Over the past few years Black Diamond has been quietly moving into the alpine ski market. As one of the premier manufacturers of top notch climbing and mountaineering gear, the company already understands the importance of performance, durability and functionality. The editors of Freeskier have already been impressed by the brand’s first forays into the alpine ski world. Both the Havoc and Verdict have scored decent marks in our annual ski tests, combining light weight with performance – a difficult balance for even the most established manufacturers.
For 2008/2009 Black Diamond is introducing a new fat ski, with serious tip and tail rocker. Called the Megawatt, the ski will headline the brand’s 2008/2009 line up. The company has also developed a new line of boots, which combine the backcountry functionality of traditional ski mountaineering boots with the performance of top of the line alpine offerings. The Factor boot heads up a strong line up and is, as far as we are concerned, the boot you should take a hard look at if you ski big-mountains and spend any time touring. It’s also an intriguing choice for park riders, as the boot features one of the best “walk” options we’ve ever tried. Hike the pipe a lot? The Factor could be worth a hard look. Both the Megawatt and the Factor prove that Black Diamond is becoming serious about the kind of skiing we all do. As Thomas Laakso, Black Diamond’s product manager for alpine gear says, “it’s all about the down.”
You can believe us, but the recent signing of big-mountain charger Billy Poole gave us the opportunity to sit down with the guy who will form the nucleus of Black Diamond’s freeride team and ask him about the product he is using – and abusing – on a daily basis. Here’s what Mr. Poole has to say about Black Diamond’s two top offerings of for 2009.
Tell us about the Megawatt.
The Megawatt has a ton of rocker, is relatively stiff and flat underfoot and is excellent for skiing all conditions. The stiffness underfoot makes it good for air, you can stomp your landings.
So you like it?
It surprised me from the start. I was skeptical. But I’ve been extremely happy and surprised. I ski on the Megawatt every day.
You’re the only big-name freeride athlete currently signed by Black Diamond, although Product Manager Thomas Laakso has hinted that the team will grow. How has it been working with them?
It’s been great. They get me involved in a lot of what the company is doing. It’s been wonderful. The support has been amazing. I was worried if Black Diamond would embrace me, after all, I’m kind of different from most of the athletes they sponsor, climbers and people like that, but I’ve met everyone, and everyone at the company who I’ve talked to is very open to my suggestions. It’s a great situation for me.
But you are a one man band, so to speak, right now.
I think that the team will start to get bigger. Black Diamond has been focused on putting a lot of resources towards research and development and marketing. I think in five years that you’ll see a pretty big team.
Speaking of R and D, in addition to the Megawatt, the other big news at Black Diamond is a boot line, headed up by the Factor.
Yeah, the Factor. The Factor is an alpine boot, but with a walk function. It’s another product that I was skeptical about, but the performance is great, and the boot has pretty amazing functionality. It will ski great out of the box, they’ve really focused on that, but if you need customization, it has a heat moldable liner, canting, everything you’d expect form a top of the line alpine boot, except it is a lot lighter and has that walk mode, which is great for the backcountry if you’re touring or hiking. Just go buy the boot, you’ll be happy (laughs).
So you’ve got the boots, and you’ve got the skis, where are you going to use them?
I plan on skiing Utah a lot this year (ed’s note: Poole is based out of Salt Lake), and I’m definitely going to Kicking Horse. And Alaska is always in the back of my mind.
No comps? I remember seeing you rule it at Snowmass a few years ago.
The only competition I’m interested in doing is Snowbird. Comps helped me get started as an athlete, but I started to do them so I could film and shoot, which is what I want to focus on this year.
In addition to Black Diamond, you’re involved with a company called Discrete.
Yeah, Discrete is a hat company I started with Julian Carr. It was on the back burner for a few years, but we are trying to make it a leading hat company. We’re going to have a booth at the SIA show in Vegas, we’re sponsoring athletes and events. This is a big year for us.
Any final thoughts for your adoring fans?
Come to Utah if you get a chance and get a Boomerang at the Sitzmark.