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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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