A new season brings new toys, and snow sports fanatics are nothing if not gearheads. Can you hit the slopes and parks with last year's equipment? Sure, but if you can upgrade even a little, you'll find this year's skis, snowboards, bindings, and accessories are both incorporating new technologies and refining existing ones. That means more accessibility, more options, and more fun. And while nothing really revolutionary is breaking through for winter 2010, we've isolated four basic areas where manufacturers are giving their best.
Call it crossover appeal, but nobody wants to get stuck on one trail anymore. After years of hyperspecialization, ski manufacturers are catching on, says Chris Leake, Ski Market's vice-president and ski guru. Though several ski makers are following this trend, Leake singles out Dynastar's new Sixth Sense series for its focus on versatility. The twin-tip SIXTH SENSE SUPERPIPE ($499), for example, has four metal edges to ski the pipe and the park. "It's designed to take abuse," says Leake.
Asked for his recommendation for a ski "for every mountain, every day, no matter what the conditions," Tom Casserly of Wilderness House suggests Volkl's latest, the GOTAMA ($825). With its extended low-profile rocker design, this ski "helps you float through the powder and the crud without sacrificing performance" on groomed trails, either, says Casserly. He also champions the ski's dual-density wood core, dense ash paired with supple poplar. "This is a sky you can be happy with in the open bowls out west or at home in New England," he says.
Lange Super Blaster
Casserly also points out the flexibility of newer boots. The Lange SUPER BLASTER ($580), for example, is a high-performance boot that comes with a hiking mode. In other words, when the buckle is locked forward, the boot releases to flex naturally, letting skiers hike up the slopes they want to ski down.
New bindings that serve multiple purposes are also helping skiers push the boundaries, says Brandon Koger, sports tech product manager for Eastern Mountain Sports. He likes Marker's DUKE ($495) and BARON ($436) bindings. "You can free your heel for climbing and touring, and lock it back into place for the charge down," says Koger.
Burton Custom V-Rocker
Boarders are discovering similar freedoms. Not exactly new this year — but available on an increasing number of models — Burton's Channel bindings offer a range of alternatives to the standard three- or four-hole binding attachments, which limit boarder's stance options. "With the Channel, you put your bindings anywhere," raves Kristy McNiff from Ski Market. The Channel can be found on Burton's new CUSTOM V-ROCKER ($580). In addition to "maximum board feel, contact, and natural flex," says McNiff, the lack of holes means more flex to the board and no more "dead zones" on the board.