OR Show – Day 2

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 29, 2006      

Garmont Endorphin
Garmont Endorphin is a good example of the interesting (but some would say bothersome) trend of most randonnee gear becomming as beefy as alpine gear. These things really are an alpine boot with a rando sole. Very stylish and useful for certain folks, but do hardcore tour-for-turns people need this much mass?

Checked out quite a bit of new product today, with emphasis on AT ski gear. I’m getting concerned with what’s now a strong trend in randonnee gear — that of making it heavier, rather than lighter. Reminds me of the telemark industry. Every year brings us heavier bindings and boots, while the lightweight binding end is held up by only several offerings from (Dynafit, Silvretta Pure), and nothing truly innovative in lightweight boots has come out since the Scarpa F1 several years ago. I’m all for beefy randonnee gear to keep agro boys happy, but it’s obvious the hard core touring crowd is being left out. Naxo has gone from 2 heavy bindings to four (adding a women’s model and a midweight unit), Fritschi has beefed all their models, Garmont has 8 randonnee boot models that all look nice, but nothing innovative this year on the lightweight end, and so on.

I believe much of what’s going on here is that it’s become stylish to have randonnee bindings on your skis — even if you use them seldom (to never) for touring, only for lift skiing. This happened with telemarking. Lift skiers take over the sport, and the gear gets huge because they mostly want downhill performance. At least with telemarking you’re actually using the binding to do something different than an alpine binding. If you’re skiing randonnee gear and not using it for touring, could you qualify as a style victim? Only you know for sure. (Ditto for telemarkers, of course).

Part of the problem with lightweight gear might be that Dynafit has a lock on that part of the market what with most lighter AT boots being Dynafit compatible, yet the Dynafit pin/socket boot interface is patented. Thus, even thought the boots are out there, no one but Dynafit can make lightweight bindings for them. I’ve heard that at least parts of the Dynafit patent might be expiring soon. If so, that could get interesting real quick.

On a lighter note, Outdoor Retailer booth displays have gradually become slicker over past years. Indeed, the whole backcountry gear scene is obviously evolving into more glitz and glitter. A little eye candy is always welcome (booth guys and babes, giant LCD screens with excellent adventure footage catching your eye, etc.) but we’d hate to see things go totally Hollyweird. Perhaps the best example we saw of something cool but not over produced is a compelling display of gear frozen in crystal clear blocks of ice. At first I thought it had to be some sort of resin that looked like water ice, but no, it’s real. Check out the photo below (the boot is actually inside the ice.)

Gear in the ice


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2 Responses to “OR Show – Day 2”

  1. James Woods September 6th, 2006 7:59 pm

    Going lite is cool for the people that want to race to the top. I how ever do not care about my gear being light. Look at this perspective. I weigh over 200 pounds and I ski hard. Yes, I earn a lot of my turns, but if I was so concerned about weight, I would drink less beer, and avoid late night Taco Bell excursions. Light weight gear does not hold up to the presure of my body weight. Plus, heavy gear only makes me stronger. So, in other words, I am glad that the industry is going in this direction. Fat people are always looked down on, at least we have this going for us.

  2. Rick S January 21st, 2008 12:13 pm

    I am a male, 180lbs, expert downhill skier. I’ve been changing over to AT/Randonnee gear for the past year. One attraction is the lighter gear. The biggest turn off has been the cost. Exhorbitant by any measure. Most people I’ve talked to fall into one of two perspectives: yes it’s way too expensive for what you get; or they wear their gear prices like badges of honor. Especially guys. They seem to feel it makes them more serious of a backcountry person if they’ve dumped thousands of dollars into their skis, bindings & boots.

    For me the boots are just too soft and yet they cost quite a bit more than my top of the line downhill boots. If I could just glue the vibram soles onto my downhill boots I’d use them! Garmont just came out with a boot that is well over $800 ($829 at REI, $849 elsewhere). With tax you’re going to be right near $900. There isn’t a boot on this planet worth $900 to me. The ski product manufacturers need to get off their high horses if they want to move more product.

    As for the weight issue, well on the skis & bindings it’s been a good thing. When it comes to boots, performance is my number one priority. The weight of my downhill boots isn’t unbearable and the control I get at high speeds is worth every ounce. I use AT gear to get me to backcountry powder where I can hit very advanced level terrain and I want to ski it at high speeds. For that I need the support I’m used to. If that means AT boots have to weigh the same as downhill boots, so be it.

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