Last week — and for the 10th time now in the history of BLISTER — we met with about a hundred brands and saw thousands of new 20/21 products in Denver, so it’s time now for our 10th annual Blister Outdoor Retailer Awards.
Of course, we haven’t tested many of these products yet, so we won’t be calling any of this new gear “The Best.”
And yes, ten years later, this is still one of the silliest things that happens at these trade shows: various media outlets rushing to slap all of these “Best New Gear” awards on various products that they have not tested.
I actually had someone from one of the largest brands in the outdoor sports world ask me when we were going to start displaying “Blister’s Best New Gear” awards on products at the show. I just stared at him for about 10 seconds as he stared back at me while processing what he’d just asked. Finally, it clicked, and he said, “Well I guess that would fly in the face of basically everything you believe in and that Blister was built on.”
So in keeping with our practice since Day 1, we won’t be pretending to know which products are actually good until we get on them, and we won’t be throwing around the words “Best New” anything. But we will be highlighting the most intriguing, promising, and weird products and trends that we saw at the show.
1. Rest In Peace Award
Sam Shaheen: I feel like I’ve been composing this eulogy in my head ever since I heard the sad news several weeks ago. To say I’ve fully processed this loss would be a lie — I think I’m sitting somewhere between Bargaining and Depression on the stages of grief right now. The sadness is slowly starting to creep in. I would be walking the show floor and see the glimmer of an OG Airtip out of the corner of my eye and shed a silent tear.
But still, I feel like Rossignol and I could work out some of a deal. We could do a limited release, in a somber black topsheet, call it the “Sam Shaheen Soul 7” or the SSSS, or the S4, or the “Just Please Don’t Let It Actually Be Gone.” Alas.
It is an understatement to say that the Soul 7 had a good run. It lived a long and full life bringing smiles to faces of countless ski vacationers on rental skis — and me. As I said in our ‘Gear of the Decade’ podcast, the Soul 7 was one of the only skis on the market that could appeal to first-timers as well as it could seasoned experts with a dynamic style. The vacancy left by its departure can’t be filled by adding metal and eliminating taper. The only thing that will fill that hole … is time. Rest in Peace, my good friend.
Sascha Anastas: Not to ride on Sam’s coattails, nor could I have sung its praises in a better tune, but the end of the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W is certainly felt throughout. I have just recently rekindled my love for this ski (to a point where I had to think long and hard if I prefer it over the Line Pandora 104) and as soon as that fire was re-lit … the ski was discontinued. We will have to see if the new BLACKOPS Rallybird will fill the void.
Luke Koppa: The Ikonic 84 & Ikonic 84 Ti were excellent frontside skis when it came to blending great carving performance with legit all-mountain performance. While they are gone for 20/21, their replacement, the new Disruption series, looks very interesting…
Kristin Sinnott: The Uschi A94 might not have been the most versatile ski, but that didn’t stop me from placing it in my 3-ski quiver and giving it a “Best Of” award. From hop turns in tight chutes to carving on groomers, the ski performed well and never left my legs exhausted.
Kristin Sinnott: Strafe is not saying goodbye to all anoraks as there are a few new ones in their 20/21 line, but the Sunnyside Anorak will sadly not be returning. The soft and smooth face fabric & lining (Recon Air 20-denier stretch-ripstop nylon) made the Sunnyside feel more like a comfy sweatshirt than a technical piece and for that I loved it for around the house as well as using it as a midlayer. Thankfully, my Sunnyside is still in great shape and I will happily wear it for as long as possible.
Luke: The Sick Day 114 was an awesome ski. It was light and easy, but surprisingly stable for its weight. We’re sorry to see it go, but fortunately, it has a very interesting replacement — the new Vision 118.
Jonathan: The Sick Day 114 was exceptionally good, and I do have regrets that maybe we didn’t say as much about this ski as it deserved. But honestly, the new Vision 118 looks fantastic, and I am really eager to see if it still offers a lot of what made the SD 114 great, but with a more progressive (and fun?) forward mount point.
2. Sayonara (aka, the “Good Riddance”) Award
Sam: In my opinion, the Scott Superguide 105 was not a particularly good ski. And now it is being replaced by the Scott Superguide Freetour, and I am totally stoked. The new ski is a huge upgrade and I’ve been really impressed after getting time on it in the last few weeks. Stay tuned for a full review.
Jonathan: While these skis certainly have their fans (and while Sam Shaheen and I both think the Legend X96 is a good ski), I can’t say that I am at all upset that Dynastar has killed off the Legend X series. For my taste, the skis had way too much tip and tail taper, and the skis were awfully stiff given how light they were. Furthermore, the new-for-20/21 Dynastar shapes that replace the skis look great.
3. The “Thank you for Not Screwing Up a Good Thing” Award
Luke: If Rossi changes the construction or shape or weight or anything about this ski, I will have serious issues coping. Fortunately, all they’ve done for 20/21 is update the graphics and change the name to the BLACKOPS Gamer. I don’t really care about the name, as long as the ski stays the same.
Jonathan: Seriously, Rossignol, I’m telling you this now, and I am not joking: if you change anything other than the name of this ski, Luke Koppa is going to go all Liam Neeson on your ass:
You’ve been warned.
Luke: They’re really good. And as a bonus, they’ve expanded the Mantra lineup to include the new Katana 108, which looks very much like a wider Mantra 102.
Luke: Only thing changing for 20/21 is an amazing all-pink top sheet. Fischer will be marketing all of their skis as unisex next season, and while I think the all-pink top sheet was probably meant for women, I’d pick that over the blue top sheet in a heartbeat.
Jonathan: Dear Fischer, if you do anything to this ski other than give it a cool new pink top sheet, you are idiots. Yours truly, me.
Luke: Salomon, I don’t think you have any reason to ever change this ski. Unless you can somehow make it float in 2 feet of pow and be even more stable without changing anything else. But that’s pretty unlikely, so we’re glad you’re keeping it the same.
Luke: Still our benchmark for weight-to-stability ratios, this amazing ski comes back the same, save for a cool new top sheet.
- CAPITA Black Snowboard of Death
Garrett Lumley: The oldest board in CAPITA’s lineup, the Black Snowboard of Death is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. The features of this board still make it one of the most exciting that CAPITA offers, which is crazy when you consider how long it’s been around.
4. The “Biggest Loser” Award
Jonathan: Some of you know that industry veteran Max G Force is calling 20/21 the ‘Year of Ellsworth’ (cough), so I am delighted to inform you that we don’t have a ‘Biggest Loser’ award this year. While lightweight gear absolutely has its place (long ski tours and walking / running uphill fast), when it comes to inbounds gear or backcountry touring where you prioritize the downhill experience, weight is not the enemy. So good job, snowsports industry. Don’t be like all those shitty fashion magazines that try to make people feel that lighter is always better and skinnier is always sexier. It isn’t.
5. The “Dying to Try It” Award
Jonathan: While we’ve had other reviewers on this ski already, it’s finally my turn. And given that it pretty much looks like the opposite of Sam’s beloved Soul 7, I really am dying to finally get on it.
- Salomon Stance 102 & 96
Luke: While we saw most companies reverting to more traditional shapes and constructions, Line is going the opposite direction with the Blade. 95 mm underfoot, 154 mm tip (!!!), unique metal-laminate construction, and a sidecut radius that’s simply listed as “tight.” Line looks like they’re trying to make carvers cool again, and I’m fully on board. Check out our First Look and Flash Review of the Blade.
- Armada Stranger & Whitewalker
Luke: On the note of “fun carvers,” Armada is offering their own. The Stranger has a 15-meter sidecut radius, but unlike the Blade and Sakana, the Stranger has a full twin tip and it definitely did not feel light at the show. Oh, and Armada is also claiming that it’s blunted tail shape is specifically designed for holding extended wheelies / tail presses, which sounds stupidly fun.
On the wider end of the spectrum, Armada will have 4 men’s skis that are each around 116 mm underfoot, including the brand-new Whitewalker. Designed as Sammy Carlson’s pro model, this pow ski is made with a lightweight, touring-friendly core, a very stiff flex pattern around the middle of the ski, and pointed tips that are designed to let Sammy cut through the snow at a moment’s notice for quick transitions on steep, deep lines.
- Volkl Revolt 104
Luke: I love the Revolt 121, but that’s a pretty big ski. Volkl is adding a narrower version for 20/21, and the Revolt 104 looks super interesting. It didn’t feel particularly light (yay!), it has a very deep, but low-slung rocker lines, a twin tip, and an accessible but supportive flex pattern. This looks like it has a lot of potential to be a fun & stable all-mountain-freestyle ski.
- Volkl Katana 108
Luke: We’d heard rumors about the Katana making an appearance, and there it was at the show. The new Katana 108 is not the original, but it does look like a wider Mantra 102, and there are plenty of worse skis on which you could base a new design. Heavy, strong, minimal taper — consider us very, very intrigued.
- Prior Northwest 116
Luke: Prior is expanding their Northwest collection for 20/21, which is great news (review of the Northwest 110 coming soon). The excellent CBC stays in the line as a dedicated pow ski for aggressive skiers, while the Northwest 116 brings a bit more versatility with a less tapered shape and slightly more forgiving flex pattern. Whether as a pow-touring ski in the carbon construction or an inbounds playful charger in the heavier fiberglass construction, we’re super excited about the Northwest 116.
Plus, Prior is offering women’s versions of the Northwest series, which is great news for ladies looking for more playful all-mountain skis.
- Gold Look Pivot 15
Sam: Well, Luke already talked about all the skis I wanted to talk about so I’ll just say that all I want for Valentine’s Day is a gold Look Pivot 15. Do you have to have a girlfriend to get a Valentine’s Day gift?
- Ride Superpig
Garrett: The Superpig is what Ride calls a “Tapered Directional Hybrid Camber” design. The Superpig looks like it wants to attack in all terrain, and in any conditions. With sizes ranging from x-small (142 cm) to x-large (158 cm), it’s one of the boards in Ride’s lineup that has a short, wide shape. While it is very similar to the Warpig, the main difference lies in the camber profile. This style of board is growing in popularity and the Superpig looks like a really enticing design.
- Icelantic Women’s Nia Pro Collab Ski
Sascha: The Nia Pro ski is 100% designed by Icelantic’s female athlete team. Icelantic initially sat down (separately) with their male and female athletes and asked them to collaborate and design their ideal freeride ski, from flex and shape to construction and top sheet designs. Interestingly, both teams met separately and came up with a pretty similar ski; full reverse-camber profile, moderate taper, and a moderate flex pattern with intentions of being surfy and playful, yet easy to maneuver and stable on edge.
- Nordica Santa Ana 110
Kristin: I loved the old, double-titanal, Santa Ana 110 because it could plow through chop and charge on groomers and powder but found it to be a bit burly for me in tight trees or as an everyday driver. I’m excited to test the new version to see if it retains most of the characteristics of the old ski while also being a bit more approachable as an all-mountain ski.
6. Swagger Award
- Rossignol Ride Free campaign
Luke: What’s more “freeride” than freeride? If you ask Rossignol, it’s creating a ton of marketing material with the word “freeride” crossed-out and replaced with a graffiti “Ride Free.” I still don’t know what that means or why they drew a sad face on the north face of Obergabelhorn, but they certainly got everyone’s attention.
Sam: Not only is Rossi going all-in on the differences between riding free and free riding, they are also going all-in on their marbled tope and black graphic scheme. We’re talking skis AND apparel. But what’s the boldest thing about Rossignol’s color palette though? Not a hint of purple or true gold (the key colors for 20/21).
7. Extreme Makeover Award
- Blizzard Spur
Luke: The Blizzard Spur has had a complicated history. It started as a very heavy, stiff, and stable big-mountain ski that Jonathan and Paul loved. Then it turned into a wild-looking, asymmetrical pow surfer. For 20/21, Blizzard is saying the new version is even more accessible, designed to make skiing powder as easy as possible. We would’ve basically said that about the asymmetrical version, though it did only come in a 192 cm length, so we’re curious to see how the new version compares.
- Look Pivots
Luke: With both an all-gold and throwback Forza colorway added to the line, the 20/21 Pivots are some of the most eye-catching that they’ve ever created. Good news, though: this makeover is purely cosmetic and they’re still the same Pivots that so many people swear by. The one change is the return of the Pivot 15, which features the same all-metal construction as the Pivot 18.
- Nordica Santa Ana Series
Kristin: The Santa Ana Series is very much still around for 20/21, but we are saying goodbye to the second layer of titanal in the skis. Fortunately, the Santa Anas are still in the lineup, even if they have new construction and perhaps as a peace offering, Nordica even threw in a Santa Ana 104 Free. I’ve only had a chance to ski the new Santa Ana 93 a few days, but I already know I don’t hate them.
8. The “We’re Finally Going to Review It Award”
- Atomic Redster Ski / Skis
Jonathan: Atomic keeps telling us how good their series of Redster frontside skis are, and we’ve been saying that we want to review them. After another conversation about this at the show, they say they’re sending. Don’t hold your breath till we tell you that we have the skis in hand, but I hope this finally happens.
Jonathan: We’re in talks. And I just want to get it on the public record that, for years now, Stockli has had an open invitation to participate in our review process. While we think the Stormrider 95 would be a fine place to start, we’ll let you select the skis, Stockli, and then we’ll just go do what we do.
9. The “Good Idea” Award
- New Atomic Hawx Prime XTD & New Hawx Ultra XTD Liners
Luke: The Hawx Ultra XTD series is excellent, but they’re also fairly low-volume with their 98 mm last. So for 20/21, Atomic is adding the Hawx Prime XTD series, which feature a wider 100 mm last and all the same features as the narrower versions. Smart.
Another smart move was Atomic’s decision to give the XTD boots some much beefier, more alpine-like liners. While these will certainly add some weight and maybe decrease uphill mobility, they seem like huge upgrades over the old stock liners for people who prioritize downhill performance (and especially the people who have been using the XTD boots inbounds).
- Icelantic Nomads in More Size Options
Luke: The Nomad series is Icelantic’s best-selling collection, but up until now, they were only available in 10-cm increments (161, 171, 181, & 191). As someone who felt caught between the 181 and 191 cm options, I was delighted to hear that Icelantic is offering for 20/21 several of their Nomad skis in 176 and 186 cm lengths. And if you’re interested in trying one of the new Nomads or any of their 20/21 skis, you should keep an eye out for our Gear Giveaway this coming Friday…
- Salomon Shift MNC 10
Luke: Not everyone needs a 13-DIN binding, and so the Shift will finally be available in a 4-10 DIN version for 20/21. Oh, and Salomon is making an all-black version, too.
- Nordica’s Base Design
Luke: This may not actually be new, but at the show I found out that the little colored portions of the tips and tails on the bases of Nordica’s Enforcer and Santa Ana skis match up with the contact and rocker points on the skis. This lets you flip over the skis and very easily see the difference in running length and effective edge between the different models in the lineup. Pretty smart, and if I worked in a ski shop, I’d use this visual demonstration all the time.
10. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words Award
11. Most Intriguing Outerwear Award(s)
- Houdini’s Whole Lineup
Luke: We almost missed Houdini’s booth, but we swung by on the last day and I’m very glad we did. Their whole line just looks so, so clean. They focus on making minimal-looking clothing with high-end fabrics, in order to provide products you could use every day, but that won’t be out of place when you head into the mountains.
Sam and I were blown away by how comfortable their insulated parka was; they make a softshell kit with a crazy wool fabric; their Shelter Anorak looks amazing (see my “what would you steal” selections); and their Rollercoaster hardshell kit is very intriguing. I’ve actually already started using the Rollercoaster Pant and am really impressed so far.
- Strafe Cham & Recon Kits
Luke: Strafe is overhauling their Cham kit and bringing back their Recon kit for 20/21.
The Cham gets a new fabric from Schoeller that I’d never heard of, called AeroBrane, which is an air-permeable, waterproof membrane. Talking to Strafe co-founder, Pete Gaston, he was extremely excited about the new fabric, even compared to the excellent Recon Air and Polartec NoeShell fabrics previously used on the Cham kit. Knowing how particular Pete is when it comes to gear, that gives me a lot of hope.
On the non-waterproof side, the Recon kit is back! I still use the old Recon as my spring / summer touring kit, so I’m super excited about the new version. It uses a minimal stretch-woven softshell that feels fairly similar to the old Recon fabric, but it adds panels of a lighter, more breathable fabric on the back and features a new DWR finish that Strafe is claiming is much more effective than traditional DWR finishes.
- Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Anorak
Luke: 20/21 seems to be the year of the Anorak, and Norrona’s new Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Anorak immediately caught my attention. It has a very long fit, a half-length front zipper, burly Gore-Tex Pro fabric, and plenty of features. The best part? Watching Jonathan try to get it on. (Note: for people who don’t have an inherent bias against anoraks, it’s not hard to get on whatsoever.)
- Patagonia Stormstride & Upstride Kits
Luke: Patagonia is carrying over all of their 19/20 snowsports outerwear for 20/21, but they’re also adding two new kits.
The Stormstride uses a very supple and comfortable 3-layer H2No fabric and a fairly minimal feature set to create a lightweight, breathable, but fully waterproof kit. I used it for the first time this past weekend and my initial impressions are very positive — super comfortable, just the features I need, and above-average breathability.
The Upstride is not waterproof, but is instead designed to offer excellent breathability and a bit of weather protection for days when you’re more confident that mother nature isn’t going to soak you. Much slimmer than the Stormstride, the Upstride’s softshell fabric feels really nice and the jacket fabric is reportedly rated at 75 CFM for breathability (super high), while the pant fabric is rated at 30 CFM. The Upstride looks like it could be an awesome spring / summer touring and ski-mountaineering jacket. Sam has already gotten some time in the Upstride and has been very impressed by the fabric.
- Mammut La Liste & Delta X Outerwear
Luke: Jeremey Heitz is getting his own signature outerwear line, named after his phenomenal film, “La Liste.” Jeremy is working on the sequel to the film, and Mammut’s new La Liste collection looks pretty rad. Pretty generous freeride fit, burly Gore-Tex Pro & Gore-Tex Pro Stretch fabrics, and lots of features.
Mammut was also showing off a piece from their limited “Delta X” collection, and you guessed it — it’s an anorak! It feels burly, features laser-cut ventilation around the mouth, and tops it off with a super high collar that looks like it’d be amazing on storm days.
- Picture Welcome PEBAX Jacket
Sam: For the sustainability story alone, the Welcome jacket is intriguing. The waterproof / breathable membrane is derived from sustainable castor bean oil and the face is a mixture of recycled polyester and a sugarcane-derived polymer that is made from waste in sugarcane processing. We are looking forward to learning more about the unique green tech in this piece and also checking out the XPORE membrane, which Picture is also using.
- 686 Hydrastash Systems
Luke / Garrett: 686 is continuing to expand its Hydrastash line of products, which feature a “bladder” like a hydration pack, but that bladder is integrated into a piece of apparel for decreased movement while riding. They started with jackets, then pants & bibs, and they will now sell a “vest” of sorts with the Hydrastash system so you can use it with any kit. And as a bonus, the vest will zip into most 686 snow pants. Also, their $420 GLCR Dispatch Bib looks like a pretty killer deal — burly Gore-Tex fabric & reinforcements, smart features, and a moderate fit.
The North Face Beatty Futurelight One Piece
Kristin: I’m a reluctant wearer of one-pieces but when I saw the Futurelight onesie on the mannequin at TNF booth, I could not look away. The single-color design, rainbow dropseat, and soft yet technical fabric has me jonesing to test it out.
12. Favorite People We Talked to at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show
Jonathan: I’m nominating three people:
- Dan Abrams, Flylow
Jonathan: By now, I really should know better. I should just have a tape recorder running before I even walk up to Dan. Our ~30-minute conversation would have made for a very non-linear but very awesome episode of GEAR:30. The funniest part was that I had to start yelling at Dan to actually walk me through some of the new Flylow products. All he really wanted do was show off his modified Atomic Hawx Ultra boots (with the pimp European colorway); then show off his entire ski kit that he had proudly hung on one of the display mannequins — his own personal skis, pack, jacket, pants, etc.
And of course, Dan was psyched about all of the recent telemark talk on Blister, and he left me with yet another vintage bit of Dan Abrams wisdom:
“So basically, the thing about skiing tele is that it produces a lot more motion, which then produces a lot more emotion.”
Like I said, next time, I’ll just record the whole conversation.
- Cody Townsend
Jonathan: I had a good conversation with Cody about ski boots. Let’s just say that he’s thinking a lot about them, and about plastics, and about every other part of the boot. And it’s still really fun to see topshelf athletes thinking really hard about gear.
- Erwin Dwyer, Atomic / Denny Ink
Jonathan: This was my funniest meeting, plus she gave me snacks, plus — maybe for better but almost certainly for worse — it was with her that Max G Force was born.
- Corey Simpson & Glen Morden from Patagonia
Luke: It’s always great chatting with Corey and Glen, and this year we actually got to take the conversation off the showroom floor and into the backcountry when they made the “pilgrimage” (Corey’s term) to BLISTER HQ after the show. Corey’s enthusiasm about Patagonia’s line is unrivaled, and it’s always super interesting talking to Glen about the extremely intensive prototyping and testing process behind each piece.
- Le Bent crew including Jesse and Maro
Kristin: I don’t remember the last time I did a shot of rum nor do I remember the last time I did a shot with a baby strapped to my chest. This by no means implies that my lack of memory is due to too much alcohol, but instead speaks to my lack of partying. But when you’re hanging out with some fun Aussies and a great crew, it’s hard to say no — or in my case, it only made sense to raise my hand and volunteer to take the shot.
13. The “WTF Is That?” Award
- Atomic Auto-Climb Binding
Luke: While I’ll withhold all judgement until we or other people actually try it, Atomic’s “Auto Climb” binding was one of the weirdest things I saw at the show. Essentially, it takes Atomic’s Backland Tour binding and adds a big plate underneath with a piston / some hydraulic thing (sorry, engineers!) that automatically raises or lowers a climbing riser, depending on the slope angle.
While I get the idea, I’m a bit perplexed that Atomic was the one to implement it, simply because the Backland Tour has some of the easiest climbing risers in the entire market, and the weight of the auto-climb plate could very well be heavier than the weight of the binding itself…
- Picture Organic Floriane 20W
Kristin: I have no idea how the furry underwear got its name but the Floriane 20W easily caught the attention of all our reviewers who wandered into the Picture booth. The cheeky cut comes in four different patterns but the one that made us do a double take featured brown faux-fur fabric.
The teddy bear-esque fabric is 100% recycled polyester so even with this product, Picture is maintaining their sustainability profile. I’m not against trying them, but it was definitely the oddest thing I encountered at the show.
14. The “Good or Bad Industry Trend” Award
- Good: “The Year of Ellsworth”
Jonathan: I promise that this is the last time we will mention this stupid joke (especially since, if it was really my year, there would obviously be a global ban on all anoraks).
But still, I am very heartened to see a reversal in the product design and the marketing story that many ski companies have been pushing on skiers for the past 5 or 6 years, that super lightweight skis and ski boots will offer them a better experience.
And for those who do really appreciate lighter-weight gear, there still are plenty of options, and brands seem to be doing a better job of segmenting such products. For example, Blizzard is going heavier with their “all-mountain freeride” skis, but they also offer the lighter and more maneuverable “Rustler” series of skis. Volkl has the no-joke Mantra M5, 102, and Katana 108, but also offers their new lightweight Blaze series and playful Revolt series. And DPS continues to extend their ranges of heavier and lighter products. Nice job here, ski industry. Now let’s keep it going.
- Good / Bad: Anoraks
Luke: Whether this is a good or band trend depends on who you ask, but for me, it’s a great trend. Companies are still making tons of full-zip jackets, so anorak critics can still get plenty of jackets that don’t require you to pull them over your head.
But for people who like different styles, there were loads of cool-looking anoraks at the show this year. Strafe had an awesome women’s hardshell anorak in a cool winter-camo colorway (they call it “aspen camo”); Norrona had their giant, bright-yellow Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Anorak; Holden is revamping their 3L anorak; Houdini had one of the cleanest waterproof anoraks I’ve seen in a long time; and Amundsen has a beautiful new anorak that features a rare combination of a waterproof / breathable laminate and a cotton face fabric.
- Good: Purple and Gold
Sam: Purple & gold (or Bordeaux and Tumeric, depending on which company you ask) were the obvious colors of the show, and I’m fully on board.
15. Most Intriguing 3 Millimeters in Skiing Award
- 102-104 mm
Luke & Jonathan: Interestingly, this is the same as last year, but we saw a lot of new and interesting skis in this range at the show this year, too. Volkl had the new Revolt 104 (and still has the excellent Mantra 102); Salomon’s Stance 102 looks like it could be a strong, stable ski in this class; Armda’s Declivity 102 Ti looks like a lighter alternative; K2 launched the playful Reckoner 102; Nordica added the women’s Santa Ana 104 Free; and I’m sure we’re still forgetting some others.
16. Best Graphics
- Weston x John Fellows collab Pow Slayer Boards
Luke & Jonathan: The new short-and-stubby Pow Slayer from Weston caught our eye, mostly because Crested Butte artist John Fellows’ style is immediately obvious. The three-board line, consisting of the Backwoods Pow Slayer, Hatchet Pow Slayer, & Japow Pow Slayer, each feature a different environment illustrated in Fellow’s classic style, and come in shorter and more powder-oriented shapes. Gorgeous.
- Majesty Touring Skis
Luke: Majesty was showing off an overhauled touring-ski collection, and while the skis themselves look very interesting, the retro graphics and grid overlays stood out right away.
- Dynastar M-Fee Series
Luke: While I liked the recent Miami-Vice-esque Menace graphics, I love the new M-Free line’s graphics. I’ve already received tons of comments while skiing the new M-Free 108, and the marble-like tips and tails have been a hit with everyone I’ve shown them to.
- K2 Mindbender Series & Geoff McFetridge Reckoners
Luke: K2’s new Mindbenders are unchanged apart from graphics, but I really like the new, simple top sheets, and the optical-illusion portions at the tails are a nice nod to the skis’ names.
The new Reckoners also look pretty cool, though we were especially excited to see the limited-edition versions with Geoff McFetridge’s designs. (And you need to listen to this conversation we had with Geoff.) We’re sure McFetridge will be taking those out and ripping some tele turns on them, and we’re going to do our damndest to get a pair of his skis on display in BLISTER HQ.
- Prior “Woman vs. Wild” Collection
Luke: Another three-board collection, this series from Prior looks fantastic on its own, but seeing the three graphics together is pretty amazing.
- Kastle Bunny ski
Jonathan: I cannot get enough of this graphic. Seriously, put this on an adult-sized ski, and I would rock these all the time. Skiing makes me happy. But skiing while looking down at this smiling bunny face? It’s like an instant, additional 13% happiness boost.
- Nordica Santa Ana 110
Kristin: The top sheet of the Santa Ana line hasn’t changed much in the last few years, and while that’s not a bad thing, it was nice to see a new color palette in the new Santa Ana 110 (see photos above).
- Line Pandora Series
Kristin: The almost monotone colors of the tropical fern graphic keeps the top sheet from looking tacky while also looking unique. I also like that the graphic is carried over onto the bases.
- Icelantic Nia Pro Collab
Sascha: Icelantic’s graphics always stand out, and the top sheet on the new Nia Pro was the highlight for me (see photo in part 1).
17. Worst Graphics
- Volkl Revolt Collection (controversial)
Luke: The new Revolt graphics have been a bit polarizing. Jonathan says he likes them more than at least 85% of the top sheets at the show. Sam really likes them. And I am not a fan. While it’s cool to see Volkl putting some unique graphics on their skis, to me at least, they look like children’s skis… your mileage will vary.
Jonathan: You got a problem with kids’ skis graphics, Luke?
18. The “How the Hell Have We Not Skied This Yet” Award
- Armada Declivity X
Luke: We’ve been working on it, and we’re still working on it. Tof Henry’s signature ski is big (115 mm underfoot), heavy, and strong, but it also has a lot of tip taper and rocker and a good deal of camber underfoot. Playful charger?
Jonathan: See Part 1.
19. Gear We Were Most Tempted To Steal
- Luke (and Sam): Line Vision 118
I’m a massive fan of the Vision 98 & 108. They’re plenty light for long days on the skin track, but they’re also really playful — that’s a rare combination. For 20/21, Line is adding a wider ski to the collection, and the Vision 118 looks awesome. It’s a bit heavier than the other Visions thanks to aspen reinforcements to its paulownia core, but it maintains much of the Vision 108’s design. Looks like an awesome pow-touring ski, and potentially stable enough for 50/50 or dedicated inbounds use?
- Luke (and Sam): Houdini Shelter Anorak
Houdini’s combination of minimal styling and high-end fabrics is something that really appeals to me, and I was fully nerding out over their waterproof anorak. It uses a remarkably small number of seams, and combined with its subtle anorak-style placket, that makes it look exceptionally clean.
- Dylan Wood: Marker Duke PT
The Duke PT is a very intriguing product, especially when you see it in person. While it does look complicated, it also looks like it could be a good option for those who want alpine-binding performance with the ability to tour uphill with a pin toe.
- Jonathan: Flylow Malone Jacket & matching pants
I need to get my Euro matching-burgundy-jacket-&-pants look going ASAP.
- Kristin: Flylow Mighty Mitten (Kids)
The same fabric and insulation as the Oven Mitt, the Mighty Mitten has a DWR finish and looks like a great product for your favorite little human.
- Kristin: Patagonia R1 Air
I’m a huge fan of the original R1 and the TechFace so any new R1 designs automatically have me intrigued. The zigzag, hollow-yarn design of the interior and exterior looks nice, feels good, and is designed as a more breathable alternative to the other R1 pieces that will still be available.
20. Most Innovative / Exciting Product Award
Jonathan: Let’s be very, very clear: this is not a shot at the industry. Quite the opposite.
But as we collectively thought about the most innovative product that we saw at the show … nothing obvious came to mind.
Especially when we are talking about equipment that needs to work well and safely in harsh mountain environments, being novel for novelty’s sake is downright irresponsible. And as we have been saying since our 1st Outdoor Retailer show 10 years ago, new is definitely not always better.
The ski and snowboard and apparel industries do not need to change the game every single year. So here’s to small, incremental steps forward. To a willingness to admit that previous shapes and materials and weight may have performed better. To taking an earnest look at using materials and manufacturing processes that might not result in a different-looking product, but that may be less polluting and have less of an adverse impact.
But a hundred times out of a hundred times, let’s commit to being Responsible first, not Novel.