Pro Ski & Mountain Service

Martin Volken amongst his beloved peaks–the Cascades.

Martin Volken is a Swiss-trained IFMGA guide and one of the examiners for the American Mountain Guides Association. Years ago he married an American woman, Gina Alongi, and the couple has since been based in North Bend, Washington, just up the Snoqualmie Valley from Seattle. As a guide he’s pioneered ski-mountaineering routes like the “Forbidden Traverse” in North Cascades National Park and as business partners he and Gina run Pro Ski and Mountain Service, a retail shop in North Bend, as well as their guide service, Pro Guiding.

Finding a good retail shop can be hard if you live away from the mountains. Here in Boulder we have Neptune Mountaineering and we’re only a short drive away from Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden. Shops like these, and Martin’s up in North Bend, stock hard-to-find items like repair parts for skins, equipment for avy science, and relatively obscure Euro-glam stuff like Plum bindings. The Volkens’ business goes one further–they’re both an alpine and backcountry shop. Everything under one roof.

Another of the things that makes Pro Ski and Mountain Service unique is having a Swiss mountain guide running the shop. In part, this means you’re getting vetted gear and an authentic experience–critical when it comes to advice in setting up your equipment or preparing for a big trip. Further, Volken also designs skis, skins, shovels, and sundry other items for K2. He also provides critical input for Outdoor Research, the reborn soft-goods brand based in Seattle. (Check out my review of OR’s “Trailbreaker” pant HERE–a piece created with Volken’s input…and fyi, they’re the best backcountry pants made, period!)

Taken in sum, I’m not sure there’s another shop with more know-how and boots-on-the-ground experience in the US. Don’t get me wrong–there are great shops peppered throughout the country, but one of the great things about Pro Ski and Mountain Service is you can now shop online with them. Visit the site and all of a sudden you can choose between Dynafit, Plum, Marker, Salomon, Fritschi, Tyrolia, and Atomic bindings. Know of a shop with that kind of selection? Me neither!

Volken is not only one of the most respected guides in the States, not to mention Europe–he’s also co-author of the informative book, Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering. I re-read this thing before my aspirant exam and most of my guide buddies own it–master the skills within it and you’re on your way to skiing an 8000’er. Or at least playing safely in your local stash!

I had the good fortune to do a couple days of guide training with Volken this past summer. I was impressed with his teaching style, his competence, his broad knowledge of the outdoor industry, and his general demeanor. In short, I’m a fan of his so I’m hoping to turn readers on to his shop and business. He and Gina do a great job, along with their staff and guides, and everybody should bookmark and check back. If you’re shopping for gear, looking to go skiing in Europe, Canada, or the Cascades, then Martin’s your guy. He’s a blast to hang with and he’s running a smart, helpful shop. Take advantage!

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