. It also made for the best skiing of the year. There were a few days were it was just Micah and I filming the deepest snow ever in the trees. Those are the days I live for. When it’s so calm, quite and deep; skinning for every run and just having so much fun.
Any shout outs or people you would like to thank?
First and foremost, thanks to my parents, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today if it wasn’t for them. Thanks to the crew: Micah, Dylan Hallett, and Conlon Kiffney. Thanks to the Mount Baker Ski Area. Thanks to Grant Gunderson. Grant is the man and has been such a big help in my career. I really can’t thank him enough for all he’s done. Big thanks to all my sponsors: Volkl, Marker, TREW, evo, Scott, POW Gloves, Backcountry Access, Arcade Belts and Disidual. You guys rule!
You can check out videos from North Cascades Productions at their Vimeo and Facebook pages:
For the past three years I’ve spent a good portion of the month of January in Japan, and every year I’ve experienced the best snow of my life. Last year we brought filmmaker John Trousdale of Animas Media/The Ski Channel to document our experience in Myoko and this is what he came up with. I hope you enjoy!
We arrived in Bariloche the day before. The “pinche puelche” (fuckin’ wind) shut us down at Volcan Villarica in Pucon for the last couple of days. Crossing the pass to Argentina Volcan Lanin, the tallest volcano in the Lakes Region, greeted us and marked the transition zone between the lush temperate forests of Chile and the vast, dry steppes of Argentine Patagonia. Our first day at Cerro Catedral was a stellar bluebird day with afternoon spring corn skiing. Despite the lower mountain lacking snow there was certainly no shortage on the upper slopes.
September 19, 2013:
A greybird day settled in this morning and the forecast called for afternoon snow showers. Unexpectedly that evening while toasting Ullr with Fernet libations snow began to fall all the way to the lake level. I’d been told Bariloche was particularly cold this winter and to receive snow all the way into town and coat the shores of Nahuel Huapi I knew we were in for a late season treat.
September 20, 2013:
ULLR delivers!!!! The upper mountain of Cerro Catedral received between 20-30 cm of especially dry Patagonian powder. All the surrounding mountains also got a healthy covering. The last storm of the 2013 South American winter came at a very opportune time for me and my compadres. Once we got to Catedral we headed directly for the top of the Nubes lift which was closed all morning. I love it when this lift is closed on powder mornings. It means you can get several 20 minute hikes in before the masses shralp one of Catedral’s premier faces. We took full advantage of their slow opening and only had to share this terrain with a handful of other hikers. When the lift finally opened at 2 pm we’d already skied our favorite lines untouched.
September 21, 2013:
We road tripped around Lago Nahuel Huapi to the small, boutique ski center Cerro Bayo, outside the village of Villa la Angostura. Wanting to skip the weekend crowds and unruly lift cues at Catedral, Cerro Bayo is a great escape from the madness. About an hour and fifteen minutes from Bariloche, Cerro Bayo is a small center with incredible views of Lago Nahuel Huapi and its hidden bays and densely forested peninsulas. This was the first year Cerro Bayo installed gondolas both at the base of the mountain and one all the way to the summit. Yesterday the summit gondola was closed and there were only a handful of tracks on its face when we arrived. Honestly I was a bigger fan of the hike to the summit as it preserved Bayo’s best terrain for those who wanted to earn it, but today I was grateful for being able to take multiple rides and still have untracked playgrounds just a short tour from the ridge line. The touring possibilities at Cerro Bayo abound. A pair of skins can take you to great places like the Black Box which is about an hour and a half tour from the top. I decided to stay closer and milk the Bayo slack country skiing an untouched face multiple times while only requiring a 15 minute tour back into the resort. What a great day to welcome spring in the Andes!!
September 22, 2013:
Cat-Skiing at Baguales. Argentina’s newest cat-ski operation at Baguales Mountain Reserve is a privately owned 14,000 hectare (Yes that is 34,500 acres) snowy playground. The name Baguales is an Argentine word for a wild cow that roams the hills and grasslands of Patagonia. Located deep in the Patagonian Andes about an hour and a half south of Bariloche we navigated a few significant river crossings in 4x4 trucks before arriving at Baguales’ summer lodge, a very sophisticated lodge complete with pool table and 4 very comfortable bedrooms. From here we continued a short way in the trucks before switching to snow machines for the last couple of kilometers to Baguales’ very sophisticated mountain refugio. We were greeted here with excellent coffee, fresh croissants and raspberry jam while Pao, the Ullr inspired bearded guide, gave our safety briefing and day’s mission. The mountain refugio also has 4 very comfortable bedrooms where guests can base themselves for multiple day adventures. The new piston bully snowcat toured our group of 10 throughout the mountain preserve. While many of the runs were not exceptionally long the amount of skiing our group did satiated all our powder desires. Being able to cover so much ground and ski such a variety of terrain makes Baguales an ideal snowcat operation. Still relishing the last storm of the winter’s gift we tracked a wide range of Baguales’ snow playground. We made it back to the refugio in the late afternoon spring glow and were treated with delicious apres snacks and of course cold beer!!!! It was a pleasure seeing Baguales’ owner Hubert’s powder smile and the pride he has in his mountain reserve. In the next couple of days he planned to ski tour to other areas of the reserve in order to get in shape for a Chile volcano mission and talking with him and seeing the vast terrain with my own eyes the possibilities are exceptional and the future very bright for Baguales.
September 23, 2013:
Mission Mallin Alto- While Baguales epitomized sophisticated mountain living and modeled after the more civilized Canadian mountain lodges, Mallin Alto was a true gaucho rustic snow experience. Mallin Alto is a project in the making and like Baguales it encompasses a vast amount of Patagonian terrain with a multitude of connecting ridges accessing various pitches and mountain aspects . Project director Kao D’s grandfather homesteaded the lower valley which serves as the gateway to this mountain playground. The access road winds through river beds, cattle pasture, piercing spire rock outcroppings and up into the dense forest of old growth where the dirt road turned to snow and we swapped the truck for a 4 wheeler with snow-cat treads. Climbing through the forest, squirreling around between mud and snow we arrived at the geometric dome that serves as Kao’s mountain base camp. The dome reminded me much of the yurt trips I’ve taken around Idaho and Montana. Equipped with an antique wood cooking stove and a wrap around deck it was not hard for Kao to convince Craig and I to spend the night, especially when he presented us with a few cold Quilmes upon our arrival. We set out in early afternoon on the snow quad and still found dry powder on the South facing slopes. Epic views of Tronador, the highest peak in the region, and into the Chilean distance the perfectly conical Volcan Osorno. We crossed paths with a lone zorro, a Patagonian fox, as it wandered the vast, empty snow dunes while we explored future routes and descents. All epic adventures involve a little misadventure and on our last run the snow quad shat the bed and we had to slap on the skins and walk out under the star filled Patagonian sky. It is a memory I will not forget soon, the sky illuminated with a gazillion stars, the Southern cross acting as the ever present compass, and the vastness of these mountains highlighted by the glow of the milky way. Those first beers at the geodome tasted extra delicious and Kao prepared us a homemade pasta sauce that filled our bellies to hearts content.
September 24, 2013:
Mission Mallin Alto - We only got a few turns in today with the snow quad being down. Nonetheless we thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the rays on this gorgeous bluebird day on Mallin Alto’s deck. Not a bad place to be broke down with a stockpile of Quilmes cervezas. Kao’s cousin was planning on meeting us at 5pm with the truck in the valley so there was no rush to leave. The second quad did not have snow treads but had no problems getting us out. On the way down we scared up large deer or ciervo, the first one I’ve seen in the wild here in Argentina. A few condors soared above us enjoying their afternoon thermals. Kao’s project here at Mallin Alto has a ton of potential and another option in the 42nd parallel.
September 25, 2013:
Road Trip Bariloche to Esquel on the Ruta 40. After a solid night of celebrating at the Mannush Brewery in Bariloche and a few too many late night fernet & cokes we set off south down the Ruta 40 to the city of Esquel and our next ski destination La Hoya. The road south from Bariloche could not get more scenic. Glimpses of the legendary Frey Cirque and its granite spired towers followed us as we passed several pristine lakes and mountain passes into the hippy town of El Bolson. We stopped for a little hair of the dog at the El Bolson Cerveceria, one of the most prominent Patagonian breweries. Bolson’s dramatic peaks made a sharp contrast with the deep blue sky. Continuing south you enter the endless wind swept steppes reminiscent of Highway 50 in Nevada. Out of this vastness you enter the valley where Esquel sits and the base for the community run La Hoya ski center.
September 26, 2013:
La Hoya - Poor Man’s Las Lenas!!! Where else on earth do lift tickets cost less than $20USD or more precisely $16.11 with Argentina’s blue market exchange rate. La Hoya is one of my favorite South American ski destinations. It is one of those throwback ski centers, with an empty dirt parking lot, a base area with buildings that have ‘character’ and a friendly staff happy to see the gringo snow traveler. Its simplicity is one of its greatest charms and coming from Bridger Bowl I have a great respect for mountains run by their community and not some large corporation who doesn’t know jack about running a ski area. La Hoya is all about function and a circuit of 3 lifts brings you to the upper ridges. Like Alta, La Hoya is set up far better for skiers who can traverse easily to the best terrain on the mountain and drop a serious of couloirs and rock features giving them 1800 vertical feet and a solid 38 degree pitch to the base area. Other options include 20 minute hikes to further bowls and steep faces that just seem to keep continuing around every ridge line and open even longer descents to the access road. Today the snow remained a little hard throughout the day and although it didn’t soften enough to come around to corn skiing, there was certainly pockets of chalky wind groomed powder. And who cares I am skiing on September 26th in Patagonia!!!
September 27th, 2013:
My last day of the 2013 South American ski season and coincidently my mama’s birthday. I love paying tribute to my mom skiing on her September birthday. Not only that but a front moved in the night before and flakes were falling during the evening all the way down to Esquel. We awoke to a cloudless bluebird day and while not much snow accumulated enough fell to fill troughs and provide hallways of super dry powder for my final day on the slopes. The 2013 season far surpassed 2012 where conditions were not as kind and late season turns like this were absent. For me La Hoya is all about the short hikes to the outlying bowls. The panoramic views into Los Alerces National Park and the jagged divide of high mountain peaks separating Argentina from Chile go on forever. I truly love this place and can’t wait to return in 2014. We skied until 3 before hightailing back to Bariloche, cruising the empty stretches of Ruta 40 and rolling into the outskirts of Bariloche on fumes, prepared for another misadventure and unworried because we knew we’d be stuck on one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven.
-Thank you all for the great adventures, memories, and friendships. -A huge thanks to Ben Nobel at Mystery Ranch, Dan Abrams at Flylow, and Andy Wenberg at BCA for gearing me up and being an ambassador for your awesome brands. -To Craig Ross and Gonzalo Osores Soler for your loyalty and continued commitment to making CASA Argentina the best snow trips available in Patagonia. -To my new friends at Baguales Mountain Reserve and Mallin Alto. I wish you continued success and admire your vision for creating these snow playgrounds. -To travel mate and CASA guest Dillon Johnson for skipping out on his return flight home and extending his work sabbatical. Patagonia is way more fun than the courtroom. -Thank you Snowbrains and Coreshot for publishing my adventures and giving the snow community a glimpse into my life journey.
August 18, 2013 – Bluebird day at Portillo. No wind, deep blue skies and super fun spring snow with a mixture of south facing chalk and north facing corn. We worked the Roca Jack and Cara-Cara slingshot lifts in the am and after a mandatory stop at Tio Bob’s moved over to the Condor slingshot for a couple of lake runs in the afternoon. Portillo is definitely one of the most spectacularly located ski resorts in the Andes.
The Roca Jack - Portillo 8-18-13:
Portillo Ladies at Tio Bob’s 8-18-13 :
August 19, 2013 – Bluebird day at Ski Arpa. Today we headed back up into the Valley of the Harp and Ski Arpa. The guides were kind enough to save our CASA group freshies in Avalanchas and El Cirque to end our day. Ratoneras and Tony’s Bowl were variable but if you found the right variableness the snow was soft and spongy. Once again the CASA group celebrated the day with an epic Arpa après session!!!
CASA Guide Alex Taran chalkin’ it at Ski Arpa 8-19-13:
CASA guide Theresa ‘Tree’ Clinton finding the right variableness at Ski Arpa 8-19-13:
The most interesting man at Arpa - Kevin O’Connell in his glory - Keep Skiing My Friends!!!:
August 21, 2013 - Storming at Nevados de Chillan. Most of the mountain operations were shut down today, so our group went for a walk up the mountain and some untracked in the Chuecos bowls. This rogue full moon storm was the perfect refresher as the slopes here were getting pretty firm and icy the last couple of days. Fortunately the storm came in without substantial wind and started warm and finished cold leaving the mountain draped in a velvety snow blanket.
August 22, 2013 – Bluebird at Nevados de Chillan. Today our group reaped the benefits of the past day’s rogue storm. About 6 inches of velvety Andean pow covered the mountain and while there were the occasional scratchy turns particularly on north facing slopes most of the mountain skied powtastically!!!! We spent the day lapping the Pirigallo Valley and finished with a final lap in the playful and lunaresque Tres Marias.
Stoked!!! CASA guest Lindsay Cooper:
CASA guide Theresa ‘Tree’ Clinton getting some velvet freshness - Nevados de Chillan 8-22-13:
Paul Farley laying it down - Pirigallo Valley - Nevados de Chillan - 8-22-13:
August 23, 2013 – Bluebird at Nevados de Chillan. We spent the morning gobbling up powder pitches in Tres Marias while allowing the ridges to warm up for our afternoon adventure in the Nevados backcountry. Our group laid the only tracks down Valle Hermoso and this west facing valley softened perfectly for our late afternoon descent. One of my favorite valleys to ski in the Andes!!!!
Lindsay Cooper making it look pretty - Tres Marias - 8-23-13:
Blair Banker having some fun in Tres Marias 8-23-13:
Cat Hulford laying down some freshies in Nevados de Chillan backcountry 8-23-13:
Blair Banker charging the Nevados de Chillan Backcountry 8-23-13 :
August 24, 2013 – Bluebird at Nevados de Chillan. Our normally scheduled departure day got delayed in order to attend to more powder business. This time we headed direct for the Nevados backcountry and one of my favorite circuits; Aquas Calientes & Valle Hermoso. Our drop into Aquas Calientes was the best snow of the week, even days after the full moon storm. This south facing gem was velvety smooth. We toured back up to Valle Hermoso for our final descent of the trip and skied another untracked face and exited with a final ski past the steaming fume roles.
Blair Banker sending it in Nevados de Chillan Backcountry 8-24-13:
Paul Farley surfing the Nevados de Chillan backcountry:
Hopefully another storm will be rolling in this week. We are headed off next to Tres Valles, Nevados de Chillan, Corralco & Villarica, and plan on heading to Argentina around September 16th.
I’ve had a killer season in WA and should be posting up a season re-cap here really soon. However, my grad school research has kept me plenty busy. For example, we’ve been working building force sensors that are designed to be mounted under the bindings of a snowboard.
We just launched a crowd-funding campaign to help fund my thesis research into Terrain Park Safety.
I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the Volkl Katana vWerks at ISPO. This shocking ski won the ISPO award, but at first sight it seemed to be more a toy than a big mountain ripper. The ultra-thin sidewalls, albeit in sexy carbon, did not inspire a lot of durability confidence. Plus I’ve had previous dull experiences with ultra-light carbon skis which simply had not enough mass to decently manage any sort of hard or complex snow. Buzz at Volkl’s stand was intense, but equally intense was the bottom noise “I will certainly delaminate these in a few turns…”
The ISPO Jury, though, released a strong series of sentences about this CarboKatana:
"The Völkl Katana V-Werks revolutionizes the freeride ski market. The developers of this ski managed to significantly reduce the weight to an unprecedented extent - an incredible achievement when comparing it to other freeride skis of the same length and width. In addition, the completely innovative and very well-engineered 3D construction with super thin carbon flanks that simultaneously reduce the gyrating mass provide a previously unimaginable performance for both ascents and descents. The full carbon jacket with the extremely light woodcore offers the torsional stiffness and precision of freeride skis designed for absolute experts. However, the Katana V-Werks is also a very pleasing and almost forgiving ski due to its very precise rocker construction, its dampening and the woodcore that reaches evenly from tip to tail. The result: exceptional precision and adaptability that supports turns of any speed and offers maximum fun on the mountain." (quoted from Wolfgang Pohl, DSLV, Garmisch-Partenkirchen - GER).
So… when at the Verbier Xtreme demo days I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours on a 184 CarboKatana, I simply could not resist. The turf was decent for a demo day: stashes of hard snow, spots with transforming spring corn in sunny faces, hidden pow bowls.. Almost a bit of everything. First, let me tell you that I am an happy user of the regular 184 Katana. I believe this metalized green beauty is - along with the Blizzard Cochise - the perfect Verbier daily driver for any day without new snow. It’s perfectly locked to hard snow, turns in an almost effortless way (remember, it’s NOT the demanding 191!) and once you’re on them a ski day has no crud crust or rotten snow limit. When you look at the carboKatana, it’s pretty hard to believe that they have the same dimensions, shape and camber of the classic green katana: you immediately note the almost non-existant carbon flanks and the impressive sound of the superthin tip and tail when hittin the snow. You click in the bindings, and immediately realize the lack of weight of the extremities. No swing effort at all. OK will these grip dencently hard snow and effectively slice the crud and the corn? I could not believe it, but the answer is pretty simple. Yes.
In spite of being so light, the tip of the carboKatana works perfectly. As in the metalized green version, the minimal front and rear rocker locks the Katana to hard snow, while allowing a very easy turn initiation and design. In spite of being so minimal, front blades slice pretty efficiently pow and corn. If you look at the ski, it’s clear how all of the driving mass is under your foot. What makes a huge difference vs most of previous dull full carbon skis is the torsional stiffness. It might be because of the 3D profile, it might be because of the type of carbon layering and wood core used in central section of the ski… the flanks and edges of the CarboKatana have an amazing resistance to torsion.
Time runs fast when on the CarboKatana, and the two hours I was given expired pretty soon. But I had enough time for a few final considerations:
-The CarboKatana’s are a lot of fun. In regular snow, whatever hard or soft or corn, they roll and slice. And the skier is always happy and asking for more.
-The CarboKatana requires a well tempered leg. It’s easy, but carbon construction transfers all the contact stress to the leg of the driver. It’s demanding.
-The CarboKatana is not fun in bumps when visibility is not perfect. The tails and tips are not made to absorb, and if you do not drive perfectly them you get tired very soon.
-The CarboKatana is a light ski that - as all light skis - will suffer the lack of critical mass in heavy rotten chop. But it’s much better of many other superlight carbon skis I’ve tried.
If I was 20-30 and very rich (cost will gravitate around 1k or more), the CarboKatana would be a go. Being 51, on a diet and on a budget, the advantage of the CarboKatana over a classic metal Katana is likely to be restricted to a few defined spots: skinning (dunno the weight, but likely to be 15-20% less of the metal version), and apres-ski where the carbon must have a clear cut magnetic effect performance.
I am finally coming to grips with my cultural hangover and return to the U.S. from Japan. A few weeks of 3% sake powder, bountiful sashimi, heated toilet seats and daily hot water baths will change one’s perspective on life.
I started my journey on the island of Honshu and was immediately humbled by the size and complexity of terrain in the Japan Alps. I can see why Nagano was an excellent choice for the winter Olympics, these resorts are big!!!!! Tsugaike Kogen ski area boasts a tram that travels more than 4000 meters in length.
I truly believe some of the best snow I’ve ever skied was on the island of Hokkaido. Big flakes of super fluff seemed to fall daily. Roadside snowbanks towered above. Enchanted forests of white plastered birches and heavily loaded spruces providing the perfect powder haven.
In addition to skiing in some of the lightest, driest snow of my life I was just as mesmerized by the culture of Japan.
Gear geeks like me do not care about Christmas or their birthday. They just care about ISPO (if they live in old Yurp) or SIA if Yanks. The 2013 ISPO was predicted to be the great battle of the AT bindings vs the sidecountry boots… and so it was, but I also got some very interesting details that you might appreciate as well.
You already know everything about the new Dynafit Beast 16, which was widely covered by press releases and pictures, so let me just tell my frank opinion. Too big, too heavy, too pricey. As a small tiny old skier I do not need 16 DIN and more than half a kilo for an AT binding. But of course I am very interested in toe elasticity.. and then it comes the new Trab binding. You Coreshot readers were among the first, two ISPO ago, to see the proto version of the Trab, and now it is finally here: elastic toe and a very intriguing, innovative heel unit which works in the most intuitive (and maybe efficient too..) way. Unfortunately, and here comes the devil, this binding needs a dedicated device in the heel of the boot. Not something you can simply screw like for the Dynafit Beast, but something that should be included when molding the boot. So for the next winter there will be only one Trab binding-compatible boot, an amended version (I believe) of the Scarpa Rush. I would have liked more a Maestrale RS, but only time will tell about this marriage..
The new Fritschi Zenith was on display even though at a very primordial prototype status, likely done with a 3D printer or something like that. This notwithstanding, the project is very exciting: light (half a kilo), elastic in the toe, simple…. and promised to be cheap. Want to try asap, but hey, Fritschi, do not rise me too much over the ski like with your old Freerides… We do not want and need that.
The Italian ATK factory is gaining a lot of momentum in the Southern Alps. I have friends who are thrilled and true believers in them. As they are made near by the Ferrari car factory, their newest 12 DIN release was in an elegant and flamboyant Ferrari red. Very attractive, the only bias being the still ”ouch” front stopper. ATK displayed also a novel and very intriguing new NTN-compatable telemark binding. Every telemarker knows how much we need new blood in the tele arena, so ATK is most welcome.
Walking on ice is always a nightmare. Vibram introduced a new concept sole named Ice Three, and anyone could try it walking over a huge ice cube. Very convincing. Now we need it on ski boot soles, maybe as an aftermarket option…
Apart from bindings and boots, the ISPO 2013 big buzz was the new superlight and superthin Volkl Katana. You cannot believe how thin these sticks are, hope the pic can render it… Of course big boys in the hall were claiming “I can destroy these in a second..” but - again - only time will tell.
And now, the battle of boots. Well, it was a memorable ISPO. Major new concepts, and to be honest all of the boots I am going to present you were among the very best my feet can remember. If you need a new do-it-all boot, it will be a very difficult choice.
New concepts: The two-piece Dalbello Panterra tongue is an engineering masterpiece, no doubt. It works as a tongue where a tongue is most needed, and it works as an overlap where an overlap is most needed. My only concern is why Dalbello is using it in one of their few boots with a large internal last volume and no Intuition liners…
New details: The new Sportiva Spectre is a fireworks of innovative issues that might change the way we think about tongue boots. Kudos to Nicola Viniero and all the Sportiva team. The tongue can be inserted in three different positions, so to serve different feet. The upper tongue has been cut to better serve your bones (BTW, I know many people who is cutting this way their tongues in other types of boots), and some triangular holes have been designed to increase stiffness where needed. The buckles can stay open to better slip into the boot, and the micrometric regulations are among the finest one can imagine… and not surprisingly they were patented. Now the question everyone has in mind: OK they’re the lightest 4 buckle, will have a competitive price, there’s some carbon inside the nylon… but how do they flex and ski? Room temperature at ISPO was too high to grab any decent idea, we need to wait.
A true breakthrough was introduced by K2. They used to have their own boot line (and some were on display), but K2 re-entered the boot market with a sort of Colombo’s egg: Just plug a tech insert into classic alpine soles, you do not need and want swappable AT vs alpine soles. Pros: there is no room for weakness due to screws in the system, and a rockered sole is needed only when walking on flat… something skiers do not look for. Cons: this alpine-ISO certified sole will never have a grip similar to AT solutions.
Another breakthrough is the walk/ski system developed for the Scarpa Freedom: a metal feel and a soundly click that have no rivals. The Freedom comes in a pebax plus carbon and a PU version. Again, the hot ISPO halls are the wrong place to test the pebax flex, but the PU gave me the best “locked foot” feel of the day. And the Freedom has the best walk of this brand new “sidecountry” or “do it all” boot category. Can’t wait to ski the freedom.
Finally, walking through the show catwalks is always exciting. You can meet friends, pros, hot scandinettes, and legends. And sometimes legends have a mohawk…
I’ve always been waiting for reports about durability and performance of the gear I like most. A 50-day check might make sense: It’s about two winter seasons for some weekend warriors, about one season for a gear geek like me, and half/third of a season for die hard ski bums. I’ve used this stuff in the Alps and in the Tierra del Fuego, and here is how they worked and survived. They’ll certainly work more and maybe will reach a 100-day second check, time will tell. Please consider just one caveat: as any gear geek, I probably take much more daily care of my stuff than the average warrior.
Scarpa Maestrale RS:
I skied the mango pebax maestrale for one winter, and was truly happy with them when skiing sticks up to 2 kilos or - say - 100 in the middle. When I was so lucky to receive exactly one year ago these RS proto from Scarpa I could not imagine, even in my wildest dreams, how good they can be in driving 2.5 kg and/or 120-something sticks (Renegades, Automatics, Sideseth, Shiro, even Katanas on soft snow). Grilamid (+ the other mysterious stuff added by Scarpa) is truly another world compared to pebax. And what about durability? This nylon seems to be more resistant to abrasion than other plastics like polyolephins used by other brands with fantasy names and heavy mesmerizing colours to cover the scratches. I did not feel any significant failure in the flex, buckles and walk/ski devices after 50 days of intense use. My only (minor) issue has been the loose of a spoiler screw, and I was so lucky to find it inside the boot when I realized it. The Vibram sole looks almost like new, with minor consumption in the toe section that is notoriously slim in this new generation of AT boots in order to reduce weight and improve uphill mobility with tech bindings. Notably, the last one has been quite a snowy winter and I did not walk a lot on rocks. The Intuition liner is also still OK, even though I had to use a thicker sock after some 40 or so days of use.
Rab Stretch Neoshell:
Yes I sweat like a pig. Any sort of 3L membrane jacket makes me soaked as soon as I walk or ski uphill for more than a few minutes. When I read of the Neoshell concept (which trades a bit of waterproof in favor of a huge step forward in breathability), I was immediately interested and decided to get the first Neoshell jacket on the market in Fall 2011. I never had before anything from Rab. The jacket is tight, but fits well on me even when I wear my big PIEPS beacon on the chest. I immediately realized that Rab is a strong Neoshell believer when noticed the absence of ventilation zips. The first test was easy and sort of shocking. If I keep a mobile phone in the membrane pocket of a classic 3L jacket, walk and sweat, the phone gets covered by humidity in minutes. This is why serious 3L jackets must have a net pocket for mobile phones. Keep the mobile in the membrane pocket of the Neoshell, and it’s never covered by humid. Wow. Said simple, Neoshell works, I sweat much less. What about the tradeoffs? I’ve got rain and snow in these 50 days of use, and the membrane worked well, never a serious leakage. I’ve got some strong wind too, and the Neoshell did not protect as a Windstopper or 3L would have been, but I have never been seriously suffering of wind chill so far. As you see from the pics, the jacket is still fully waterproof, zips are OK and I haven’t seen any delamination. Finger crossed, I’d like to report another positive report after 50 more days of use.