Part 2 – Interview with Greg Whitehouse of California Ski Company, Berkeley, CA on Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) Q&A Series
Since mid-March when ski resorts started to close as a result of C0VID-19 pandemic, as a ski and backcountry retailer, what are your observations regarding if there has been an uptick in interest from folks venturing into the backcountry? Have you seen an increased demand in BC inventory for gear and skis?
Yes we have seen a big increase in demand for backcountry gear. Snowshoes and cross country gear has risen too but the big story is definitely backcountry touring gear. Last year in August and September 11% of our boot sales were for backcountry boots. This year for the same time frame we are at 40%. This is an amazing increase. Skis and other gear are trending the same way.
What types of gear, skis, etc do you carry?
We carry Alpine gear from many different manufacturers. We have 12 brands of skis and over 100 boot models. For touring specific gear we have an additional 6 ski brands and over 40 models of boots. We also carry a great selection of bindings, safety gear, several models of skins, crampons, ice axes and lots of other accessories.
In regards to backcountry ski shop services, what do you offer?
We have a full service shop that can mount any binding and has a complete ski tuning and maintenance menu. We are also nationally recognized for our custom boot fitting. We have multiple certified Master Bootfitters and the latest in fit technology including 3D foot scanning.
Do you offer any backcountry touring or can you refer folks to BC tour operators so they can go into the backcountry with expert guides?
We work with several guides and tour operators and can match a customer up with a touring guide that’s appropriate for his/her needs.
How does a newbie get started for backcountry skiing in three essential steps to get the required gear?
1.First you need the gear that makes hiking possible-skis, boots, poles and skins.
2. Second step is safety gear. Beacon shovel and probe are the minimum requirements here.
3. The Final and potentially most important step is a fundamental snow safety knowledge base. An Avalanche 1 class through AIARE or another provider is where you start. Learning how to use the Sierra Avalanche Center Website (https://www.sierraavalanchecenter.org) when planning your outing is important too. I would also recommend using a guide until you feel safe heading out in your own.
Also, for someone who is not sure yet, you can always hire a guide and rent some gear to try it out. Be prepared for blisters with rental ski boots though!
What’s your recommended gear and manufacturers with a success track record of building solid backcountry/touring skis and or split-boards?
There are the classic touring gear companies such as Dynafit, and Voile.
These companies have been joined in the last several years by companies that have historically been known as “Alpine” skiing brands. Fischer, Blizzard and Atomic were once brands more familiar to those that follow World Cup ski racing but are now making significant contributions to the touring world too.
There has been an explosion of excellent gear in the last several years. It is hard to really point to any specific companies as being recommended. We are just happy to suddenly have so many great choices! Drop by Cal Ski Co and we can discuss your gear related questions and how we can help you or refer you to someone who may be of help.
What is it about CalSki Co that stands out from other ski retailers/repair/service shops?
California Ski Company is a ski equipment specialist. It is all we do year round. Many shops are jumping on the backcountry wave but we have been selling backcountry gear for over a decade. As a small local retailer we have been offering legendary customer service and advice since 1989. We are skiers serving skiers and we use what we sell.
Would you like to add anything else?
We are currently open Wednesday through Sunday 10-6. Our hours will expand in November to 7 days a week plus evening hours of operation.
We have implemented strict procedures for Covid to help insure the safety of our staff and customers. Masks are mandatory at all times. Social distancing is in place. Service is by appointment. We are taking the temperature of every person that enters the store. Sanitizing schedules are maintained at every work station and masks and sanitizer are readily available. Each boot fitting station is separated by plexiglass.
Free gift promotion:
Cal Ski Co is giving away 25 logo beanies to the first 25 people who visits their ski shop and mention this featured article. After the 25th person, they will give 1/2 off price beanies for the asking 😉
Greg Whitehouse (Cal Ski Co Small Business Owner)
California Ski Company
843-A Gilman St
Berkeley CA 94710
Looking for a job?
Cal Ski Co is currently hiring as of October 29, 2020. Full-time and part-time employment available: job openings, ski tech and boot-fitter. Experience is desirable but not necessary. The only criteria is that you are a skier. Interested or know of someone who is? Email resumes to .
Read our Q&A part 1 – Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding (spilt-boarding) interview with Alyssa Olenberg-Meltzer who got into backcountry skiing and loves it from the start; she has four winters of experience and shares her hard-earned wisdom.
Interview with Robert Shattuck, founder of San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (SFBS) Community on Facebook Groups.
Interview with Richard Bothwell, Backcountry Touring Guide and Director of the Outdoor Adventure Club
Interview with Carl Hlavenka, ski patroller with Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol and California Winter Search and Rescue Team North
Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding based out of Baker Mt, WA
Interview with Shane Robinson Owner & Lead Guide at Graybird Guiding
Backcountry Skiing, Snow-Sports Resources
✔ SnowPals.org is a non-traditional snow-sports club for busy Bay Area professionals. Join SF Bay Area professionals to expand your circle of ski and ride buddies (resort based and backcountry), btw, that’s how we came up with our name: Snow (Snow-Sports) + Pals. Membership type: one-time paid membership fee of $20; join SnowPals. Read members’ intros to get an idea who joins. Founded in 1999 by a small group of friends; we are now 8,249 members and growing. Celebrating our 21st year of connecting folks to expand their circle of snow sports activity partners.
✔ San Francisco Backcountry Skiers Facebook Group: ‘San Francisco Backcountry Skiers (and Riders) is a resource and inspiration for people in the San Francisco area (and beyond) who are interested in backcountry skiing and riding. SFBS welcomes both experienced and aspiring backcountry skiers and riders.’ Membership type: free, public group. 3.3k members. Visit their FB group page.
✔ Sierra Avalanche Center’s education resources where you can get the backcountry safety education and hands on training
✔ Lake Tahoe Backcountry Ski Topographic Maps and Guidebook
✔ California Ski Company in Berkeley is one of the top ski shop retailer for ski gear for sale and rentals, plus boot fitting and equipment service. Cal Ski Co is a ‘specialty ski shop focused on ski equipment sale and rental since 1989. They sell and rent equipment for both Resort and Backcountry Ski Touring. Their team of expert ski boot fitters are the best in the business. They repair and tune about anything that slides on snow.’
✔ Backcountry and Outback Adventures for Telemark and Randonee Ski Rentals, Fremont, CA and Larkspur, CA – Outback Adventures is a comprehensive outdoor adventure guide service, rental shop, and paddlesports and nordic ski specialty retailer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
✔ Sequoia National Park Lodging WUKSACHI LODGE
Located in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, Wuksachi Lodge is a modern lodge with 102 guestrooms. It offers a cocktail lounge, a full service restaurant and both a retail and ski shop. At an elevation of 7,050 ft. (1,980 m), Wuksachi Lodge is only 4 miles away from the Giant Forest Museum.
Delaware North Parks & Resorts offers multiple services like overnight accommodations, retail, food and beverage, etc. at Kings Canyon National Park in the area of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Limited Internet is available in some areas of the main lodge. Wuksachi Lodge is open throughout all the seasons.
At an elevation of 6,500 ft (1,980 m), the Grant Grove Cabins is located in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It offers 6 types of cabins; some are even opened all year. Main attractions like a sequoia grove, gifts shop, markets and restaurants are half a mile (800m) away from the Grant Grove Cabins. Open: All Year (limited in the winter)
✔ PEAR LAKE WINTER HUT
Managed by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, Pear Lake Winter Hut is a rustic hut of 10 bunk beds that opens during winter and requires reservations but only for wilderness skiers who travel to Pear Lake during the cold season. At an elevation of 9,200 ft. the hut sits high above Lodgepole. This hut includes a wood-pellet stove. To get to it, you need to go through six miles on skis or snowshoes. Reservations can be made online or by phone: 559-565-3759.
Got a key backcountry resource not listed here that you’d like to share? Contact . Advance thanks for sharing.
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