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Snow Show: Hardgoods Focus Is On Frontside Skiers

Ski rack SIA 16It was bound to happen. With the insanity that is our winter weather patterns of late we could no longer count on those epic dumps that spawned the fat-ski phenomenon. 

So with the waning base depths and focus on manmade snow and impeccably groomed slopes, ski manufacturers next season will be building for the populace — front-side skiers; those looking for that perfectly carved arc and smooth ride. 

writing businessAs witnessed on the showroom floor of the 2016 SIA Snow Show Convention in Denver, Colo., this week, enter the evolution of the mid-waisted carver. There might still be one or two fatties in everyone’s line (Rossignol’s 7 Series is back and beautiful) but tomorrow’s ski is relatively slim and trim. 

Companies like Blizzard, Head, and Volkl highlight narrower centers (under 100 mm) that can easily tip and rip where most skiers seem to be playing on the groomers.

Expect to see the average waist around 80mm to address the hardpack conditions we’ve experienced over the last four seasons. K2 will have a new Piste carver collection. Fischer presents their mid-70 waisted Curve series and Blizzard is so excited about their stealth-looking Quattro series they’re making these new skis available online starting this week. 

The line features 10 men’s variations and six ladies versions, each with a specific combination/ratio of shape, ski construction, rocker and binding interface.

Ladies Market Segment

Speaking of women, our skiing femmes are back in the limelight – not as Lange Girls but as a legitimate market segment in the outdoor industry. Studies showed that while alpine ski purchases were down overall, the women’s segment was up. 

Companies like K2 and Volkl, that have always had a strong female presence, have added additional lines that utilize lighter, streamlined construction to answer the demand for lighter weight yet high performance skis. 

In addition to Volkl’s big mountain, freeskiing corral that includes the ever-popular Aura, they now introduce their FLAIR series (Fair- as in fair trade/locally sourced/eco materials, Lightweight, Agile, Intelligent- because of the sidecut/rocker/flex- and Reliable); six models ranging from 81 to 72 under foot. 

Ladies will feel the weight loss in Head’s Joy Series as well. The company uses a Superlite sandwich construction of elite Graphene, KOROYD and CARBON to guarantee the lightest technical ski on the market.

Boots get even lighter next season, too and it’s happening a variety of ways. Manufacturers like Atomic, Tecnica, K2 and Salomon are using lighter plastics like Grilamid and Pebax in their frames, while others strategically toy with the thickness of the plastic in different areas of the boot for both weight and comfort. 

Fischer, Atomic, K2, and more are producing heat-moldable shells rather than banking on an out-of-the-box fit. Still other brands have integrated strategic spots on the boots for a customization. Tecnica’s Mach series has little pocked areas throughout the boot where the plastic is thinner and thus easier to “punch”.

Interchangeable and walkable soles with a rockered toe and heel take the comfort to the exterior on several of next year’s boots. Because of this new sole, binding brands are acting fast to accommodate them. 

Dalbello, K2, Atomic, Scott and Rossignol all have a horse in this walkable race and Marker and Tyrolia have developed the technology to fit them or any other type of boot.

Helmets Comfy Fit

HelmetsFinally, we go from toe-to-head where helmet brands also strive for the comfy fit. With “hybrid construction,” brands like Giro and K2 use an in-mold design for a lightweight, better fit. But it’s not just comfort that’s important in helmet design. 

The big buzz continues with MiPs or Multi-Directional Impact Protection. Smith, Scott, Poc, Sweet Protection, and Giro all have models using this slightly more expensive technology but as it proliferates it’s becoming more accessible in consumer-friendly models. 

Overall, you can’t help but get excited for the things to come for next year. Sure, we’re facing less epic snow conditions but what’s not to like about lightweight, customizable gear at a lower price point as the technologically is shared among all the major brands?

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