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December 31, 2019

First Day on Snow

Marginal snow and all, we headed to Summit West for my first day on snow since blowing out my ACL in April and Max's first day ever. Max thought the Magic Carpet was good enough for several runs, and Little Thunder was epic simply because it was a "chair lift." Hot chocolate was a bit of a letdown since it never got cool enough for him to drink, but the cookies (we brought our own) were top rate.

As for the repaired knee, it felt pretty good. Not "like new" good, but not bad either considering it's still only 7.7 months out from surgery and full recovery is usually quoted at 9 to 12 months. Stoked to be back and joining other ACL-replacement patients like Olympic surfing team member John John Florence in getting back to it.

Between Gramps' skis . . .

With Dad . . .

December 2, 2019

The Holidays are Here

Greetings from the Louie clan, including those who thought they were "out of the picture" . . .

September 24, 2019

Europe 2019: Crowds, Cuisine and Culture

Just back from a 3 week tour of Europe, we are trying to digest what we experienced and recover from jet lag.

Old cities. Ancient cities, really. From the Czech Republic to Italy, we stayed almost exclusively in the "old" parts of town, walked the cobbled streets, and sought out art and food that were representative of the region.

Prague from the bell tower of St. Nicholas' Church, headed toward Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge

We began the trip in Prague, staying in a former convent just a block and a half from the original (and once only) span over the Vltava River, the Charles Bridge. Prague is an amazing city, with much of the infrastructure intact and essentially unchanged for centuries in the Old Town. Every block has a magnificent church, each more grand than the last, culminating in the magnificent Cathedral of St. Vitus within the Prague Castle walls. Unfortunately it's also the most visited city in Europe, and the throngs of tourists manage to dampen much of the joy of roaming the more scenic parts of the city. It's almost impossible to enjoy any of the famous sites without jostling for position with groups of selfie-stick wielding tourists, even if you start early. The exception for us was the Convent of St. Agnes, which was apparently out of favor with the tour groups and maintained a serene and elegant presence dispite housing some of the best religious art in the city. The tour of the old Jewish Quarter was also reasonably calm, quite moving, and well worth the effort to experience.

My mastery of the Czech language left much to be desired, but I was able to ask for beer, wine, coffee and say "hello," which seemed to amuse the locals. The greatest triumph came as, leaving the city of Brno from the rather dilapidated Dolní nádraží Station, I was able to say to the grizzled conductress "train 75 is here, yes?" She looked at me like I was a total moron and said, "Yes." "On track 1?" "Yes." I was elated.

Interior of St. Nicholas' Church, magnificent and not overrun with tourists

The cemetery in the Jewish Quarter. By tradition, graves could not be moved after burial,
and the ground was unstable from seven or eight layers of bodies, hence the tilted headstones.

This Madonna and Child on wood is one of my favorites from the St. Agnes Museum.

The St. Agnes Museum is full of magnificent wood carvings, too. This one stood out for the missing infant.

In addition to the Chinese tour group phenomenon, there is a trend among wealthy Chinese to fly to famous locations around the world to take their wedding photos. Prague seems to be a favorite.

7:30 AM, Charles Bridge. Three Chinese couples, complete with stylists and photographers, are already staging their wedding photos.

St. Vitus Cathedral, 15 minutes before opening. Two Chinese couples were using the church entrance as a backdrop.

The scene inside St. Vitus, with one of the amazing stained glass windows in the background.
The famous window by Art Nouveau pioneer Alphonse Mucha is partially visible to the right.

Brno. We travelled to the Czech Republic's second largest city as an homage to Lindsay's great grandfather, who had emmigrated from here. It's on a smaller but more human scale than Prague, though still full of soul and antiquities. Our hotel was a gem, a brewpub called the Pivovar Pegas which also featured rooms above the restaurant. The rooms exuded warmth and charm, the food was fantastic, and the house-brewed beers some of the best we had in Europe. Lindsay judged their spicy Moravian version of goulash the best she had tried after a week of daily goulash samplings. Brno had it's churches and castles, too, but it's more of a hipster and student town that knows it's place and is proud of it.

There is a thriving craft beer scene in Brno, and breweries with names like "Genius" and "Lucky Bastard" sell their wares in a stone-lined square a few blocks from city hall.

Vienna. Sprawling, opulent, and expensive. If you want to dress up and go to the opera, this is the place to do so. Not really our style, but I did have a magnificent pepper steak with horseradish-infused mashed potatoes here. The high point was the bathtub at the Hotel de France, which was long enough for a 2 meter tall German to stretch out in.

The "Sissi" Museum in Vienna. Over-the-top displays of the dishware used by the Habsburg Court (this was for appetizers and sweet meats) are mind-boggling.

Salzburg. A vibrant, smaller city within striking distance of some of the most famous names in Austrian ski resorts. The fortress overlooking the town, Hohesalzburg, can be accessed by a funicular rail car, which is a worthwhile trip in itself even if you have the energy to walk up. The museum is painstakingly restored and staffed with locals in period dress, and the coffee at the outdoor cafe was excellent. The train went through Altenmarkt (home of Atomic) and Schladming (home of the biggest night slalom in the world) on the way to Graz.

A display of ski mountaineering gear used during the First World War by the badly outmanned and underfed Austrian forces

Graz. Lindsay's grandmother came from here (actually a small town just outside the city called Gratkorn), so we had to visit. Her grandmother's best friend's daughter and her husband, Puppe and Heinz, took most of two days showing us around, with notable stops in the apple orchard region (the preferred apple to use in strudel is the Boscoop, a tangy variety I'd never heard of). To be honest, the warm plum torte we had with iced coffee (in Austria that's a parfait glass generously laced with soft ice cream and filled with coffee) on the way to the Basilika Mariatrost outside of Graz was the best pastry I had the entire trip despite multiple apfel strudel tastings. The church wasn't too shabby, either.

This double spiral staircase in Graz was built in the 1300's with no external support, but it's still standing

The ceiling of the Basilika Mariatrost is outstanding, and - bonus - no tourists!

Borgo Sant'Ambrogio. We came to the Borgo Sant'Ambrogio to attend our niece's wedding, and our two sons and their families joined us. The Borgo is a lovingly restored former convent in the Tuscan hills near the famous town of Montepulciano, but set on its own secluded hilltop. The rooms, food and service were incredible and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone needing a break from the stress of everyday life. We spent four wonderful days here, punctuated by several trips to the small town of Chiusi to pick up our kids at the train station, visited the farm and cheese factory across the road, and enjoyed a much needed rest. Special props to our simpatico concierge Fabrizio, who went out of his way to make us comfortable and told us repeatedly, "It's Italy, relax!"

We swam laps in this gorgeous infinity pool every day, and ate olive oil from the trees on the hillside below

The courtyard of our building from our doorstep. Oranges and pomegranates are growing just out of view.

Firenze. I'll never rent a car (or drop it off) in Florence ever again. The tiny streets, masses of tourists, and maze of one-way lanes are a nightmare for driving unless you're very skilled, know the city intimately, and have a tiny Euro-style car. I had a Mercedes GLC 220d, huge by Italian standards, and Google Maps tricked me into a few wrong turns - one of them ending in a cramped underground parking garage that severely tested the limits of my driving ability and patience. However, the city is magnificent and somehow the crowds seemed less obnoxious than in Prague or Vienna. For one thing, many are serious hobbyists of some sort - serious foodies taking cooking classes, serious art-lovers taking in the classics in person, serious chasers of architecture getting their fill of some of Europe's best - and the locals, while relying on the tourist trade for their living, are quite good-humored about it. Famous attractions like Il Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery are legit, and the restaurant my co-worker Bates steered me toward, "Osteria del Gatto e la Volpe" served up an incredible meal of tagliatelle con cinghiale, insalata mista, and filetto con aceto balsamico washed down with a 2012 Brunello di Montalcino. Life is good in Tuscany and the Tuscans know it.

My friend Bates spent a semester studying in Firenze, and his recommendation of this restaurant was spot on.
Note the University of Washington sticker prominently displayed in the window at left.

My favorite annunciation scene isn't the more famous one by Leonardo da Vinci but this one by Sandro Botticelli. See them both and decide for yourself at the Uffizi.

August 24, 2019

A Summer of Rest and Rebuilding

It's been a slow summer.

With no ski touring or mountain biking on the docket, I've spent most of my time concentrating on healing my repaired right knee. The process - and it is a process - has taken longer than expected, with incremental gains week by week but no amazing leaps in strength or flexibility. Every ten days or so I look back and acknowledge that I can do a few things I couldn't do before, and the prospect of skiing again this winter becomes more and more of a reality.

I began carefully walking on the leg without the brace after the first week, though my physical therapist Geoff Gabler warned my to only do it on flat, predictable surfaces at home. After three weeks I was able to go "braceless" full time, and did a few shifts on my feet in the store. It wasn't terrible as long as I took regular breaks to elevate the leg and massage it, but at the end of eight hours the swelling and attendant pain became a challenge.

Two weeks post-surgery I started gingerly using the stationary bike with the seat height dropped down 2 inches. Initially it was tough just getting the crank arm over the top of the stroke a few times, but within a week I was spinning slowly with little to no resistance for five to ten minutes. It took several weeks for the stiffness to lessen - the first few minutes of each session were a bit rough, but after a few minutes it was bearable. I worked up to around twenty minutes twice a day and it made a huge difference simply to be doing something physical and starting to regain range of motion.

I started riding my bike on the Burke-Gilman trail approximately 2 months after the surgery, choosing mid-day and non-weekend hours to put in a few miles. The knee felt suprisingly good for eight to ten miles at a stretch, but my lower back and arms were sore after so many months off the bike. After a couple weeks of "training" I was able to start my normal routine of commuting by bike again, working up to around 100 to 120 miles per week.

Now I'm 3.5 months into my recovery, and it's more of the same. I've started to regain some actual fitness, so I'm no longer the slowest guy on the bike trail. Walking is more or less normal, even up and downhill, and I've started some light impact exercises at PT. Light jogging commences at 4 months, so I've ordered some new Salomon Predict RA shoes to be fully cushioned when the time comes.

Big event of the summer has been my son Jordan's wedding to his longtime girlfriend Erin, which took place at the new Nordic Museum in Ballard. Everything from the venue to the food was awesome, and it was a great opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones from the bride's side. We caught a break with the weather - the wedding was outside, and the day before had been pouring rain. It was too hot in the sun while I was bringing in the wine, but by the time the guests started to arrive the seats were in the shade and a breeze had come up, making the temperature perfect.

We've done a few trips to Kennewick to see my older son and his family, though I was a bit hobbled when it came time to pick fruit. Next it's off to Europe for most of the month of September, so I'm cramming with the Pimsleur Czech language course from Audible, which is a great program (I've used the Mandarin Chinese version before) but Czech is a difficult language to get a handle on. We'll see how it goes.

Calf training with the Louies, enroute to the Watermelon Festival in Hermiston, OR

Our baby (in the tuxedo) gets married   Amelia Soper photo

May 15, 2019

ACL Reconstruction Surgery: The Gory Details

A week ago, I went "under the knife" at the Seattle Surgery Center with Dr. Chris Wahl and his wife (and PA) Suzanne at the wheel.

After a few informational sessions and some emails, plus plenty of online research, I decided to take Dr. Wahl's advice and go with the "bone-patellar tendon-bone autograft" option. In his opinion this approach offered the highest strength at the connection points at the femur and tibia, had a similar "feel" to the original ACL, and was potentially the quickest to recover from assuming the patient is willing to pursue active physical therapy - "this is the option I'd recommend if you were a running back for the Seahawks". He had a tentative repair of the MCL scheduled as well, which would require harvesting a hamstring from the same leg, but that turned out to be unnecessary - once he opened the knee it was apparent the MCL was well on the way to repairing itself.

The first order of business was harvesting the center third of my patellar tendon, including bone "plugs" from the kneecap and fibula, with a series of micro-tools including tiny saws. Suzanne set to work shaping the bone ends to fit holes they would drill in the femoral plateau and tibial plateau along the same axis as the original ACL. Then they trimmed off the floating stump of my old ACL with a rotary laser cutter, and trimmed the edge of my meniscus using a tiny clipper tool called the "toilet seat." The videos they took of this process were pretty awesome once I got past the idea that it was MY knee.

Then the newly created ACL was threaded into the two holes, tensioned with polyester cord, and locked off with screws. The entire process (from application to removal of the inflatable tourniquet) was 73 minutes.

One week after the surgery, I'm feeling, well, pretty good. Day one and two were a little rough, and spent in an oxycodone haze. Day four was actually the roughest, as I stopped taking the opioids and went cold-Tylenol, but the real ordeal was getting the bowels to move again. I followed the post-op instructions carefully and started bending the leg after the first two days, and gradually started letting the leg bear as much weight as I could stand, but everything was (and still is) pretty tender.

My first physical therapy session with Geoff Gabler today went well, with he and his staff encouraging me to walk without the brace ("don't do this in public, only here") while he spotted me a few inches away. Range of motion is right on schedule, with flexion coming in at 90 degrees and the leg going almost flat with no real effort. I'm pretty stoked about the latter development, as I could never really straighten it before the surgery (the "stump" of the ACL was blocking it, apparently). Now it's more of the same, working up the strength and stability of the leg and range of motion in the knee. Now about that third down back vacancy with the 'Hawks . . .

The end of my old ACL looks like a sea creature from the Marianas Trench that has never seen the light of day . . .   Chris Wahl photo

New ACL fashioned from the center third of my patellar tendon is now in place   Chris Wahl photo

MRI of my meniscus shows obvious frayed areas

The clipping tool known as the "toilet seat" in action on my meniscus   Chris Wahl photo

May 2, 2019

Just Like That . . .

Yesterday, my habit of skiing at least once a month throughout the year came to an end.

After 14 years and 7 months of making turns in each calendar month, I severed my ACL and tore my MCL badly while skiing with my son at Snowbird. At the time, I didn't really expect the injury to be especially serious, never having blown a knee before. It had been 16 years since my last serious injury, a severed achilles tendon, had required surgery, and my previous doctor had recently retired. When I finally got in to see Dr. Chris Wahl and found out the extent of my injury it started to sink in.

The MCL could normally be expected to heal on its own, and for a lot of guys my age having no ACL wasn't necessarily such a big deal. One could watch TV and play a round of golf each week without one. In my case, a guy who still feels he has some good turns left, an ACL replacement was definitely in order. Dr. Wahl went through the three primary options - patellar tendon graft, hamstring graft, and cadaver donor graft - and recommended the first as the "highest performance" choice. That's what is on the schedule for next week, so I've got fingers crossed.

Somehow I thought there would be more drama. Maybe an alarm would go off in the sky as I got within 6 hours of my streak ending. Maybe I'd feel a huge sense of foreboding or unease, as if the world was about to change profoundly. That wasn't the case, the clock passed midnight on the first of May with no theatrics at all, at least none that I found worthy of waking up for. No one really cared that much but me and a few of my crazy "Turns-All-Year" friends.

Now I'm settling in for a longish recovery with a lot of stationary bike time and rehab. My physical therapist Geoff has given me a good sense of what to expect over the past two weeks, and I've resigned myself to starting the process all over again after the surgery. Here's to streaks and their inevitable end, and to the lucky 14 plus years I went injury free while skiing a bunch of great lines with a bunch of great friends. See you on the snow next season!

Heading toward Golden Gate with Kevin, Mt. Rainier, 2004   Frank Neumann photo

April 18, 2019

End of an Era

In 1974, Bob Grubb told me he was buying a lot in Greenwater and starting up a little restaurant.

That spot never became a full service restaurant, but Bob and Debbie put up a building and started a hat shop called Wapiti Woolies, which became famous for hand-made hats of the finest quality. Somewhere along the line, they also started serving snacks, espresso drinks and ice cream, and pretty much became a required stopping point for Crystal Mountain skiers going both up and down the mountain.

Last week the Grubbs told me that, after 45 years in the business, they decided to move on and have sold Wapiti Woolies to a young couple who are "really excited to move up and become part of the community." The official change in ownership is slated for July 1, with the Grubbs hanging around a bit as consultants, but it appears a couple of trips to Nepal and Chamonix last year made a big impression on them and they're ready to see the world beyond Greenwater. It's a well deserved retirement, and I wish them good things on their journeys.

Deb and Bob in the coffee shop

April 13, 2019

Sliders Reunion 2019

The Sunnyside Sliders Annual Reunion was a subdued affair today for a variety of reasons.

A number of injuries hit members this season, with some opting out of the event and a few hobbling up to the top - Nita in a wheelchair and myself in a knee brace - and others finding more productive ways to spend the day than skiing by braille in the fog over a few inches of fresh on death cookies. It was still a treat to see and catch up with some of my oldest friends, and not being able to ski meant I did "lunch" at both the Snorting Elk and the Bullwheel in order to see as many people as possible.

The deaths of the youngest and oldest Sliders over the past year gave us cause to reflect after the group shot on the gondola platform. Vivian Laurel Macartney passed away from birth-related causes just 36 hours after being born, while Ben Muzzey breathed his last in February at the age of 98. Both memorable lives, and we salute them, RIP.

A group of hardy regulars braved the elements for the group shot - more Sliders were on the mountain as well

The legendary Stanley "Fly" Larsen and young Amelia

March 28, 2019

K Skis Factory Tour, Park City, UT

My son Jordan and I flew to Salt Lake City last weekend for a quick blitz of the IKON resorts there - on the menu were Snowbird, Brighton and Deer Valley. Unfortunately I blew out my MCL on the afternoon of the first day and spent the next two days sampling the amenities in the respective lodges. Highlights were the leather armchairs by the fire and luxury bathrooms at Deer Valley.

I called up my old ski and travel buddy Kam Leang, who is now a professor of engineering at the University of Utah specializing in robotics. Kam's longtime hobby - he is the co-founder of - is building skis, and he indulges himself by continuing to sell ski building "kits" and making a limited number of custom skis for the public. His lab at the U of U and grad students participate in a number of ski-related projects, complete with industry funding from the likes of skimaker DPS.

Kam and his wife Allyson, along with their beautiful family, had us over for a delicious dinner of chicken and dumplings, wild greens salad, and biscuits before giving us a grand tour of their production facility. Park City is a pretty liberal and progressive town by Utah standards which tends to attract world class athletes who come to train and never leave (the neighbors are Olympian Picabo Street and former Ski Racing editor Tom Kelly). Not to mention awesome skiing no more than 15 minutes away.

Ski factories are pretty much all very similar, and Kam's has pretty much everything a larger factory does apart from an art and screening department. His pride and joy is a new CNC milling machine that the previous owner "couldn't get to work" and offered to Kam for free as long as he could move it. Kam is a robotics guy by trade and had the thing up and running in no time with a new Windows 10 control system. Sweet.

We couldn't participate in the Sunday touring session that looked to yield some sensational powder turns due to the knee issue, but we'll be back next year . . .

Bakery. Almond croissant. Americano. Jordan knows what to do.

Kam with some samples of light balsa and flax cores from B-Comp

Phirin Leang shows off his dad's ski press

The new CNC milling machine. This thing is massive.

March 21, 2019

Blizzard Zero G Skis: Original vs 2020

Game on. Blizzard shook up the ski touring world four years ago with the introduction of their light but burly Zero G ski lineup, and it has pretty much ruled the touring world since. The one complaint has been from those who feel the skis are a little "unyielding" and require too much effort to ski. The solution among most of the people I tour with has been to detune the skis a little and live with the fact that they don't "turn themselves" in return for absolute security in dicey and steep conditions.

For the upcoming 2020 season, Blizzard has mellowed their approach somewhat. The all-new Zero G 105 uses a brand new mold and sculpting (the original used the Cochise mold with lighter construction). With a bit more tip rocker, bevelled top edges at tip and tail, less of the tip and tail wrapped with Blizzard's Carbon Drive construction and shorter sidewalls, the 105 obviously loses a bit of width but also trims down from the 108's 1658 grams in a 178 to 1503 grams in a 180 (yes, the lengths have also changed).

The 2020 Zero G 95 retains the same footprint as before and adds a bit of tip rocker, while dropping weight and losing a bit of torsional stiffness. As with the 105, the length of the sidewall is shorter and the Carbon Drive doesn't extend as far toward the center of the ski at either end. The 171's weigh in at 1182 and 1186 grams, compared to the original's 1207 grams. Both skis have a recessed spot at the tip, presumably for a proprietary skin system, though I haven't seen one. While both new skis share the beveled top edge construction, the 105 gets regular width edges while the 95 comes with narrower and lighter edges. So far, I've only taken a few runs on each of the 2020 skis, with that being at the WWSRA demo days session at Mission Ridge, but I now have my own pairs mounted up and testing is about to commence.

More later . . .

I'm not giving up the originals yet. On the left, my "groomer" FIS GS setup, on the right, Lindsay's skis

March 17, 2019

Austria Again

Yes, I got "Austria Duty" again in 2019.

Chosen as trip leader for evoTrip Austria, and coming off the worst cold I've had in decades, I joined a group of 6 snowboarders from all over the US as well as a skier from Korea and headed for the Dachstein/Salzkammersgut region as I had last year. This year's riders were perfectly matched in ability, fitness and enthusiasm level, which always makes things easier for both me and the guides. Once again, we settled in at the incredible Heritage Hotel Hallstatt and shuttled daily to either the tram station at Krippenstein or the Dachstein Glacier.

Our guides Rob Hakenburg and Klaus Kain totally nailed the weather prediction for the week, stating in no uncertain terms that the day for the glacier trip should be Tuesday rather than later in the week as has been customary. It paid off big time, when we found ourselves faced with 9 inches of pow over 4 inches of heavier snow from the day before and the visibility turned from zero to blue bird right at the forecasted 10:30 AM mark. Amazing, and no one else had figured it out, leaving the entire glacier to us. Even the guides admitted it might be the best ski day ever. To top it off, there was enough snow to ride all the way back to Hallstatt and call Gary the cabbie to take us the 4 km back to the hotel.

The remaining days were full of classic Krippenstein adventure riding, always with some fresh snow mixed with icy bumps, trees and the famous Krippenstein "holes" (limestone holes called Doline by the locals). Day one was a little sketchy on the exit traverse, with icy "fall you get seriously beat up" bumps, but Rob set up a fixed line for people to grab and everyone survived. Food was typically excellent, with a choice of meat, fish or veggy at the hotel dinner and hearty Austrian fare at the Lodge for lunch. Hint: Get the Topfenstrudel for dessert.

Craig has his wallpaper for the next 20 years now . . .

Nin from NYC leaves a vapor trail, later admitting to being blown away by the scope of the glacier

We had the Dachstein Glacier to ourselves on Tuesday

February 24, 2019

Easy Access Pow Turns

Yes, right in Kevin's backyard, we parked in his driveway and hit the Hyak Healthclub.

Skintrack's already in . . .

A little thick, but oh so smooth   Kevin Curd photo

Kevin likes it

February 12-13, 2019

WWSRA Demo Days, Mission Ridge, WA

Mission's hospitality is first rate. When I lost my ticket after run 2, the liftie promptly pulled a spare out of his jacket and gave it to me.

Our annual west coast demo came up smack in the middle of Seattle's Snowpocalypse this week, and sure enough the trip over to Wenatchee Monday night was like a scene out of "Ice Road Truckers." Drifting snow, eight-inch-deep ruts, and semis sideways across Highway 2 made things a bit sporty but with a little added time we made it to the Coast Hotel and tucked in for the night. I was nursing this season's mega-cold, and so spent nearly every spare minute in bed at the hotel, but got out on the snow to test some excellent skis.

The much anticipated blower pow we were expecting didn't quite materialize, as the layer came in interspersed with freezing rain and high winds. Still, a foot plus of thick fresh is a great chance to check out every fat ski in the house in "real world" conditions, yes?

Pretty much every ski I tried over 115mm ripped, but there were standouts.

Number one for me was the new K2 Mindbender 116. When I came over a ridge directly under the chair and saw some huge bumps, I was able to rip off five precise turns and straightline the rest in total confidence. Pretty impressive for my first run on a totally new ski, and it held its own on the "groomed" as well. Völkl's new Revolt 121 was amazing as well - think of a Black Crows Nocta with a little camber and a little more "bite." I loved the new DPS Koala, too - Dash Longe's new pro model is damp and powerful without feeling dead underfoot. K2 and DPS in my top three at a demo is something that hasn't happened before, but kudos to those companies for stepping it up in 2020. The Kästle FX 116 was excellent if a little "edgey," and would be a great choice for the hard charger with a high credit limit.

DPS Koala is less "Koala" and more "Grizzly"

K2's new Mindbender series is awesome

In the "all mountain" category (meaning not really a dedicated "pow" shape and not really a dedicated "groomer" shape), K2 again took top honors with the Mindbender 108 Ti. Balanced, damp and strong at speed, the 108 Ti rips hard but doesn't really punish the rider. You do need to carry some speed and have a basic understanding of ski technique, but it's not demanding in the sense of a Cochise or similar Titanal-infused mid fat. The Line Vision 108 was a revelation - super light, but with enough guts to hold a clean line and carry speed. It's nimble and "turn friendly" enough to get some love from less aggressive skiers, but still strong enough to appeal to experts - kind of like a surfier version of the Salomon QST 106. Dynastar's Menace 98 also stood out as a great "all rounder" with a great turnability-to-stability ratio and should be a hit with those who stick mainly to the groomed if you can dig the graphics. Blizzard's re-issue of the Bushwhacker (really the Brahma CA in new livery) should really be called the "Groomwhacker," with precise handling that comes through regardless of the lighter construction.

Thanks to "Armada Bob" for the lift ticket on day 1, which I promptly lost

I didn't test too many touring skis, but I made a point of checking out the new Blizzard Zero G 105 an Zero G 95. The Zero G 105 sports an all-new mold and lighter construction, while both skis have been "toned down" a bit in terms of torsional rigidity. I shouldn't have worried about Blizzard going too "wimpy" - the skis still charge hard and have exceptional edge hold for their weight, but are less demanding and won't require as much detuning straight out of the wrapper as the originals.

Blizzard's Zero G skis are all new for 2020

Two all new boots from Atomic - the rear-entry Savor 110 and the new Backland Carbon with BOA closure

February 6, 2019

Gearing Up the Grandkid

Max was a little dubious, and there wasn't any snow yet at the park, but he put on the gear and did a little carpet skiing this weekend. Thanks to the Ireton ski museum for the loaners, this pair has some illustrious former users including Emma Thompson and Elizabeth Ireton!

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January 21, 2019

Long Term Test: Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro

Due to a glitch in supply continuity, my pair of Tecnica Zero G Tour Pros was late to arrive, but I've had them on snow now and they're about to see a lot more time on the skintrack.

The most talked about "power" touring boot of the 2019 season, the Tour Pro takes the place of the Zero G Guide Pro which was essentially a Cochise done in lighter Grilamid plastic. A complete redesign intended to make it a lighter, more tour-specific tool brings the weight down below 1,300 grams per boot while actually increasing forward stiffness and giving the tour mode extended range.

Making the Tour Pro fit my wide, 104mm foot (not counting bunions) took a while, but was simpler than most boot projects I undertake including my Lange XT Free 130 LV's and the boot I did much of my winter touring in last season, the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 XTD. A few punches in the usual spots - first and fifth metatarsals, navicular/medial midfoot, and left maleolus - took about an hour, and a quick heat mold of the liner were enough to make the Zero G Tour Pro quite comfortable, and I was able to add a thin cork posted footbed right away. Though the last is reportedly 99mm just like the old Zero G Guide Pro, the new boot fits a little tighter over the instep and feels just slightly snugger in the forefoot. The heel and midfoot feel about the same as the previous boot, and I was able to make the navicular area wider by simply heating the shell with the boot on my foot.

The 2019 Tour Pro features a unique tour mode lever that allows the cuff to engage the shell in two locations, serving to stiffen up the flex beyond what one normally expects in a 1,300 gram boot. I felt confident in removing the power strap (an ultralight version of the strap on the Mach 1 130) entirely, and filling the holes with plugs left over from an Atomic Hawx 120. The buckles are well done and super light, using a cable loop rather than a wire bale. It takes a bit of practice to locate them in the right spot on the ladders, but they seem to be getting easier to fasten as I use the boots and are extremely low profile. The bottom buckle is reversed, avoiding the problem of overhang while booting or removing skins.

So far the Zero G Tour Pro seems to ski and skin extremely well - I paired it with the Blizzard Zero G 108 and it was more than enough to drive the ski. With the power strap, I am pretty sure it would be stout enough to match up with pretty much any big freeride touring setup. Touring mode was also exemplary, especially for an overlap four buckle design, with plenty of rearward range of motion and a very smooth action. More to come as I get more time in the boot.

Update: Even though touring conditions have been less than stellar, I've put in 3 days on the modded boot and have to say I'm impressed. Usable range of motion is excellent for a 2-piece overlap design, and the boot is super strong on the downhill even with no powerstrap. I'm still playing with the forward lean options - wish they'd made the flip chip 12 and 14 degrees instead of 12/13 - and trying to decide if I want to add the extra weight of a velcro strip and Lange 2 degree shim. So far I've just been skiing with the top buckle very loose and I can get the stance I like. The buckles, which I thought "fiddly" at first, have been a non-issue - the cables stay in the top two slots fine during transitions and you can simply open them and close them when you flip the walk mode lever. The Zero G Tour Pro is officially a contender for those who have loved their Vulcans/Mercuries for years and can't find a replacement, or pretty much anyone looking for a powerful touring boot under 1400 grams.

Fully modded and ready for the skintrack; I flipped the retaining bracket to change the forward lean from 12 degrees to 13.

1325 with posted footbeds and no powerstrap

My backup plan in case this icy groomer trend continues - a NIP 2012 68mm GS race ski

Zero G Tour Pro rips on the down   Kevin Curd photo

January 2, 2019


A new year is here, and with it an opportunity to do more of what brings you joy.

One of these people is going skiing . . .

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