In the early nineties I skied in a wild area near Rat Lake in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. There was a steep trail through a narrow defile. It was too narrow to side step and to steep and narrow to herring bone. The only option was to take off the ski and walk up. I wished there was something under the foot to provide positive traction.
In the mid nineties I experimented with several ideas, trying to make use of the natural biomechanical motions of skiing to engage and disengage traction. I thought it might be possible to use the lifting and lowering of the heel. I fell on my face, literally. I realized that it was not possible. The lifting and lowering of the heel are not in synch with thrusting and gliding. It is hard to picture this. I later learned that there have been several patents claiming to do the same thing. Likely none have ever had working prototypes.
All of the prototypes shown below work. The topmost is from the mid-nineties. It uses a wooden Karhu ski and a three-pin binding. A wooden board is used for the sliding platform. It is held loosely in place by sheet metal sleeves and bumpers. The entire foot rests on the platform. Pins pass laterally through holes in the ski and the platform. The ends of the pins form the pivot points for the claws. Joe Zuccarini assisted with sheet metal work.
Three earlier prototypes. Above: full skis. Below: device close up.
The middle prototype, on the Madshus wooden ski, is from early 2015. The main advance is the separation of the foot pad from the binding platform. The lower pivot point is on the end of a pin which passes through the wooden ski, while the upper pivot point is attached to the sliding platform. Technical assistance from Tom and Logan at Arctic Automate. The bottom prototype, on the One Way Smagan ski, is from late 2015. An aluminum platform slides on a duralin rail. The lower pivot point is achieved through nubs on the plate which wraps over the ski and fits under the rail. The upper pivot point is now ahead of the binding, attached to a prominence on the platform. There are now rubber bumpers, and the footpad is in two pieces to permit ski flexing. Made at Quantum Machine works.
On September 30, 2016, Doug made a presentation to the Equipment Committee of the FIS (International Ski Federation) in Zurich. He requested that SkiClaws be permitted in FIS sanctioned competition, in the free-style category, for the 2016-17 season. The committee denied the request on the basis of safety. With mass start races there are often pile ups in corners. There was concern that a claw might accidentally extend and cause injury. The device as presented had pointed claws. It can be designed with blunt or even rubber tipped claws. Sanctioning should eventually be possible.
On March 17, 2017, Quantum Machine Works of Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, completed ten sets of the most recent prototype, five with the NNN binding and five with the SNS binding, in five sizes.
Shown behind the skis are the main Quantum guys who worked on the project, Lee (left) and Karl (right).
On March 18 and 19, these sets were available at the Chadburn Lake ski trails for testing. Ultimately Doug trained more than fifty people. Three strong learners were able to run uphill after training. There was largely positive feedback. Several learners wished to purchase SkiClaws.
In January 2018 I attended the Snow Show in Denver. There was considerable interest. Several times the first thing an expert said was that this would be good for backcountry. I learned that there is now a category described as “light backcountry for rolling terrain”. The standard binding is the NNN-BC. Please see that page for more.