By SEAN MCCOY
It has been something of a dry winter in the Rocky Mountains, but that hasn’t tempered the enthusiasm for the SIA Snow Show, opening today at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Nearly 1,000 brands will be showing off the latest and greatest gear for the 2012/2013 season, and GearJunkie.com will be there hunting down the trends that will shape the skis, boards, gadgets and apparel on the slopes and in the backcountry next year.
We’re excited to snoop the trade show aisles and see the crush of products and innovations that will soon make the snowy landscape safer, more comfortable, faster, and more accessible for all. The following post highlights a few products that have caught our attention already in the vast halls of SIA. Stay tuned for more coverage as the big show rolls on through the week before moving outside for demos and gear tests at Winter Park and other resorts west of town this weekend. —Sean McCoy
Bindings, Locked and Loaded — Touting “next generation freeride performance” as well as increased efficiency on the uphill side, the Salomon Guardian 16 binding (also branded as the ATOMIC Tracker 16) will be a hit at SIA. These beefy AT bindings have a slightly lower stand height (“for greater stability,” Salomon touts) as compared to bindings like the Marker Duke. Another distinguishing feature: The bindings’ hike/ride switch changes the mode from downhill (locked heel) to uphill mode (free-heel) with the press of a ski pole tip (no need to take your boot out of the binding to switch the setting). The Guardian 16 will ship to retailers for sale later this year and in time for the 2012/2013 ski season.
New School Backcountry Boots — Among all the advances in AT skiing gear, new-school style was sometimes left behind. No longer. Tecnica, Salomon and several other companies are jazzing up the category with AT boots that look more like something you’d see in a freestyle park rather than deep in the outback. More significant, these boots offer “downhill performance with AT features,” as both Tecnica and Salomon phrase it. They are stout and supportive, compatible with Dynafit and other AT bindings, and they have flexible modes to switch into when you’re heading back uphill.
Nordic Backcountry — We’ll meet with Fischer to check out its backcountry/Nordic E109 Crown, a hybrid backcountry ski with lightweight construction, metal edges, and fish scales underfoot. In 2012, Fischer will also expand the number of skis featuring its Offtrack climbing pattern, a wax-less kick pattern that the company claims offers performance that’s far better than sticky kick wax of yore.
In-Goggle Video View — Contour (video cameras) and Recon Instruments (tiny, in-goggle displays) have announced a partnership that will allow for viewing and playback of live video on a tiny screen. The Recon micro-screen attaches inside a goggle lens; you look down to view information as you ski or on a lift (it does not interfere with vision while skiing). A new app from Contour, the Camera Connectivity App for MOD Live, lets the Recon device sync wirelessly to Contour+ and ContourGPS cameras, effectively converting your ski goggles into a camera viewfinder for accurate recording (and instant replay) of sick footage shot in the backcountry or the park.
Kid Ski Contraption — Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street will be on hand at SIA representing Launch Pad, a company that makes training devices for kids learning to ski. We’re looking forward to checking out the Hookease and Wedgease, two products that allow parents or teachers to attach their ski poles to a kid’s skis and help control balance and speed. Sounds like an interesting alternative to the leash method or runaway babies that we see sometimes zipping down the groomers.
Surf Brand on Snow— O’Neill, long regarded as a leader in surfing and beach apparel, is entering the world of winter-oriented outdoor clothing this year. We’re interested to meet with the company to see how its designers translate the often warm and wet marine experience (board shorts and wetsuits) into products for snowboarding and other cold pursuits.
Video Vision — Shoot video from your goggle frame. Liquid Image was the first company to bring “video goggles” to the market, its unique camera-and-goggles mashup highlighted last year at SIA. For 2012, the company’s Summit Series HD 1080P is selling at shops, and a load of new features will be announced with SIA this year. The company will unveil feature upgrades that include wi-fi compatibility (your ski goggles can communicate with your phone or tablet!); HDMI output; and a camera lens on the goggle that can be tilted to the desired angle when you’re ready to shoot and shred.
Audio Glasses! — High tech these are not. In fact, you might want to grab your denims and hunter-orange “skiwear” to match the aesthetic before hitting the groomers with these “audio glasses” on. But for those who like to carve turns with a soundtrack, Fuse Optics offers audio-adaptable glasses that have earbuds built onto the frame. Plug ‘em into your MP3 player. We’re thinking Def Leppard would be par for the shtick.
—Sean McCoy is a contributing writer for GearJunkie. He is a recent transplant to Denver after a decade living in the Caribbean, where he served as an editor at the Virgin Islands Daily News.