BD employee Evan Bouchier reports on his prototype ski testing in the Pacific Northwest
Black Diamond employee Evan Bouchier is one of the engineers working on the production and development of our skis, and part of his job is getting out there and testing protos—hey, somebody’s gotta do it, and Evan’s not complaining that’s for sure! Below is the report and photos Evan sent us from his powder mission to the Pacific Northwest before his next work trip to Asia to work on more prototyping and development.
La Niña unleashed her fury in the Pacific Northwest over the past weeks, and I had the good fortune to catch the storm of the season (so far) in the North Cascades. Having spent much of my life in the dry snow of the Rockies, I have no experience with driving conditions as bad as what I encountered while traveling the Washington and Oregon roads. On the other hand, sticky snow that annihilates roads is the same sticky snow that clings to impossibly steep terrain and forms beautiful, skiable, spines and pillows.
Due to the dangerous backcountry conditions in the storm, and my lack of a local crew, I was relegated to skiing the lift-accessed terrain at Stevens Pass and Mount Baker. With extremely poor visibility, the name of the game was pillow-plopping and spine-slashing in the steep trees of these awesome ski resorts, and I was diligent about leaving no pocket, pillow, or spine without a big fat pair of Megawatt tracks through it! Riding the lifts with happy locals, I was relieved to learn that I was not the only one overwhelmed by the driving conditions; that indeed this storm was on par with some of the biggest that lifelong locals had encountered. I agree with Antte’s post on the BD Journal from last week (and with skiers and others everywhere) that the evidence of climate change can be seen all around us. As skiers, I think we are particularly sensitive to the effects—who else obsessively watches every storm track all season long, has done so for their entire lifetime, and intentionally goes out and places themselves as deep in the fruits of these storms as possible at every opportunity?
I was doing my ski tour in traditional “ski bum” style: sleeping in my car. Perpetually soggy and smelly in the weeklong storm, I took every opportunity at night to dry out and stretch out in a lodge or a local coffee shop—anything with WIFI. I have been working as an engineer on Black Diamond’s ski manufacturing facility development project, so from the depths of the storm I still needed to patch in and help keep things moving along. I am primarily responsible for helping to develop the factories’ new Quality Testing equipment, so as I was slashing spines I was also pondering the best ways to evaluate machined ski-core geometry, or ensure edge-bonding integrity, or verify and match flex profiles. The curse of the ski-nerd! Each night while drying out my ski gear, I tweaked CAD models, communicated with my Chinese, American and global colleagues, and generally prepared for my upcoming trip to the new facility next month. Then I retreated back to the storm to do it all again the next day.
Finally, perched in my soggy car-bivy, I awoke to find that the storm had broken and the splendor of the North Cascades could be seen all around! I made my way down to Crystal Mountain, where a clear day offers stunning views of Mount Rainier, as well as a vista that extends to Mt. Baker in the north and Mt Hood in the south (if you’re standing in the right place). Crystal is one of the only resorts in North America that permits speed riding from their lifts, and I took advantage of the beautiful day to put in a some laps swooping through the trees in the cold, clear air—training for a Europe trip this spring. Later in the day I dropped my wing at the car and caught the last chair to boot out the boundary line. I made some new friends along the way, and together we shared a sunset over Rainier, watching as the storm moved back in beyond.
All charged up from the storm, tomorrow I board a plane for Asia to spend three weeks working in BD’s new ski factory. All the pieces are in place so that I should have the pleasure of helping to press the first pairs of experimental skis in the new facility. With some hard work and good fortune I’ll be returning to the States with a whole bag full with which to commence ski testing!