Lou’s Crystal Ball Predictions for 2014 and Onward

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Happy New Year friends! May your 2014 be full of safe and fun snow — especially of the low density variety known in some parts of the world as POWDER. I consulted with Obewhanskinobie on the following, so any complaints leave a comment to him, not me. I’ll take credit for predicting anything that does happen (grin).

1. Swap sole ski boots will virtually disappear from the market within 24 months.

2. One-kilo (plus or minus) backcountry skis will become the norm.

3. New technology will appear that takes place of fur (plush) climbing skins.

4. Tech 2.0 will provide a wider boot/binding interface at heel of boot, with more vertical elasticity than most current tech bindings. Hint to binding makers: Make a better heel, provide a swap-on fitting for the boot heel that goes with it, done. A major brand already got this started, but they missed the opportunity to widen the actual boot/binding interface at the heel. New bindings coming out this season look good, but most if not all appear to have stayed with the meager interface width.

5. Boot breathing technology will eliminate sweaty hot feet during ski touring.

6. Compressed gas filled avalanche airbags will disappear from the market to be replaced by electric fan technology.

7. Commercial innovation in telemark gear will virtually disappear, but continue in garages and workshops of the few holdouts.

8. 2-way radio communication will become lighter, easier to manage, common, and built into smartphones.

9. Smartphones will replace stand-alone GPS for most ski alpinists.

10. Skiers in the United States will push for huts located at higher elevations, in prime skiing terrain.

11. Fixed length lightweight carbon ski poles will take a much larger market share.

12. Uphill skiing at resorts will become huge, resorts will begin to treat as revenue stream but will need several more years to figure it all out and realize you make money off uphillers not by charging them to ski, but by selling them beer.

13. Price of tech bindings will lower, but skis will continue to be expensive due to the use of space-age weight saving materials and sophisticated engineering. Boutique skis will have to follow suit or we may see a consolidation of the ski market as only bigger companies with deep pockets and human capital will be able to compete in the intense weight vs. performance category.

14. Demographic of ski touring in North America will continue to broaden, achieving 50% female within 4 years and with an ever increasing age range. Eventually, demographic profile will match European alpine countries.

15. Split snowboard technology will continue fast paced growth, with a significant percentage of backcountry sliders using snowboards instead of skis. Snowshoes will hold their market share as a conveyance due the proliferation of hardened skin tracks, but the splitboard will continue to be the desired mode for any serious backcountry snowboarder.

16. As backcountry skiers’ average vertical-feet-per-day continues to increase, boots will replace antiquated construction with components such as friction-free cuff pivots and downhill/uphill mode changes that truly require only one motion — at the most. Eventually, you will simply step into your binding and ski, with no prep whatsoever — including switching your “skins” on and off with a button on your ski pole grip. Come to think of it, that same switch might even flip your bindings over to ski mode, so you’re doing zero “step-in” action and no fiddling with machinery.

There you go folks, we’ll see what happens! Meanwhile, I’ll be the first to offer that today’s gear is pretty good. In my view, the single biggest problem continues to be durability. Due to the constraints of pricing and weight reduction, we continue to see gear that fails all too soon. For example, I was deploying some climbing skins just a few days ago and the tail fix parts popped off and flew across the parking lot. Boot soles could be improved, cuff pivots wear out. Ptex ski bases continue to be a limiting factor when you start working truly gnarly terrain, as they gouge and scratch all too easily. Backpacks continue to struggle with durability vs weight; I just got an evaluation pack that masses at almost 5 pounds — while another of our eval packs is much lighter but has no compression straps. Both backpacks could stand much improvement — including the use of stronger fabric than WWII era nylon. And clothing. I have a favorite mid-layer with a breast pocket where I like to keep my beacon. One morning, I stick my beacon in there, the seam rips out, and my transceiver falls to the concrete. Thus, the frontier for gear improvements is as wide open as ever. Yeah, perhaps the perfect ski jacket will never exist — thankfully, nature produces perfect powder on occasion!

Again, Happy New Year friends!

Comments

27 Responses to “Lou’s Crystal Ball Predictions for 2014 and Onward”

  1. Rod January 1st, 2014 11:18 am

    Good thoughts.
    Though I hope you’re wrong about boots where you can’t replace the soles. If you do any kind of hiking in your boots, they wear out quickly and it’s nice to replace them once a year or so.

  2. Tim January 1st, 2014 12:39 pm

    The last one sounds awesome, except instead of the ski pole button I predict adopting a “smart” ski/binding that will sense when you are traveling uphill vs. downhill and adjust the ski accordingly. Kind of like traction control for your car, it will sense when you are moving backwards and go to skin mode. Of course you can always deactivate it for “Jibbing” mode. ;)

  3. drew January 1st, 2014 2:02 pm

    With the increases in popularity in uphill skiing, boot manufactures will end the unreasonable discrimination against large footed humans and create more options in the Mondo 31 size. Notably, Dynafit will seek to tap this underserved market and create exclusive, light, sexy big and tall boot entries. Large footed humans will be found breaking trail and singing in gratitude.

  4. louis dawson January 1st, 2014 2:46 pm

    Traveling without good internet access, apologies for any comments that get held up.

  5. louis dawson January 1st, 2014 2:50 pm

    Rod, I can see boots continuing to have some sort of system to replace worn soles just not the big expensive blocks hardly anyone uses more than once or twice in the life of the boots.

  6. Jules January 1st, 2014 10:02 pm

    Hey Louis it’s your new downhill neighbor Jules. I like your optimistic outlook on the future of our sport. As to huts in prime location the Yule Creek Lodge is up and running at 49 Marble Quarry Rd! Check us out on Vrbo.com or Facebook. Better yet stop by for après beers on Sunday!

  7. John S January 1st, 2014 11:00 pm

    My predictions:

    1. Ski geometry changed radically a few years ago with the introduction of “rocker” in skis. Almost all skis now have a shape with some sort of early rise tip, underfoot camber, and then a variation on some tail. We’re going to see stability here now with ski shapes remaining nearly the same for a while.

    2. Boot weight has dropped and we’ll see good skiing boots that are lighter yet.

    3. Airbags are going to become ubiquitous and the battle for inflation methodology has begun. Canisters vs. fans and while my money would be on fans, I’m waiting to see how fans do in the cold, etc. One thing I DO know is that this “war” will be good for consumers as choices will be better and prices will continue to creep downward.

    4. Ski garments will get better too. There is a growing war between Polartec and Gore and again, consumers will win.

    5. Beacons will have three antennas and will mostly remain unchanged for the next year. They’ve piled features on in the last while, most of which don’t make a lot of difference in a crisis situation.

    6. Speaking of “wars” the Tech Binding Wars have begun in earnest. Personally, I just bought a set of Radicals as I think DynaFit still has a serious lead here, but they better be on their toes as the players have them locked in their sights.

    7. Ski-mo-racing is cool, and I think it’s going to take hold in North America. It’s almost like the winter version of those “Spartan” and “tough mudder” races that people are gorging on.

    8. The best bc-ski blog on the ‘net will continue to be Wildsnow.

  8. louis dawson January 2nd, 2014 3:17 am

    Nice!

    We got to Munich less one bag, but the ski bags made it so good, other bag is coming they say

  9. Frame January 2nd, 2014 7:20 am

    Time for a weissbeir?

    Seriously though, good luck with the bag you are seperated from.

  10. Crazy Horse January 2nd, 2014 7:45 am

    No matter how far out in the future you try to reach, it’s already been done before (re your last prognostication! I remember reading an article in Popular Mechanics when I was a kid about the ultimate AT ski device. The skis had a cog belt on one side linked to a lightweight chainsaw motor carried in a backpack. The ultimate in climbing skins! LOL When you reached the summit you simply rotated the binding to place the ski running surface on the bottom and descended in blissful powder. Somehow I doubt that the weight of the skis matched the latest ZenOxide, but hey, my 215 Head Comps with long thongs weren’t great powder skis either.

  11. Jack January 2nd, 2014 8:09 am

    Crazy Horse – my Dad used to ski Attenhofer A15 Jet’s in 214 cm with long thongs and Heinkle (?) cast resin boots. How he escaped without a boot top fracture is a bit of a miracle. Those crazy skis weren’t much on powder (which we rarely got anyway).

  12. Joe Risi January 2nd, 2014 8:41 am

    Just in a few short years so much has changed in backcountry skiing. It is looked at as one of the only growing winter based sports. The excitement around it is unbelievable and more so being involved with this site has taught me that skiing is truly contagious.

    Can’t wait to hear about the Wildsnow European Vacation adventures this month!

  13. Jeff January 2nd, 2014 9:52 am

    “12. Uphill skiing at resorts will become huge, resorts will begin to treat as revenue stream but will need several more years to figure it all out and realize you make money off uphillers not by charging them to ski, but by selling them beer.”

    Lou for CEO?

  14. Lou Dawson January 2nd, 2014 9:57 am

    Jules, we’ll take you up on the apre when we return in February from Europe. Meanwhile we will obtain incredibly in-depth research on proper apre backcountry skiing and will file a critique on your operation once we experience it. Lou

  15. Bryan January 2nd, 2014 11:54 am

    I think you missed an opportunity to talk about skis getting more narrow + more fun in backcountry applications. There are a lot of “backcountry” specific skis out there…but very few of those skis have adopted reverse sidecut or hybrid shapes. You’ll see Hoji come out with a new ski – The Raven – for 2014 that will be one of the first in this category aside from some of the things Praxis has done in the past…which are worth mentioning.

    #13 makes me cringe. We need small boutique players (like DPS) to flourish. Big brands like K2 and BD can / will only produce a ski if they KNOW they’ll sell XXX units at REI. If they can’t aggressively scale production, they won’t make the ski. Shame that…

    Next time you purchase skis, get them from a small company that started in a garage and still makes their skis in America. Support them and you won’t regret it long term – they’ll continue to drive innovation far more than K2 / BD / ETC will.

  16. Crazy Horse January 2nd, 2014 2:18 pm

    Brian,
    DPS is a boutique ski? Common as marmots here in Old Foggee. Now my 4.3# carbon 186 Lahasa Pows made by a guy named Splat— that is a boutique ski! FKNA.

  17. Woody Dixon January 2nd, 2014 3:32 pm

    @Crazy Horse

    I now have three pairs of Splat’s masterpieces. And I agree, they rock. 183s bros, 186 lhasas and 196 lhasas.

  18. Billy Balz January 2nd, 2014 8:15 pm

    I picked up some k2 backup 82mm waist on speed rads on Lou’s advice and scared to admit it but I’m having maybe more fun on these than my 116mm moment bibbys on Lange RX 130/jesters in 12″ or less. Amazingly light on the up and very nimble going down. So far I’m blown away at the light weight setup….only scared when I’m doing the AT setup in rocky sketchy conditions. That said, I am always for buying American small co skis when possible. But with rocker, seems the narrower skis are a lot more manageable in powder than the old traditional camber skis….I’m 47 and used to ski the 203 SL skis in powder

  19. PowBanger January 3rd, 2014 8:03 am

    Brian – can you name some true innovation by a microbrew, and how companies with limited R&D budgets are able to drive innovation?
    Without retailer support microbrew’s growth is limited. Retailers won’t support ski companies who wish to compete against them by selling direct online or in show rooms, especially brands that are risky investments for them.

  20. Mike January 3rd, 2014 9:19 am

    1) Skiing will be replaced by splitboarding due to radical new innovations made by a small binding company from the Northwest. No longer will skiers be forced to adhere to the gregorian standard of forward facing travel but will be enabled to travel through time and space in a sideward stance which will virtually eliminate mental fatigue induced by breakable crust and wind scour. Of course there will be hold outs, but these few outcasts will be relegated to snowplowing in the cheese-wedge stance only on snow surfaces finely manicured by gargantuan felines who spew carbon into the atmosphere heating the earths surface and reducing snowfall.

    2) Microbrews will continue to soar in popularity as marijuana replaces hop strains as the bittering agent of choice by brewers. These new brews will throw the Reinheitsgebot by the wayside by inducing a calming effect that not even the most anal retentive German can resist.

    3) Ski areas will respond to the massive growth in SkiMo by allowing these uphill fanatics to download on all major lifts. Large, warm robes will be distributed to the spandex clad individuals in order to prevent them from catching a chill between uphill jaunts. These robes will crafted from the finest European goose down and be filled with helium so as not to crush their fragile frames.

  21. Bryan January 3rd, 2014 9:45 am

    @powbanger

    I’m not even going to address the comment “Retailers won’t support ski companies who wish to compete against them by selling direct online”

    IBDs need to figure out how to use the internet as an asset, not an enemy. If I’m a retailer, it’s irrelevant to me whether or not a brand sells online. Do the customers who walk in my door want the skis? Are the skis something that a customer could learn about in my shop and love as a ski?

    As someone who sells gear online, the number 1 thing I crave is personal connections with customers. THAT is what IBDs will always have over internet retailers.

    Innovative examples cool boutique skis: Anything DPS Spooned, DPS Lotus 138, Praxis Wootest, Down Skis Countdown 5, Moment Deathwish, ON3P Cease & Desist, 4frnt Renegade, 4frnt Hoji, 4frnt Devastator.

    I realize those brands may or may not be considered “boutique”…but they are 1/10th the size of K2, Salomon, Rossi, Volkl, etc.

  22. Lou Dawson January 3rd, 2014 10:52 am

    Nice prognostication Mike!

  23. PowBanger January 3rd, 2014 11:19 pm

    Bryan

    #1 issue in ski retail is brick/mortar vs. Internet. Some companies have figured out ways to include the retailer in online sales from company websites. Why would I want to support any company who will take a online order and fulfill it themselves rather than call me and let me fullfill the order to that customer. We’re all in this together, if I take a risk the company must do that as well. I’ll buy brands that partner with me, and sell those brands to my customers.

    If a customer wants an indie ski which I don’t carry I’ll relay to them why I don’t carry that brand and offer to help them purchase the ski online, ship it to the shop if they would like, sell them a binding and a mount, hopefully creating a lifetime customer. I’m not going to go out and place a stock order from that brand just because I sold one ski.

    The skis you mentioned, while certainly all great skis, don’t strike me as truly innovative. Peter Turner took torsional rocker up a level with his spoon tech, but he wasn’t the first guy using it, Elan has been doing it for the last few years and there are snowboard companies who have played with it as well.

    Predictions…..sliding on snow will continue to be glorious, no matter what you slide on snow with. Helium filled goose down robes may not make the cut though.

  24. seth January 6th, 2014 3:21 am

    Have you guys been down to the OPUS hut (Ophir Pass)?

  25. Lou Dawson January 6th, 2014 3:30 am

    Haven’t stayed there Seth, but know of it of course. It breaks the mold, that’s for sure.

  26. seth January 7th, 2014 9:34 am

    Get down there! Bob and his crew are gracious hosts, and it’s a really special place. With GREAT terrain.

  27. Lou Dawson January 7th, 2014 1:59 pm

    It’s always sounded wonderful, though I think I’ll need to acclimate first, 12,000 feet!? I don’t mind skiing at that el’ but sleeping takes a bit of getting used to. Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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