Backcountry ski gear of note from SIA and OR

What follows are a few additional products of note, completing our Backcountry Ski coverage after attending both the SIA and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade shows in January.

What follows are a few additional products of note, completing our Backcountry Ski coverage after attending both the SIA and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade shows in January.

Life-Link -- Of all the avalanche probe poles on the market, the new Speed series from Life-Link are the most eye-grabbing -- in a split second, the pole assembles when tossed in the air. Available in aluminum or carbon shafts and priced reasonably, these are sure to be popular.

While avalanche air bags (deploy from a pack like a car air bag to float the skier on the surface) have been around for awhile, the $1,000 price tag has scared most people away. Credited with saving 30 lives so far, the ABS Plus Pack now has a suggested retail of just $675, but dealers only get a 22 percent margin ($524 wholesale), which isn't much incentive to stock the item.

Dynafit skis -- While the company's alpine touring boots remained the same, the entire ski line was revamped. Some models just received new names and graphics, while others got a real makeover. The racing ski for example, now called the D 914, has a different sidecut (92-64-80 versus 93-67-83), and the Tracer became a twin-tip called the D 812. A unique new model is the 130 cm long D 410 (100-72-90), which is intended for approaches and spring corn snow. This ski combined with the Dynafit MLT 4 boot, Thermoflex liner and Tourlite Tech binding, and skins (none are currently offered) would make for an amazing ski mountaineering package.

ARVA -- The new Evolution is an upgrade to the ARVA 9000 avalanche beacon. It sports a faster processor and some other tweaks. But includes the extra value of a training CD to educate consumers more effectively than a manual. Bravo! Distributed by ClimbAxe in the United States and Life-Link in Canada.

Battle Armor -- For playing in terrain parks or hucking off cliffs, the hard-core skiers protect themselves with armor. For those who log air time, Ortovox now offers a small pack with built-in, articulated spine protection. And Tua introduced two models of back protection to wear under clothing as well as shorts with padded hips. Somehow, even with all this, we suspect these customers will become well acquainted with their orthopedic surgeon.

Backcountry Access Packs -- Last year, BCA introduced its Stash pack with an innovative freezeproof hydration system hidden in a shoulder strap. Expanding upon a good thing, the company will bring six more models for alpinists, snowboarders and climbers next season. At least a few will be available in something besides boring black.

Indigo Packs -- Another slick line of ski packs comes from this fairly new company. The Vengo and Tango are top-loading versions of this season's Twlv, one of the nicest front-loaders around. In addition to the Toolbox, which houses avalanche gear, the new packs feature the PLD (Pocket of Liquid Delights) that conveniently holds a water bottle for a quick nip without hassling with a hydration system.


Tele and Backcountry Ski Wrap -- SIA 04

Glenn Plake summed it up best. Following the widely hyped, immensely dull "Great Debate" and holding in hand a modern telemark binding and boot, the notorious fin-haired gonzo alpine skier commented, "You guys got a lot of problems." What promised to be an interesting sideshow to more


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