Cross-country skiing experienced a serious revival at SIA. Retailers, including many where snow hasn't been that plentiful this year, were upbeat and there was new and exciting product to meet their expectations.
Several key trends emerged:
- Nordic clothing is back!
From Swix's impressive new collection to the new U.S.-made Craft collection of racing suits and all the fitness labels, there's more new Nordic clothing coming to market than in a long time.
- Telemark skis with tip dimensions under 100 cm are history, old school.
Go big or go home--it's that simple for on-slope and backcountry skis.
- The spring cartridge tele binding war heats up.
Skye comes on strong and upsets the tele nerds because the G-3-like product comes from the mind of a former G-3 designer (don't they know about non-competes in the tele world?).
- Twin tips in touring skis--You bet.
Lots of talk about freeriding and terrain parks for the young and restless. Excuse us if we point out that John Slouber of Royal Gorge promoted this idea 10 years ago. We were there when he first broached the idea with Fischer. You should have seen the jaws drop.
- Twin tip teles--you betcha
Hey, the fun factor is creeping into tele. Tele nerds in wool clothing look out; here come the stunt people.
- New Pursuit racing idea is taking hold.
The new concept is one race combining skate and classic skiing with a change of skis mid-way through the race. Already companies have combie skate/classic boots at the ready. Word is, however, that a mega-boot company is against the idea and wants a complete boot change during the races.
- Skate cuffs going away?
Hey folks the new pursuit boot idea has only helped uncover what many top international skiers and coaches have known for years-you don't really need a high, rigid-cuffed boot for skating. Top athletes often feel their movements restricted by them. Said one international racing expert: "High cuffs are a North American gimmick. It's time they went away."
- AT skiing is gaining momentum (finally) and the amount of exciting new product can only help.
And now let's, as they say in Vegas, "run the table."
Alpina: The big push is racing is with the PSC (Pursuit Skate Classic) and PCS (Pursuit Classic Skate) mode boots. These are worthy of a close look. In Madshus, the Megasonic (47-44-46) skate/classic ski comes in both waxable and waxless versions. Very interesting and a concept we hope to test on snow later this winter is the new Madshus Multi-Grip vario waxless base with varying zones of structure at varying depths (shallow at either end of the pattern moving to deep cuts directly underfoot.
Alpina touring boots get a general facelift. For example, the 248 now has a power strap and zippered flap over the laces.
Atomic: Lots of surprises here from aggressive racing ski pricing for 2002/03 and the debut of an Atomic boot. When it comes to race dollar figures, as they say in catalog ads, "call for pricing." As to the boot it is an NNN-II touring model in Atomic cosmetics to match a similarly colored automatic binding. We're told this boot program will expand every year.
In race skis, here are now two Beta Race Skate skis. One (Beta Race C) with 49-44-48 sidecut for control) and the 41-44-42-43 RS 10 for those who don't need any help with their balance. Tele prices go way down. How about the TM EX going from $749 to $549? Wow.
The new mid-length, CAP constructed Cascade touring ski comes in 170,180 and 190 cm lengths with 59-50-55 traditional sidecut profile.
Backcountry Access: Brother Bruce Edgerly is preaching his water hydration packs and two new shovels. In hydration packs, the new Micro-Stash ($90) has 500 cubic inches of capacity and a 70oz reservoir. The new Stash Pro ($225) has 3,500 cubic inches of capacity and a 100 ounce bladder.
The new scaled down version of the Companion shovel (Tour shovel/probe-$80) has a smaller blade and is 35 percent lighter.
Black Diamond: The new Cross Bow ski employs a torsion bow flex system. When the ski flexes the area underfoot stiffens for better control. With 115-82-105 sidecut, The ski retails for $495.
In boots, the Denali XT is a bigger, stiffer version of the Denali AT boot from the past. The Magic is a new women's AT boot. The new F-1 boot is very interesting. It's an AT boot with tele flex bellows that's designed to be compatible with the Dynafit ultralight binding.
Craft: Things are pretty much the same here except that bossman Huub is having some of the x-c racing line made in southern California by the same contractor who does work for the Castelli cycling line. The results are impressive.
Hot sellers in the line this year were the layer 3 brush tricot lined jacket ($89), vest ($60) and pants ($70).
Erik Sports: Will wonders ever cease? Alfa has added color to their touring boot line. They're also using synthetic Nubuck on many models. A boot to consider is the Profil Wave with Thinsulate lining at $79. In racing, Alfa is in the lead pack on the new pusuit boots. The Dual Skate GTX has a detachable ankle support system and is Gore-Tex lined.
Asnes skis don't change that much with the metal edged, 67-57-62 Rago model quietly becoming a favorite with ski expeditions. The Erik White Tail ski is new with 3/4 metal edge and waxless pattern for the in and out of track tourer. It comes in 167, 177, 187 and 197 cm sizes.
Fischer: S-Bound last year and Nordic Cruising this year make the Big F the company with lots to crow about, Nordic Cruising captured a lot of attention at SIA and based on our extensive tests of the high-end Orbiter model, the concept will have significant impact. Three sizes (164, 174 and 184) and four models make this a very easy line to work and merchandise. On the S-Bound front, the Outbound Crown with 70-60-65 mm sidecut and no S-Deck is added. It's essentially a narrower Rebound.
A new Fischer Cruiser boot matches the new skis. It's Thinsulate lined with A $109 suggested price point.
G-3: The new Roxy women's tele binding has a shorter cable and comes with an all-mountain cartridge. There are also two new trick shovels. The aviTech model has an aluminum blade for $61. The aviMatrix model has a plastic blade with an aluminum front insert for $59. Both have polycarbonate handles with stash pocket inside.
Garmont: designed to match Fritchsi's new Freeride binding (it accepts alpine and mountaineering boots), there's the 4-buckle G-Ride boot with Thermofit liner for the alpine ski boot fancier and the lower cut G-Lite with a softer shell flex for the ski mountaineer.
In tele boots, the new Super G has a flex comparable to the Gara but is a bit a bit higher. The new Ener-G is a new 4-buckle boot. Word is that the Excursion sold out last year. Excursions will come with a G-Fit liner next year. All tele boot prices will be down $50 to $75. For example, the Veloce will now be $330.
In the Peltonen ski line, there's the new 3/4 metal edged, waxless Explorer with a 70-60-65 mm sidecut. At Exel, all tapered shaft poles now have carbon fiber content. Check out the new pole fit chart that combines skier weight, number of times they ski and durability required to get a perfect match.
HSSP (Holmenkol Spirak Sport Products): This is the new distributor (contact Mark Slaughter at Mark@spirakut.com) of Holmenkol waxes and Sportful apparel (Garmont still does the boots). Lots of Windstopper items in the latest Sportful collection. At Holmenkol, check out the TriMax structuring tool. It's three structuring rollers in one implement for $250. Their glide waxes have the lowest melting point (95C) of any on the market.
K-2: There are new graphics all around. New skis include the She's Piste which is a modified (softer) Heli Stinx. The new Piste Stinx ($399) is an upgraded version of the Heli and the World Piste reworked with a stiffened tip and two sheets of metal for more dampness. World Piste is also wider now with a 114-78-105 sidecut profile.
Karhu: In tele/backcountry skis, the JAK is a fat powder model with 127-97-117 mm sidecut in 170, 180,189 cm sizes. The Ruckit is a twin tipper with 107-76-97mm sidecut. It also comes in 170,180 and 190 cm sizes.
In the camber-and-a-half backcountry group, the Dorado replaces the 10th Mt. ski. Dorado is a CAP ski in waxable or waxless bases with 88-68-74 sidecut.
The new Pyxix (76-62-67) comes in 165, 175, 185 and 195 cm lengths.
The updated Sweeper binding is now all aluminum with a pivot plate underfoot. It has a ratchet buckle binding. The plate is 3-pin compatible as well. The binding will come packaged with both the Meta and Morph skis.
An Italian-made 75mm boot, the Sirius, has two ratcheted buckles. There's plenty of life in 75 for touring and it's good to see that Karhu recognizes this.
Leki: The new Freeride Extreme pole ($80) adjusts from 11- to 135 cm. It has a curved shaft and Ergo-Soft grip. The Vision Viper Air Ergo pole has an aluminum upper shaft and carbon fiber lower shaft. With a closed-cell foam grip, this $100 pole is ultra, ultra lightweight.
Ortovox: Not to be outdone by Backcountry Access, Marcus Peterson showed us the company's new digital avalanche transceiver, the x1. It claims to offer the longest range of any beacon currently on the market and boasts superior performance capability in speedily finding buried victims.
Reliable Racing: there's a new third price-point ski in the Visu racing ski line called the Vortex. With wood/honeycomb core, it's priced at $119. The Campra (Swiss-made) Elite racing pole is about as light as they come and is only $159 suggested retail. For junior racers, there's a Kevlar wrapped pole for $69 retail.
There are few changes in the Hartjes boot line. Typical of this line best known for its cork insoles is the Automatic Pilot boot with 15mm of heel lift and Merino wool lining.
Rossignol: Where do you start with a company that annually adds so much new gear? Starting at the top, X-ium race skis get a cosmetic change and there are now 4, instead of 2, flexes in the skate skis. A new race boot (Race Skate/Classic) uses a carbon fiber weave in the ankle support, has wick-dry liners and a molded footbed.
In the rec/touring category. The new EVO line is comprised of two skis: Evo Free and Evo Classic. Sizes in Free are small (130 cm for kids), medium (150 cm for women) and large (170 cm for men). In Classic the sizes are: small (150 cm for smaller women), medium (170cms for larger women and smaller men) and large (190 cm for men). The graphics are sensational-a combination of an embossed Rossignol name with a colorful EVO wash over it. EVO construction is Ultra Air (wood torsion box with air inside). The skis have an integrated binding plate and ABS sidewalls that form a solid edge. Sidecuts are: 46-44-44 mm Cobra on the Free model, and 53-45-50 mm on the Classic.
In boots, the new top of the line X6 touring boot worthy of a serious look with dual-density sole, ankle cuff support, buffed PVC weave toe box area, gaiter hook and quick-dry lining. All this for $119. For BC skiers, the BC X 8 come sin at $189.
In the tele category, there's a new version of the Big Bang now with a freeride tail and 110-74-100 sidecut. Hellrazor is now in DualTec with 104-67-91mm sidecut.
Salomon: You all know about the carbon Skate and Classic race boots that will get plenty of TV time at the upcoming Olympics. In touring, there are two new touring boots (C-6 and B-5), both with the new anti-slip walking sole. In BC, the BC 6 is replaced by the Access 6 ($149). The new boot is stiffer and higher and has the new walking sole.
Skye Alpine Inc: Lots of talk about this Park City, Utah-based company. On the positive side, their new Skye 02 binding is possibly the best of the cartridge tele bindings on the market. On the negative side, some are ranting about the fact that Skye designer Ted Ayliffe left G-3 to form Skye and Skye 02 is G-3-esque (what new cartridge binding isn't we ask?)
Skye 02 has one-piece aluminum toe plate. It's cables go underfoot and the spring cartridges are the largest diameter on the market. It's a one-size-fits-all binding going from women's 5 to men's 14. Other key features are a heel climbing wire with travel, tour and climb settings and heel lockdown for transport. The retail price is $155.
Swix: Swix is becoming a one-stop shopping center. In waxes, the new Cera Nova BD (Black Devil) line of dry lubricants rates a serious look by shops that do a race business. Also in race, the new version of the Star pole is silver colored, 20 percent stiffer and a bit lighter. It also has a new (read easier to work with) grip, Wholesale is $150. The new Horizon adjustable pole goes from 120 to 155 cm and is, get this, $20 wholesale.
In apparel, women's underwear is new as is a new race suit technology featuring a combination of Power Lycra and textured Lycra. Windtex vests and tights were getting lots of buyer attention.
The knit hat program gets bigger and styling from it has been carried over into a new line of sweaters,
Tua: The new Helium ski is called, "the lightest fat board around" with 107-75-97 mm sidecut. Sumo is slimmed down to the same sidecut profile as on the Helium. Big Easy is now called Ghost and has a 103-73-97 mm sidecut.
In the new Cross Mountain category of tele/touring (waxable and waxless) skis, there's the 100-72-90 Montour and the 90-67-80 Traverse.