Favorite Person We Talked to at OR / SIA
I think this may have been the most difficult year to declare a winner — and that, hopefully, bodes well for the industry. But honestly, we had quite a few interesting and substantive conversations that went far deeper than simply, “Check out this new product!!!”
With Sam Beck at Nordica, we talked about the process of dialing in products.
With Andrew Couperthwait at HEAD, we talked about ski industry trends over the past twenty years.
Patagonia’s Corey Simpson is one of the best people in the industry at explaining new tech, and why it matters.
Our team had a fantastic conversation with Leslie Brown and Jed Duke about Blizzard’s take on the “women-specific” skis topic.
Atomic’s Jake Strassbuger gave me a much-needed Pop-Tart for lunch, which was almost enough to win him this award.
We had a great exchange with Steven Sashen, the CEO of Xero Shoes, about the current state of the running shoe industry.
And after talking with Spark R&D’s Dan Ventura about their new Surge and Arc Pro bindings — and the amount of thought that went into improving even the smallest components — well, we really like to talk to people who obsessively sweat the details.
And admittedly, the conversation we recorded with Greg Hill and Chris Rubens was a real highlight of the show, and touched on a number of topics that each of us ought to be considering.
So truth is, all of the folks we named would be deserving of the award, and we could easily list another dozen or so great discussions we had. So good job, industry. Thanks for thinking. (And for the Pop-Tarts.)
But while there were many deserving folks, our winner is:
— Dan Abrams, Flylow Gear
We had a ton of fun nerding out over Flylow’s 18/19 apparel line with the brand’s co-founder, Dan Abrams. Dan has an obvious passion for what he does, he likes to cut through the bullshit, and … he is really funny. And all of this is very refreshing when you’re being bombarded with marketing speech for 4 days in a row.
Plus, Dan is something of a zen-koane-producing machine, rattling off classics like, “You don’t want to be seen, but you want to be seen. You know?”
No, Dan, not really.
But we will try to progress in our enlightenment between now and next year’s show.
The “WTF Is That??” Award
You should really just check out the OR/SIA 2018 Instagram Story on our profile for the video, because after watching, it should be fairly self-explanatory as to why (1) WTF?!? was our immediate reaction, and (2) why it then won this award.
The “Good or Bad Industry Trend” Award
— Lightweight Alpine Boots
We were wary of the Atomic Hawx Ultra when it came out last year, but were impressed by how well it performed for only weighing around 1680 grams. Now, a number of other companies are releasing their own lightweight alpine boots, and we’re not really sure what to make of it yet. How much performance can these companies wring out of these lighter plastics? And what is the durability of these products going to look like?
Notable boots include the Nordica Pro Machine, Dalbello DS, HEAD Nexo LYT, and K2 Recon.
— ~1500 gram Touring Boots
Along with the lightweight alpine boot trend, companies continue to make lighter options in the touring and 50/50 categories. Head’s Kore, Fischer’s Ranger Free, and Rossignol’s Alltrack Elite boots are all coming in with stated weights around 1500 grams. And on the more touring-oriented side of things is the new Dynafit Hoji line, and you should definitely listen to our podcast with Hoji himself, where he goes into the details of the boot and its inception.
Even Full Tilt released the Ascendant, a 3-piece cabrio boot with a walk mode, tech fittings, and removable tongue. And if you’re looking for the stiffest boot with a walk mode, it’s worth noting that Lange updated their Freetour boots, now called the XT Free, and have a 140-flex version.
— Unified Ski Boot Sole Norms
Over the next year or two, we will reportedly see a market-wide switch to Grip Walk, with “Walk To Ride” no longer being used. The difference between the two types of soles was always minimal, and very confusing when it came to binding compatibility.
— Electrochromic Goggles
Both Oakley and Spy showed off goggles that can change the lenses’ tint with the touch of a button and the help of a battery. While it seemed gimmicky at first, we actually came away very impressed after trying out the Spy “Ace EC” (check out our Instagram story for a video), and are very eager to see how they perform on the mountain. Because honestly, if they really work, we think these goggles could get bumped to our “most innovative” award. On top of all that, the goggles are coming in under $300, which actually puts them in the same price range as some other, non-electrochromic goggles currently on the market.
— Ultralight Touring Binding Innovation
While the downhill-oriented Salomon / Atomic Shift MNC 13 is definitely interesting, it’s also cool to see companies working on the other side of the touring binding spectrum, with developments in the 200-400 gram class. G3 introduced their ~350 gram (w/o brakes) Zed binding, and Marker’s Alpinist is coming in at a stated weight of 245 grams w/o brakes. Both bindings look like they could offer significant improvements over the current ultralight touring bindings (e.g. lateral release and forward pressure).
Most Intriguing 3 Millimeters in Skiing Award
This was trickier this year. And if we had to go with a set group, we’d go with the 94-97mm-wide category, but you’ll just have to wait and see what we’re reviewing over the coming weeks to get a sense of why.
But really, the bigger thing to say here is that things continue to trend a bit narrower. Except for park skis, interestingly; those are getting wider.
Liberty’s Origin 116 is replaced by the Origin 112. The Mantra got narrower. The Faction Prodigy 3.0 went from 106 mm to 104 mm. There’s a Bent Chetler 100. The Bonafide got narrower last year. And Blizzard came out with a narrower Rustler (9) and Sheeva (9) for 18/19.
— Faction Prodigy 3.0 Limited Edition
Faction was showing off a limited edition of their redesigned Prodigy 3.0 that was made in collaboration with Dragon Alliance and Japanese artist, Kengo Kimura.
The rest of Faction’s line looks pretty great too, with a nice blend of clean/minimal and colorful/busy artwork.
This actually isn’t a new graphic, but this is one you need to see in person to appreciate: the Genome is gorgeous. And the rest of the Liberty line is looking quite solid, too.
18. Worst Graphics
— Scott Skis
We’ll preface this by saying that we didn’t see any blatantly-obvious winners of this award; there weren’t any skis that made us stop in our tracks because of how bad their graphics looked. However, Scott’s decision to put skin tip slots in all of their skis — even their piste-oriented frontside skis — had us scratching our head. And skin tip slots that will be used by no one are basically just graphics, right?
20. The “How the Hell Have We Not Skied This Yet” Award
— Head Super Shapes
I know. Dumb. It was supposed to happen last year. This year, it shall.
23. Gear We Were Most Tempted To Steal
— Strafe Cham Jacket and Pants (with the Strafe Recon Kit stuffed in its pockets)
We’re big fans of the current versions of both the Cham and Recon, and Strafe is making some updates to them that make us even more interested. The Cham gets a new proprietary air permeable fabric, and the Recon has an all-new fabric and feature set. Plus, since the new Recon Jacket and Pants are even more packable than the last version, we think we could fit them in the Cham’s pockets so that we could really make the most of this heist.
— Scott Backcountry Patrol AP 30
Scott, in partnership with Alpride, released a new airbag at the show, and it certainly looks unique. The pack uses a supercapacitor to inflate the airbag, which, besides being really fun to say out loud, weighs a lot less than other electric airbag systems (Scott is claiming the weight of the system to be around 1200 grams). We should be getting in the pack soon, so stay tuned for updates.
— G3 Zed Binding
The Zed is G3’s new ultralight touring binding (stated weight of 345 grams w/o brakes), and is very similar in design to the G3 Ion 12, which we’ve found to be a very reliable, simple, and user-friendly tech binding. We’re very eager to see if the Zed can maintain most of the performance characteristics of the Ion while coming in nearly 300 grams lighter.
— Tecnica Zero G Tour Scout W
As we mentioned above, Tecnica completely redesigned their Zero G touring boots for 18/19, and at a stated weight of around 1300 grams, the Zero G Tour Scout W looks like a very interesting addition to the category of lightweight, stiff, women’s-specific touring boots.
— Hotronics Heated Socks
In our Gear:30 podcast from the show, Blister Reviewers Kristin Sinnott and Sascha Anastas were very excited about these heated socks. (I was way more skeptical.) Give the podcast a listen for more info on these $250+ socks.
24. Most Innovative / Exciting Product Award
— Tie: DPS Phantom & Salomon / Atomic Shift MNC Binding
Both of these products looks like they could change the industry pretty significantly — if they perform as advertised. We actually have a decent amount of time on the Shift binding, and so far, it has pretty much lived up to the hype.
We are also getting time on some skis treated with Phantom, DPS’ permanent glide treatment, and will soon be giving our take on whether we think it will really make traditional ski wax obsolete.
And that, folks, is a wrap.
We’re already getting time on a number of these products, and the reviews and Flash Reviews and Deep Dive Comparisons will start flowing more freely than the beer at the convention center the minute the clock struck 4:30 pm.
(Or 4 pm. Or by the third day of the show, 3 pm.)