Monday, November 7, 2011


First, the staff of Gear West tests the prototypes and tells the company what to do:

The revisions are tested:

The new ski is produced by hand for Gear West:

Then it gets tested by the International Nordic Director:

Then it gets tested one more time by the dealer:


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jan Guenther Writes About our Friend Terry Alexander

When I look back at owning a sports retail store for the past 20 years, what I really remember and cherish are the quirky, crazy, lovable customers I meet and develop lasting friendships with. We at Gear West Ski and Run have sort of a Cheers Bar where those interested in us and the store just drop in and bring all their ideas, successes and attempts in life. I love it.

This brings me to my now lost friend Terry Alexander. I met him 3 years ago at the Minnetonka Tri parking his bike on the elite rack. He somehow stuck to us, Brian and me, like Velcro and we haven't gone a week without seeing him at least once. He built our work shower, he teaches me swimming strokes, and he complains about his fake teeth and drops off coffee. He tells stories about his lost digits and, he has been my crazy training friend. Sometimes 4-5 times per week in the summer we might bike or run together. Sure, he drove us nuts, Terry was like a relative who needed a roll of duct tape over his mouth to shut him up when we were busy and had no time to waste. But, what both Brian and I recognized and valued was his kindness and desire to do right. He tried hard, slipped up quite a bit. He was so vulnerable, so lost at times but so quickly happy given the simplest things, attention and training time :).

I have so many memories of Terry trying to "train me" for the past Ironman WI, and now for my current one. He actually was a terrific instructor when he could calm down and focus and share all the racing knowledge that he had acquired over his years as an amazingly accomplished competitive swimmer, runner, cyclist, equestrian, and fencer.

Anyway, this is my memory of Terry as I was the last one to spend time with him before his accident. Monday evening, August 1st, I called Terry (who also rented his house from us, one block down the street from mine.) "Let's go running this evening around the Lake View Golf Course!" "Awesome he says! Let’s bring our dogs! It’s finally cool and we can run easy (ha!). But we have to make it quick... my son Kristopher is coming home and I need to go to Target."

So we grabbed our dogs a stretched out our legs on the soft grass of the golf course. Terry proceeds to run full speed into a puddle, dragging his spotted Australian puppy, Pongo, and lands full in the puddle, both feet splash mud and water all over me, my dog, his dog and then he springs up into the air, his hands held high and shouts, "I love it! My life is getting so much better!” I just had to shake my head, laugh and we finished the golf course run in the waning sun. Terry was so happy and he left to drive east on the bypass to Target, to get some things for his son's homecoming.

We miss you Terry, more than we ever would have thought.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” - Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gear West Ski Flex Tester

Over the past year we have been designing and building the world’s foremost Nordic ski flex tester. Over $20k in hardware and lots of man-hours have been directed to the project and the final software solution. The technical team includes Gear West employees and former engineers, Matt Liebsch and Geroge Mehr along with our friends at Segla LLC, George Stickler and Jim Johnson. Our goal is to unlock the “black box” mystery of cross country ski flex analysis.

Other flex testers on the market use displacement, springs, force sensing resistors or camber length measurements to get an approximation of flex. Gear West is using the most accurate and expensive solutions available… load cells. We are not approximating flex based on secondary parameters or using inaccurate FSRs (force sensing resistors) prone to saturation pressure. Our load cells are accurate within 4 hundredths of a kilogram. This allows our flex tester to discern the slightest variations in flex. Our plan…

1. Analyze ski flex on any and all race skis
2. Map how the skis flex profile changes over the lifetime of a ski
3. Evaluate how well pairs of skis are matched

Now don’t get us wrong, we still have over 30 years experience picking skis by hand feel and flex board testing. Our newest tool will allow you, the customer, to see exactly what we are seeing and feeling when we pick your skis. That said, there are still some variables to ski speed that are very difficult to measure… namely base material variability and dynamic impulse flex response. But rest assured: Gear West has the wisdom, experience and largest selection of skis in North America to find your next favorite pair of Nordic skis!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ari "Employee of the Moment"

Full Name: Ari Clarke Mahonen
Age: 26 yr
GW Position: Sales/Technical Guy
Weight: 155lbs.
Height: 5’7”
Athletic Ability: Above average skier with a terrible aerobic capacity.

Where did you grow up? Hometown?

Duluth, MN

What childhood sports did you or didn’t you do?
Baseball kept me busy in the summer. Basketball was something to do with my friends but I soon realized that I was too short and wasn’t that good. I did Alpine ski racing through age 13 on the weekends. Back then Cross Country skiing was just a recreational thing that you did after downhill skiing in the morning. I did my first XC race at Snowflake in 6th grade where I placed third.

I never played soccer or hockey. I wanted to play hockey real bad but I’m glad that my parents didn’t let me. I never did the perfect hockey stop on skates.

What was your favorite place to ski in Duluth?
I spend the majority of my time at Snowflake. I worked the front desk for a few seasons and even groomed by last year in Duluth. Excellent trails. George Hovland has a great system up there.

But my favorite place to ski in Korkki a little bit out of Duluth. It is a classic only trail of old. Very narrow, only about 6 feet wide. Single Tracked. Iso Mäki. They also have a club for those who ski 50K and 100K on the trail in a single day.

Any sweet sports achievements or personal victories?
I’ve been a part of a section winning/state placing ski team, when I was on Duluth East’s team in high school. I have also coached several section and one state winning team at Hopkins.

I was happy to make it into the 1st wave of the classic Birkie for 2012. Pretty good for a new dad & ski coach.

Ari - Stage Left, WAY left

Do you have any goals for this upcoming season, either as a coach or athlete?
I would like to get a my classic Birkie time below 3:10 if I could. With coaching as always is getting a Boy’s & Girl’s team to state. Maybe even take home dual titles. You have to dream to do it.

College/Secondary Education/Degrees/Philosophies?
University of Minnesota. Still working on that one. I will return someday but right now I am enjoying Gear West & Coaching too much.

What are you studying?
I have an engineering background. Mechanical mostly. If I go back it would probably be to teach Science or math at a high school level. That way I could continue to coach if I wanted to.

Through your life experiences, how did you find your way to Gear West?
I was at a cross roads in my education when a position opened up at the store. I started in the back but moved into the front for the winter. There I stay. I grew up in a ski shop in Duluth. My dad worked at one for 25 years. I spent a lot of time around the shop just soaking it in.

How long have you been working at Gear West?
I started in April 2006. This year was my 5th winter at the store and will be my 6th summer.

What is the most interesting aspect of working at Gear West?
Helping the various levels of people that shop at the store. Some are very into skiing and others are very recreational. All seem to be equally enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm is key!

What drives you in this business?
The need to give great service and education so that the sport can continue to grow in the US. Also I’m a Gear Junkie and love to be around other Gear Junkies.

If you had to shamelessly promote 1(one) piece of gear junk, what would it be and why?
Casco Nordic Shields. They don’t fog, the protect your eyes from the cold & sun and are super lightweight. I didn’t freeze my retinas at the Birkie like many did.

Function meets fashion

What do you do at Gear West?
I manage and organize the hardgoods around the store, do some service work, and do sales of all things skiing. I do running shoes too but I don’t run nearly enough.

What products are you excited about this season?
Well seeing as summer is the next season. I really like all of the new minimal shoes. It was a niche in the market that needed to be filled. As for winter, I am excited for two of Atomics skis next season. The World Cup Hard Track Skate ski and the Skintec Classic Ski.

What do you do besides work at Gear West?
During the winter, much of my time is spent coaching at Hopkins. I just completed my 6th season as an assistant coach with them. It was very interesting seeing 7th graders become seniors.

Otherwise I spend as much time as I can with my wife Melanie. We were married two summers ago in Duluth. Then 2 days before the start of the High school season my son Juhani was born. He’s already been to his first Mora Vasaloppets, Birkie, and Junior Olympics. He seems to enjoy the experience. This makes me smile.

Home brewing is another favorite past time of mine. Caribou Slobber is currently fermenting in a mini-fridge in my living room. I am an aspiring golfer but usually I spend much of my time looking for my ball.

This is our favorite photo. Congratulations!

Question. Caribou Slobber! What is that? It sounds like an acquired taste...
It’s a play on Big Sky’s Moose drool. Just you’re standard American Brown Ale. On tap at Giant Ridge in the lodge.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The 2011-2012 RCS Carbonlite Skis Have Arrived!!

Ask and you shall receive… we are excited to have on-hand a limited number of next year’s RCS Carbonlite classic and skate skis. They are black and they are beautiful! Ski fit extraordinary, Brian Knutson, has exclaimed, “This is one of the best batches of Fischer skis I have ever seen!”

New for 2011-2012, the Carbonlite Classic ski incorporate a molded carbon tip for reduced swing weight and better acceleration. The three-dimensional construction allows the tip to be shortened without sacrificing contact length or stability. The Carbonlite Skate ski continues to employ the Gold medal winning Hole Tip technology.

You still have time to pick up on of these rocket ship skis and have them race ready for the Birkie. How would you like to be racing on a ski that only World Cup skiers are sporting for the Oslo 2011 World Championships?!?

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Available at your favorite Atomic dealer now is the new SNS Wedge 60. Putting these on your skis is almost like giving them a banned substance, only these new 60mm Wedges have been approved by the FIS and IBU. The cheating is figurative, not literal; they will give your skis an unfair advantage over the folks you ski with. The new wedge is legal.

The Original SNS Wedge

The NEW SNS Wedge 60

Last year, the regular SNS Wedge (42mm wide under the ball of the foot) was introduced at the Vancouver Olympics with outstanding results. This wedge is a sloping ramp that fits under the bindings and lifts the toe 4mm while leaving the heel alone. It is not a cant, there is no angling of the foot to the side, it is purely a lifter. Why does this lifter make you a faster skier? Have you ever mounted your skis a few centimeters too far behind the balance point? By being that far back from the peak of the camber, the skis glide like rockets. This greatly decreases the pressure on the key part of the forebody and being mounted too far back greatly increases the speed of any skating ski. Important to note, this is for skating skis only, doesn’t work on classic. Why doesn’t everyone just mount their skis back 5 or 6cm from the balance point if this makes the skis so fast? Because, once you go more than one or two cm behind the balance point you will have a ski that gets pretty hard to control and turn. What you would gain in speed would be lost in lack of control. The SNS Wedge that was introduced last year has the speed effect of being mounted too far back. Raising the toe a little bit, leaving the heel alone, changes the weight distribution on the camber and gives the ski the fast glide of being a little too far back. However, your binding is in the proper location so you still have the control and stability that comes with mounting the binding just one cm behind the balance point. This wedge was widely used at Vancouver by all SNS athletes and has been available to the general public since last fall. New and just arrived is the wider version, the SNS Wedge 60 which is a full 60mm wide under the ball of the foot. Don’t worry; the wedge won’t touch the snow no matter how much you lean the ski over.


Look at the picture above of the new wedge and you will notice that it has a cavity in the middle. The binding fits right into that cavity so that the wider wings are flush with the binding; there is no gap between the boot sole and this wedge. The end result is noticeably better control than having the original wedge or no wedge at all, especially when pushing off on hard tracks.


-Rick Halling, Atomic USA