Why you should care
Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, some of this crazy sh*t will make you want to.
We’re knee-deep into ski and snowboard season, and this year, these sports are more comfortable than ever (that is, if you know where to look for great gear). What makes this year’s high-tech updates noteworthy, experts say, is that they cater to all performance levels — from wobbly beginners to backcountry chargers. “Now everybody can have that over-the-top hero day,” says Jim Fuller, the merchandise manager at Vail Resort in Colorado.
Well, not exactly everyone. While some gear paraded around at trade shows this January is beyond the price range for budget-conscious consumers — especially on top of lift tickets and $20 lodge burgers — some trends are so innovative, they’re sure to land in rental shops soon. Here’s what to watch for:
Skis & Boards
“Rocker” gear is it these days. Previously, skis and boards arched in the middle as one might arch their back. That’s been turned inside out, literally. Now the tips curve up, as in the popular Rossignol Soul 7 ($700) and Saffron 7 alpine skis ($600) and the Burton Clash board ($360), making for a more powerful ride. But now Skiing Magazine Editor-in-Chief Sam Bass says, “Manufacturers are utilizing rocker in a really thoughtful way that makes it more accessible to a broad range of customers.” That means reining in the fatter-is-better concept of superwide skis and pushing to make them lighter, like the new K2 Konic series (price forthcoming).
Hark! The days of uncomfortable boots are over. For skiers, total customization means heat molding, smart insoles, micro-adjusting buckles and a large spread of boot shapes that work for narrow lizard feet and lumberjack calves alike. Add a walk-to-ride switch, which loosens the boot when you’re not skiing, and those embarrassing scenes of sliding on metal stairs or cowboy strutting will be over. The Apex is a three-piece boot system that leaves the hard casing snapped into your skis as you step out in a comfy bootie. But, at $600 plus, they’re pricey, and Bass admits he’s dubious about whether they offer the same power.
For boarders, look to the lowly shoelace. Today, the Boa lacing system — featured across brands in boots starting around $100 — turns shoelaces into auto-tightening coils, for a truly dialed-in fit. That means no more wet butt, frozen-fingered lace yanking. But, it’s a high-risk system: If the tightening knob breaks, you’re out of business.
Skiing used to be social, but people increasingly want to zone out with music. The new helmets have Bluetooth-headphone combos, making it easier to jam or take a call while you ride. A new line by Poc integrates Beats by Dr. Dre headphones ($230). Good news for jammers but bad news for chairlift chatters. Bass says some are lashing out against this trend: “No one likes the guy yapping on his phone on the lift.”
Demand for lenses that work in varying light conditions led to interchangeable lenses, like those by Smith ($225) and Scott ($185) brands, which let you swap out lenses on the fly. Now, lenses like Uvex ($450) automatically change. And, really, a Go-Pro camera sticking up off your helmet is pretty nerdy. How about goggles with auto-changing lenses and a built-in HD camera? Try Zeal Optics. Though the price is steep ($500), as competitors fill in, expect to see them everywhere and — fingers crossed — at a lower price.
Photography by Shutterstock