I’ve got the NOAA website back on the favorite bookmarks. Snow levels are dropping again. Yes! Winter is just around the corner. It’s time to bump up the limits on your credit cards because there are some amazing new gear hitting the store shelves. We’re talking about a new evolution in ski design; new fabrics and materials for outerwear; and new features and upgrades to our favorite gear. So, without further ado, here are goods on my favorite Winter goods for 2012.
Rossignol Super 7
This ski left me grinning ear to ear last Spring. Rossignol has come back with a vengeance with a ski that rivals the Bandit series of the early 2000′s. I had a chance to ski a dozen days on the 7 and two on the Super 7 (see 2012 Rossignol S7 Ski Preview). This is the Cadillac of all mountain skis. The Super 7, the stiffer sibling, will have you lifting off with the its massive shovel and rocker camber in powder. The pintail will gently sink your skis achieving an optimum pitch and angle during your descent through your favorite bowl. The design of the Super 7 is exactly the same as the 7. But, Rossignol engineers decided to add a layer of metal to reinforce the wood laminate core improving aft balance. So, at high and low speeds, you’ll experience less aft vibration which results in hinging turns. The Super 7 is just plain smooth.
DPS Wailer 112RP Pure SE
At barely 6 years old, DPS is relatively unknown even among hardcore alpine skiers. This will all change in 2012. DPS uses NASA-grade carbon fiber, which is lighter and stronger than other conventional ski cores, to build their skis. The combination of technology and the progressive spoon shaped ski makes DPS one of the most technologically advanced skis out on the market. The Wailer 112RP has a carbon-fiber and wood core sandwich construction. The ski is a fully tip-to-tail rocker with traditional underfoot camber. The design is very similar to the Rossignol 7, but a lot lighter. The 184cm ski boasts a nice 18m turn radius and measures 141/112/127. I’m looking forward to checking these boards out this season.
I love boutique ski companies. When Line first came on the scene a decade ago, I was one of the first buyers. Moment is already pretty well known in the freeride community, and they’re only 12 months old. Yes- the company is a year old. Even so, they are engineering some of the sickest freeride boards in the industry with progressive designs and technology. Moment skis are identifiable by their squared-out shovel and tip. The Tahoe has a multi-radius sidecut with a modest 121/96/112 at 180cm. The ski has enough personality to stomp in the terrain park yet balanced enough to make GS turns on corduroy or float the pow with its rocker tip. An all-round great ski for action enthusiasts.
Salomon BBR 8.9
Salomon has always pushed the envelope in design. They were the first to make twin-tips main stream with the Pocket Rockets. Now, they are making another leap with the BBR 8.9. Blend the shovel of a waterski, waist of a 1980′s downhill ski with the shape of aesthetics of a surfboard and you have the BBR 8.9. Salomon has taken all the elements of the proggressive ski movement: rocker, skinny waist, spoon tip and pintail and put it on the BBR 8.9. The hope is that the short radius sidecut will provide quick and responsive turns on piste while the oversized tip will provide effortless floatation on soft, deep snow. Bertrand Krafft is the designer behind these skis. He’s the same guys who designed the X Screams and Pocket Rockets. So, if the past is an indicator of future results, the BBR’s should be a massive hit.
Black Diamond Custom
I have been really impressed how far and how quickly Black Diamond has developed their telemark boot line. Competing with mainstay incumbents like Scarpa and Garmont must have been intimidating. But Black Diamond has managed to silence critics with elegant design and intelligent features. At the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, I wrote about the Black Diamond Push boot, it’s flagship model. The Custom is its burlier brother. The 2012 model still has a 130 flex shell but that’s about it. This year’s version has a plastic tongue shield built into the liner to relieve pressure on your shin. It also has a foil underfoot to keep your feet nice and toasty on chilly days. The New Boa closure system also has been redesigned for better range of motion during steep ascents skinning and customized fits on downhill cruises. It’s a great second step for BD.
Salomon Quest 14
Yup, 3 buckles. Don’t let the lack of hardware fool you. This isn’t an intermediate boot. The Quest 14 has been totally revamped for performance and comfort. One of the biggest complaints I hear as a skier is how uncomfortable ski boots are. You often see skiers unbuckle as soon as they make their way to the lift line. Or, you see them writhe in pain between lines bending over their ski to relieve pressure. Well, Salomon decided to yank out a 4 buckle in favor of a wider power strap. It still provides a moderately stiff boot packed with performance but the flexible upper reduces shin irritation and overload on the bottom of your feet. To top this off, they added an amazing walk mode to keep your feet happy all day in the park and bumps to the bar and parking lot.
Clothing & Accessories
FlyLow Prefontaine 2.0
I absolutely love FlyLow. Check out my review on their Chemical Pant from February 2011. This Seattle based company combines new school engineering with old school design. Nothing stands out more than their Prefontaine Jacket. It’s a stretchy, soft shell mid-layer piece without the bulkiness of your traditional soft shell jacket. It’s designed like your favorite track jacket for your wardrobe but with the technical materials like a DWR coated soft shell fabric that it water repellant and windproof. I packed this jacket all last season and it was the perfect substitute for fleece for ski days between 25-32 degrees. The jacket was exceptionally breathable and super lightweight. I highly recommend picking one up. It comes in three new colors for 2012. This is so Skipster (Ski + Hipster).
It seems like minimalism is the trend for 2012 in resort ski wear. Everyone seems to be taking a page out of the Arcteryx jacket lines. But, I’ve never been a big fan of hard shell jackets. Since 1999, I’ve either had a soft shell or down outerlayer as my primary ski jacket. I really like soft shell’s durability, performance and comfort. The Marmot Zion combines the nice fit of soft shell fabric with the weatherproofness of hard shell. Yes- it’s the first waterproof (not water-resistant or water-repellent) soft shell jacket. The Zion uses Polartec’s brand new NeoShell membrane. This awesome new material feels like 800 fill feathers yet protects from the elements like glass and vents moisture like a Nike Dri-Fit shirt. I tried this jacket on at Outdoor Retailer and it was remarkably light and roomy. It provided a nice tailored fit. And it had all the great features you look for in your main coat–3 point hood, ski pass pocket, internal media port. Looking forward to testing this jacket.
Sierra Designs Transporter
The pureness of the ski/work glove transcends time. I’ve been wearing grungy, yellow, leather work gloves for decades on the mountain. My first pair of Gordinis looked like something you buy from Home Depot. But, I love them. You don’t have to compromise performance and comfort to be as cool as me. Sierra Designs has made a ski/work glove that you can be proud of in all weather elements–the Transporter. This glove features a reinforced finger, palm and knuckles. The glove is water-resistant with its soft shell reinforcements and lined with fleece for cozy comfort. This glove is ready for primetime in the backcountry as well as on piste. Not recommended for gardening.
Zeal Optics Transcend GPS SPPX
“I feel the need, the need, for speed.” Remember how we all wanted to be a Top Gun pilot with a heads up display (HUD) shooting down MIGS. Now you can pretend with Zeal’s ski goggles. These are something out of Star Wars meets James Bond. The Transcend GPS goggles feature a GPS powered digital display embedded in the lens. Throw in some polarization and photochromic materials and this becomes the mother of all ski goggles! This has everything. The goggles have pre-loaded resort maps and records your vertical and distance skied. The HUD in the lens disappears from view when skiing but can be easily brought up with a small toggle button on the frame. You can easily find out your speed, temperature outside, altitude, etc. At $500, you may have to ski in a tuxedo. But it may well be worth it.
Start your snow dances. La Nina is supposed to be wicked this winter. I’ll see you out on the slopes.