Last January, hundreds of ski and snowboard companies brought previews of their 2017 gear to the biggest and most concentrated ski industry trade show in the world: SIA. From fishtail skis to “fat” poles to safety helmets engineered with bluetooth technology, there was plenty to see and to test. What came out of that show were reviews from top athletes in the industry on what worked, what didn’t, and what’s worth investing in for the 2016/2017 season. Before we get into the gear and goods, here are a few of the major trends you can expect to see on showroom floors early season.
source: SIA Snow Show
What’s the biggest trend for skis?
Lightweight, high performance skis are in. Until 2016, lighter weight of skis (by introduction of materials like carbon fibre and lightweight woods) had the connotation of decreased performance at high speeds. Major companies and boutique productions are changing that by engineering unprecedented stability into ski cores, meaning you can rip down groomers going Mach 12 and stay confident in the sidecountry with a stable yet lightweight ski. New Englanders and on-piste skiers will find more options in skinny carving skis than previous years.
Will ski boots be more comfortable?
Yes! Granted, your ski boots will never feel like your best pair of worn-in slippers, but they shouldn’t be the heavy, clunky boxes of plastic you suffer through with every tram lap either. This year’s SIA showings of ski boots showed impressive steps taken by major companies like Lange, Nordica, and Tecnica to lighten the load while also improving design to simply fit feet better. You’ll find all-mountain boots using materials previously used only for touring setups, and heat moldable liners for improved fit.
What’s the point of bamboo poles?
Bamboo poles are more than the eco-conscious hipster’s dream. The material boasts the tensile strength of steel and a compressive strength greater than concrete – all with flexibility that ensures long-term durability. Custom ski pole companies using bamboo are popping up in mountain towns across the West, and making their ways to mainstream gear stores nationwide. And yes, production of bamboo ski poles uses less energy and produces less waste than that of standard aluminum ski poles – an important factor in sustainable and environmentally friendly(er) skiing.
What’s new with outerwear?
Bright colours are in for big mountain skiing (as usual), while street-chic designs will be popular with trendy snow bunnies. Truthfully, outerwear performance rarely makes significant leaps from year to year, but little things can make big differences. Ever felt annoyed by your coat collar scratching against your face when fully zipped? This year’s hardshells boast improved design to create more space. You’ll also find more all weather softshell jackets with warmth comparable to down.
What can I expect from cool gadgets?
GoPro now makes drones, and its newest camera model boasts Bluetooth technology. Dakine made a “party bucket” so you can take your beer anywhere you want to go. Goggles are not just goggles anymore, but rather full power tech gadgets that can track skiing stats and give you everything except x-ray vision (maybe in 2018…). Scroll to the bottom for more.
There are hundreds of models of skis, boards, boots, outerwear, and gadgets fit to perform on the slopes this season, but some pieces got more press than others. Keep reading for our top picks of 2017:
Like we mentioned above, there are two major trends you'll see in skis this winter: lighter weight, and thinner underfoot. Choosing skis for your specific ability and interests is important -- fat skis for powder hounds, carvers for corduroy lovers, and the classic all mountain ski for ultimate versatility. Here are our top picks for men and women:
The Nordica Enforcer 93 delivers on edge grip and stability at high speeds. For skiers who want to slay the entire mountain in all conditions, this model of the Enforcer delivers. Construction is modelled after Nordica’s world cup race skis, so we recommend it for strong skiers who don’t mind a little extra weight underfoot.
Check out the Armada Invictus 89 Ti for all-mountain carving and reliability in various snow conditions. This ski stands out for us because of its adaptability to crud, slush, dust-on-crust and perfectly groomed packed powder. It’s smaller underfoot than big mountain skis and a great option for New Englanders. A rockered tip adds some float for powder days.
Kästle used to get criticism for being overrated and costly, but sustained performance and durability throughout the years has kicked it to the top of the ski industry pack. This year, the Kästle MX89 underwent a few changes to make it more versatile on off-piste conditions. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to rip down groomers on a race ski, the MX89 delivers (with improved rebound and delightfully tighter turn radius). The extra 1mm underfoot invites you to play in the glades as well.
Atomic crafted its all-mountain rocker in the Vantage 90, which is designed for lady rippers who like the groomers but appreciate the occasional powder day as well. The Carbon Tank Mesh core makes for solid stability at high speeds while maintaining rebound – even for lightweight skiers.
For high level intermediates, we recommend the Faction Prodigy. At 96mm underfoot, it’s ideal for ladies in the West who like to jump from steeps to trees to park laps without skipping a beat. Most notable about this ski is the dual radius sidecut: a design that allows for tight radius turns while maintaining stability at higher speeds.
Athletic beginners and intermediates should check out the Head Absolut Joy carvers, which boast fast response time with minimal effort for less fatiguing days on the slopes. Head uses a layer of material called Graphene, which is strong enough to add stability but also ultra-lightweight.
Ski boots have become progressively lighter and more comfortable over the years, and this continues for 2017. Popular brands like Lange and Atomic make headway with ultra-light outer shell material and custom bladders that can be heat moulded to your foot. We’ve also seen an increase in boots that can switch seamlessly between alpine touring and hard-charging inbounds skiing.
The most award-winning boot on the market, the Scarpa Freedom RS 130 takes the cake with its super responsive 130 flex, and versatility between downhill skiing and touring with interchangeable soles. This is your top boot if you’re interested in skiing adventures inside and outside the ropes.
Salomon has recently come to the forefront of top ski boot picks, and the QST Pro 120 offers extra comfort without compromising stability. This boot can switch between tech and alpine soles, mould to the unique fit of your foot with thermoformable liner, and features specific endoFIT design to make stepping in and out of the boot more intuitive. This is a good option for strong intermediate skiers.
Engineers at Atomic come out with the newly redesigned Hawk Ultra 130: the company’s lightest ski boot to date (by a whopping 25%). Drawing inspiration from their backcountry touring boot lightweight design, the Hawk Ultra incorporates a slim cut shell and memory fit liner for comfort while still packing a serious punch in stability for charging big downhill lines.
Lange designed the XT 80 for advanced women skiers who like to charge inside and outside resort boundaries. While the flex index is relatively low, this boot proved to hold its own in challenging terrain, and can also switch seamlessly to “hike mode” for the occasional backcountry excursion.
Beginner and lighter-weight intermediate skiers should opt for the Atomic Hawx Prime 90, which was designed for all-day comfort and an easy fit right off the shelves. The size adjustor beneath the footbed makes for easy shifting on the half size, and a heat moldable liner provides extra personalised comfort.
source: Grass Sticks
Grass Sticks is pulling in major press this season for their ecologically conscious (and super cool) custom bamboo ski poles that boast lightweight flexibility and longer life span than carbon and aluminum. Based in Steamboat, Colorado, they’re designed for inbounds powder skiing and offer customizable options.
Truthfully, we’re not quite sure what makes the Line Hairpin poles women-specific (besides the colours and graphics – but even those are up for grabs). We do know that they’re a top pick for lady rippers this year because of their interchangeable baskets and super grippy Grab-Tab technology, which makes them more inclined to stay with you wherever you go.
Perhaps the coolest part about the Leki Spitfire poles is that you’re unlikely to lose them on the ski rack or on a powder day. Neon green with old school graphics and interchangeable baskets, they’re crafted for stability on hardpack and the occasional backcountry tour, with Leki’s signature no-slip strap for confidence on the hill.
You’ll put together your kit based on many factors, so these recommendations are just that – recommendations! Truthfully, you shouldn’t need new outerwear more than every few years, and companies like Patagonia encourage ecological consciousness when it comes to reusing and repairing your gear before you chuck it and opt for the shiny new stuff. That said, here are some of our top picks if this happens to be a new outerwear year for you.
The Patagonia Nano Puff is the most versatile jacket we’ve seen, as it provides warmth as a mid-layer and enough insulation on the slopes for dry, warmer days. It’s part of Patagonia’s signature line of traceable down jackets that uses feathers sourced using solely humane practises. You can also pack it down and bring it anywhere – whether it’s the slopes, dinner out, or international travels.
The Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket leads the pack for all-around mountain shells. Waterproof Gore-Tex and breathable membrane will keep you dry in storms and comfortable with temperature variations. The ladies’ version also features a flattering slim fit and bright new colours for the 2017 season (hey, it’s okay to want to look good out there!)
Grab a pair of the Patagonia Powder Bowl Pants for ultimate warmth. As you probably know from lift rides on cold days, the legs are susceptible to getting chilled out there, and we love that the Powder Bowl pants deliver on warmth. Note: they’re also waterproof and provide a great fit for skier bums.
Stio designs its products for serious big mountain excursions, and jackets are tried and tested in the heart of the Tetons in Jackson Hole…so you can trust that the Durance Down Jacket will deliver in ultimate warmth on bitter days. Use it as an outer layer when it’s dry or under your shell in storms; 650 fill down and breathable lining make for cosy and comfortable days on the slopes.
Try the newly designed fit and lightweight feel of the Patagonia Untracked Jacket. This super light-weight shell is 100% waterproof, and earned one of Powder’s coveted skier’s choice awards for its slim design and good tech specs. Just don’t plant to add bulk with storage in the (very) few pockets.
Developed in the Swiss Alps, Mammut delivers top-notch quality in all its products; we specifically recommend the Alvier HS Pants for their long-lasting durability and roomy design sans bulk. The bibs are detachable, but handy in staying dry on a powder day. Best part? They’re guaranteed to last – consider the hefty price tag a long-term investment.
They make great stocking stuffers and can also make or break your experience on the slopes (if you can't see through your goggles, you're going to have some issues). Accessories are also my favourite part of outfitting because they have this oh-so-subtle way of expressing personal flair. Here are a few of the best finds for 2017:
They're safe, functional, warmer than hats and occasionally souped up with pretty cool gadgets (like bluetooth technology). Most skiers find that they ski better while wearing a helmet because of the increased sense of safety. Be sure to find one that suits you, but start with the POC Fornix – it’s simple, lightweight, and breathable.
Smith delivers year after year with their I/O7 series. At $230 USD (£167 GBP) per pair, it’s an investment, but one that returns with long lifespan, choice of various chromapop lenses for varying now conditions, and the best anti-fog technology on the market.
Native Eyewear sports hip design and N3 polarised lens technology, which block up to 4 times more infrared light than regular polarised lenses. We like the Eldo for sunny après parties and the occasional uphill ascent.
You may have grown up with thick fleece neck warmers (and ditched them whenever your parents let you loose on the slopes). These days, serious skiers opt for the Buff, which can be used as a neckie, face mask, extra insulation under the helmet or a headband on hot days. Be sure to get the 100% merino wool version.
Throw your tricks, track your stats, video it all and upload to the internet before you even get your boots off. Here are a couple of this season's must-have gadgets:
GoPro’s new Hero5 Black boasts 4D Ultra HD camera, waterproof design, and voice technology so that you can instruct it – much like a smartphone – when to record. You can also sync it to wireless cloud storage so your footage is uploaded and saved automatically the minute you step into wifi.
In the Fēnix 3 HR watch, Garmin combined the best of get fit technology with hardware that tracks your stats on the slopes for an all-in-one smart watch. Primary features include GPS tracking, logging distance and speed, as well as a handy compass for backcountry pursuits.
In addition to specialised apps for each resort, here are a few that will help you find the best powder -- and your friends.
SkiTracks is the most downloaded ski and snowboard app for both iOS and Android. It uses your phone’s GPS to track all sorts of stats – like speed, location, and distance skied. There are also several options for managing and organising collected data. It’s a skier geek’s best friend.
Plan your powder days with the OpenSnow app, which collects all the info you’ll need from local and regional weather forecasters to see what’s up in the mountains. Personalise setup with your favourite mountains and forecasters.
When I was a kid, my family communicated on mountain with walkie-talkies. (It was awesome.) Today we not only have cell phones, but apps like SkiLynx, which tracks where your friends and folks are on the hill so there’s no more guessing or frozen finger texting on the lift. It also features simple stats tracking.