Gear 2017: The Inside Scoop
Gear lovers have plenty to look forward to next season as ski and accessory manufacturers rolled out the red carpet on their new lines displayed at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market (OR) in Salt Lake City, Utah on Jan. 7-10 and at the Snowsports Industri
by Katy Demong
The huge buzz at the Salomon booth this year focused mainly on its introduction of the new Prolink boot and binding system, a first-ever Nnn-compatible line from Salomon. For 2017, Salomon will offer its full range of boots – from the Escape Touring boot to the S-lab Pro – in both Prolink- and Sns-sole options. Early tests show the new system is a winner, with the Classic system getting the strongest reviews. Salomon will also have a new Prolink binding line for sale in everything from a carbon option to an inexpensive Touring binding. Prolink will use the same hole pattern as SNS, and retailers were happy to hear that all skis will come pre-drilled by Salomon to facilitate quicker mounting.
In other news, Salomon will expand its Carbon Skate family. The Carbon Skate Lab will now be available in a dedicated wet-snow ski, the Carbon Skate Lab Red. Rather than being temperature-based, the skis' performance is dependent on how much humidity is in the snow. Even if it's really cold and humid, this ski is incredibly fast. It's also the same ski that Jessie Diggins used to win a silver medal at last year's Nordic World Championships. The S-lab Skate family will add a dry-snow (blue) and wet-snow (red) offering in addition to the universal (yellow). Salomon will also make life a little easier for retail employees this coming season by creating a sticker unique to each individual ski that indicates the flex curve based on the ski's characteristics and the skier's ideal weight in kilos and pounds. The S-lab Classic ski has undergone a big upgrade, now including more carbon, a new hollow tip and an entirely new camber profile. The ultralight ski has more accessible kick and stays in the tracks with less effort due to the softer, flexible tips. Salomon will also offer a full-carbon Skate boot – the S-lab Skate Pro – which includes both Prolink and SNS cleats in the box, so athletes can choose their preferred binding. New for 2017 is the SLAB Carbon Kit Pole, featuring ultra-modulus carbon as well as a carbon handle. This super-stiff light pole will retail at $225. The Equipe line adds the Equipe 60 pole featuring high-performance 60% carbon with a new grip that allows for one-handed pole removal. This is great for marathon skiing, biathletes, parents or ski instructors who need to ditch their poles on the fly.
For the 2016/2017 season, Fischer has continued to develop and improve its Speedmax boot, which has been widely adopted on the World Cup circuit. The upcoming version is even lighter, and the biggest improvement is a better interface with the binding. Fischer has shaved down the dis-
tance between the ski and the binding to provide a more nuanced feeling in the sole. Brand-new for 2017 is its incarnation of the Speedmax boot for Classic skiing. With the same seamless carbon-fibre molding and minimalist design, the new full-carbon Classic boot offers a rolling flex over the toe and the desirable quality feathering that top skiers are looking for in the tracks. The incredible lightness of the boot gives skiers the ability to quickly power up their kick. If these boots look somewhat familiar, it could be because Team U.S.A.'S Sophie Caldwell cruised to her Tour de Ski World Cup fourth-stage win in these very boots.
While the Speedmax ski line continues mostly unchanged, there are new binding options available – the same zero-set binding from last year, now with either three or five degrees of camber.
Madshus has a lot of exciting developments in its line-up for 2016-17, including the all-new Super Nano Classic boot that debuts with an all-carbon sole that flexes for Classic skiing. The one-piece base is torsionally stiff for stability, while maintaining flexibility and spring to maximize kick. It's also made notable improvements with other top-tier boots. The Nano Carbon Classic has a new heel hold for better fit and to reduce slippage, and gets a graphic update for next season. The Super Nano Skate boot is lighter for 2016, has a new look and a new seam-sealing process to make this top-of-theline Skate boot even more waterproof. The top two junior Race boots, the Nano JRR and Hyper JRR, received graphic updates for 2016, giving them the similar sleek look of their adult Race-level counterparts. The entire line of waxless Explorer skis all received a new facelift as well – the skis were widened for more backcountry access, with the mountains on the topsheet increasingly prominent. Take any of these lightweight fish-scale skis and head out your back door to the nearest backcountry, or, for the narrower skis in the Explorer line, to groomed tracks anywhere and you're ready to go. Madshus is adding two new skin-ski offerings to complement its Terrasonic Intelligrip Classic skis released last year. For 2017, it will have an entry-level model (Ultrasonic), a mid-level model (the Terrasonic) and a Race model (Nanosonic). While the Terrasonic remains unchanged aside from a graphic update, the Ultrasonic and Nanosonic are brand-new, fea- turing the same Intelligrip skin construction that saw wide appeal in the market this past season.
Some good news for both retailers and consumers: Madshus is expanding its empower™ program to encompass a larger selection of skis. The empower™ is a powerful retail tool that correlates an RFID chip in the base plate of the ski to a serial number, allowing shop employees to see what they have in store without sorting through the wall of skis. They can then match the customer's needs to what's in stock, complete with flex information, target weight and camber profile.
The corresponding app lets consumers track their skis via GPS, and provides purchasers great data on wax and training. Previously available in only three ski models, Madshus is extending this technology further down the line this year. Fischer Speedmax Classic boot
Rossignol has been busy adding much refinement to its top-of-the-line Skate skis. For 2017, its X-ium Premium Skate skis, used on the World Cup, have longer glide surfaces to reduce friction and glide even better. Rossignol will bring the same World Cup technology to its production skis by adding an extra centimetre of length and redesigning the tip with a longer radius, which puts more ski on the snow. These changes help to distribute the skier's weight over a larger area and reduce hot spots. In addition, significantly more ABS sidewall construction has been added to the ski, which helps with edging and camber profile. These minor tweaks add up to a big difference in its top-of-the-line ski that will be available in a cold, universal and warm profile, as well as for soft and hard snow.
Rossignol will also make its X-ium WC Skate boot available at retail this year. The boot is full carbon, including the sole and heel counter, and has what almost appears to be a Classic lower-boot design, with just a Neoprene sock and carbon cuff around the ankle. This makes the boot extremely light, while allowing for maximum ankle flexion. These boots will come in a bolder design version than what is currently being raced on at the World Cup.
Also for 2016-2017, Rossignol will release a women's-specific-fit boot for both Skate and Classic, the X-ium WC Skate FW and X-ium Classic FW. While women on the World Cup circuit have been using these for a few seasons, the boots have not yet been offered at retail. The boots have a wider forefoot and tighter heel that give the skier more grip in the back and more room in the instep. Rossignol said that although quantities will be limited, the market is now supporting this kind of specialized technology.
New for 2016, Atomic is offering a full-carbon-monocoque Classic ski, the Redster Carbon Classic, that weighs in at 800g and is its lowest profile ski ever. This beauty is offered in three styles: universal (yellow), cold (blue) and warm or klister (red). All of its World Cup series skis will come with an individualized graph that's colour-coded based on temperature and skier-weight profiles. This sticker system was developed by Atomic, and will be rolled out this coming season with Salomon, as both brands are owned by Amer Sports. Alongside Salomon's launch of Nnn-compatible Prolink options for 2017, Atomic will offer Prolink bindings as well as SNS for Classic and Combi boots, and only the SNS option for Skate boots. Atomic also has a brand-new carbon Classic boot, the Redster Worldcup Classic, that is Prolink-compatible. The boot features a carbon heel counter, adjustable heel strap and thermo-moldable liner. New for the junior racer is the Redster Skintec Jr. This is the first junior ski to feature Skintec technology, and is great for the parent who wants a race-worthy ski that uses the same base as Atomic's top-of-the-line carbon Classic ski. Now juniors can have racing-profile ski without needing a chemistry degree to hit their wax. Atomic's touring version of the Skintec ski, the Motion 52 Grip, is easy to ski at 52mm wide and have come down in price to just $200 per pair.
The big story from Swix this year is a new generation of Triac pole for 2016 – the Triac 2.5. Swix is excited about the new and improved version of the trademarked triangular pole that it first introduced in 2010. This pole was introduced to the World Cup scene this season for Swix-sponsored athletes. It's 7% stiffer and 6% lighter than the previous model and has updated graphics. Higher quality carbon and improved carbon layering are what make this pole lighter and stiffer. This third generation of Swix's top-of-the-line pole will cost approximately $450.
The Premio 9.5 Skate ski serves to bridge the disparity in performance and price between One Way's Premio 9 Skate and the Pre- mio 10 HD. The 9.5 achieves this by incorporating World Cup technology such as the Premio racing base with its universal stone grind and carbon laminate for stability and power transfer, but skips some of the HD'S bells and whistles such as the honeycomb core, so you can have a performance ski without breaking the bank.
It's hard to imagine that top-end ski poles can get much lighter. Perhaps the discovery of vast helium reserves in Tanzania is inspiring manufacturers, as One Way's new Premio SLG 10 shaft, which uses its Super Light Diamond Carbon with a titanium insert, weighs less than 50g per metre and is about as light as you can get. The new pole will feature an updated strap design that provides a lighter, more precise and comfortable fit. Already tested on the World Cup circuit for durability, the new One Way Premio SLG 10 promises to be a winner.
Start is offering a number of new poles this year, starting with the topend Race. The 100% high-modulus carbon-fibre shaft is super-lightweight, stiff and strong. The aerodynamic Race basket promises to grab the snow and help transmit energy in the right direction. A light and comfortable cork grip and an ergonomically designed strap round out the features of this super pole.
Start's Winner offers many great features in a reasonably priced pole, beginning with a 17mm-diameter HS carbon shaft for durability and stiffness. Its handle is Start's Race Cork model with its Fit Race strap. The basket is larger, which is better for those who don't always ski on ultra-hard-packed race trails.
The Start Loppet is designed for skiers who prefer functionality, durability and a great price. The shaft diameter is 17mm and it is made with durable HS carbon composite. This pole comes with a Start's Master Cork handle and Fit Race strap. The basket is an 8mm Race basket.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, Bjorn Daehlie has revitalized its brand with a new logo and many new styles as it works to encompass the entire Nordic lifestyle.
One of the training pieces it is especially excited about is the Divide jacket, which has a streamlined performance fit, contouring in the arms and a full stretch back for high breathability.
As the official sponsor of the Norwegian Ski Federation, Bjorn Daehlie has also come out with its brand-new Nations jacket – Team
Norway's jacket. The Intent is the retail version of the Nations jacket, and is a high-activity training piece with lots of breathability, stretch and articulated arms for a comfortable fit.
Bjorn Daehlie has redesigned all of its pants for 2016. The Terminate is closer to a pair of tights than a warm-up pant, but with more protection. This lightweight training piece has softshell wind panels for the knee and upper leg, while the rest is stretchy.
The Winner pant has been updated with lighter weight material and a windblock microfibre front and stretch back. This half-zip pant is easy to get on and off over boots.
The Motivation training pant features three-way stretch softshell on the front and a breathable stretch on the back, as well as articulated knees for a great fit.
Its new high-performance baselayers include the Dry top with polypropylene on the inside and polyester on the outside, which helps pull moisture away from the body. The Compete top is 100% micro-polypropylene and has hollow fibres that help insulate while providing maximum breathability. It also has a 100% Merino-wool performance baselayer – the Half-zip Training Wool.
The big story from the Swedish performance-eyewear company is that its prices will all be going down approximately 10-15% – music to anyone's ears. Bliz is also sweetening the pot on one of its most popular products - the Proflip goggle.
The Proflip sits farther off the face for fog-free vision and flips up and out of the way, making it an especially great choice for biathletes. These goggles will now come with three lenses instead of two: a clear lens, lowlight lens and sunny-day lens in one kit.
Bliz is especially known for its photochromatic Ultra Lens Science (ULS) lens that goes from virtually clear to blocking 85% of light on the sunniest days. Most importantly for winter sports, the lenses transition back to clear smoothly and rapidly even in the coldest weather. For 2016, Bliz is rolling the ULS lens into more of its eyewear. Continuing its trend of affordable performance eyewear, Bliz products start at just $45.
An official sponsor of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, Craft has already integrated athlete's feedback into its 2017 production. When Craft learned that ski team members were not wearing baselayers under their racing suits because they were just too hot, Craft responded by launching a new line of high-performance baselayers – Active Extreme 2.0. This line is lighter and has better moisture transportation and cooling abilities than the first generation. Proprietary Coolmax air-fibre technology transports moisture away from the body and regulate temperature. Baselayer tops also feature Body Mesh under the arms for still more ventilation. New Active Extreme 2.0 pieces will also be available in high-visibility prints and short-sleeve options.
Craft has also redesigned its popular active-outerwear Storm tights and Storm jacket, which now feature a windproof four-way stretch front and a breathable back.
For more casual baselayers, Craft has a new Comfort Wool line that's a 50-50 Merino wool-polyester blend. This wool baselayer stands out from the competition for two reasons: it's seamless, and Craft has spun the fabric so that the polyester sits on the inside next to the skin, while the wool is on the outside for maximum comfort. Available in a zip-mock, the piece will retail for just $80.
Craft has also launched an Active Comfort series that replaces the Be Active Classic line it started making 40 years ago. The new series features 100% synthetic materials (not Lycra) and a polyester/polyamide seamless blend with mesh ventilation zones.
Julbo has a few new things for Nordic skiers up its sleeve. The Aero are superlight sunglasses weighing in at only 58gm, with photochromic lenses that go from zero to dark in 28 seconds. The Aero features a full onepiece lens, available in either Zebra Light best for eastern conditions, or Zebra, which provides more sun protection and are great in western or sunny-ski conditions. If they look familiar, it might be because U.S. Team member Noah Hoffman regularly races in these glasses.
Also new for 2017 is the Zephyr, a smaller version of its popular Breeze model. It fits any face with its fully pliable earpieces and a wrap-around design. They're also great for cycling and rollerskiing, as these glasses don't get in the way of a helmet and on long runs you can adjust them to sit away from your face, avoiding pressure on your temples.
An option that biathletes will love is the Sniper. With French biathlete Martin Fourcade contributing to its design, the Sniper features a wide photochromic shield that can easily be raised for shooting in the range. The Sniper is available in Zebra or Zebra Light lenses. These glasses have great ventilation, an ergonomic design and will run you approximately $150.
New for 2017 Toko is its Nordic Klisterspray Base Green. It is the same formulation as its Binder Klister Base Green. With a butane carrier, it sprays on for fast, thin and durable application.
Toko has made improvements to its Express workbench in that it is more stable and at a lower price point of $135.
The Arctic Split mitt has been significantly improved with a wind-blocker material in place of the nylon ripstop on the back of the hand. The improved Toko glove is now warmer and comes in two colours – a new Winter Warrior and black – available for $40.
Toko is also adding a new designer print to its line, a play off the signature styles of such popular brands as Louis Vuitton or Coach, and will debut in the insulated drink belt, Lycra hat and buff.
Salomon Prolink Carbon SK binding Salomon Prolink S-lab Pro boot Salomon Carbon Skate Lab skis
(l) Madshus Nanosonic Intelligrip Classic skis (r) Rossignol X-ium Premium Skate skis Salomon S-lab Carbon Kit ski pole
Rossignol X-ium WC Skate boot
Madshus Super Nano Classic boot