I’ve Seen the Future of Backcountry Skiing

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 8, 2006      

Heidi Newell is a backcountry skier who recently earned her Masters in Industrial Design. Congratulations Heidi! She shared some of her thesis ideas with us the other day, and gave permission to blog. I like the female backcountry skiing touch her designs have. Wear your sunglasses!

Future backcountry skiing gear
Mockup of “soft helmet.”


I’ve attached some designs that came from my investigation on ski mountaineering. The boot prototype was inspired by our interview, and your remarks on cold feet.

The technology leveraged in the “Quantum Dot” boot model is:

Flexible photovoltaic gaiters, woven battery lining connected to electro-conductive fabric and topped with a aluminum footbed liner (which reflects body heat back into the boot).

The technology in the hat models featured is d3o, an elastic polymer used in the GS Olympic Spyder suit. The polymer moves freely with the body, but on impact shock locks to absorb the energy of a blow.

I am proposing flexible head protection like this to be integrated with the Avalung, as demonstrated in the orange tubing in the models.

Enjoy and thanks for the inspiration!

Backcountry skiing into the future.
Mockups of Heidi’s futuristic designs are a portent of things to come when convergence and low-bulk are the watchwords of the industry.

A further comment on the designs for your blog. The heart of my thesis considered the designer’s role in integrating safety compliance into gear, without engaging the laws or taking away the spirit of the mountains, especially around head protection. The historic split between Patagonia and Black Diamond equipment was especially interesting for me, because the companies split for legal reasons, not necessarily design reasons, and I think there is vast design opportunity in considering how hardware and soft extreme textiles can be combined to create more protective gear.

Why don’t we see the same revolution of convergence in gear that we are seeing in everyday technologies? I think it has a lot to do with the companies in charge of hardware and textiles working in separate design offices…with the advance in performance textiles these days, there are lots of reasons to consider how designers can create safety compliance through more seamless integrations of hardware and soft textile. Check out this book for the latest on performance textiles. Heidi


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One Response to “I’ve Seen the Future of Backcountry Skiing”

  1. Mark June 9th, 2006 3:57 am

    Absolutely amazing materials. Can’t wait to see how they end up looking at the retail end.

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