Paul Parker literally wrote the book on freeheel skiing. But for the past 16 years, heís been designing and developing AT and telemark boots for Garmont. Between trips to Garmontís Montebelluna, Italy headquarters, Parker joined a group of journalists in Oregon for a few days of skiing and product demonstration. I sat down to breakfast with Paul Parker to talk AT boots, hot trends and carbon fiber.
Backcountry: Whatís the major trend happening right now in AT boots?
Paul Parker: Boots are certainly getting lighter and I also think that the consumer really wants everything. They donít want to compromise performance for weight. Of course we all want everything but the expectation is to have a boot that skis downhill really well and walks really well, too.
Parker shows off next year's line at the new Garmont North America HQ in Portland, OR. [Photo] Tyler Cohen
BCM: Why are we seeing this emerge now?
PP: In part, as things get better, it raises the bar and raises peopleís expectations. Also, I think people are getting out more so they can use the features like walkability. Theyíre actually using them more than they used to.
Parker presents the Garmont Cosmos. [Photo] Tyler Cohen
BCM: Is it technology driven, too?
PP: For sure itís technology driven. Now things are as relatively simple as switching plastics and using stiffer plastics in a thinner application with plenty of strength and skiability. The plastic itself is lighter, so we end up with a much lighter product. Also, innovations are really keyóin our case with the Cosmos and the Powerlite bootsóin the walk mechanism. It gives you a much bigger range of motion and a much easier walking stride.
BCM: Any other technology innovations out there?
PP: Well carbon fiber is being used a lotómore in racing boots than anything. Carbon has some disadvantages in a more downhill or all-around oriented boot because you donít get any sort of progressive flex out of it like you do with plastic. I think in the last few years thereís been a craze for carbon, particularly in AT race boots. It seems like manufacturers are moving away from that a little bit and using carbon more specifically and more strategically in their designs.
BCM: And that decreases the cost.
PP: Especially, because itís expensive to work with. You canít inject it so you have to use an autoclave and itís shaped really differently.
BCM: Tell me about flex index. Is that something weíre going to see standardized across brands in years to come?
PP: Flex index is not measured. Itís just a number that everybody throws at their boots to position them in their line. Itís more applicable within a given product line or a given brand because you do give a higher flex index to your boots that are stiffer. Itís a really general indicator to the consumer as to whether or not in a given line a boot is one of their softer boots or one of the stiffer boots. Thatís OK, itís just that we canít look at it as a specific number.
The ISO, the International Standards Organization that determines a lot of the norms that we work with, is working on some sort of standardization. I donít honestly know how big a deal it is, but theyíre working on it.
BCM: What trends will be coming down the pipe in following years?
PP: I think boots will get lighter all around. And I do think there will be some sort of reorganization of the categories. A lot of that will be affected by what the alpine guys do. Companies like Tecnica, Lange and Salomon have certainly gotten more into the freeride side of AT and that certainly will reposition some of the categories.