After flying in the night before from Munich on a United Airlines wing and prayer, I managed a full day at the trade show here in Salt Lake City. Overall energy is good again, you can tell we’re still a growth industry. A larger convention hall would be nice — quite crowded here.
What stands out? In the ski ghetto, the sound of deploying avalanche airbags even overshadowed the DJ trying to make his mark over in the Skull Candy booth. Indeed, airbags are the hot item. The ultimate combo for a retailer: something that’s proven to save lives — and also costs a bunch of money. The things need to be cheaper and lighter. Sounds like that’ll happen eventually, just a matter of sales volume and materials science.
The sleekest and lightest systems are the new packs from ABS, while Mystery Ranch has the coolest looking. BCA is in there as well, and admirable in that they developed their own excellent plumbing system instead of licensing someone else’s. Sure, you don’t want to re-invent the wheel, but doing your own thing allows for the most innovation and best pricing. Check out a few show photos and comments:
While I was at the Mystery Ranch booth, the Snowpulse guys came and with permission checked out the plumbing. Pretty funny watching them do their industrial espionage in plain daylight.
Black Diamond has all new graphics, and most of their skis are the same in name only. They've gone to sidewall construction for most, with builds and flex patterns of significant difference.
Seems like what's going on with BD is their ski design is going through a maturing process, where they are tweaking performance up to the standards of companies such as Kastle or K2, who have had many more years to dial things. Developing good skis takes time, sometimes years of testing, so good to see the evolution. By the way, in the efficient series, Justice is lighter and built as a sidewall ski instead of cap, and looks like it might be the go-to wider ski of choice in their lighter weight offerings. I've found the Drift to be a bit of a yawner, so the plan is to switch testing over to the Justice and see if I like it better. We shall see.
Biggest ski news of the show is probably La Sportiva coming out with a full line of ski mountaineering boots and skis, along with their re-badged ATK tech binding. They were showing the ATK with its brake. The binding looks nice, but the brake needs the services of a good industrial design team.
La Sportiva is now sporting four boot models. Last year they were offering their incredibly expensive full carbon Stratos. This year they've got three more models that use the latest in sexy tech of nylon plastic for a thin, lightweight lower shoe, combined with either a carbon or carbon/Pebax cuff. The boots like good. They're super light, have a way of adjusting forward lean, and as shown in this photo actually have a nib of rubber on the sole that helps index the boot into a tech binding.
Spitfire backcountry skiing boot. 1. Nylon shell. 2. Carbon cuff. 3. Lots of rocker, good cuff articulation. 4. Beef areas to prevent deformation of minimalist shell. 8. Actually has boot board inside for custom fitting and warmth. 9. On motion closure system, walk ski mech located up where it won't ice, adjustable forward lean. Truly interesting boot, but no doubt expensive.
Beyond carbon fiber, what's soon going to revolutionize everything from airbags to pants is going to be fibers such as Dyneema®. That's my prediction. For example, Graham at Cilo Gear showed me this fabric that's combination of non-woven on one side for the ultimate in strength/weight ration, with a woven layer on the other side for abrasion resistance that's way beyond nylon. Along with that, I saw a prototype for a shell jacket using Entrant membrane,but made with a thin Dyneema fabric that was not only feather light, but nearly indestructible for normal use. From fly fishing to alpine climbing, that sort of thing will be amazing once it becomes common.
The ABS Powder 15 airbag backpack has enough space for average backcountry skiing kit, and comes in at a mass of 2.2 kilo. All the airbag folks are realizing that consumers really don't want to be carrying 25 lb backpacks for ski touring (airbag + gear). They know that who wins the weight game will get the big orders, so the competition will, I hope, become fierce.
After all that Dynafit panic of the last few days, I forgot to mention that their ski line remains pretty much the same, but they added a new model called Baltoro, to further fill the width gap between narrower planks such as Manaslu and Stoke (around 115/84/102). Baltoro will be interesting to test as more of conventional euro style ski for spring touring. Looking forward to it.
All for now, today I’ll set up for lots of future reviews, and get some more current details for another show post.