The No Excuses Interview Series explores the approaches and personalities of athletes who are inspiring in both the quality and consistency of their achievements. They’re real people doing great things. What they do, you can too, if you want it.
For part three of the no excuses interview series, we’re joined by Tosch Roy, a nordic racer turned skimo mutant at the helm of a svelte technical pack company, Free Range Equipment.
Forced on to a pair of skis at the age of three, Tosch trained and raced as a nordic skier through high school, at which point, the mountains around Central Oregon proved to be too much of a distraction to a career in cross-country skiing. Tossing aside the skinny skis for something (slightly) wider, the Oregon Cascades became a training ground for his fast and light adventures.
After traveling abroad for a year, he decided that “studying” (read: skiing/climbing) at Montana State University would give him the best chance of finishing a college degree. While it was a worthy attempt, Roy dropped out after two years to start his business Free Range Equipment which manufactures ski mountaineering and climbing backpacks in his hometown of Bend, OR.
[dropcap_2]Q[/dropcap_2]You just won the elite skimo race at Vertfest Mt Bachelor. I heard that there were a lot more speed suits in attendance this year. How was the race for you, and was the competition stiffer this year?
[dropcap_2]A[/dropcap_2]Yes, Vertfest this year attracted almost twice the number of people as last year, maybe ten of whom were sporting spandex. While participation is certainly nowhere near Colorado or Utah, skimo racing is quickly becoming a thing in the Pacific Northwest and I think Bend is ripe with athletes who could excel at the sport.
The race went well and I think I can safely say the competition was stiffer than last year, largely because of Bend Skimo (see below). The team has given us the infrastructure to train, race, and be gear heads together.
[dropcap_2]Q[/dropcap_2] Can you give us a quick blow-by-blow?
[dropcap_2]A[/dropcap_2]Ok, here’s the race rundown:
Mt. Bachelor welcomed us with sleet and a thermometer reading of 32 F. We were surprised at the number of racers but a comment was made to the effect of “what else are you going to do on a day like this?”
The starting snowball hit the snow and the peloton bolted. Ultrarunner extraordinaire and fellow Bend Skimo member Max King made a decisive move off the start and walked away from the field until the first transition. On the first down, Max is still in sight and I point ‘em straight down the slush to catch up.
At the second transition is when the shenanigans start. I throw on skins and (now out front) a gracious volunteer sends me off in the wrong direction. (Great.) Max calls me back. Twenty meters later, Max realizes he has no skin on one of his skis and turns around to get it. Now, this isn’t bike racing, so I keep going. What follows is a significant amount of breathing and suffering, knowing that Max the Lung is chasing me down.
Up down, up down, up the cone, down the cone and CRASH. This is now two minutes from the finish and my boot is essentially in walk mode still. I look up the hill, no one is in sight yet, so I fix the boot, and ski into the finish.
Damn, that was fun.
[dropcap_2]Q[/dropcap_2]Did I see a photo of the “Bend skimo team”? You’ve been doing some community development around skimo. What has that involved?
[dropcap_2]A[/dropcap_2]You did see a photo of the Bend Skimo Team and you can look at more of them at bendskimo.com. I think we’ve reached a critical mass in Bend and a couple of us nerds thought it was time to carry that momentum, form a team, and have some fun with it. We are also working to start a race series at Hoodoo and/or Bachelor. Watch out for a night race under the lights at Hoodoo, if they ever get snow…
[dropcap_2]Q[/dropcap_2]It seems like your company, Free Range Equipment, has really been getting some good attention lately. How did the company start, and what’s your mission?
[dropcap_2]A[/dropcap_2]The company started in the form of a crappy little skimo pack I designed for an upcoming race in Bozeman, MT (I’d like to think my sweet design skillz have improved since then). It was my first venture into skimo and I wanted to do it right but didn’t feel like buying a new pack. A knee injury prevented me from racing but the design bug flourished and I dropped out of college to pursue it.
In reality, the company started far earlier on the open slopes of the Oregon Cascades. I was fascinated with the amount of freedom that could be had with the appropriate gear (ie. really freakin’ light gear). I wasn’t as happy with the packs I was using. They were often over-built and heavy, or light, but lacked the right features. Enter, Free Range Equipment.
Our mission is to inspire freedom and creativity in the mountains and we do that by removing as many barriers and distractions as possible between the user and their pure and raw experience. We design and manufacture a line of sport-specific backpacks for the performance-focused athlete with five core design values: light, durable, simple and functional.
Oh, and of course sexy as hell.
A big thanks to Tosch and to Free Range Equipment for the interview and for the general Pacific Northwest Skimo Stoke! You can support Tosch and Free Range by picking up one of the slim climbing packs pictured above, The Stud, by clicking below!