Gear trends: 2015/16 Winter socks

Skiers and snowboarders wearing high-performance boots call for the closest fit in socks. See what new products will hit retail shelves in 2015/16.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Like a holiday latte, skinny is the popular order for 2015-16 snow sport socks.

A flurry of expert and professional skiers crave a precise boot fit, which necessitates glove-like socks to pair with custom-fit hardgoods and inserts. Basically, the less sock material, the better: for easy in-and-out access and to increase foot-to-boot performance.

“There is a call for thinner and thinner. Customers have been asking for something super thin. They want to wear what the pros wear, and professionals want the closest connection between the foot and the boot,” said Tanya Pictor, vice president of sales and marketing at Falke. She points to the SK5 SKI Racer (MSRP $60), which is revamped with 32-percent silk and a more compressive construction. “Silk is extra, extra fine, yet still has great thermal properties — it is absolutely phenomenal,” Pictor said.

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Fox River refines the toe-box and cross-flex heel pocket in its anatomically knit silk and merino wool VVS Lightweight and Ultra Light Pro Ski socks (MSRPs $22-$24). To cater to various boot preferences, the Ultra Light achieves a barefoot feel while the Lightweight offers a cushioned shin pad and heel for impact absorption. With like lightness, Krimson Klover brings the Skier Sock (MSRP $28), a wool blend with a vintage skier trick — using a lifestyle pair of socks that folks love to wear on the slopes because they’re thin yet warm and non-bulky, said Krimson Klover marketing manager Kaitlyn Bright.

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Darn Tough Vermont adds its lightest ever Vertical line design: the RFL, or the Really !#*$@£% Light, over-the-calf sock (MSRP $24), which incorporates 17.2 micro fine-gauge merino wool. “The performance features are still there,” said Mark Comcowich, director of sales and marketing for Darn Tough Vermont. “It’s high density and wicks away sweat, but we’re using a yarn that’s half the weight.” Designers simply increased the sock’s number of rows to achieve the same height. “Some world class skiers go barefoot because they think that any cushioning absorbs energy — and, you’re splitting hairs on that — but, the ultra high performance skier that wants theoretically zero movement is going to be all over this sock,” Comcowich said.

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Lorpen releases its lightest weight pair: The T3+ Polartec Superlight Race (MSRP $60) with Polartec Power Stretch fabric for elasticity and Power Dry technology for moisture transfer and cushioning. It’s a skin-hugging design that’s inspired by the progression of boot technology, pointed out Lorpen Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Bruce Barrows. “Ski boot manufacturers are doing a much better job with the last of the boot—which allows the foot to have better circulation — and with the liner. Those two things allow the user to have a warmer foot environment, so we’re seeing socks get lighter and there’s a shift from a focus on insulation to moisture management,” Barrows said.

Nowadays, many snowboarders also have enough cushion in their boots, said Cynthia Dowd, marketing and product design manager for Fits, which brings the Ultra Light (MSRP $25) in its pioneer Snowboard Sock collection. Similarly, the inaugural Farm to Feet ski collection (MSRPs $19-$23) includes the flat knit ultralight Jackson with friction-free nylon, and the lightweight Waitsfield with high splice pattern designs. The lighter weight and less-cushioned socks can decrease the likelihood of overheating and moisture build-up throughout the stop-and-go motion of touring, depending on the individual. Point6 expands its snow sports lines with the lightweight Snowboard Powerhouse and the Colorado Sky High Ski Ultra Light (MSRPs $21-24) — the latter is an ultrathin, non-cushioned design with Achilles and arch braces to secure the sock in place.

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“Skinning [uphill on skis] is very aerobic and can lead to a lot of perspiration and hot spots, so the ultralight, minimal cushioning for ski and snowboard performance for backcountry winter travel is taking off,” said Drew Williams, Point6 operations chief.

Equally designed for an ideally snug fit, SmartWool debuts a female ski sock — the Women’s PhD Ski Ultra Light (MSRP $22) — with a narrower heel pocket, lower volume silhouette and gender-specific ventilation zones. Expanding graduated compression, Vim and Vigr premiers its first-ever ladies’ tights (MSRPs $40-$45), Sockwell brings the outdoor-adventure Ascend over-the-calf (MSRP $27), and in a heritage style Wigwam introduces the merino wool Tall Trekker Fusion (MSRP $19) with its Ultimax Fusion wicking technology.

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Departing from mainstream wool, Thorlo updates its snowboard line with Thor-Lon and Thor-Wick fibers in the XSNB Snowboard sock (MSRP $22), and — new to the sock scene — United By Blue invents the Ultimate American Sock (MSRP $38), a bison fiber blend in a lifestyle/hike sock that the brand prides itself on complete transparency.

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“A growing trend of transparency in supply seems to be strengthening throughout the industry, especially in socks,” said Kelly Nester, Farm to Feet President. “Being able to tell the story not just of where that last step is done, but being able to communicate very well the entire supply chain all the way back to the raw material starting point.”

--Morgan Tilton

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