Last week the Western Winter Sports Representative Association held their annual demonstration of next year's products at Alpine Meadows ski resort. Large and small companies from both North America and Europe were present as well as hoards of industry professionals who were invited to test new boots, skis, boards, goggles and helmets previously unavailable for review. This year, all-mountain products were rife.
As sparse snow flakes fell, riders and skiers darted from booth to booth grabbing what gear they could and taking it up the hill for a test drive. Getting early access to next season's products is a huge advantage to retailers, especially in a sport that is changing constantly. This year the trend is obviously tilted toward utility products that lend themselves to storm skiing and riding, as well as leaving the resort and exploring.
Kris Thomas, sponsored rider for Blizzard skis and ski instructor from Truckee attended the event for two of the three days. "I was psyched to try out all the new boots. I liked the new Tecnica Cochise alpine touring boot. It was stiff with a great walk mode." This comment spoke to a the larger themes in next year's lines. Many industry giants are reaching out to grab a share of the booming back country and adventure skiing industry.
Greg Clark, professional ski technician and retailer said that "it's important to attend these events because the industry is changing by leaps and bounds. The big name alpine companies are really embracing the back country technology."
At this event, many of the big hit skis focused on all-mountain designs that performed at a high level in a variety of conditions. Common themes with these ski are hardwood cores and metal layers in the construction. "Of course I really liked the Blizzard Bonafide, but the SideSeth from K2 was really fun, too," Thomas said. Both these skis fall squarely into the all-mountain category with relatively flat tails, slight camber under foot, medium waist, early rise in the tip and and a stiff backbone designed to pound and edge into even the firmest snow.
With the big boys of the industry buying into the adventurous mind set of the modern skier, it will be intriguing to watch the impact that this trend will have on the individual skiing experience and to see what the mainstream can add to the niche backcountry industry's specialized gear set.