Part crystal ball, part whishlist, all in fun. Obehwhanskinoobie at your service, and awaiting your own visions of the great ski touring beyond.
1. Look for new electronic capacitor airbag packs to gradually become ubiquitous. They work. Yeah, I alluded in my 2019 prognostication list that this would happen soon. I’m extending the prediction.
2. The Dynafit Speed Nose boot toe will go away. Slowly, yes, but it will. A well known industry insider is said to have researched the popularity and market for the Speed Nose, and concluded that selling the idea is something like selling a certain meat product in a certain holy city.
3. Onesies will not come back into style, though I’m trying to be a role model.
4.The future of clothing? Yes, we will continue to wear it — that is unless we’re microdosing at Esalen. Thus, the breathability wars will continue unabated, with all manner of “real world” tests being devised by every keyboard pounding legit gear-blogger on this planet. My take? It all works pretty good unless you are super high-output and produce above average amounts of perspiration. In that case, there is nothing like nothing, meaning a synthetic T between you and the pure crisp air of planet Earth.
5. Survival odds for avalanche burials have likely been improving, though proving this statistically could be a bear, as the statistical sample is a moving target. Allow me to predict this perceived trend will continue, due to a variety of factors: Airbag packs; shoveling strategy; rescue education; better post-avalanche emergency medical care. This does not mean we are off the hook, as death by “injuries incompatible with life” will continue. On that note don’t look at airbag packs to prevent trauma unless they enclose you in a bubble. Though there may be a consensus rising that an airbag created airpocket could be a life-saver if you do get entombed despite your jolly red balloon.
6. Freeride is not where I hang my hat, and neither do most WildSnow readers. But let’s not ignore the guys clomping around with 4.76272 kilos strapped to each foot. The weight training is good for them, and they sure look nice coming downhill. Also, this is the growth area in the industry — if for no other reason than it’s become stylish to sport ski touring bindings and boots on the lifts, not to mention that walk-mode boots work better for bar hopping. I predict the growth will continue, and you’ll see companies such as Scarpa and Dynafit vying for their share. Though competing with the likes of Dalbello, Nordica, Rossignol etcetera is rumored to have caused hair loss among the stalwart “touring” company leadership.
7. More Freeride thoughts. Yes, you’ll see at least one more binding along the lines of the Salomon/Atomic Shift. I continue to be amazed at how innovative that thing is. That said, if you want something lighter for freeride, it is a confusing world out there. For example, I’m of the opinion that the Fritschi Tecton is a Freeride binding that yields just about the best combo of features I can imagine. Validating that, the 2020 Skialper Buyer Guide does include Tecton as a Freeride binding. I’ve been working on translating a few Skialper excerpts from Italian to English, following is their Tecton take.
Fritschi Tecton 12 Review — Excerpt from Skialper 2020 Buyer Guide
“This is a true, complete, very studied hybrid* solution, without unnecessary complications: the boot is attached to tech pins at the front, and behind you get an alpine-type heel that retracts for the ascent, and releases the shoe simply by acting on the large operating lever. The features of Tecton make it pleasant to a potentially very large audience: the only specific boot feature required is the front tech fittings. The toe unit is the same as that of Vipec 12, which allows lateral release on the basis of the chosen adjustment between 5 and 12 in both uphill and downhill mode (safety regarding avalanches during the ascent). The two heel climbing lifts seem too high, but the drop is reduced considering the higher than average height of the front pins. Among the three hybrid Freeride solutions (Trab, Marker, Salomon/Atomic), Tecton seems to us the most advisable to a non-specialized public, as it provides such a complete range of features.” [The term “hybrid” was probably first used here at WildSnow, to describe a ski touring binding that uses a combination of “tech” boot fittings that conflicts with the informal standard of the industry — nice to see the word in use elsewhere.] (Translated from the Italian by Google and Luigi.)
8. Despite my chanting “Tech 2.0” over the past decade, I don’t see it happening in 2020. But I still predict it’ll happen. Who will be the innovator bold enough to go where no ski company has gone? So far, that honor goes to Trab for getting close. Some say they are indeed Tech 2.0 with their TR2 system. I’m not ready to go that far, though they do deserve honorable mention. Also note that the fastest growing segment in touring is not the lightweight side, but rather the heavy Freeride category, so I predict you’ll (sadly, in my view) see most of the binding innovation in that space.
9. The magic three zeros. We’ve seen 1,000 gram skis, 1,000 gram boots…now look for entire “resort uphilling” setups for under a $1,000. You can already do that, of course, if you shop carefully for mix of new and used gear. But I’m talking package deals — brand new stuff. Along with Freeride, uphilling is the other growth area in ski touring gear, so seeing this should come as no surprise. More than a few times I’ve been evesdropping on a ski shop conversation, and could tell the exasperated clerk would have loved to say the words: “Ultraski has a complete package for uphilling for about a grand, we recommend it, we can have you out the door in two hours.”
10. Cripple Creek Backcountry will not open another bricks&sticks store. Watch this space, as we’ll have a big announcement about that at the beginning of April.