We’ve now had a bit of time to process and recover from the 2018 Outdoor Retailer / SIA Snow Show, which was just as overwhelming as it was difficult to figure out what the hell this tradeshow merger is actually called. That said, we all think this combination of Winter Outdoor Retailers & SIA makes good sense, so no complaints there. It was a good show.
We spent four very busy days meeting with a ton of different brands and checking out all the new gear for the 2018-2019 season. And now it’s time to start rolling out our extremely prestigious Blister SIA Awards.
You know the drill: we’re not going to declare anything the “Best Touring Jacket” or “Best Powder Ski” (since we haven’t spent enough time on most of these products yet), we are going to offer our takes on what impressed, surprised, intrigued, and / or confused us the most.
And if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out our GEAR:30 podcast from the show, where 5 of our reviewers discussed some of the trends we saw, and a highlighted a number of standout products.
So without further ado…
The “Rest in Peace” Award
This one hurts. I mean, far worse things have happened in the world in the last twelve months, but this feels like a final nail in the coffin. Not enough people care about supreme stability in their wider, all-mountain skis. Skiers like light, not heavy. Prefer softer and more playful.
And that’s cool. “Today’s” skis are lighter, more accessible, more playful.
And the reality is, “we” — the population of skiers who purchases skis — that’s what “we” want. HEAD is enjoying a lot of success with their much lighter KORE skis (which, for the record, are still quite stiff and directional, they’re just also way lighter than skis like the Monster 98 and 108).
In other words, the people have evidently spoken.
And we now say goodbye to these beautifully constructed skis.
That said, the narrower Monster skis (83 and 88) still exist, but with a slightly different shape. And HEAD is also introducing a 99mm-wide KORE ski to their lineup. But we’re going to have to say adieu to these wider Monsters, the last of their kind.
The Sayonara (aka, the “Good Riddance”) Award
— Frame Bindings (No, really, we mean it this time.)
Two years ago, we gave frame bindings a “Good Riddance” award, but like Freddy Krueger or Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, they just refused to die.
But we think it’s safe to finally relax. With the introduction of the Salomon / Atomic Shift MNC, and the continued success of the Marker Kingpin and Fritschi Tecton, we think we’ll finally start seeing a decline in the use of frame bindings as people move toward options that go uphill way better, but that preserve much of the downhill performance of alpine bindings (especially when it comes to the Shift). But then again, it’s really hard to get Jason and Freddy to go away for good.
The “Thank you for Not Screwing Up a Good Thing’ Award
It’s still really good.
Yep, the Soul Rider 97 (and 87) is coming back unchanged apart from graphics for 18/19, and we therefore are giving it this award for what feels like the millionth year in a row. When you’ve got something dialed, you shouldn’t change it. And we’re glad that Nordica seems to agree.
Though the Candide 3.0 and 4.0 received some updates to their cores, Faction left the 2.0 alone, and we’re happy about that. It’s a ski that does an excellent job of blending park and all-mountain performance, so we’re glad it’s sticking around.
The “Biggest Loser” Award
We talk about this in greater detail in our First Look of the new Bent Chetler 120, but in short, this ski is losing a lot of weight for 18/19. Coming in at around 1730 grams for the 184 cm, the new Bent Chetler 120 is around 400 grams lighter than the stated weight of the current 17/18 Bent Chetler. That’s a significant difference, and Blister reviewer Sam Shaheen is in Japan — right now — testing out the new Bent Chetler 120 in its ideal conditions: deep pow.
The “Dying to Try It” Award
Nice, clean graphic. Fairly straight shape. Solid flex pattern through the shovels and tails. It’s not that this is some crazy design, it’s just that this ski looks like it could be really fun, and in soft / deep conditions, and good at going fast.
While Sam Shaheen has already spent time on this ski and offered his initial impressions, examining the Mantra up close reveals a beautifully-constructed ski. We’re looking forward to getting a lot more time on the new M5, and hopefully in multiple lengths.
—Armada Invictus 108 Ti
For those of you who still have a thing for ~108mm-underfoot directional chargers, this ski just looks really nice. We thought the original Invictus 108 Ti was good, but had room for improvement. So we’re very curious to see what Armada’s latest iteration of the 108 Ti can do.
—Atomic Vantage 97 (and 107 and 90 and 86)
Atomic completely redesigned their Vantage series, and the skis look interesting. Atomic is using a mixture of milled-out titanal and carbon fiber mesh to reinforce the ski and decrease weight, and it’s pretty remarkable how thin they went in parts of the ski (see photo below).
But if we had to single out a particular model that we’re most eager to check out? It’s actually the Vantage 97. The ski feels very solid (perhaps a bit burlier than skis like the Nordica Enforcer 93 and 100?) and ready to rage on groomers or handle a range of off-piste conditions, while the shovels of the Vantage 107 feel (appropriately) more tuned to handle deeper conditions.
And if we want to get even more specific here, we’re extremely interested in A/B-ing the Vantage 97 with the new Rossignol Experience 94, because that ski looks like a very direct competitor. Let the games begin.
—Venture Paragon Carbon Split
For 18/19, Venture is introducing an all-carbon version of their all-mountain splitboard, the Paragon, and it looks like a really interesting option in the lightweight-yet-versatile splitboard category.
—Black Crows Corvus
Black Crows is overhauling their flagship ski, the Corvus, next year, and you can learn all about the new version in our podcast with Black Crows’ co-founder and head ski designer.
—Fischer Ranger FR 102
For those that liked the Ranger series, but wished they were a bit more playful, you’re in luck. The Ranger FR 102 shares the same construction as the Ranger 108 Ti and 98 Ti, but has a bit more of a freestyle-y rocker profile. It’s flex felt pretty sturdy at the show, so we’ve got high hopes that it could be a playful-yet-stable all-mountain ski.
—Spark R&D Surge Pro & Arc Pro
Spark took their standard Surge and Arc bindings (which we very much like) and refined most of the components (even down to the individual screws) to make the bindings even lighter. The new bindings look pretty sweet, and we should be getting time on them soon.
We’ve found Eric Pollard’s 125mm-underfoot Pescado to be a lot of fun in any sort of soft conditions, and for 18/19, Line is introducing a 105mm-underfoot version, called the Sakana, which looks like pretty much the ideal ski for ripping soft spring groomers.
— Tecnica Zero G Tour Boots
Tecnica is overhauling their Zero G touring boots, and they look impressive. We’ll say more about this in our other awards, but main story is that Tecnica is claiming a stated weight of 1320 grams for the 130 flex version.
— Armada Trace 98 and 108
These skis look fantastic. We’ve had a bit of initial time on the Trace 98 (with great results), and the 108 looks equally interesting.
— RMU Apostle 106 Metal
Blister reviewer Scott Nelson has really liked the RMU Apostle 98 as a stiff park / all-mountain ski, and the metal version of the wider Apostle 106 definitely has our attention.
Next: Part 2, featuring more Blister Awards like the famed “Swagger Award,” Most Interesting Outerwear, and Most Interesting Women’s Gear.