Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SNEWS is previewing new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, Jan. 22-26. Today, we take a look at some of the latest in winter safety gear. All these stories also can be found in the print or digital flipbook edition of our Planning Guide.
Winter safety gear is blowing up the outdoor market.
“Airbags have reached a tipping point where they are no longer a fringe item that a few people have seen in Europe,” said Bruce Edgerly, vice president of marketing and sales at Backcountry Access (which recently was acquired by K2) “A lot of U.S. retailers are coming aboard.”
Credit the recent surge, he said, to several airbag-aided avalanche survival stories in the United States that were highly publicized by the press last year and then spread quickly on social media.
But the broader push, Edgerly and others noted, continues to be a rise in alpine touring sales, sending more users into the backcountry and sidecountry, where winter safety gear is a must.
Already last Winter Market, The North Face and Dakine joined airbag stalwarts Backcountry Access and Mammut’s Snowpulse in the category, and this year, attendees will see new airbag products from Ortovox Scott Sports, Jones Snowboards, Millet, Burton, Bergans of Norway and more.
Add to that a slew of new beacons, shovels, probes, ice axes, helmets and safety-oriented ski packs, and it’s evident that the sector is the place to be right now. There’s a risk, however, that all the new tangible products are getting ahead of the most important intangible one — education.
“Manufacturers [entering the category] need to assume more responsibility in the financial, marketing and people support toward the nonprofit organizations that provide the daily avalanche reports and assessments, along with the affordable avalanche classes,” said Adam Greene, U.S. marketing manager for Scott Sports.
“There will be some growing pains, including more avalanche deaths, until the gap between new products and education is closed,” Edgerly said.
>> Scott Sports partners with Mammut’s Snowpulse airbag technology to introduce its Air 20 and 30 RAS packs (MSRPs $225/$250 pack-only; plus $450 for airbag). It features Scott’s Diacomp ski-carry system where the top-webbing loop connects to the bottom cable system, therefore compressing the skis to the back of the pack, providing stability and even weight distribution.
>> How many more tools can K2 fit into its new K2 Rescue Shovel Plus Ice Ax (MSRP $140)? The multi-purpose tool already acts as a combo shovel, hoe, dead man anchor and emergency sled. The new name gives away the latest addition — an interchangeable ice ax head that be attached to the handle.
>> Ortovox debuts first line of Freerider and SkiTouring airbag packs (MSRPs $319-$329, packs only; plus $799 for airbag, and $175 for activation unit and canister) with removable and interchangable ABS dual airbag technology. The line notably includes women’s specific packs and the ability to expand the pack’s volume via a zipper.
>> Gregory debuts its first full line of ski packs, upgrading its previous Targhee pack with easy-access safety gear pockets to include 18-, 22-, 32- and 45-liter options (MSRPs $119-$199). Designers cleaned up the design with stowable straps, fewer buckles to undo to access gear and lower-profile shoulder hydration line management.
>> Millet targets first-time winter backcountry adventurers with its ABS compatible Steep 30 Safety Pack (MSRP $369), which while the airbag is sold separately, the bag does come with a shovel and probe included, provided by European brand Arva Equipment.
>> Mammut, meanwhile, begins to focus on a new Snowpulse technology called Protection Airbag System that ejects not only from behind and above the pack, but also out of the shoulder straps to better cradle and protect the sides of the head from physical trauma. The new PAS system is still removable and comes in four different pack models , 15 to 35 liters (MSRPs $839-$949; plus $200 canister).
>> Helmets are at the forefront of safety whether on or off piste. Smith Optics new Aerocore technology in its new Vantage helmets (MSRP $220) employs a combo of the standard EPS foam with Koroyd. The latter material uses a tubular structure to reduce weight and impact transmission, plus increase breathability, while still maintaining strength.
>> A lack of communication can lead to delays, confusion and ultimately fatalities in the backcountry, so Backcountry Access looks to address the problem with its new BC Link group communication systems (MSRP $175), where the controls and microphones can be integrated into its latest Stash pack. The system is optimized for winter conditions.
>> Let’s put our money where our mouth is and suggest that winter safety education is something for everyone to research at Winter Market. A knowledgeable employee, whether a manufacturer, rep or retailer, in the category is essential to responsibly selling the gear, said Ian Reid, director of the Avalanche Ski Co. Backcountry Workshop, which will hold an industry avalanche training event in Salt Lake City before the show, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 at Brighton Resort (www.backcountryworkshop.com). If you can’t make it to the event, Reid suggests finding a related winter safety nonprofit at the show to help you team up with local guides and experts for future classes.
These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new winter safety products and trends in the O.R. Daily, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.