Cross-country races boosting sales, new products

Cross-country ski manufacturers hit the floor at Winter Market with plenty of new products that celebrate the diversity of the sport. From classic to skate to off-trail backcountry skiing, brands are introducing a number of new boots and skis aimed at striding into a particular Nordic niche.
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. 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.

Cross-country ski manufacturers hit the floor at Winter Market with plenty of new products that celebrate the diversity of the sport. From classic to skate to off-trail backcountry skiing, brands are introducing a number of new boots and skis aimed at striding into a particular Nordic niche.

“Classic racing is growing by huge percentages every year. More and more citizen racers are entering classic events than ever before,” said Rick Halling, Nordic product director at Atomic. Halling said Atomic’s new Worldcup Classic SDS ski (MSRP $650), which is designed with a carbon laminate to provide acceleration in the glide phase as well as a lively kick, is meant to be “a highly competitive ski for the elite racers while also remaining forgiving and easy for skiers further back in the pack.” Atomic also introduced two new boots for the competitive market, in the Worldcup Skate (MSRP $480), and the Worldcup Classic (MSRP $370), both of which feature the brand’s Enveloping Lacing System for control and fit.

Fischer Skis, which unveils new products in almost every category, introduces two new race boots for women in the RCS Carbonlite Skating WS, and the RCS Carbonlite Classic WS. The company saw 20 percent growth of its Nordic gear preseason orders for 2011/12, said Peter Ashley, vice president of Fischer’s U.S. Nordic division. Those gains came not only in racing but also in Fischer’s new Offtrack line of skis, built for ungroomed terrain. For 2012/13, the company will bring new Offtrack boots to complement the skis, including the 5 and 3 BC My Style boots for women, and the Offtrack BC 5 for men. They all feature NNN binding soles, an integrated gaiter for deeper snow and the brand’s Easy Entry Loops to make the boot simple to put on. The Offtrack category also expands with new skis, including the E99 Crown and E89 Crown getting the Offtrack pattern base treatment, which claims increased grip while maintaining slide.

Back to the racing category, Rossignol introduces new classic race skis in the 5 and 3 BC My Style, which have a new camber profile to provide more consistent camber regulation for a responsive kick (and is available in powder, klister or universal flexes), as well as new X-ium skate and X-ium classic boots, both of which have a new sole and graphics.

And going multifunctional, Rossignol debuts the X5 OT boot. It’s built on a cross-country touring boot last but with more rugged backcountry features for both durability and versatility. “This boot ties in nicely with (cross-country) touring skis and light BC skis, giving shops an option to have a boot on the wall that can work for many types of skiers,” said Ryan Green, Nordic division manager for Rossignol.

Isaac Wilson, Nordic category manager at Salomon, said this is a classic category year for the brand, with an entire new line of Classic Skis featuring re-engineered cambers designed to make them faster and easier to kick. He said Salomon invested in a new ski press that allows for much smaller tolerances for camber adjustments, along with plans to design a cleaner and easier to understand consumer and retail selection process.

“Nordic in general seems to be on the upswing,” Wilson said. “We have had really strong growth on our race product, to the point we are having trouble keeping up. In the northern climates we are seeing a real influx of cyclists looking to stay fit. These athletes are used to really good equipment, so stability and energy have been a strong focus in our performance line to try and capture that market.”

At Alpina, the story is in its Action Group, where the brand is encouraging people to “Get Out of the Ordinary” through colorful product it hopes will help retailers when it pops on the shelf.

“We want to completely differentiate Alpina from its competitors, and also take what has been traditionally a conservative product and perhaps sport and simply have fun with it,” said Jason Stadler, project manager at Alpina Sports. Covering everything from classic to skate to touring, the boot, ski and binding combinations come in eye-popping lime, red and blue, with features such as lightweight air channel construction in the skis and optimal side stability in the boots.

--Peter Kray

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