There have been several trade shows in outdoorlandia in the past couple of weeks. I just spent the last two days at SIA, the big snow sports show in Denver.
If you've never been to a trade show, it can best be described as a spectacle. Picture an enormous room larger than a football field in which hundreds of companies large and small set up snazzy displays, couches, tables, and promotional paraphernalia, most of which are nicer than my house. The exhibitors showcase lots of shiny new gear that consumers won't see on shelves until fall. They also come up with all sorts of curiosities to draw people to their booths, like men in gorilla suits, buxom women in fishnets, bunny ears or stewardess outfits, DJs in sunglasses spinning tunes, and big-name athletes like freestyler Patrick Deneen and mountaineer Chris Davenport, to name a few. It's overwhelming, and you can't possibly see everything. But I survived the bright lights to emerge with some ideas as to where the ski and snowboard industry is headed. If there's one word you should know, it's this: rocker. A wide range of ski and snowboard companies are embracing rockered boards. In fact, K2's entire '10-'11 line will be rockered. What the hell is rocker? It's essentially tips and tails that rise early. The most obvious benefit is better float in the soft stuff, but it can also help you initiate and switch turns more easily. Try it. You'll like it.
It also seems that a lot of companies are catering to sidecountry and backcountry riders with split board bindings, fancy new alpine touring boots and apparel designed specifically for the rigors of touring. Here are a few of the products that caught my eye.
1. Salomon Quest Boot
It's like there's an unofficial competition amongst ski boot companies to make the stiffest yet lightest alpine-touring boot possible. Virtually every boot maker has new models for next season, but Salomon's new Quest line got the most buzz. The series of six new alpine-touring boots, including one women's version (hooray!), combines the power of Salomon's alpine boots with a rubber sole and cuff release system for walking. These boots are for folks like ski patrollers who need uncompromising downhill performance with a walk option. There is a Dynafit-compatible attachment, but these aren't for the super weight conscious...
2. Dynafit TLT5
This boot is on the other end of the alpine-touring spectrum. It's designed for what Dynafit calls speed touring. I tried it on and it's uncanny: When it's in walk mode, it literally feels like a hiking boot. Then you switch it into ski mode and insert the tongue and it stiffens like magic. A boon for super speedy ski tourers.
3. Arc'teryx Alpha SV Glove
Arc'teryx is at it again—whipping up beautifully designed, highly functional, and rather expensive gear that I covet. This time it's the Alpha SV Glove, which is basically an articulated seam-taped Gore-Tex Pro Shell for hands with a removable fleece liner. You get a surprising amount of dexterity and Arc'teryx says the seam-taped design will be more waterproof than other gloves on the market.
4. Marker Tour Binding
Maker of the Duke and Baron backcountry bindings, Marker is one-upping themselves with the new Tour model. It's hollow, making it far lighter than its predecessors and just about as aggressive. Skiers who rip fast on big skis, take note.
5. Rab Infinity Jacket
U.K.-based Rab isn't all that well-known in the U.S., but that is quickly changing. The Infinity Jacket will only hasten the process. It's made of 850-fill down and a new kind of rip-stop fabric called Pertex Syncro that is outrageously light for how burly it is. What that means is it's far less likely to rip or leak feathers. It looks (and feels) pretty sweet.