Wider, snowboard-influenced skis have been coming in for a few years now. But those last New England holdouts who think that width is only good for Rocky Mountain powder might just be converted by this year's crop, says Ski Market's Leake. Lumped together under the broad category of "adventure" skis, these are skis that can be used by telemark skiiers with a telemark binding, by Alpine skiers with a conventional binding, or by AT skiers with alpine-touring bindings. Basically, says Leake, they're just a bit fatter in the middle, which means they take a little more energy to roll over. But if you're getting off the trails — and more and more, even Eastern skiers are heading into the woods— that means a big, stable platform. He recommends K2's Backside series, including the SIDESTASH and the HARDSIDE ($499–$750). "They're big skis," he says. Created to rock — another skateboard innovation — they "roll into turns effortlessly," he says. "And in powder, they work like waterskis."
What with such parks as Sugarbush adding more "glade trails," and an aging population looking for knee-friendly fun, these skis and the options they open up are it. "The woods are our new moguls," says Leake.
Okay, it's not new. But the last big breakthrough in boards — rocker technology — has just kept on coming, say Kristy McNiff and Michael Orff, Ski Market's snowboard gurus. Now every manufacturer has an offering. With tip and tail already lifted, these boards — including the Burton Custom-V Rider — turn and float easily in almost any kind of snow. "Overall it is easier and more fun to ride in any riding condition and all types of riders," says Orff. K2's SLAYBLADE ($549) offers a further refinement of the technology — what K2 calls "flatline" zero-camber design for balance and versatility — for a higher-end freestyle mountain board.
Speaking of snowboards, Wilderness House's Casserly steers boarders to two newcomers. Gnu's PARK PICKLE ($489) features two different radii — for toe and heel edges — to help grab the snow. He's also excited about Brighton's own Bean Boards, a local start-up with two models out this year, the VIOLATOR for freestyle ($425) and the COMMONWEALTH free ride ($450). (See "A Bean Grows in Brighton.")
GNU Park Pickle
We all push for equality on the slopes, but that doesn't mean our bodies work the same. Though ski manufacturers have known this for a while, the modifications keep on coming. Volkl and Dynastar have been responding with lighter, softer skis specifically designed for women, says Leake. These are usually system skis— "with bindings included" — which accounts for the slightly higher price tag. Volkl's new model, the ESTRELLA ($699), is a little narrower than older versions. The result is "a carving ski for women," says Ski Market's Leake.
Mixing safety and style, Bern Unlimited has also come out with a line of gender-specific helmets. The helmet manufacturer, based in Kingston, Massachusetts, creates helmets that crossover between slope sports — but in terms of design, comfort, and safety, their 12 new men's and women's models ($79–$149 for winter sports models) are all about customization. Hot models this winter include the BERKELEY for women, and the BRENTWOOD for men (both $100, both a lightweight 12.5 ounces and available in a variety of colors and sizes). The manufacturer is also incorporating an exclusive new foam into its models this season. Zipmold — "the first new impact foam since EPS and exclusive to Bern" — is making helmets thinner and lower profile, while still meeting bike- and snowboard-helmet standards.
Bern Berkley and Brentwood
"It's all about style and fit," says Josh Walker, Bern Unlimited's marketing/team manager.