Roots Ramblings

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germanswingbonationalteam Roots Ramblings

I dig the twins in matching garb. Every once in a while I think about the concept of two skis moving independently to create edge control. Then I think about weight and cost and realize that simple is usually better. Its always a balancing act. You can’t forget to remind yourself that you ditched the bindings to simplify. Of course it made it harder in a way. Do you remember why you started snowskating? I wanted something for the backyard. Easy like a skateboard to use. I had no idea in the beginning that people were riding them on slopes. Once I started having fun on it then the “potential” became a driving force. Building up my backyard was hugely entertaining.

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We have a gravel pit down the road. I rode by it on my bike yesterday and was reminded of how fun a zone it was. Six inches of snow or so was good enough for some turns. Since it’s a snow skate you don’t care if the base get trashed!

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But even fun things get boring after a while. Thankfully I discovered backcountry access via the chair lift at Schweitzer.

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Which of course led me to want to explore other backcountry zones with snowmobiles. I got a new sled this summer. Its way over my head and I’m a bit nervouse about the trouble I’m going to get into but excited too.

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It’s a simple sport that will broaden your horizons. Thank you snowskating!

 

Building skis with my boys

I know every snowskater has gone through at least a couple of situations where friends or strangers have been kinda blown away by riding without bindings. As a builder its even more intense when they learn I made the snowskate. Its fun…sometimes, to share with interested parties the why and how of snowskating. Most of my friends are accustomed to seeing me on a skate so now there really isn’t any more wide eyed looks from them. I bring a new sub into the house and the kids are always nice and say that it looks good but no one is blown away any more. So I was a bit surprised at the reaction I got after making a set of skis with my boys. Let me say that my boys do snowskate but they LOVE to ski. They have a group of ski buddies, they watch all the vids and they follow the pros. They love to ski! So when I started on this ski project the difference began with the kids being waaaay more interested in the shop process. Always asking if we could go out and work on the skis. Then all their buddies got excited then the parents of the buddies got excited. People were asking me crazy questions like did I drip all the ptex onto the core to make the base, or how did I bend the wood. How much did it cost, how long? Were did I learn to do this? Where did I get the material? And these are from people who have been watching me snowskate for years and know I make all the parts on the skates??

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Well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I do live in a ski town. But that’s ok cause I have an ulterior motive for building skis for my boys and that’s to try and make a super fast sub for snowskating. Maybe its because I’m a bit worried about our el nino winter prediction and how it often leaves us with few pow days. My guess is it falls into the summer wacky idea category. Way back in the early days of bidecks, a company from england named Barefoot tried to start a revolution with skate decks mounted to full size skis. They looked a bit wierd and disappeared soon after buying a full page add in starfish. But there is no reason a long narrow sub with the right dimensions couldn’t instill confidence when going really fast. It might need a high truck mount and I’m kinda in the dark as to radius but hey that’s the fun part when building a product so few people understand.

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Climbing up them hills

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It’s a known fact that you got to go up if you want to ride down. If the snow at the resort isn’t to your liking then trekking out of bounds is your best option. This can be as simple as grabbing your skate and plodding up hill, as E2 does in the picture above, its cheap, easy and a good workout. If there is more then one of ya, you can take turns putting in the boot track. The great thing is, on the next lap the boot will be solid and the climbing will be easy. The hard part though, if its deep it can take a lot of energy. You’ll most likely be soaked in sweat when you reach the top and not so ready for lap number two. Luckily there are a few tools available to make the up hill trek easier. Starting from the left MTN Approach skis, Atlas snowshoes, and Verts.

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The cheapest option are Verts. These are the small plastic snowshoes on the right. They are light, easy to put on and kick ass in steep terrain. At around 110.00 shipped they are a great option for starting out. They only weigh 2 lbs and can easily fit into a pack making transitions even faster.  It really just feels like your boot packing without sinking in so deep.

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As you can see in the boot pack picture above, you do sink a bit but since your foot is at the front of the verts, its easy to step forward without dragging snow. As with boot packing the second lap will be a breeze and it will be fast as your path tends to go straight up. We usually drop from above then put the first boot pack in our track. This cuts down a bit on how much snow you have to walk through but is only an option if you get to start from the top.

Verts don’t perform as well on long flat sections. Your toe tends to dive since your strapped to the front of the shoe. On icy terrain they do ok but its more of a work out to get the toe to dig into the dense snow pack. If long flat sections are in the mix then traditional snow shoes are the way to go. You’ll want to make sure they have heal lifts. These are wire bails that flip up and support your heal when hiking steep terrain. You flip them down for the flats. A good set of snowshoes with heal climbers will run 200-250.00.  They are a bit more weight, at around 4 lbs a pair. As with boot packing and verts, the second lap will be easy and working with a crew will make breaking trail a snap.

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jeffanddrewvisithiking Climbing up them hills

If you’re hiking the back country with alpine touring or telemarkers then snow shoes and verts won’t work quite as well. You can do it but snowshoeing on a skin track will usually get you some negative vibes from your touring partners. It tends to wear out the skin track and make it difficult for the skiers to climb. They main reason I don’t like it though is that skin tracks tend to wander across the hill. Side hilling on snow shoes sucks. It wears out your knees and ankles and isn’t very efficient. There is an option though, MTN Approach skis. These are foldable skis that fit into your pack. They are heavy weighing in at 8 lbs, there expensive costing around 800.00 and the hinge mechanism sometimes breaks. All that being said I really like them.

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They haul ass over flat terrain. They are long enough with a wide waist that you don’t sink in but their short length makes kick turns on switchbacks a breeze. They transition really fast. They stow in your pack close to your back so it doesn’t throw off your weight when riding down hill. Best of all, no stink eye from the skin trackers. They just function really well. They are currently coming out with a much beefier hinge so the snapping hinges should be a thing of the past. You usually carry an extra hinge and surprisingly you can swap out a broken one faster then a split boarder can get their stuff back together. If your touring with skinners it’s the way to go.

 

161 powskate day

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the chiller 161. I believe that there isn’t a single powder skate that can do it all. We’ve chosen to ride without bindings and thus give up the one board quiver. For dedicated snowskaters who never strap in this is just a fact of life. Being able to swap between subs to maximize control and float is the key to having fun, at least where we live. The 161 is designed for deep conditions but not be a train wreck to control on groomers. I pressed the first 161 in the fall of 2012. I rode it a few days and then gave it to Cole. To me it seemed like too much work to control when you were out of the pow. I then pressed myself a slightly narrower one, almost matching the chiller 145 in waist width. This board, I felt, would not be so hard to control on hardpack but still have the length for deep days. I’ve ridden my narrow 161 for the last few seasons and it has been a great board. But on the few occasions I have traded with Cole or Eric for a lap its hard not to want that extra float, which translates to speed and control. Waist width seems to be a more influential dimension then board length when it comes to float. But waist width also controls leverage.The wider the waist the lower the leverage. Board length also helps with float and doesn’t change leverage as much. But adding four inches of length won’t have as much effect on float as adding 1/2-in. to the waist.

On Monday, we awoke to 10 inches of new snow over a soft snowpack. I went to the shop and grabbed the last 161 on the rack. It was time to deal with this sub and figure out how to control it. I’ve been relying on Cole and Eric’s opinion of this board, (which they love), when describing it to people interested in buying one but nothing is as good as experiencing it for yourself. The theory is, when it dumps and you grab the 161 then you most likely won’t be dealing with hard pack. But this is just a theory and we have all had days that started great but then got more difficult as conditions changed or runs were tracked up. Monday was great and the sub was easy to control on and off the groomed runs. I didn’t run into hard to control conditions unless I got down really low in elevation and hit warm snow. I have to move my feet around when transitioning from pow to hardpack to maximize leverage but once you find the sweet spot your good to go. It really is a temperature thing. On Wednesday we rode all day all over the mountain from windswept ridges to tight trees and the 161 was easy to control all because the temps stayed cool. Every day is different in the mountains. You can’t take for granted that a run you slayed one day, will be just as easy to dominate the next. Sometimes you have the right board, and sometimes you don’t. Flexibility is key to having fun.

Winter is here!

Let’s start with the flipper update. We got a pretty good dump of pow the middle of November. We took up the flipper, 145 reverse side cut and a grassroots powder slut. It was up to 13 inches deep in some areas and we hiked up and rode a fairly steep zone at Schweitzer. I rode the flipper in the loose mode and had a blast! It was really controllable while having tons of float at the same time. It didn’t ride as fast as the 145 reverse or powder slut but you didn’t really care. It felt like you were floating a small skate. It was fun! The next week we hiked again but this time under less then optimal conditions as there was a pretty good crust developed part way down the run. The first 10 turns or so were great and then it got tricky. The flipper rode pretty good considering how crappy it was. There was a groomed section below the powder turns that seemed like it would a good test spot for seeing how controllable the board would be on hard pack. It was steep but still an intermediate run. My thinking was that if I could keep it slashing turns I would keep my speed in check. The problem came when the pitch of the run increased to the point that the outer edge engaged and forced the nose of the board down hill which increased my speed. This was what you would call “uncontrollable.” That feeling that you are doomed. We have all felt it, its a part of snowskating but usually there is hope you can regain control. On the flipper there was no hope of gaining control with the only option to jump ship. The only way to proceed was to walk downhill, which I hate doing. What I take away is that this current configuration on groomers is pretty much limited to very slight downhill section. Mellow cat track. I’m going to take it out a bit more when the snow softens and see if I can get a better feeling for its groomer limitations. I’m just so surprised how much fun it was to ride in powder without being locked down. I didn’t expect that at all.

Let me back up a minute and talk about these prototype subs. Bidecks have always been controllable on groomers. I don’t think there is even a sub commercially available that can’t be carved on hardpack. That is how bideck’s define themselves. They may not be as good at doing tricks like singles and surfs but they are very controllable in all conditions as long as you choose the right sub. Singles and surfs can’t make that claim and its at the basis of what separates the groups.  But, If we remove the requirement that a sub must be controllable on hard pack it opens up a ton of shape options. The 162 and 162r differ very slightly but the ride implications of pushing out the waist beyond the point of groomer control adds a bunch of float while still maintaining tons of leverage in all but hardpack.

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That means if the snow is only a few inches deep you won’t feel the control penalty that you would on a surf. Small increases in width yield a very noticeable float increase. There is the point from just beyond what is groomer controllable on a bideck to the point that its too narrow for a powskate that is wide open for exploration. That’s where these prototypes are coming from.

To increase float you can add length or add width. This 135 powskate does the latter.

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I’ve been out on it three times now. The conditions haven’t been very deep, with wind blown crusty sections and drum tight packed powder. I’ve eaten it a few times when my leverage evaporated but I’m getting the hang of it. Its been fun but at the same time, I’ve been a bit on edge not knowing if the conditions were going to change suddenly and dump me on my head. Yesterday I had the best run after we found a good stash of pow but was limited to just the one shot. It does pretty good on shallow conditions and the top deck definitely increases leverage. In this scenario I’m riding the chair with my inbounds board and carrying the powskate sub attached to my pack. So far its been easy to do and the lifties haven’t said anything. Once we go through the out of bounds gate I switch subs and stash the inbounds sub or carry it on my pack. Its an extra step for sure and not sure how much longer I will have patience for it but it’s okay for now.

I have Xtreme spikes!! I am so happy to be able to offer spikes. It is a bit tougher to readjust your foot placement sometimes but the grip is so good and its really easy to clean of the snow. Still have foam available. Nice to have options. Thanks to Deanna at GripAll!!

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New T’s. Boneflake and “try dying” shirts.

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Thanks to Jamie and Eric for engraving the truck channels. The new laser cutter in Jamie’s shop is rad and the trucks have never looked so good. Sorry to those whose parts when out before this. It was a stroke of good luck that I didn’t know was coming.

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Flipper update

We took the flipper board up for a test ride yesterday. Mellow slope, 4 inches of new over breakable crust and temps in the low 30’s. This is by no means a definitive test but its a start. The original goal was to get powsurf float and have control on easy groomers. The first prototype kinda performed but wasn’t convincing enough for me to care about riding it more then a few times. This summer I built the new improved flipper. The idea is to use heal climbers to lock out the lower sub into powsurf mode. Flipping the heal climbers up would put it into groomer mode. We wanted to ride the chair up, go out of bounds, ride the sub as a powsurf, come back in bounds, unlock the heal climbers and ride the cat track back to the bottom. After building the sub this summer a new question arose though, how would it perform off piste while still in groomer mode? Yesterday we got a glimpse of what that might be like. Cole’s short ride was the only time the flipper was in powsurf mode the rest is riding it unlocked. We built a very small kicker just to see what it would look like in the air and how it would land compared to the pillow dropper, which is the same size but none flipping. Waring this footage is slo mo of the sub. Its not exactly exciting and its hard to actually see how the board looks any different but its an update.

Nike LunarTerra Arktos

When Nike released pictures of its new winter boot, the LunarTerra Arktos, a few weeks ago, I was initially impressed. It seemed a good mash up of boot and shoe. I wear boots when I ride but I wished they had more flexibility.  I’m unable to give up the warmth guarantee and ankle support that a boot offers for the freedom of a skate shoe. I’ve had some great boots in the past but models come and go and they don’t seem to care that I want them for snowskating. The best boots I ever owned were discontinued after one season. Every year it seems that I have to take a gamble on ordering something to cover my feet with. This year I gambled on the Nike shoe….and lost.

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I really like how this boot is put together, no exposed stitches, burly construction, a flat sole with good tread. I imagine that the perfect snowskate shoe/boot would look something like the LunarTerra Arktos. But looks can be deceiving.

 

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The boot has a removable sock which is pretty much all the insulation inside. I was only able to get the boot on by removing the sock first, putting it on my foot, then putting on the boot. There is a side zipper that must be undone to get the bootie in. So, put on bootie, unzip side of boot, slide in foot, zip up side of boot then do the laces. Its a lot of work, so much so that I only had to try on one boot before deciding that I would not be wearing these this winter.

 

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Once on, the boot is comfortable. It’s a loose fit, not like a hiking boot. Obviously the boot would need some break in time and would probably have good flexibility. Leaning on the outer edge of the sole was a bit painful for some reason. It seems like it would be plenty waterproof but I’m not sure how warm they would be. The sock liner isn’t very thick and that’s all the insulation the boot offers.  I’m surprised that it made it to production, didn’t someone at nike think that a boot that is really hard to get on might not be a popular item? Anyways they are going back and my search continues.

 

Couple of shop shots since there’s no snow yet in the mountains

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The worst job in snowskating is cutting out around the subs after they have been pressed. Eric did all but two of the subs and didn’t complain once, thanks MAN!!

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Line up for this year

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Shop Pictures

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If you visited today, this is what it would look like.  I’m stoked to be able to concentrate solely on skates for a bit and it’s only september!! Definitely feels better then picking away at skates in the evening after spending all day on cabinets.

There’s a lot of work done to get to this phase but still a long way to go before these will be rideable.

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It used to be that I was satisfied if there wasn’t a big gaping hole in the sidewall. Now it seems like every little detail is important. I’m really just a small time builder barely teetering on the edge of production.

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How many people are gonna hate this base color?

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WTF… I know right?

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“How did I get here,” comes to mind when I look at the nose on this 135. Uh..this started out first as a way to drop some weight. Then there was the hope that maybe when this thing hits a tree after I have eaten shit, that the nose will bend instead of break. But really the reason I like this flexible nose is for the times I need to use a forearm shiver to keep my skate from splitting my lip. I’d rather have that flexible nose hit me then a full metal rap attack.

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Here’s the family line up. From left, the skate moss, 135, 145 and 162.

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If you visited today you might be surprised at all the skates in my shop. Definitely inspirational to be surrounded by options.

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Before I got started on skates this year I did a huge shop reorganization and cleanup. One of the results was a dedicated glue up area. Stirring and spreading and spilling happens here.

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Building skates is so easy, you just pile all the ingredients into the magic bag and out pops a skate…in my dreams.

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Lots of work done, lots of work left to do. Decks and skate moss’s waiting for shapes.

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This view would be so much better if there was snow in the background.

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“Hey Mark, how about a little pocket of camber on the back end of the 135? That should be easy to do huh?”

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Piles of crap in back of the jig that cuts the 45 deg edge on the cores.

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This is the first thing I see when I come into the shop. All the cores smiling at me, waiting to be made into skates. I hope they all find a good home.

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Summer snowskate edit

In the winter, when I get back from a day of riding where I’ve filmed with the gopro I usually don’t want to watch the footage. It just pails in comparison to my memory of it. I always look jerky and not as fast and the runs don’t seem to be as long as it felt like. But wait a few months and go through the footage and it looks way better then you remember. Resets the bar of how fun the winter was.

Summer snowskate blog post

What tha f#$K you might ask? and I wouldn’t have an answer. Lets just say that sometimes, snowskating makes you a bit crazy, or maybe your were a bit crazy to begin with. So yea, here are some pictures of a skate sub I just pressed. This idea has been floating around in my head for awhile. I built the first proto at the end of the season before last and was quite taken with the novelty at first. For some reason it kind of went into dormancy during the winter as I balanced orders with R&D. Some of you have seen pictures or the proto against the shop wall. This sub is an attempt to clean up the initial idea a bit. To sum it up, your basically riding two subs with the ability to alternate between them maybe….

top

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bottom

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side

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turn

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risers down

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risers up

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Now that you’ve seen the pictures you know as much as I do

 

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