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 backcountry ski boots and bindings. All these stories also can be found in the print or digital flipbook edition of our Planning Guide.
A surge of new backcountry ski boots and bindings is hitting the market, and manufacturers are offering up a variety of solutions to meet consumers’ sometimes-contradictory demands. While some are tackling issues like weight and touring performance, others are focusing on compatibility and downhill power.
“Freeride boots that have alpine performance and backcountry mobility with ski/walk modes are clearly a hot trend right now,” said Kim Miller, CEO of Scarpa North America.
Compatibility with AT and tech-fit bindings, wider ranges of motion in tour mode, better walk-mode mechanisms, weight savings and, above all, performance comparable to their alpine brethren are all part of the package in today’s backcountry boot market.
“A lot of companies are trying to get new products in the pipeline, which is a sign of real health in the category,” said Geoff Curtis, vice-president of sales for Marker/Volkl.
The boot and binding connection is a hotspot of fresh design. “With swappable sole block boots, the biggest loss of power transmission is the interface between the boot and the binding,” said Black Diamond Ski Category Director Thomas Laakso, touting the company’s new Mx Direct Connect technology. He said it increases lateral stiffness between boot and DIN bindings by 70 percent over the company’s previous AT boot models. “Some of the bestselling boots on the market today lose the equivalent of 6 degrees of edge angle when applying lateral loads.”
Backcountry bindings are seeing a similar swell of innovation, as more consumers shun lift-served terrain to earn their turns. Traditional alpine binding companies such as Marker, Salomon and Tyrolia all have offerings in the category, countering products from more touring-oriented companies like Dynafit, G3 and Silvretta.
>> Scarpa introduces four new, overlap-construction, four-buckle Freedom Freeride and Freeride SL boots (MSRPs $699-$749) that combine high-end alpine performance with flexibility and weight savings for touring. Weighing 1,800 grams each, the boots feature a new ski-walk mechanism as well as a carbon-fiber lower co-molded into the plastic for performance. The boots sport interchangeable, bolt-on DIN/tech soles with a tongue-and-groove rear piece and co-molded metal front plate for strength and rigidity.
Scarpa Freedom SL
>> K2 Skis new six-model all-mountain boots hang their hat on a rivet-free integrated cuff and shell for a smoother flex and efficient energy transfer and a rear co-injected “Y” shape to enhance strength. Included in the line-up are the SpYne 90, 110 and 130 (MSRPs $500/$625/$800), lower price-point SpYpe (MSRPs N/A) and women-specific SpYre 80, 100 and 110 (MSRP $500/$625/$750). On the freeride front, K2 showcases the three-buckle Pinnacle 110 and 130 (MSRPs $750/$850), which allow users to synchronize the release of the wedge and interlock for free-flexing hiking.
K2 Pinnacle 110
>> After three years in development and testing, Black Diamond introduces two new freeride boots for Fall 2013: the Factor Mx 130 (MSRP $769) and Shiva Mx 110 (MSRP $769), combining power transmission and touring efficiency. Both come with a swappable binding interface to increase lateral stiffness and a new frame offering 40 degrees of resistance-free touring motion. They also have 30 percent lower profile buckles than previous Factor boots and a 100 mm V-shaped last with thermoformable liner.
Black Diamond Shiva
>> La Sportiva debuts two new four-buckle AT boots — the men’s Spectre at 1,445 grams and the women’s Sparkle at 1,245 grams (MSRPs $599). Both are tech and touring binding compatible (not alpine due to their lugged Vibram sole), and are constructed from carbon-reinforced Grilamid for stiffness to a 120 flex. Both offer 60-degree range of motion for touring, three adjustable forward lean angles (10, 14 and 18 degrees), and come with a unique fold-away lock-open design for touring.
La Sportiva Sparkle
>> Salomon revamps its AT boot line with the new Quest Max BC 120 (MSRP $789), featuring, among other improvements, four-screw Contagrip TUV-certified interchangeable sole pads for conversion from DIN compatibility to rockered walking. The boot employs a new geometry for its metal insert that’s melded into the plastic sole — claiming 10 times more strength than its steel counterpart — and a thermomoldable liner. Salomon also unveils its new Guardian 13 AT binding (MSRP $449), which comes with a DIN range from 5-13; a low (26 mm) profile chassis for terrain feedback and power transmission.
Quest Max BC 120
>> Marker has three new additions to its AT fleet, all designed to be lighter, higher performance and easier to use than their predecessors. The Baron EPF (MSRP $445) (DIN 4-13) brings the wider platform of last year’s Extended Power Frame technology to its Baron offering, producing a lighter version with less metal. The Tour 12 EPF (MSRP $429) (DIN 4-12) does the same for its touring-oriented offering. Finally, the new Lord SP (DIN 5-14) (MSRP $425) is a non-tourable binding that can accommodate both alpine and AT boots via a unique pin system allowing the toe to be set in two distinct positions.
Marker Baron EPF
These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new backcountry ski boot and binding products and trends in the O.R. Daily, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.