SEP 12, 2016
To mark the arrival of Hawx Ultra for Fall 2016, we caught up with the man behind the boot – Atomic ski boots product manager, Matt Manser. What took him from philosophy student to expert boot maker? And how did he go about creating the new construction at the heart of this revolutionary alpine boot?
From New York to Altenmarkt
Matt grew up in New York and started skiing at the age of three. ‘My parents had me skiing on the little slope in our back yard with those simple plastic skis that strap to your snow boots.’
Some years later, Matt moved to Boston to study philosophy at graduate school and started working in a ski shop to pay his rent. ‘One of the things I enjoyed the most was working with athletes, and making their boots work with their feet, rather than against them’ Matt said. Not just any athletes either – Doug Coombs, Ingrid Backstrom, Eric Pollard, Tom Wallisch and JP Auclair to name a few. ‘That I could play a role and take their skiing to the next level was hugely rewarding.’
‘After Boston I moved to Burlington, Vermont and got a boot-fitting job at the Skirack. After about a year I became the Alpine Buyer. During this time, I became more involved with boot companies, like giving them feedback on future projects, and this was how I met my current boss, Jason Roe, the Director of Alpine Boots at Atomic. And because we had a lot in common, we quickly became friends. It was unknown to me at the time, but he was searching for someone to be the alpine boot product manager at Atomic. I guess he liked my ideas because he eventually asked me if I wanted to join the team in Austria. Opportunities like that don’t come around very often, so it didn’t take much convincing from Atomic’s side.’
‘Life is a process of building and tinkering. I’ve always been a tinkerer. Working on my bikes. Crafting ideas. As an East Coast boot fitter, being given the chance to be part of crafting the future of ski boots in a beautiful place like Austria – it’s a dream come true.’
Designed in Austria, developed in Italy
Matt now manages the entire boot range here at Atomic, from early idea to final boot. For boots like Hawx Ultra, he said, “In the beginning we get all of our ideas out. As well as any we’ve gathered from talking with athletes, other skiers and awesome ski shops around the world.”
The next stage is we take these ideas to Italy – specifically to the Montebelluna area. This happens to be the sports-footwear capital of the world. Once there we combine our fit and performance expertise with their craft and create the best ski boots in the world.
The Hawx Ultra will be in the shops from Fall 2016. Its claim to fame is it’s our lightest alpine ski boot ever – and by a long way. In fact, it’s 25% lighter than any other! One of the biggest innovations Matt added to this boot to achieve this is a radical new progressive shell that cuts material and thickness around the boot where it’s not needed.
He said it was all inspired by last year’s Backland touring boot: ‘We learnt a lot developing our lightweight Backland boot last year, including how to create a lighter shell that stays strong. ‘We’ve now married this know-how with the best bits of Hawx and our racing expertise. It keeps your feet incredibly light and agile when you’re ripping down the mountain.’