Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014-15 ski stuff - all about the up?

A year ago I came away from the Outdoor Retailer amazed at how it seemed like all the boot and ski companies were going bigger/burlier for the 2013-14 season, but my, how much has changed over the last year!  It seemed like the biggest "buzz" at the show was lightweight AT gear, from BD shaving literally pounds off 3 core models in their ski line to an even-lighter, yet still relatively full-figured La Sportiva ski and some new ridiculous skimo products.  It seems like carbon fiber has finally come of age in the ski world (20 years after changing bicycles), and we can all benefit!

The show started off with the on-snow demo, and this year a "featured event" was a skimo race.  Because Solitude can't figure out how to manage ANY sort of uphill skiers (so scary!  so difficult!)  they mandated that we could only go up a few hundred vertical feet, but Andy D and co. did a great job of working with what they had for a skimo criterium.  I took a cue from my race in Jackson last year and as everyone charged off the line going hard for the hole shot into the singletrack climb I promptly clicked into one of my bindings (who was behind me on the start line?!!), but it wasn't nearly as bad as local fast guy Tom Goth, who not only broke his pole but BOTH his skis in the first 100m!  (like I said, there was some HARD charging off the line).  Jason Dorais tapped into his innermost middle-distance ability to suffer and topped an all-star field.  And brother Paul gained some notoriety by being the Belle of the Ball with his worthy ensemble:
Everyone was quite envious of the circa early 80's sherbet tights!  
I wouldn't necessarily say that this was a hugely well-attended event by the show goers, but those that did see it got a bit of a sense of what the potential might be for "fitness skinning", that was featured in an article in the show's daily newspaper.

And as noted, the products are reflecting this trend.  Scarpa introduced the F1 Evo:
It bears no relation to the original F1, but that doesn't both those savvy Italian marketers
They came up with an impressive solution to the ski/walk mech; a bar comes down from the cuff to the tech binding insert piece, and simply stepping into the binding engages the ski mode, and when you take the boot out of the heel piece, it's automatically in walk mode. Pretty clever.   However, I'm pretty dubious about the power and integrity of the Boa system in the forefoot.  And of course, it's quite light with a good amount of range of motion.

Dynafit is always leading the charge one way or another, and they apparently teamed up with an ex-Euro skimo guy who had been making full-carbon boots to make a pretty ridonkulous (is that how that's spelled?) ski "shoe":

that weighs in at a svelte 500g.  And that goes well with an equally silly binding:

A little hard to tell what's going on there; the toepiece is a piece of carbon with a couple of pins in it, and that "wing" is the lever to get the binding off.  And the heel piece is micro. Total weight for both is something like 75g.  Don't crash with this system.

These things are a bit on the niche-y side, but even Salomon is coming out with a 1700g boot, and Fischer introduced a boot that was very much backcountry-oriented with a trim profile and full range of motion:

Most of the new boots are burly enough to drive most any ski (if you are not as into the concept of overkill, that is....).

So apparently this season it's all about big burly stuff to help you blast down the nearly non-existent snow (except for Colorado) - and for sure, the big boot/binding/ski stuff is still probably The Big Market - the manufacturers are recognizing that what goes down must go up.

And SLC local Voile USA could possibly be changing the industry; their new Wasatch Speed Project is a skimo ski that has specs very comparable to carbon skis that are in the $1200 range, but retails for only $600.  I've been skiing it a lot this season and it is pretty amazing considering it's lack of girth:
it's the baby brother of.....pretty much everything, except other skimo skis
I've skied at a frighteningly reckless speed through bumps and hardpack and noodled through Wasatch powder just fine on them.  I'm quite convinced that if we all had these skis we'd be skiing at least 30% more vert and be "compromising" the skiability a lot less than one might imagine.

brother Paul finding a bit of untracked
After talking about skiing for 4 days it was nice to get out today and actually do it.
Ash and Paul heading up to bust some rime ice and avoid rocks

And despite all the big 2013-14 gear, people are clearly still marching a ways to get some "backcountry" turns:
Red Baldy was nearly bumped out!  Musta been those skimo guys......

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