The Gear Junkie: Ski and Snowboard Gear 2009
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
Winter is upon us, and with it ski areas across the country are cranking on the lifts. Here are eight trends and a handful of corresponding new products — from high-tech skis to a snowboarding boot with a built-in heater — that you’ll see on the slopes this season.
Cold No Longer — Battery-powered heat radiating from embedded conductors is a theme this year from boot, jacket and glove manufacturers. The women’s Burton Sapphire snowboarding boot ($219.95, www.burton.com) has a liner laced with heating elements powered by a clip-on power pack. Rossignol’s Hit Jacket, also for women, goes for a hefty $700 but comes with four warming panels stitched into its lining and a rechargeable battery pack that seats in a pocket. Outdoor Research’s PrimoVolta Gloves ($259, www.outdoorresearch.com) have an on/off switch to initiate warmth that spreads from the back of the hand to fingertips.
Burton Sapphire snowboarding boot
The Do-All Ski — Serious skiers of yore often kept a quiver of different skis ready to use as per the conditions of the day. But companies like Salomon now offer planks that tout complete versatility in any type of snow, including the Lord ($850, www.salomonsports.com), an all-mountain ski with an hourglass shape and a reverse camber in the forebody to accommodate powder, crud or groomed trail. Volkl ups the ante with its do-all Tigershark 12 ft Power Switch, a $1,525 pair that employs embedded carbon-fiber rods running the length of the ski. An on/off switch compresses or decompresses the rods with springs, changing the skis’ grip and power on snow.
Salomon Lord ski
Fashion Forward — Surfing, skateboarding and lifestyle footwear and clothing brands including Roxy, DC Shoes and Quicksilver are making inroads to the ski and snowboarding scenes. The men’s Quiksilver Last Mission Jacket ($200, www.quiksilver.com), one example, is a fashion-forward waterproof and breathable shell with touches like a multi-media controller and an inside pocket with a headphone port.
Quiksilver Last Mission Jacket
Freestyle Resurgence — File this under “irony”: Some teenagers now rebel against their snowboarding parents by becoming skiers. Freestyle skiers, that is. Indeed, the rail-sliding, halfpipe-riding discipline of freestyle skiing has taken off like no other trend in the sport. Skis like the Volkl Wall ($650, www.volklusa.com) — a twin-tip model with a symmetrical sidecut for switch (backwards) riding — are representative of the planks now employed by the baggy-pants-wearing set.
Volkl Wall ski
Custom-Fit Footwear — Boots molded to mimic the anatomical idiosyncrasies of human feet are now a common upgrade offered at ski shops, including customizable footbeds and boot liners that form to fit from calves to toes. But Salomon takes it up a step with the Falcon Custom Shell Pro Boot, a $925 top-end boot that has a moldable outer shell, allowing a shop to create a personalized fit by shaping the boots’ hard outer plastic to best fit your foot.
Salomon Falcon Custom Shell Pro Boot
Clear Vision — Good goggles have long enhanced performance on the slopes by letting skiers see better. But the upgrades continue and Zeal Optics, which released its Detonator goggles ($200, www.zealoptics.com), is one example of an innovator: These goggles’ polarized lens changes tint automatically as per available light, going dark when the sun is bright to almost clear at night. Smith’s I/O goggle ($160, www.smithoptics.com) have an interchangeable lens and a rimless design, letting you click and switch out lens style and type in an instant.
Smith I/O goggle
Tech-Wear — Electronics embedded in outerwear is a trend seen from jackets to the headphone-equipped helmets now ubiquitous in terrain parks around the country. Rossignol adds a high-tech altimeter watch into the cuff of its Chrona Meteo Jacket, an $800 shell with a watertight insert made to fit the watch face. Users can click and adjust the watch, which has an oversized display for easy reading, to track altitude and vertical drop skied on the slopes over the course of a day.
Rossignol Chrona Meteo Jacket
Alpinist Influence — Backcountry terrain is a big trend at mountain resorts in the West, where dozens of areas have opened gates to give lift access to unpatrolled acres. Gear has evolved to cater to this new set of adventurers, from jackets with built-in avalanche beacons to bindings that convert for uphill travel. Rossignol’s $295 Harness Pant, a breathable and waterproof bottom shell, adds an alpinist touch by incorporating a climbing harness stitched around the belt area in case a skier needs to rope up while accessing steep and secluded outback terrain. Black Diamond’s Factor boot ($729.99, www.bdel.com) has a switchable sole so skiers can click into downhill bindings or their alpine-touring setup before heading off into the wild.
Black Diamond Factor boot
Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.