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.
Let it snow! Perhaps one of the bigger beneficiary categories to good snow not only in the backcountry, but also around urban areas, is Nordic.
After a fresh layer of powder falls, more people are heading out to their local parks to glide and get the heart rate pumping without having to spend a full day’s time and paycheck traveling to the mountains. That’s not to say backcountry touring isn’t doing just fine, as well. In general, the entire category is up.
Nordic sales rose 15 percent this past year, led by the women’s sector jumping 28 percent. This follows a 6 percent uptick the year before, after a marked decline in 2011-12.
“Consumers’ ‘snow confidence’ is up,” said Michael Messler, president of Erik Sports/Whitewoods. “They think it will snow, so they’re buying Nordic equipment again.” Added Chris McCullough, global brands manager for Madshus: “It’s an exciting time for Nordic. The Olympics brought it back to the forefront and we’re optimistic to see the momentum grow. It’s also enjoying healthy cross-over participation from other endurance sports.”
Brands are responding with enhanced kick-and-glide offerings, including weight-savings in the form of more carbon, better price points and more.
“Lightweight skis like Fischer’s Carbon-Light are moving well,” said show buyer Therese Dayton of Colorado’s Breckenridge Nordic Center. “People are getting back to nature and off groomed trails more. They’re also not afraid to spend money.” Dayton added that rentals and clinics are also on the rise.
“More versatile designs have made touring products easier to use, providing a great introduction to new participants,” said Rossignol’s Nick Castagnoli.
Fischer addresses the trends with its new 125 S-Bound (MSRP $325), a super-lightweight back country ski that comes with a new integrated skin system that attaches through a hole in the forefront of the ski. “Think of it as a bridge ski between conventional cross-country and backcountry skiing,” said Fischer’s Andrew Gardner. “It’s a four-wheel-drive type ski that can cover a lot of ground.”
Also climbing aboard the multi-task movement is Madshus, unveiling its new Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic ski (MSRP $370), harboring its RedLine skis’ features with a skin seamlessly built into the P190 Nano base, mimicking the profile of a standard wax pocket. “It takes the guesswork out of ski prep,” said Madshus’s McCullough, adding that it has a price point suited for novices. The IntelliGrip skins (MSRP $100), a mohair/nylon blend offering grip and glide, are also available as an accessory. Madshus also debuts an updated version of its women’s Metis boot in skate (MSRP $205) and classic (MSRP $180), with a single-piece upper conforming more precisely to the foot.
“We’re seeing more brands catering to women’s-specific product design and greater female participation,” McCullough said. “Within Nordic, it ties to the presence of women participating in endurance sports as a whole, whether it’s running marathons or competing in triathlons. This transitions into Nordic skiing with its approachable nature and ability to offer a great workout during the winter.”
Capitalizing on the category’s rental market growth, Alpina Sports rolls out its Alpina T30 R boot, made with an antimicrobial replaceable foot-bed, tacky outsole for grip, and boasting a large size stamp on the heel for rental staff. With classic camber, an in-track friendly 60-50-55 sidecut and full metal edge for grip, Alpina’s new CER ski is also color-coded by size for easy rental use. “These are new, unique rental-specific products,” said William McSherry, vice president, marketing. “They’re designed for comfort, ease of use and durability.” In racing, he echoes that it’s all about weight savings, as illustrated in the Active Edge Carbon Alpina ESK 2.0 boot (MSRP $1,000).
More svelte designs are also gaining popularity. “We’ve refreshed our entire Touring line with brighter, more attractive colors than the past’s darker, earth tones,” said Rossignol’s Castagnoli. Rossignol also adds more progressive tip rocker on its wider Nordic Backcountry skis (BC 125, 110, 90) and new constructions, camber profiles and sidecuts on its best-selling EVO Tour and EVO Action skis for easier use and maneuverability. In boots, it’s developed a more forgiving fit in its Touring line, as well as a more complete men’s and women’s assortment.
Illustrating the crossover, wilderness trend is Whitewoods’ Outlander ski and binding (MSRP $299), a hybrid offering Nordic glide and snowshoe traction. Ample sidecut (96-55-96mm) eases turning, a waxless base provides climbing traction, and its short length (130/145cm) aids maneuverability. Bonus: the binding doesn’t require a ski boot; it’ll fit most any winter boot thanks to an adjustable ratchet over the toe and ankle.