Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 Preview: Winter backcountry gear

Snow safety products refine comfort and versatility. Get a preview of winter backcountry trends and products to hit retail shelves in 2015-16.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 20-24. Find this story and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 Preview edition.

With fresh powder and virgin tree runs luring more of your customers beyond the gates and a recovering economy plumping pockets, snow safety equipment and backcountry-specific gear continues to boost the bottom lines of brands and retailers alike.

Scott Sports, which returns to Winter Market this year, hopes to turn heads with the debut of its Alpride avalanche airbag system, which repurposes technology found in inflatable life vests. “There are no gizmos or gadgets or batteries,” said Topher Plimpton, Scott’s marketing manager. “It’s just a simple, reliable system.”

Most other companies with a stake in the specialized avy safety pack space are playing it cool this season, concentrating on tweaks rather than full-blown R&D. Their focus: Increase comfort and ease of use while decreasing bulk. As a result, packs are getting smaller and slimmer not just to shed extra weight, but also to cater to the lift-riding sidecountry skier who wants just enough space for the holy beacon/shovel/probe trinity and maybe a snack or two. Those earning their turns will appreciate advancements in the packs’ ergonomic fit and orthopedic technology to make long approaches a bit less grueling.

Cliff huckers and park rats will welcome advancements in helmet technology, as well as the growth of body protection products. Vests especially offer the advantage of spine protection in addition to streamlined carrying capabilities. “A vest keeps it all close to the body, so if you’re doing tricks, especially flips, you don’t have a backpack flipping around,” said Bruce Edgerly, vice president of global sales and marketing at Backcountry Access.

Snow safety equipment becomes more versatile with pole/probe combos, multi-use snow saws and universal ABS systems compatible with multiple packs.

In addition to the bounty of backcountry safety equipment, education remains a common refrain. Numerous companies are stressing education and partnering with organizations like the American Avalanche Institute for Research and Education (AAIRE) and Project Zero, an initiative to reduce and eventually eliminate avalanche fatalities in North America.

>>Marker had comfort and safety in mind when designing its Body Vest OTIS, short for Orthopedic Technology Inside, (MSRP $229). Available in men’s, women’s and children’s versions, the vests feature a honeycomb sheet of Multi-Impact Adaptive Polymer to up body protection while still allowing air circulation.

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>>Dakine’s Heli Pro 20L (MSRP $90) takes snow lovers from the hill to the office. With vertical snowboard and diagonal ski carries, the pack doesn’t discriminate against shredding preference, while the non-padded inner sleeve fits most 15” laptops.

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>>Scott Sports takes on the airbag trend with its Air Free and Air MTN packs, available in 20-40L sizing (MSRP $850; 30L). Boasting Alpride, a new inflation system based on technology found in inflatable life vests, the company claims the 2.6-pound system is the lightest on the market. It works off of two separate, but small canisters, one of CO2 and the other of Argon. The CO2 has its normal function, while the Argon acts as an accelerant to speed up the inflation process.

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>> Weight watchers rejoice! Backcountry Access’new Scepter Poles (MSRP N/A) house hidden features in what at first seems a standard package. Not only is the grip optimized for comfort and use without straps, a flat notch at the head makes it easy to scrape extra snow (and ounces) off your skis’ top sheets. A utility hook on the grip’s front makes mode changing on boots and bindings a breeze.

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>> The serrated 35-centimeter stainless steel blade of the Black Diamond Snow Saw Pro (MSRP $80) offers cutting-edge versatility — literally. Attach it to most adjustable BD ski pole shafts to add extra length; open it to 90, 180 or 270 degrees for snow stability testing; and cut through snow or wood with its dual-purpose teeth. Folds into itself for compact, safe storage.

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>> In the spirit of versatility, the Modulator ABS (MSRP $1,000) from The North Face makes avalanche airbag systems more accessible by not relegating them to a single pack. This universal ABS system mounts to the exterior of your customer’s favorite winter pack and the trigger can be located on either shoulder strap.

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These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more new and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each day of print on SNEWS.

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