Our ski correspondent scours the SIA snow show for knee pads
By Emily Palm
It has become rather popular for people to testify about their nerdiness in a way that actually makes them sound cool.
“I’m such a dork because I have every album Widespread Panic ever made,” or “Man, we completely geeked out in the backcountry hucking cliffs all day.”
With the aforementioned in mind, let me tell you that I am the real deal. On our indoor soccer team, I’m the one who says things like, “My that goalie is spry.” It might come as no surprise, then, that I did not dork out over the latest gear at last weekend’s SnowSports Industries America (SIA) trade show. Nope, it was actually the coolest event I’ve attended in a while.When it comes to new gear, I tend to feel lucky that my skis are modern in the sense they were made in the last five years. I purchased virtually all my ski clothing at thrift stores, yard sales or, if I splurged, the clearance rack. I maintain high style with duct taped custom mending. After all, isn’t that still far more advanced than what our early 20th-century brethren skied with?
Warren Miller wrote a column in Ski Magazine a while back detailing the good old days of itchy wool, bindings that never popped off, and 7-foot-long hickory skis. If you ask me, I’m ahead of the game.
That being said, in between wandering awkwardly from booth to booth at SIA 2011 wondering what business I had being there amidst the latest and greatest, I discovered a few new cool advents in ski technology this year.
- Mountain Hardware developed a new fabric, DryQ, that they believe will perform better in air permeability and durability than the Gortex they previously used. “These jackets just breath,” John Boyer of Mountain Hardware said, noting it begins working right away.
- SuperFeet has a new line of footbeds made out of merino wool.
- Black Diamond’s probes are 10 cm longer.
- Bausch and Lomb has a new anti-fog solution to spray on goggles (they came out with it last year, but this year they geared their packaging and marketing for active outdoorsy types). They used Vicks Vapor steamers to demonstrate, and gotta’ admit, pretty impressive.
- G3, along with most other ski companies, has a rockered ski (or “Sweet Rise Camber” in G3 vernacular), the “Highball.” Word on the street is that rockered skis are the next big thing, tantamount to how parabolic “shaped” skis changed the game. It offers the best of both worlds in that it turns easily (as only a portion of the length touches the ground), and floats on powder better (as you generally go with a longer ski length). G3 so far is only making them for men, with a minimum length of 175 cm. Boo.
- Backcountry Access had its new beacon, Tracker2, which has three antennas and a simpler interface. My brother-in-law just bought one, and I’m curious to see how it might speed up the search time.
- In my quest to seek out a good pair of kneepads (or rather, answer why on earth it’s worth $50 to buy kneepads from Black Diamond or Arc’teryx when under the auspice of any other sport they’re super cheap), I found only one pair made by the body-armor brand Amplifi. Made out of expanded polystyrene, Amplifi’s CEO Jens Hartmann says they used body scans to develop their line of armor.
When you look at the ski industry 50 years ago, it begs the wonderment of what we’ll see in the upcoming half century. While the SIA show overloads the senses, it certainly offers a snapshot of the industry’s trajectory.
Telemark skier and freelance writer Emily A. Palm Mulica lives in Golden, Colo. Check out her Web site at www.EmilyPalm.com & follow Twitter.com/SteepShots and Facebook.com/SteepShots. Share with her your favorite joke at firstname.lastname@example.org.