October 9, 2014
One of the nice things about my workplace is that it's a meeting ground for some of the best and brightest stars in the freeski world. Not only do I work with a recent Freeride World Tour overall champ, but the best freeriders in the business make a point of dropping by the store when they're in town, usually encouraged and accompanied by one of our dealer reps. Normally these appearances go hand-in-hand with a film showing and involve a casual autograph session downstairs, but typically the headliners arrive a bit beforehand and hang out, which gives us a rare chance to chat with our heroes.
A few weeks ago Jeremy Jones was in the store (he actually slept in his RV in our customer care parking lot after the Seattle screening of "Higher"). Last week it was Sage, who signed autographs in the outerwear department for over an hour before the premier of "Almost Ablaze" at the Neptune Theater. Unfortunately I wasn't prepared for his visit and forgot my one-of-a-kind clear topsheet Atomic Rituals for him to sign.
Yesterday Eric Hjorliefson stopped by enroute to the Level One screening. I'd been chatting with Matt Sterbenz about the new line of ROXA boots and as usual had no clue that Hoji would be in the store, but there he was, bigger than life. Actually, smaller. Eric skis like a giant, but like many of the best skiers is of average height and really slim. The conversation went something like this:
ME: Hey, you're my idol.
HOJI: (no response)
ME: So what have you been up to this summer? Still doing some developmental work for Dynafit?
HOJI: Yeah, yeah. I just got back from Europe, most of the time I was working on the new Dynafit freeride boot.
ME: You were in Munich?
HOJI: Yeah, some of the time in Munich. Actually I went to Montebelluna, too, that's where the boot development is going on.
ME: Cool. What's up with the new boot?
HOJI: Ahhh, it's really a stiff, high performance boot kind of like . . . what's that Garmont boot they used to make, really stiff, almost like a plug boot?
ME: Kind of metallic brown? The Shaman?
HOJI: Right, that's it. Like the Shaman, really a performance boot, not really a touring boot.
ME: How's it going?
HOJI: Pretty well, I think it skis really well. It's hard to tell, I give a lot of feedback to the Dynafit guys, and I don't know how they take it. They've had almost a complete turnover in the boot department, and I'm not so well connected anymore.
ME: Do you ever see Federico Sbrissa since he moved to Salomon?
HOJI: It's funny, I hadn't seen him in a long time, but I just saw him at Arc'teryx. He was the one who brought me into the Dynafit boot department, really a cool guy, I learned a lot from him.
ME: Yeah, he's a cool guy. The last time he was in Seattle a couple summers ago, he came down from Vancouver for a day with Jerome, the Salomon alpine boot guy, and they wanted Starbucks and cheeseburgers. That was kind of funny, because we don't think Starbucks is that great, so for an Italian guy to say he loves it seems weird. How about the new Dynafit freeride skis? Do you have anything to do with that, or is that pretty much just Cody?
HOJI: Well, I've been giving them some input on the skis, but it's really Cody.
ME: Got any big plans for the winter?
HOJI: Not yet, my winter's still pretty open. I don't really have any firm plans for filming or anything. I haven't really done anything with MSP for a couple seasons now, and I don't really know what the Sherpa guys are up to. I guess I should give those guys a call.
ME: So you're mostly just hanging in Whistler?
HOJI: Yeah, I live there. I've never skied much in Washington, except for Baker, but I'd like to try some of the other areas around here. I know Bob (Boice, 4FRNT engineer) is from here and knows his way around pretty well.
ME: (watching people heading upstairs with ski boots) Hey, excuse me, I've got to go fit some boots - great to meet you!
HOJI: Yeah, good to meet you, too. (and yes, I got my autographed poster - too bad I didn't have my TLT6P's around for him to sign!)
October 8, 2014
OK, I admit I wrote this piece without ever seeing or laying a hand on a Marker Kingpin binding. In my defense, I didn't get invited to the unveiling event in Chile, and none of my friends in the Marker loop had one yet, either. If you haven't heard about it, the Kingpin is a just-released tech binding that just may be burly and elastic enough to use as both your everyday lift-served binding and your touring binding - in other words, a product the masses have been clamouring for for years.
The Marker Kingpin uses a set of three springs at the tech toe rather than the traditional two, and foregoes the tech heel pins. Instead, Marker uses what appears to be a revised version of the piston heel from the Tour F10/12, but which wraps further around the heel and employs rollers at the corners. The promise of real alpine-like elasticity has charging ski tourists salivating, but the downer was that sales were to be on a very limited basis starting in December of 2014, and limited to German-speaking parts of Europe.
But wait. My sources at Marker have now confirmed that a "few" sets of Kingpins will be available to North American customers THIS year via certain Marker dealers - I am assuming they're distributing the limited number of bindings to their biggest accounts and a few "core" shops that specialize in ski touring. The problem is both a lack of bindings and a shortage of the unique jig for the Kingpin, which needs to be mounted very precisely. And yes, evo Seattle is on the list. The way to get a pair is to contact one of these shops and get your name on their list of interested buyers. Call now if that sounds like you.
Previous Incoming Pages:
China: Wandering in the Middle Kingdom
"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2016 Gregory C. Louie