Snowboarders have a particular flair for christening their tricks. It’s a damn shame their outfitting companies — and this is true on the skiing side as well — aren’t as good at naming equipment. Among the legions of winter-sport gadgets available, there are no Mashed Potatoes in sight, no Haakon flips, no 720 Mctwists, Melonchollies, or Wetcats. In terms of equipment names, it’s a relatively bleak landscape.
Nevertheless, it’s once again time for the specialty stores to break out the sweet, new gear and dust off the standard hardware. The Phoenix dropped in on a few local retailers for a preview of the equipment you’ll need — or at least want — this season. To make things more interesting, we’ve rechristened each item.
Fast and furious foot squeezers
When you’re splicing your way downhill, quickness is a virtue for two reasons. First, speed allows you to cram the maximum possible runs into the time allotted by your lift ticket. Second, it encourages those lazy, laggard friends of yours to sweat your speed, lest they be forced to buy you drinks for years in the future because you beat their lardy breaths down the mountain 30 times in a row.
a/k/a Salomon Falcon 10 Ski boots ($630)
To rebuild yourself for speed, a narrow board or skis will help, but beyond that, boots are key. Salomon low-volume boots, particularly the Falcons, have shells that vary in thickness over the boot’s contour. The Falcon design uses higher-density material at crucial strength points and a thinner shell elsewhere to keep your feet in place for sleek form and speed that will, in the words of my uncle, “put hair on your chest” or “make your hair grow curly.”
The ‘Sony’s gonna be really piste’ accessories
Looking for another way to get your heart racing and your blood pumping as you race downhill? You’re in luck — and with the new music accessories on the market, it won’t even matter if your slow-poke friends have left you skiing alone. Instead, you can take solace in the new jackets with inner pockets for your iPod, keys, goggles, small toys, small dogs, or anything else you could possibly want to stow for entertainment.
a/k/a Belkin’s Sportcommand ($80); Burton’s iPod Audex Hood ($260); Kenpo’s iPod Fashion jacket ($130); and Spyder’s iPod jacket ($3000)
Burton offers a snowboard jacket with a built-in mp3 player and Motorola telephone hookup. On the affordable end of the spectrum, Kenpo has a solid, reasonably priced jacket wired for the iPod; on the ghastly end, Spyder is pushing a jacket that allows you to control your music through sensors in your sleeves for a cool $3000. These jackets don’t necessarily work for any mp3 player except the iPod, so if you’re listening with something else, check before you buy. Already have a jacket? Belkin’s new Sportcommand device lets you control your iPod wirelessly for $80.
The shape shifter
Perhaps you’d like to ski smoothly all day without fumbling around changing skis. Five pairs would ready you for any snow or slope imaginable, but you’d have to keep track of them all. Not to worry. Rossignol has come up with Alpine skis whose rods can be switched to maximize performance for either short- or long-radius turns. That means you can pick tea cups off gates as you zip between them, and take the wide-powder path to visit trees on each side of the corduroy, without looking like an indecisive dork by constantly changing your gear.
a/k/a Rossignol Multix Skis ($1200)
Feel free to get excited — we have a new favorite piece of equipment on the market. Climbing Skins, which look like little seat belts, fasten to the bottom of your skis, and provide a smooth surface facing uphill and a rough surface facing downhill (like the nap of an animal skin or a lint brush). The result: one-way traction that allows ski tourists to scale hills with ease. Essentially, this product makes the impossible look simple. If you’re into skiing in the wild, it will function like an electric assist on the velomobile, chains for snow tires, or accountants, all rolled into one. It does the dirty work so you don’t have to, allowing you to emerge at the top of a hill without sweat balls dripping off of your chinny-chin-chin. Best of all, the grippers are based on a tried-and-true method that got great-grandpa up the hill without a lift — definitely a good investment.
a/k/a 65 mm ascension skins by Black Diamond ($35)
a/k/a Custom Brew Bindings by Burton ($160)