Friday, February 1, 2013

OR show - it ain't about the UP

Last week was the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake, and as ever it was a bit of a frenzy of business and socializing, with both happening in the morning (ski tours), during the show (both scheduled and chance meetings), and after-hours (dinners).  The most common question people seem to ask is some variation of "have you seen anything cool?" and the truth is that I rarely do, partly because my time there is spent mostly talking to people and also because....there's not a lot that is truly "cool" in an industry that's pretty mature already.  But because of my personal passion and professional involvement, I was able to glean a bit about the current state of the ski boot market (and shoe market; fodder for a later post).  I didn't take pictures's not really politically correct to do so (unless of course you are The Whizz......)

If last year was about lightweight - with the buzz about the Dynafit TLT 5 and the introduction (finally!) of La Sportiva's boot line, this year (actually, next year) is definitely "all about the down".  K2 finally introduced their AT boot (that's distinct from their park-popular Full Tilt boots, which are actually the old Raichle Flexon 5's) and it's pretty impressive, though wow is it heavy!  But at least the range of motion is nearly nil.  Atomic and Salomon (owned by the same company) also both have huge, burly AT boots that are very similar to the K2, and even Sportiva took their innovative boot and made it 4-buckle and burlier, as did Dynafit.  The latter did make the TLT 6, which was made on a new, wider last (which was mandatory) and they improved some of the mechanical shortcomings of the TLT 5, with some nice design flair as well. 

The new Black Diamond Factor FMX definitely held its own and then some alongside these impressive boots, despite the fact that I had a hand in the development!   The original Factor arguably defined this genre and Thomas Laakso (BD ski line manager) correctly anticipated that there was going to be intense competition for this side/slackcountry market.  The BD Team Boot responded well with a boot that is every bit as good as the offerings from the established Alpine bootmakers, with a fit that is "right on" and a surprising range of motion for a big boot.  Scarpa introduced a very nice-looking new big freeride boot in two versions (peebax and PU) that are very similar, but the FMX is $100 cheaper than the Scarpa peebax boot and lighter than the PU version at a comparable price.  And I just got word that the FMX won a best-of-show type of award at ISPO, the European sports trade show held this week. 

Scott USA purchased Garmont this fall and re-branded all the existing Garmont boots as Scott.   According to a Scott guy I talked to they will spend the next year working on their own new designs. He was mum about the possibility of resurrecting the original Scott boot, which I actually think has some potential as a lightweight AT boot!

Anyone figure out a way to make this Dynafit binding compatible?  And warm?
So despite my and others' enthusiasm for the super light, super-range of motion Scarpa Aliens and their Dynafit anmd La Sportiva counterparts that hit the market last year and this year and Brother Paul's impression from a fall ski industry meeting in Denver that indicated that speedy Rando was seen as the Next Big Thing by a (desperate, if so!) ski industry, big and burly was the deal for the immediate future.  Even the Dynafit bindings went burly:  the new "Beast" looks relatively ginormous (I guess it has to in order to have a DIN of 16? Or maybe they just made it big to.....make it BIG) for the low, low price of only $1000 (for bindings??!!?  are you kidding me??)  and Fritschi unveiled a Fritschi-like tech binding. 

All mostly total overkill in my humble opinion (are people buying this stuff to make up for their lack of skiing ability on the mostly 30-degree untracked powder that most snow-snobs ski in the backcountry?), but that's ok; the more people buy that stuff the less likely it is that they'll go deeper into the backcountry. 

Oh, and telemark boots.....huh?  Does anyone still care about telemark?  According to one industry rag I read, apparently the shops don't.....and therefore the companies don't......

No comments:

Post a Comment