A Group of Hawks

Lars Chickering-Ayers honors Ryan Hawks with the Cast Binding System

Lars in his workshop. PHOTO: KEITH CARLSEN

This story appeared in the February issue.

On a snowy night near Nelson, British Columbia, Carston Oliver skins toward a pillow zone. When he reaches the top, he slides his Dynafit toe piece off his ski and replaces it with a traditional race binding. The prototype binding system, created by Lars Chickering-Ayers and the late Ryan Hawks, is gaining popularity as a touring alternative.

When Hawks died in 2011 after succumbing to injuries sustained during a competition run in the Freeskiing World Tour stop at Kirkwood, California, he was living out of a van with Chickering-Ayers and Lars' younger brother, Silas. They called themselves Green Mountain Freeride, because of their Vermont roots, and drove to tour stops in their van. That year, Lars, now 25, finished second on the Freeskiing World Tour. But Hawks' death rattled him. The next season, the Mad River Glen native quit the tour, set up shop in Driggs, Idaho, and dedicated himself to commercially producing the binding system. This season he'll be competing again, now on the newly unified Freeride World Tour, while skiing on his Cast bindings in his fallen friend's name.

Ryan Hawks was going to be on [the binding]. He and I—the goal was making it, before he passed. A lot of it is in his honor.

He helped us develop the first prototypes. The company is named Cast in honor of him—it's the collective noun for a group of hawks.

Unfortunately, we've had so many [deaths]. But his was definitely the one that hit closest to home for me and still affects me every day. It's just trying to keep moving on in his spirit. He's always there, so if I'm in need of inspiration, it's not too hard to find.

I needed a break [from the Freeskiing World Tour], mostly because of Ryan, and just get back to skiing for myself, and this was a great thing to pour my energy in to.

This year Silas and I are going to step back on to the big tour. I'm excited to go travel a bit in Europe.

We've always skied together
, and it's been great to watch Silas grow the past couple years. We push each other, but it's just a playful, fun way. To have somebody to ski with everyday that skis better than everyone else is pretty cool.

It will be cool to give legitimacy to the whole [tour] by making it one unified thing.

It's a completely different style. It's a simple system swap between a Dynafit style toe if you're going up and full race bindings [for the downhill]. The touring efficiency is the same as a Dynafit, and I developed a lifter tech insert to be able to convert any boot to be Dynafit compatible and DIN compatible, which no boot manufacturers are offering.

The whole interchangeable sole thing
pisses me off. I don't understand why they don't just make them work both ways. So that's what we're doing.

We're shooting to have a small production sale run this year. Whether that happens or not is still to be determined by how long it takes me to make them.

It will at least be accessible to all the dedicated ski bum types in ski towns everywhere, if not the tourists, which I don't really care as much about.

The history is pretty cool
[at Mad River Glen] and the community is pretty amazing. You don't find that at many places. You just learn to have fun all the time.

The [Flyin Ryan Hawks] Foundation provides scholarships for young skiers and adventurers and spreading Ryan's core values, which he had written down on his computer. They've given out 10 scholarships to help support young skiers on the Junior Freeskiing Tour, as well as back on the East Coast. We've been coaches, visiting events, judging the junior tour, which I did with Ryan… Jim Jack was our mentor.

Right now I'm pretty much just making bindings all the time.

Cast is working on a limited production run to be finished this spring. They’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project.