Stuart! Let's start from the beginning. How'd you get into freeheel
SK: I was born
with skis on. Momma said labor was a bitch. The free heels didn't
come until much later, my dad discovered tele skiing 25 years ago.
He had to teach himself, and my brother was a champion Nordic racer.
I preferred the speed & excitement of Alpine skiing, so I only Nordic
skied on family tours and such. Dad always commented; "some day
you'll grow up, and out of alpine skiing." It wasn't until I demoed
the first pair of Super Comps that I realized Tele was the way I
wanted to take my sport. My technique was far from polished, but
I knew the speed and power I sought was there.
D: You guide
backcountry ski trips as work with your business, Sierra Sherpa.
How has skiing as a job affected your perspective?
has been a great experience. Sierra Sherpa has forced me to be on
my skis at all times, and in situations that I might not normally
be if was just skiing for fun. Such as being in the backcountry
in heavy storms, high avalanche danger, and even knee deep slush.
It has turned me from an athlete to a student of snow and winter
weather. Plus, my strength and conditioning is better than it's
Credit: Justin Machus
Location: Tahoe Backcountry
D: What do
you ride? Describe your ideal all mountain setup...
SK: I ride K2
Skis. They seem to have a ski for every type of condition and adventure
I find myself in. For tours and guiding, I have a pair of Piste
Stinx. If itís more performance, backcountry skiing, or airs and
the like, I ride the Totally Piste. But the best all conditions,
all speeds, all around ski that I have found is next year's Super
Stinx. I probably sound like a K2 salesman, but K2 seems to have
a handle on Telemark skiing, and they understand we are getting
better at what we do, and need the skis to compliment our advances
in style, power, and speed.
the most sphincter tightening run you've had ...
SK: Far and
away the tightest my cheeks have ever been was riding on the back
of an avalanche through a funnel of rocks, over a cliff, and into
a forest. It was the only line I have ever taken that I couldn't
ski away from. Even though that was exactly what I had to do, and
D: Lucky you!
Avy danger is something for all of us to be aware of. Back to more
important questions: Diesel or unleaded?
SK: When given
the choice, Diesel.
D: Is there
a freeheel "scene" in Tahoe?
SK: Tele is
getting bigger out here every year. Everyone wants to do it, but
it's still a great minority who are willing to put in the time it
takes to be a really great tele skier.
photos to enlarge. Credit: Justin
Machus Location: Tahoe Backcountry
D: Macro or
SK: Macro. When
you gotta go big: GO BIG.
D: What do you
think of this whole New School vs. Old School hubbub?
SK: New School,
Old School, it is all the same to me. It's all skiing. I like to
think of myself as a New School Old Schooler, or an Old Schooler
with some New School tricks.
D: A wise man
once told me "never to eat yellow snow." If there was
one tip you would offer the tele world, what would it be?
SK: Free Heel
Skiing will go wherever we decide to take it. As long as it has
soul, it's all good with me. Keep it real, Keep it soul, keep it
D: Step in or
on what I'm trying to accomplish.
photo to enlarge. Credit: Justin
Machus Location: Tahoe Backcountry
D: You've been
skiing a long time. Who's your hero?
SK: When I
was younger it was Scott Schmidt. Now, without a doubt, it's my
Dad. He deserves my respect as a skier.
D: Final thoughts?
SK: If you
ain't droppin' the knee you ain't Tele!
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