10th Annual Blister Awards — Outdoor Retailer Snow Show

Blister's 9th annual Outdoor Retailer Snow Show awards
Article Navigation:  Intro //  Part 1 //  Part 2

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.”

Yep.

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.

PART ONE

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.

Scott Superguide Free Tour, Superguide 95, & Superguide 88

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Capita Black Snowboard of Death

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Salomon Stance 102 Rocker Profile, Stance 102, & Stance 96

Jonathan: Nice shapes, nice rocker profiles, nice weight. Color me quite intrigued.

Luke Koppa reviews the Line Blade for Blister
Line Blade

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
20/21 Armada Zero Collection: Armada ARG II, Whitewalker, ARV 116 JJ Ultralite, Stranger, & BDOG Edgeless

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Volkl Mantra M5, Mantra 102, and 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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
20/21 Prior Northwest Lineup

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Gold Look Pivot

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Icelantic Saba Pro & Nia Pro

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
20/21 Nordica Santa Ana 110 Free, 104 Free, 98, 93, & 88

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Rossignol's "Ride Free" marketing material basically sums up how Sam feels about the death of the Soul 7...

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
20/21 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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
20/21 Look Pivot Lineup

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
20/21 Nordica Santa Ana 110 Free, 104 Free, 98, 93, & 88

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.

  • Stockli?

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Atomic Hawx Prime XTD Boots

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Nordica Enforcer 104 Free & Enforcer 94 Bases

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.

PART TWO

10. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words Award

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Baby Linden: “I can’t believe you two are pros. I’m going to be sooo much better than you.”

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.)

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Anorak
  • 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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Patagonia Stormstride Kits

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Patagonia Upstride Kits
  • 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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Mammut La Liste, Eiger, & Delta X Jackets

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Sam Shaheen in the Mammut Delta X Anorak
  • 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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
686 Hydrastash Vest

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
The North Face Beatty Futurelight One Piece

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Kristin Sinnott on her way to losing a round of rock, paper, scissors and earning a shot with the Le Bent crew.

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Atomic Auto-Climb Binding

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Picture Organic Floriane 20W

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Jonathan Ellsworth: great at writing reviews & doing podcasts, terrible at putting on anoraks.

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Weston x John Fellows Pow Slayer Series

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Dynastar M-Tour 99, M-Free 108, & M-Pro 99

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.

Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
K2 Mindbenders, Reckoners, & Reckoner 122 w/ Geoff McFetridge Graphic

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Prior "Woman vs. Wild" graphic series

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Kastle Kids Skis

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Line Pandora 110, 104, 94, & 84

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)
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Volkl Revolt 121, 104, & 95

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?

  • Stockli?

Jonathan: See Part 1.

19. Gear We Were Most Tempted To Steal

  • Luke (and Sam): Line Vision 118
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Line Vision 118, 108, & 98

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
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)
Flylow Mighty Mitten

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
Blister's 2020 Outdoor Retailer Awards
Patagonia R1 Air Fabric

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

  • Nothing?

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.

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38 comments on “10th Annual Blister Awards — Outdoor Retailer Snow Show”

    • For the 184 cm version:

      Dimensions: 146-108-129 mm
      Radius: 39 m / 19 m / 34 m (uses 3 different radii)

      As for length, not sure, but our pair of the 184 cm Mantra 102 measured pretty close to 184 cm via a straight-tape pull.

  1. Could we get the lengths and a side profile pic of the new Icelandic pro co-lab ski? Thanks guys. Im really excited for the new crop of 100-110mm wide skis.

  2. I’ve been a long-time Noronna fan but recently was exposed to a ton of Mammut gear. Would love to hear some of your thoughts comparing/contrasting these brands especially around what goes best against the Noronna Lofoten line which I’ve been wearing the past 8 years.

    -Thanks, Todd

  3. How could you guys not give the Line Blade the most innovative/exciting award?! A fat slalom ski is the definition of innovative. Plus it looks like nothing that the ski industry has ever made. Just cause you guys moved to Crested Butte and now ya’all think your ‘CB’ cool doesn’t mean you are cool. Put the bong down!

    • Before you decided to get indignant and throw around uninformed accusations, you should get a better handle on the history of ski design.

      First, Line just came out with the Sakana two years ago, which shares a whole lot of family resemblance with the Blade.

      In 2011, Salomon introduced the BBR – it had huge shovels and a 88 mm waist:

      https://blisterreview.com/gear-reviews/review-salomon-bbr

      Then there were skis like the Icelantic Shaman that also had a massive shovel & much skinnier waist.

      And while they have never formally advertised it, Folsom has been making a ski since 2011 called the Party Carve that has very similar dimensions to the LINE Blade.

      Those are just some examples, not an exhaustive list.

      I’m not trying to take anything away from LINE here, just setting the record straight.

      So is the LINE Blade cool? Yes.

      Is this, as you say, the “definition of innovation”? No.

      And does it look “like nothing that the ski industry has ever made”? No.

  4. My immediate reaction to the picture of baby Linden (before reading anything) was that he was giving Elyse and Cody a pro callout. Well played caption.

  5. Black Ops Gamer – That is a horrendous name for a good ski, who comes up with stuff like that.
    Patagonia Upstride – It’s been close to ten years since Patagonia have made a soft shell ski touring jacket, I’m really looking forward to getting this!

  6. ok so my wife is a HUGE fan of the Men’s Rossi soul7, 180cm…. given the news she has ordered me to find her another pair before they are gone. At 5’3″ 135lbs of ex racer and Pallisades hucker the only thing that slows her down is a collection of 14 knee surgeries including 6 ACL replacements. Her technical form likes a longer ski than most people her height, and the low swing light weight of the Soul7 treat her abused knees nicely but deliver technically on groomed or pow. Just saying I have to wonder what the retailers are going to place on the shelf to fill that need,,, there are a lot of “7” fans out there and for many differing reasons.

  7. Did anyone actually ski the Line Blade. OMG, A wide shovel/tip and a relatively narrow (compared to the tip). The turn shape of the tip and tail are different. The Sakana ski has a different design and turn shape. Let’s wait a few years…

    • Hi, Charlie – I have to confess that I don’t really understand your comment? But yes, we have now skied the Blade, and have already published a First Look & Flash Review of the ski.

      • Whoops, I had not read the first look. My apologies. Here, we agree that we disagree regarding the blade. My personal review of the blade is only based on three laps at WWSRA. Best

    • Carving skis with high overalll taper (the difference between the tip and tail widths) have come and gone a couple times now. Not my thing for sure as narrow tails release too quickly and passively for my tastes. There are sound technical reasons why we see a lot of skis wherein (tail – middle) = (1/2 to 3/4)*(tip – middle).

      An aside: 20 years ago if somebody said “taper” in reference to a ski it would have been universally understood to refer to the degree to which the tip is wider than the tail (and that’s still how many racers would understand it). It’s fascinating how these terms change meaning over time and in different skiing subcultures.

      • I think I may have mentally confused the Blade with the Salomon BBR after reading one of Jonathan’s comments above. The Blade isn’t as extreme as I’d thought or as Charlie’s comment implied. The tail-to-tip ratio is (124 – 95)/(154 – 95) = .49. It’s lower than most carving/SL/GS skis, which are often close to .7, but not all that extreme or unprecedented either. Its ratio is similar to many SG/DH skis, which are designed to release and skid more easily than SL/GS. Safety and all that.

        The Flash Review confirms basically what I would have guessed about the ski from its tip-to-tail taper and flex, BTW.

  8. Dan Abrams is the real deal. He was the main bartender at a place I went to a lot in college when he was just starting flylow. I should have spent my tab money on flylow stock instead of beer and whiskey. I still wear the pair of OG Pants I bought out of his mom’s garage.

  9. So much new stuff! Someone made the point on one of your podcasts recently, too much new stuff, not great from an environmental perspective, encourages throwaway culture. Now having said that, really excited that Icelantic are bringing out some skis in lengths that might work for me; just bought Ranger 102’s and will have to avoid seeing the pink ones as it will make me sad that I don’t have them; would love to try the Blade – tips even wider than the Sakana but 10mm narrower waist!! As I was reading I was thinking about the swagger award for Stoeckli last year and then you addressed it – wasn’t he claiming their new skis would be the mutts nuts? Living in Switzerland I am very keen to see you test them so hope that finally happens this year.

    • Hey guys, my few takeaways:

      – No more Line Supernatural?
      – Pret Fury snow dazzle colourway was cool.
      – Mountain flow eco wax – plant-based ski wax.
      – Ashnowha booth for most memorable/weirdest show experience.

  10. The telemark predications will come true to favor Sam! Buy Low, keep the words and hype going with telemark products Please and thanks! Mainly telemark boots in need of a serious overhaul!

    The More options we all have for going up and ripping down is what riding on snow is all about.

  11. I love the “best of show” anecdote. Case in point, I’ve seen like 50 Best Whatever awards for the BCA tracker 4. That nobody has used. Nobody has compared to the other (excellent) beacons on the market. Nothing against BCA, I personally own a couple of Mammut beacons (Element and Barryvox S), snd I bought my daughter the Tracker 3 a couple years ago. The Tracker 3 was much less intuitive, had no marking function, less range. I’m sure in the hands of an experienced user it works just fine. So how does the tracker 4 improve? Well, it looks really cool and rubberized and it has a bright screen. Is there a marking function? Can you choose to hear analog tones? Does the stated range check out? Maybe it’ll turn out to be great, I hope it does. But give me a break with the marketing/editorial complex. Thanks Blister for actually testing things before telling us how awesome they are.

    • Getting way off of the OR topic, but… BCA and Manuel Genswein traded articles about multi-burial in The Avalanche Review a few years back. BCA argued in one issue that close multi-burial was very rare, that 3-circle and micro-grid-strip methods are good enough when it happens, and that other beacons’ marking functions “aren’t reliable anyway”. Genswein responded a couple issues later and disagreed (pretty effectively IMO) with basically every point. Worth checking out.

    • Sticking to BCA for the moment, I think that the announcement that they’ll be reselling (and presumably repping) Contour hybrid skins in the US is much more interesting than the Tracker4…

      • So do I, but please note that the full contour skins range will continue to be distributed by Camp USA. BCA skins are made by contour in Austria but carry the BCA brand…

  12. 100% with Jonathan on the Kastle Bunny Ski. Putting that graphic on their freestyle lineup would definitely increase sales.

    Also, when will other companies figure out to make their bindings look as cool as pivots?

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