Technosport, Aosta – our favourite Ski Shop

Technosport the ultimate ski hire shop in Aosta

Two Mondays ago I got to spend a couple of hours with Egon Boccadelli Real, Marco Scagliarini and Andrea Zemoz at our favourite Aosta ski shop, Technosport.

The guys had just about wrapped up another successful but thanks to COVID, challenging winter season and were in the process of preparing the shop for the summer. They took it in turns to have a chat with me in the workshop in between serving customers and taking deliveries.

We talked a bit about how the closure of the local ski resorts to everyone except the competitive ski racers, for a second successive season, has impacted business. It turns out that thanks to their close ties with the local ski clubs and the increased demand for cross-country and ski touring equipment, they have been kept extremely busy. But we quickly moved the conversation on from COVID, the less said about which the better, to enjoy a more up-beat discussion about the history of the store and how it operates in a normal winter ski season.

Technosport is located in the Comune of Charvensod, just outside Aosta, on the main road up to Pila and a 2 minute drive from the telecabina. It has been big part of Collins family winter life ever since we arrived in the Aosta Valley in 2014.

The signage in front of the store

When we first enrolled Olly with Ski Club Aosta as an 11 year old ‘cucciolo’ – puppy, we were directed straight to Technosport, then located just up the road from where they are now, to get kitted out with all the gear that a young ski racer needs – a flashy skin-tight race suit, back protector, body armour, shin protectors, official kitemarked helmet (with detachable chin guard), racing shorts, ski club jacket, warm under-layers and of course race boots, skis (slalom and GS) and poles (slalom, straight with hand guard and GS, bent, without hand guard). Oh, and a massive ruck-sack to put everything in.

Getting ready for that first season of ski club probably cost us as much cash as did providing ourselves with a place to live. And that’s saying something because the flat we rented in Gressan was completely empty, so on top of a month’s rent in advance and a month’s deposit we had to invest in a whole new kitchen, a pellet stove and all the furniture. But never mind, it was all money well spent, both on the apartment, which is still our home and on ski club, which continues to provide unique experiences of great value to Olly and more recently also to his young brother Marty, now a ‘super baby’ with rival Ski Club Pila.

Olly all kitted out

We have been backwards and forwards to Technosport hundreds of times since then, for new kit, repairs, ski service, ski hire etc. Thinking about it I don’t think any of us has set foot in another ski shop since (apart from visiting our neighbours and landlords, Anita & Feliciano at their ski shop up in Courmayeur, called Alpineve – I have to give them a plug or Anita would never forgive me!). The Technosport team have without fail always been incredibly kind, helpful and above all, patient! (…..Egon especially knows what I mean).

Technosport is much more than a ski shop. For the local Pila – Aosta ski racers, their coaches and the parents is also a social club and a drop-in advice bureau. All of which comes from the wide-ranging expertise and passion of the members of the team working there. As Marco puts it, they are not salesmen – they are consultants and fellow enthusiasts.

The original founder of today’s Technosport was the legendary Sig. Dario Nicoli, now in his 80’s and still an unbelievable athlete. From premises in downtown Aosta he was, as Technosport is now, the main ski shop for the Pila – Aosta racing community. As luck would have it, as we were finishing our interview Dario dropped into the shop to say ‘ciao’ to the guys as he often does. So I got to meet the great man and had the opportunity to take this lovely picture of the Master and his young apprentice.

Marco and Dario - Technosport the ultimate ski hire shop in Aosta

As a promising young Ski Club Aosta racer in the late 1980’s – early 90’s, Marco Scagliarini was a regular customer at Dario’s ski shop. As Dario started to think about his retirement he identified Marco as someone he could imagine possibly one day handing his business over to. But at 20 years of age Marco still had a large part of his own ski racing life left to live. He had been offered the chance to join the Europa Cup circuit as a ski man (technician) for the Italian national team. This meant ending his own racing career but so started a fantastic 7-year journey which took him all round the world. After Europa Cup he joined Rossignol and worked for the French World Cup ski team. Then he was technician for the Yugoslavian world cup team, helping Rok Petrovics to 5 victories and the 1986 World Cup slalom title.

But after seven years on the road the urge to come home and settle down brought Marco back to Aosta and, armed with all the experience he had gained on the professional race circuit, he took up Dario’s offer and went to work for him, first in the ski room and then as a partner in a new ‘outlet’ shop in Charvensod.

Working in the Charvensod shop at the time was Roberta Pilati and through Roberta, Marco became friendly with her husband Andrea Zemoz. Andrea, like Marco was an accomplished athlete; a footballer, tennis player, cross country skier and mountain runner. The two of them had lots in common and found that they had a shared vision of what they wanted to achieve next in life. So they agreed to go into partnership together and take over the business from Dario, which they did in 1991.

In the same way that Dario kind of adopted Marco while he was a youngster, so Marco adopted a young Egon Boccadelli Real. Egon was a talented local racer who went on to become a maestro di sci and then a race coach with the Esercito squad. He also qualified as a tennis coach. In 2000 Egon joined the Technosport team, initially on a part time basis so that he could carry on working as a maestro di sci and race coach, and then full time from 2003.

Team of Technosport today - Technosport the ultimate ski hire shop in Aosta

The rest of the team is made up of Roberta as well as Anais, Roberta & Andrea’s daughter and her boyfriend Daniele, both also ex-ski racers and maestri di sci.

It is always a good sign when a business is very much part of the local scene and Technosport certainly is that. According to Marco, 70% of their customers are locals or people with second homes in the area. This local focus is reflected on the ski rental side where they mostly do seasonal rather than weekly rentals, although of course holiday makers are more than welcome and are very well catered for. As I can vouch for having brought various groups of friends here over the years.

Of the approximately 1,200 pairs of rental skis that they have in stock, approximately 80% are for children. And of those children’s skis, approximately 20% are racing skis. As we know from our own experience, being able to rent race boots and skis rather than having to buy new stuff every season as the kids grow and move up the categories is a godsend. Especially as they don’t just need one pair of skis, they need at least a pair of slalom skis and a pair of GS skis. To do it properly you really need two pairs of each, a race pair and a training pair.

boots, skies and skies... - Technosport the ultimate ski hire shop in Aosta

People do still buy skis of course. Marco recons they sell around 600-800 pairs of new skis and 800 pairs of boots a year. And once a racer gets to 16 years of age and leaves children’s racing behind to join the adult FIS circuit it is necessary to buy your own equipment. This came as a bit of a shock to us when Olly started his first season of FIS and we had to buy him four pairs of skis, two slalom and two GS, as well as new boots.

I have often wondered whether a ski shop is somehow given their stock of skis and boots on a consignment / sale or return basis, or whether they have some other kind of partnership arrangement with the manufacturers themselves. I even thought that they might themselves be renting their rental skis. Marco explained that no, they have to buy everything outright, money up front, meaning that they really have to get it right when placing their orders around March/April time for the next season. Which is where many years of experience comes in handy!

I was also curious how many seasons a pair of hire skis can last. The answer is that a race ski probably has 3 seasons in it, a leisure ski might last 5-6. After which they are pretty much useless and thrown away. I asked Marco what is it that makes a ski obsolete. One reason is that after a certain number of services, during which the edges are ground to an angle, the metal edge material wears too thin to be worked any more. A ski will also get ‘tired’ through use. Over time it loses its reactive energy, especially a race ski that is being put under a lot of strain all the time. But the main reason that skis need to be taken off the rental rack is when they start to look too scratched and damaged.

preparing the skies

While I was in the technical mood, I asked Marco about the difference between a high-quality ski and a low-quality ski. He explained that it is down to the construction and particularly the wood that is used, as it is the wood that provides the torsional resistance and the flex.

A good skier needs a good quality ski, no doubt about it. He or she is going to be going fast and needs the ski to be stable at speed, something that expensive construction provides. And with that stability also comes edge grip, something that is crucial when skiing on hard snow and ice. A less good skier who is not really using their edges correctly and is only skiing relatively slowly can get away with using lower quality, cheaper equipment and probably won’t notice the difference.

In order to get the most out of a high-quality ski you need to have a tight-fitting boot, sacrificing comfort in order to reduce to a minimum any movement of your foot within the boot, which would interfere with the transfer of the guiding movements made by your leg, ankle and foot onto the ski itself. A race boot for example is unbelievably tight and uncomfortable. A beginner or intermediate skier on the other hand can get away with a much looser fitting, more comfortable boot.

As Marco says, the most important thing to establish when renting, or selling skis and boots to a customer is what type of skier they are. The main distinction being between a fast, athletic skier with good technique and an ability to carve properly as opposed to a slower, less athletic skier who tends to pivot and skid their skis. The former need the newer, higher quality equipment, particularly if snow conditions are hard and icy. The latter much less so.

Before letting Marco escape back to the by now busy shop I felt the need to bother him with just a couple more technical questions, namely what is boot flex and what width of ski is best for learning to carve.

machinery for preparing skies - Technosport the ultimate ski hire shop in Aosta

He kindly indulged me for another 10 minutes and explained that all the rental boots in the shop have a flex ranging from 70-130, with 70 being the softest, ideal for beginners and 130 the stiffest, suitable for top level skiers and racers. The harder you push and the faster you go the stiffer the boot needs to be to retain control over the ski. A bit like a professional golfer using a stiff shafted club to deal with the higher club head speed generated by his golf swing compared to an average weekender. As a general rule an intermediate adult skier of average weight should be wearing a ski boot with a flex of around 100. The same standard of skier but who is on the heavy side might go up to 110 and a much lighter one could go down to 90.

Regarding skis for learning to carve Marco told me that regardless of their length or the amount of side cut that they have, the rental skis on the racks all have a width under your foot of between 70-74mm. Narrower than 70mm and a ski starts to get a bit unstable, more than 74mm and it starts to become slower and more difficult to put on its edge. His advice is that if you are new to carving don’t go straight away for a very short ski with lots of side cut designed to carve a very tight radius turn. Start instead with something longer, with less side cut and develop the skill of putting the skis on their edges and riding the relatively gentle turn that they were designed to make. Once you have got the hang of that, then you can move onto some shorter, more radically shaped skis to work on tightening your turns.

And with that it was high time to let everyone get back to work. Thanks guys for an interesting and enjoyable morning!

Who better to ask for some advice about why one day you should come skiing in Pila-Aosta than the people running the local ski shop! This is what they had to say….

  • The Aosta Valley is situated right at the heart of the High Alps meaning that we generally have very good quality snow.
  • Pila in particular has good snow conditions because it is north facing and the slopes have mostly grass underneath rather than rocks.
  • The winter weather in the middle part of the Aosta Valley is very pleasant, with lots of sunshine, cold temperatures and little wind.
  • From the top of Pila you have the most spectacular views of Monte Bianco, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.
  • Using Pila-Aosta as a base you have easy access to the other main ski stations of the Aosta Valley – sophisticated Courmayeur on the side of Monte Bianco itself; small and un-pretentious Crevacol; La Thuile from where you can ski over into La Rosiere in France; the international resort of Cervinia with its glacier and connection over to Zermatt; the charming three-some of Champoloc – Gressoney – Alagna.

Find out more about skiing in the smaller, but charming ski resorts in the Aosta Valley.

Further information on Technosport.

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