Chris Davenport, world renowned big-mountain skier, signed on with Scarpa last month as a product ambassador, tester, and a key member of Scarpa’s product development team. According to a press release Davenport, who has worked with boot manufacturers like Salomon and Garmont, was attracted to the Scarpa brand for the opportunity to be intimately involved in the development and testing of a new line of ski boots for the freeride market.
“Scarpa is super well respected in the world of skiing. For me, this is a chance to work with an already great line of products, but also a chance to help create something innovative and new,” said Davenport. He just returned from testing a new boot in Chile that is set to be introduced by Scarpa at the winter trade shows in January.
Another factor that attracted Davenport to working with SCARPA was meeting the Parisotto family that owns the company, along with the SCARPA North America team, and seeing their passion for developing game-changing products for skiing and mountain sports.
“We’re all product people, we love having the right product, the best thing out there, the most high performance thing we can have,” Davenport said. “So I think that also makes this a great match.”
I had a chance to speak with Chris Davenport about his new role and what he is currently working on at Scarpa.
Interview with Chris Davenport (11sept12)
Dostie: Rather than ask you specifics about the boot you’re working on that you probably can’t reveal, is there an ultimate boot you could imagine creating?
Davenport: Well, actually I don’t think it is realistic to create one boot that does everything. I love going out and doing a tour with an ultralight rando boot, but I also love getting in a pair of really solid alpine boots and skiing hard at a resort too. So I’m not working with Scarpa to build one boot, but we’re trying to focus on areas where Scarpa can create products that don’t currently exist in the market and build the best implementation of those that we can.
Everyone needs to ask themselves “what kind of skier am I? What do I want?” and then find the best fit in the market for that. This boot I just tested is a high performance boot yet light for its category. Our goal is to create something that is more diverse to handle different conditions than what is available right now.
I come from a competitive background, so [downhill] performance is really important. Just after I moved to Colorado to go to school, my first backcountry trip, a fourteener – Grays and Torres – I skied in competitive alpine boots. Like most alpine skiers I didn’t want to compromise the skiing experience. Once I got into the backcountry I got a pair of Scarpa Denali’s ‘cuz, y’know, they were the beefiest backcountry boot available at the time and I knew I wanted better touring and they had lugged soles and all that, but my first impression was they skied like crap.
So this boot we’re working on now will hit a large segment of the market that is looking to get in to the backcountry but doesn’t want to compromise their skiing experience.
D: So is this new booted aimed at the Sidecountry market?
Dav: I don’t really like that word. I prefer to call it lift accessed backcountry. One of my European friends says it well. You’re either in the resort, or you’re not. If you’re out of bounds you’re in the backcountry and you need to plan and ski accordingly.
Right now there are a lot of the major alpine companies developing product for this type of skier, like the Lange XT, or Salomon’s ill-fated Quest which is coming back. When you look at what companies that have built their business on creating boots for the backcountry have, like Scarpa, Garmont, and Dynafit, they don’t have anything to compete with boots like the Lange XT or Tecnica’s Cochise. They’re set to get slaughtered unless they can come up with a competitive product and that’s what this working relationship is about. This boot we’re working on will fit my needs as an Alpine boot AND for use on short, easy tours. For long tours I’ll still probably use something like a Maestrale.
D: What do you think of the safety aspect of lift accessed backcountry?
Dav: It’s kind of ironic but it can be even more dangerous than backcountry skiing because it creates a false sense of security due to proximity.
D: This boot you’re currently working on, is it based more on new concepts design-wise, or new materials? For instance, carbon fiber is used in high end rando race boots to achieve the stiffness required to crank hard turns but it doesn’t have the smooth, progressive engagement of traditional materials.
Dav: Yeah, carbon-fiber is funny that way. It’s great but it definitely doesn’t give you the same flex you get from traditional alpine boots. Skiing is a finesse sport and you need progression in the flex. One of the best things ski designers came up with way back when was the overlap construction which originally showed up in the Nordica Grand Prix. It’s a really great boot. So we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel design-wise so much, but we’re hoping to make a better walk mode, improve the removeable soles and stuff like that. And there are some amazing new materials that we’re considering. I just tested boots with three different materials that have different characteristics for flex and different temperature ranges and we narrowed it down to one or two different materials.
The main goal of this new boot is to help get more resort skiers into the backcountry.
D: I’m looking forward to getting a chance to ski with you in January and check these boots out.
Dav: Me too.
Given Chris’ description, what do you think Scarpa should call these boots?
Portions of this story were taken from Scarpa’s press-release of 11sept12.