A peek at next year’s skis, boots, and hard goods from SIA 2015.
Here’s a longtime industry goal that’s finally been realized: lighter weight skis. And we do mean a longtime goal. The ski business has pitched lightweight models to men and women since the 1970s. But the low-tech solutions never took hold for long. We’re talking injected foam cores, cheap cap construction, and other methods devised to remove wood and metal from the end product. The problem? Those lighter weight skis didn’t perform as well as the classic approach—vertical laminate, wood-core, and two sheets of metal—skiers have been charging around on since Howard Head’s days.
Judging by SIA 2015, that’s finally begun to change. Really, it had to. As skis grew wider in the past two decades, applying those same heavy construction methods meant ski weight nearly doubled. That wouldn’t be a major concern if everyone spent their days on groomers where a little extra mass aids edge penetration. But, thankfully, most everyone wants to ski off-trail these days, and lighter skis are a big benefit when you need to get your skis up and out of manky crud so you can sluff a turn before the tree and still pivot into that chute.
The big success story here is obviously Rossignol, which introduced their honeycomb style tips and tails in their insanely popular S series freeride ski in the 2013–14 line. That Air Tip construction has since moved deep into the brand’s all mountain line of Experience skis. Salomon released similar technology around that same time. And Kästle was a few years ahead of both brands with their Hollowtech cut outs in the shovel. This year, Blizzard goes big into the weight-reducing tip and tail market with a completely redesigned line of freeride skis featuring structural carbon fiber inserts at the tips and tails. Most of these manufacturers claim a 10 to 20 percent swing weight savings just from moving to the new tips.
But to really get skis lighter, the industry needed to move past metal or at least learn how to be more selective in how it’s applied. For next winter, Head is replacing much of the metal in its new all mountain line of Monster skis with Graphene—a material only an atom thick that somehow dampens a ski like a full sheet of titanal. (Rossignol has quietly been using less glamorous basalt in its skis for a few years with similar results.) What these experiments have borne out is that you can now make damp and powerful skis without adding heavy metals.
Or, you do what K2 is doing for 2015–16 and redesign your skis from scratch. Their approach with their new men’s Konic line of all mountain skis is to remove heavy materials like metal and the denser species of wood from the centerline of today’s wider skis and instead weight the perimeters—for more edgehold and power transfer. The same principles apply to their new women’s Luv line. K2’s basic premise? Skis don’t look anything like they did 30 years ago, so why are we building them the same way?
And again, judging from our early demos, all these brands have substantially reduced weight without sacrificing much (if anything) in terms of stability and vibration damping. The benefits will be far ranging. But they’ll be especially noticeable to younger skiers and lighter weight women. Imagine trying to push around skis that are equal to 25 percent of your body weight; a 10 to 20 percent weight savings is vital to that market. Ultimately though, we’ll all benefit from lighter skis. It’s similar to the difference between running in combat boots and track shoes. Every time you lift your foot you’re saving energy. Whether you’re shouldering your skis on a bootpack, skating across a traverse, or muscling them out of heavy snow, lighter skis will make the sport more fun.
Tecnica Mach 1: Tecnica teamed up with boot fitters from around North America to improve customization in the next generation of its Mach 1 boot. Dimples on the outer shell and footboard offer a road map to identify fit problems; they also reduce surface tension for more efficient and effective shell stretching by boot fitters. The Custom Adaptive Shape liner—heat moldable and fully grindable—also returns.
Nordica GPX boot line: These low-volume (98mm last), high-performance boots feature Nordica’s customizable cork liner and a stretchy power strap that acts as a fifth buckle on the men’s boot. A more upright stance and an upper cuff than can be rotated inwards by 2mm (for still more lateral power) work in tandem with modern skis. The women’s GPX line (see above) comes in both tall and low cuff versions to accommodate a wider range of body types.
Head Vector Evo 130: Head updated its bestselling performance boot, tweaking design to offer a more progressive flex and improved lateral responsiveness. Look for a lower ramp angle, more upright stance, a hinge point set back 13mm, and a Perfect Fit liner that molds to both foot and shell.
POC Spine VPD 2.0 Airbag Vest: The Swedish safety wonks debuted a prototype device that could mitigate injuries to ski racers. Ten sensors embedded in a vest monitor body movement. When the instruments detect out-of-control motion and a fall, a 22-liter airbag deploys—it fully inflates in 60 milliseconds—to protect the spine, neck, thorax, and hips.
Sweet Protection Grimnir: Sure, you wear a helmet. But does your prodtruding aftermarket POV camera mount compromise its safety features? Sweet designed the Grimnir with inserted mounts on top and at the side. The idea? The helmet will slide better than it would with external mounts. It also features an EPS liner, MIPS insert, Impact Shield cushioning inserts at the front and back that dissipate forces where you’re most vulnerable, and puncture proof vent material.
VOORMI AN/FO: The Colorado company presented a collection of three-layer outerwear made from stretch-woven merino wool hardened with nylon. The result? Waterproof, breathable jackets and pants built for mountain jobs, all field-tested by Wolf Creek ski patrollers. The product name is a nod to the patrollers—AN/FO refers to explosives used in avalanche control work.
Strafe women’s collection: Strafe’s menswear combines freeride tailoring with materials suited for speed on the up and down. Look for more of the same in their first women’s line, which uses waterproof/breathable Polartec NeoShell and the breathable insulation Polartec Alpha.
Kari Traa base layers: This women’s apparel company is a second act for Kari Traa, a Norwegian freestyle skier who won gold in moguls at the 2002 Olympics. The collection of merino wool layers in bright patterns with active venting looks like another winner to us.
REVO goggles: REVO made goggles 15-plus years ago, then dropped them from the line to focus on sunglasses. Next year’s Worksmith heralds their return to the category, with polarized and photochromic lens options priced from $179 to $229.
Venture Black Magic: For next winter, Venture developed its first carbon fiber snowboard, the Black Magic ($1,195). What took so long? The Silverton, CO manufacturers wanted a lightweight board that didn’t slack on their signature durability. The directional twin design will be available as a limited edition through Venture’s Shape Shack program.
Jones Snowboards Storm Chaser: Designed for overhead blower, the Storm Chaser ($599, above right) is the second generation of a Jones collaboration with surfboard shaper Chris Christenson. It features a swallowtail profile and surf rocker, with the contact point farther back on the nose of the snowboard. —the editors