Plastic 'Ski/Snowshoe' Hybrid

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Snow piles deep each winter on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a region of vast forests, rivers, small mountains, and the immense body of Lake Superior to the north. Not many people live on the U.P. But those who do, like David Ollila, often embrace outdoor activities with a fervor.

For Ollila, this means mountain biking and backcountry skiing. He founded U.P. Mountain Biking Magazine in 1995. To record his exploits, Ollila later invented a helmet-camera design that would eventually grow into a successful company, V.I.O. Inc.

Marquette Backcountry Ski copy.jpg

Marquette Backcountry Ski

Ollila’s latest venture, Snapperhead Inventions LLC, was a company born after a year of development and $70,000 in borrowed capital. The company’s sole offering, the Marquette Backcountry Ski, is a unique piece of winter gear custom made for terrain similar to what’s found in the woods and hills above Ollila’s home on the U.P.

He touts the invention as “30 percent snowshoe, 70 percent ski.” “It was designed around the topography and snowfall amounts in and around Marquette,” Ollila said.

Marquette Backcountry Ski - 3.jpg

Shredding in the trees on Michigan’s U.P.

It’s not a cross-country ski. It can’t be classified as alpine, either. What the Marquette Backcountry Ski offers is a short, wide ski with a fish-scale base to allow for flat land and uphill travel. No kick wax or climbing skins are needed for touring in the backcountry.

The ski is 140cm in length and 130mm underfoot. This formula gives it enough speed going down as well as some float in powder. But it’s fat and short enough to tromp in thick woods where snowshoes usually reign.

There are no metal edges on the Marquette Backcountry Ski. Sharp plastic on its edges lets you cut and carve in soft snow, but it is not made for icy slopes at resorts.

Marquette Backcountry Ski - 2.jpg

Marquette ski with Telemark boot and binding

The ski is made with polypropylene, fiberglass, and silicone, and it has threaded brass inserts for mounting bindings. Marquette Backcountry Ski users can employ stout Telemark boots and bindings or lighter Nordic gear.

continued on next page. . .

Posted by Mep - 11/16/2010 01:42 PM

Wow, that thing is weird looking! Looks like fun though.

Posted by D - 11/16/2010 01:53 PM

Would they work as an approach ski for a snowboarder?

Posted by Dale - 11/17/2010 08:43 AM

Can’t wait to see some reviews for this thing! I am a snowshoer and this could add alot of fun to the down hill portions!

Posted by B - 11/17/2010 03:16 PM

Looks a lot like the models that Karhu had a few years back with the permanent skins in the center.

Posted by RLW - 11/17/2010 03:48 PM

Shades of the long departed Trak Bushwacker… a 150cm skiand snowshoe replacement

Posted by Mike Harrelson - 11/17/2010 04:18 PM

Per the question about their appropriateness as an approach ski for backcountry snowboarding; I’d say they’re way too long (140cm) and would be quite unwieldy – strapped to your pack – on descent.I have used a number of different approach skis for bc snowboarding in the past and have found the ideal length to be in the 108cm-115cm length. Long and wide enough float when breaking track in deep pow, short (and light) enough strap easily to your pack for descent. Too long and you’re snagging branches on the top end or dragging in the snow on the bottom end. @feralson

Posted by Mike - 11/17/2010 04:28 PM

They look like the latest iteration of the Trak Bushwacker or more recently the Karhu/LLBean Meta and Karver models. Great concept but the reviews (Of the Karhus) fell way short of their promise. The Bushwackers did pretty well. Without edges I don’t see these as performing very well or holding up for very long under challenging conditions.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 11/17/2010 05:48 PM

I’ve used the Karhu’s several times and liked them, but sometimes the skin kept me from going downhill as fast as I wanted to. This looks like a suitable replacement since the Karhu’s are no longer made. Niche piece for sure though.

Posted by ET Snowkite Rep - 11/29/2010 10:01 AM

I’m seeing a good platform here for snowkite training. I have used modified waterskis before to ease the balance situation while teaching the new student to fly the kite.

Posted by J C - 12/05/2010 09:55 PM

So how do we contact these guys?

Posted by Mike Posthumus - 12/06/2010 12:43 PM

Hey, if you are interested in a pair, I own a retail shop that sells them in Marquette, MI. Contact me, and I can give you all of the info. Plus, we’ve ridden them, so we can give you more insight too…

Contact info at www.goswitchback.com
or
mike “at” goswitchback.com
906-362-4327

Posted by Mike McInnis - 01/20/2011 05:10 PM

I’m in Calif, not that that matters but nobody has addressed the binding in terms of cost relative to the ski…..total package $$$. We snow shoe and are unfamiliar with telemark boots or bindings. Is there a ball park figure out there for ski’s, boots, bindings? We’re interested but need more info.

Posted by bill betz - 02/03/2012 12:36 PM

how much does a pair weigh (without bindings)?

Posted by J Y - 11/11/2012 07:01 PM

Interested in binding compatability. Seeing the single line of inserts for the rear and the three at the front has me wondering how to mount AT bindings. No tele for me.

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