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October 22, 2011

EVO Turns 10

Crispin and I attended the EVO 10th Anniversary party last night - on the guest list courtesy of Mountain Madness (thanks, Jeremy). It turned out to be a huge bash; Crispin was still in a line that stretched the length of the block when I showed up fifteen minutes late and the beat was already pumping from inside. The venue is a new structure called the Fremont Collective that's part of Bryce Phillips' burgeoning real estate empire - a multi-purpose art/skate/food/retail space on the NE corner of 35th and Stone Way NE that used to be a contractor's tool outlet.

The future of snowsports? Hard to say, but these guys know how to throw a party. Plenty of Red Hook beer, chilled shots of organic Clearwater Vodka (iced in a martini shaker with no mixers, but the Redbull tent was just a few feet away . . .), great fusion Thai food from Bryce's catering company, tons of doughnuts and mini-cupcakes plus lots of souvenir-grade schwag. There was a mechanical bull ride (man, I thought they sent all those to Iraq), a Gore-Tex glove icewater dexterity contest, Nike free T-shirt press, K2 and LibTech snow tool history area, silent benefit auction, slope style fashion show, and much more. I actually didn't see anyone I knew (except former EVO snowboard buyer Gorio Bustamente) and much of the crowd, to be honest, looked like professional "lifestylers" rather than skiers - lots of mini skirts and 5 inch-heeled knee-high boots for the girls, scruffy beards and Hoji-toques worn high on the forehead for the dudes. Quite the cultural enrichment opportunity for us old guys.

My ears gave out around 10:15, but Crispin raved on until the wee hours, saying the imported San Francisco DJ brought out the dance grooves after I left and he felt the urge. Now I know how he stays in such good shape! Bryce's reputation as the only ski bum in the NW who's figured out how to make money is assuming mythic proportions - if nothing else, he could run the "Collective" as a club five nights a week, charge for the beer and vodka, and make a killing.


Shake it, Shake it, Shake it some more.   Crispin Prahl photo

They were eaters and drinkers.   Crispin Prahl photo

October 19, 2011

Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011

My old friend Danny's dad died on Monday at the very commendable age of 98. In the early seventies, when I was discovering how far a bicycle could take you with a little effort, I would ride out to Danny's vintage clothing shop, Oasis Apparel (later Dreamland) in the University District and come home with cowboy, bowling, and Hawaiian-themed clothing (which my mother would refuse to touch but insist that I put immediately into the washing machine). Often we would spend hours ironing and trying on shirts from his enormous collection of vintage Hawaiian garments - we're talking about duffel after duffel full, including an entire warehouse in Belltown - and listening to early punk, "classic" rock (96 Tears was the crowd favorite) and emerging grunge. Once or twice Danny mentioned that his dad was quite a skier in his day, but I didn't pay it much heed.

Yesterday a post by Lowell Skoog on brought Ralph's passing to my attention; like several other dads of friends he was a pioneer of ski mountaineering in the northwest, and I went all these years without knowing it. Like Mr. Giese and Dr. Trott and Mr. Watson and Dr. Spickard, they were just parents. What could they know? It's sad to think of the opportunities I missed out on by not walking into the kitchen and asking these guys a few questions. A classic video clip, just a sampling of the body of film that Lowell has painstakingly archived and transferred over the past few years from the Mountaineers' collection of films on climbing and skiing, is here, and includes some great shots of skiing on Mt. St. Helens long before the "blast."

Here's a link to the Seattle Times obituary - Rest in peace, Mr. Eskenazi, and thanks for the inspiration.

The All-Jewish Troop 45, circa 1926. From left: Abe Condiotte, Al Caraco, ?, Henry Payloy, Mel Abrams, Ralph Eskenazi, Milton Shindell  Photo courtesy of University of Washington Libraries

October 18, 2011

New Season

It's what I call the start of the ski season - the first time I ski on fresh, clean snow. This year it happened yesterday, when Kevin, Frank and I took a drive to Paradise in perfect fall weather and did a routine hike to Camp Muir. Somehow the Muir snowfield had managed to completely flatten itself over the past month, and the huge grit-topped suncups of September were nowhere to be seen. What we did find was 3,000 plus vertical feet of perfect inch-deep corn, to several hundred feet below Pebble Creek. Bring on the winter!

Frank can't believe how good the skiing is on the upper Muir Snowfield

October 10, 2011

2 New Bindings from Hagan

While Salomon appears to be sitting out this year in terms of retailing their new rando binding, Austrian ski maker Hagan has just announced the availability of their new Z01 and Z02 series. Aimed at new and crossover ski tourists, this binding looks like a Fritschi Freeride Pro that's been put on a diet, with a similar frame and latch configuration and a skimpier toe and heel. With a DIN range from 4-12 for the Z01 and 4-10 for the Z02, this could be a viable option for the "one ski quiver" or a bigger ski that's only going to see limited skinning during the season. The biggest problem may well be finding a pair - Hagan has very limited market availability in the US, even though they are known for making a quality product at very reasonable price points. I recently got an e-mail suggesting I contact the importer, Michael Hagen (not, to my knowledge, any relation) directly through his company, InForm Sports regarding the direct purchase of Hagan skis, and this might work as well for the bindings.

Here's a blurb from the Austrian arm of the company:
“The Hagan Z ski touring binding was developed to serve the growing market for recreational alpine ski touring in the European and U.S. markets,” said Max Kumpfmueller, Operations Director at Hagan Ski headquarters in Austria. “The design priorities were ease of use and adjustability, compatibility with a wide variety of ski boots (AT and downhill), and excellent uphill and downhill performance at a reasonably low weight and price.”

The Z01 retails for $489, the Z02 $389 (not so sure about those reasonably low prices, but you're talking € vs. dollar). The Z01 has an 80mm ski brake, but 90, 100 and 115mm versions are also available. (The Z02 comes with a leash, but the brakes will fit either model). Both bindings come in 3 sizes, small for boot sole lengths of 255-310 mm, medium for 285-340 mm and large for 315-370 mm. A Hagan ski crampon is available and compatible with both bindings.

The Hagan Z02 and Z01 bindings - they look much like a Fritschi but with severely trimmed down toe and heel . . .

October 4, 2011

Bomber Amer Sports AT Binding Getting Close

I've got a couple sets of Marker Dukes that I use on my lift-served skis not because I enjoy the weight or the clumsy touring capabilities, but simply because I've decided life is too short to spend skiing in uncomfortable boots. Yes, I want to wear randonnée boots ALL the time. The Duke allows me to run alpine touring spec boot soles in what is basically an alpine binding, though if the Jester would accomodate my boot soles I'd use them instead.

Now Amer Sports, under the dual-guise of its Atomic and Salomon divisions, is getting in the game with a heavy-duty touring binding (the Atomic-branded version is called the "Tracker") that splits the difference between the Marker Duke/Baron and the Fritschi Freeride Plus, with alloy bars reminiscent of the Silvretta Pure connecting toe to heel. The new binding loses the awkward sliding engagement system of the Markers by substituting a series of four metal hooks that engage the heel unit when you step down. Release is via a smallish sliding flat tab at the very rear of the heel. The binding is still in the testing phase and reportedly won't be available to the public until next season - AmerSports is understandably being very careful after the backwash of very negative publicity following the Salomon Tech boot fiasco.

DIN range is reportedly 7-16. No word yet on weight; the overall structure of the rails uses quite a bit less mass than the Duke, and losing the ramping AFD drops weight as well. Likewise, there is no projected price - all the prototypes seem to have gone to sponsored athletes to flog for the season . . . might be just the thing for comfort-lovers like me or the super-fit cliff hucker in the family. Now how about a Salomon 14 DIN Tech binding?

atomictracker_01.jpg   atomictracker_02.jpg   13guardian16.jpg
Here's a few pics of the Atomic courtesy of Daron Rahlves and Philpug/Epicsnow . . . and the Salomon version in blue, courtesy of

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