Industry News

No Compromise: Backcountry Skis, Boots Shed Weight but Maintain Performance

May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

The AT market continues to grow (5% last season across snow sports and outdoor channels) as more consumers claim first tracks before the first-chair crowd gets a crack at them. More resorts are allowing uphill travel and even setting up designated courses to mitigate risks involved with uphill skiers and grooming equipment, encouraging skiers to head uphill.

With growth in the category and nearly 2 million skiers and boarders heading into non-lift-served backcountry this year, according to SIA research, more brands than ever are keen to get their piece of the pie.

SKIS: LIGHTER, MORE FUN, MORE VERSATILE

Manufacturers big and small continue to find innovative ways to shed weight and beef up performance at the same time. Nick Castagnoli, brand and communications manager at Rossignol, sums it up: “Backcountry skiers don’t want to compromise. The trend is to deliver an ultra-lightweight product while keeping the skis stable, powerful and with a strong, dependable edge grip. They want a tool that will propel them out into the backcountry with as little effort and fatigue as possible – but they also want to be able to depend on it to support them on the gnarliest of descents when conditions might not be ideal.”Rossignol_SKY7_HD-jm.jpg
Rossignol, Sky 7 HD

Carbon is still king when it comes to making these lightweight, high-performance skis. Rossignol’s Sky 7 HD, G3’s FINDr 94 and Dynastar’s Mythic 87 all include carbon technologies that let them take advantage of the weight savings and stiffness of carbon while innovations like G3’s dampening polyurethane sidewalls ensure areas like dampness, strength and stability aren’t compromised.

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G3, FINDr 94

As brands geek-out on making uber-light skis, they’re still looking ahead to the next trend. G3 Product Line Manager Sigi Rumpfhuber sees “the weight game approaching the physical limits of modern ski construction.” “We will see the start of a new era with focus on smarter and more educated implementation of lightweight technology into ski design,” Rumpfhuber says.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are also focused on versatility. DPS’s Erme Catino notes a trend of more skiers leaning toward the “magic mid-100 width ski.” The do-it-all, one-ski quiver that crosses the resort/backcountry boundary is the goal of skis like the DPS Wailer 106 and even slightly wider RMU North Shore 2.0. Both are designed with versatility as their backbone, and employ key technologies like RMU’s five-point shape for a dynamic turning radius. 

BOOTS: LOW WEIGHT, MORE POWER

AT boots continue to pull inspiration from the rando racing world, cutting more weight and implementing technology to aid downhill performance and establish solid power transfer. More boots have even wider ranges of motion that won’t inhibit uphill movement and more carbon components that make them strong and light. “Skiers are looking for products that pair very ski touring-focused features, like lightweight and great cuff range, with true power,” says SCARPA North America CEO Kim Miller.

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SCARPA, F1 

With that focus in mind, SCARPA and Dalbello introduce carbon-constructed tour-focused boots with power-driven designs, the F1 and Lupo Carbon T.I., respectively. SCARPA’s Boa closure and Dalbello’s Cabrio three-piece design all help to ensure overall weight is low while providing a platform for serious power.

Leslie Baker Brown, marketing manager at Tecnica, says the goal of super-lightweight boots is to fit and ski like traditional ski boots. This idea is driving the production of Tecnica’s Zero G collection. The four-buckle, overlap boots are designed to be performance touring boots and ring in nearly 400 grams lighter than its next closest competitor (in the pro model), according to Brown.

Entry-level consumers may not be ready for the high price tag that can accompany super high-performing touring boots, and Atomic addresses that with the latest addition to the Backland family of boots, the Backland NC. With a more approachable price point, polyurethane cuff and shell, 30-mm booster strap and skywalk rubber sole, it caters to newer uphill skiers.

Not to be overlooked, expect to see more women’s-specific backcountry gear hitting the market this season. Salomon expands its MTN Explore boot line with a women’s model, and DPS introduces the Tour 1 line.

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Salomon, Women’s MTN Explore

 Find the full SIA Snow Show Daily article in Day 1, page 44.

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