10/1/2020 2020/21 Season Preview
It's October! The 10th calendar month has historically marked the beginning of the season for us at Skimo Co as new gear pours in, bootfitting appointments ramp up, and we grow increasingly impatient for the snow to arrive. Needless to say, 2020 has been quite the doozy but this gear preview should help refocus your mind on the important things in life. Yes, skiing. We expect the pandemic to encourage more skiers to venture into the backcountry this winter as they avoid pass reservations, socially distanced lift lines, and other resort frustrations. Now might be the time to shave a few grams on your setup to help get you further out there and away from the crowds. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be too hard as we’re convinced that the ski engineers made good use of their time in quarantine.
New constructions. A host of ski manufacturers dusted off their drawing boards and released skis with brand new touring-specific constructions. Almost without exception, the changes have worked, resulting in noticeably better performing skis. We picked up new lines from alpine-stalwarts Volkl and Scott as they finally met our high standards for the backcountry. Dynafit is in a higher class this year with the Blacklight series - their best yet. Movement continues trending upwards with another tweak to the Alp Tracks platform. And then there’s DPS, whose Pagoda Tour line has exceeded all expectations in lightweight performance, albeit at an unfriendly price. It’s getting harder to find truly bad skis, but as usual, we separate the wheat from the chaff for you (yes, we test them all).
Dude, what’s up with that pole? Ski poles have never been a particularly sexy topic and many skiers give very little thought to what they carry in their hands. Some even consider a tree branch an adequate substitute in a pinch. However, this season’s poles look to abruptly change that notion as they transform boring sticks into both fashion statements and better functioning tools. Last season we started working with French mountain guide Alain Desez who makes unique batons in fun colors that are turning heads across the US. The poles feature unusually long handles which means you can grip them anywhere as you’re flowing through the mountains. Similarly, famed pole-maker Scott joins the fray with their own twist on pole length usability. The new RC Pro has a strap that can easily slide up and down the handle, allowing you to quickly find the perfect position for whatever slope or sidehill you find yourself climbing. Not to be outdone, Ski Trab put together the first custom-length adjustable pole. This oxymoronic descriptor means that you cut the lower shaft to your ideal ski length while keeping the ability to extend it higher for skinning. A quick flick at the top will knock it back to the perfect downhill length quicker than you can say “dropping!”
Fat skis for short folk. We’re here for you! Long neglected, this group of skiers now finally has a multitude of options to choose from. Historically, it’s been hard to find short skis in wide widths, however, Voile recently took a crack at solving the problem with the 154cm Hyper Vector, Hyper Charger, and Hyper Drifter. Atomic has also jumped in to service these vertically-challenged powder-slayers with the 156cm Backland 98 Women’s and 159cm Backland 107. What’s that you say, Volkl, a 156cm Rise Beyond 98? Now we’re talking. And it just might be DPS who gets the last laugh, simultaneously releasing the 153cm Pagoda Tour 100, the 155cm Pagoda Tour 106, and the 158cm Pagoda Tour 112. From this selection, you can now choose by weight, performance, price, and all the other attributes that average-height skiers have long enjoyed.
Tagged Products: Voile 154 Hyper Vector, Voile 154 Hyper Charger, Voile 154 Hyper Drifter, Atomic 156 Backland 98 Women's, Atomic 159 Backland 107, Volkl 156 Rise Beyond 98, DPS 153cm Pagoda Tour 100, DPS 155cm Pagoda Tour 106, DPS 158cm Pagoda Tour 112
Hands-free risers. Backcountry skiers have accumulated a plethora of tricks to manage their climbing risers without the need to bend down. From convoluted pole-twists to specially designed handles and baskets that help flip flaps, it’s clear that there’s a desire to avoid constantly bending over in rolling terrain. Atomic decided to go for a moonshot attempt at alleviating this minor problem once and for all: the Autoclimb binding. Using a hydraulic piston, the binding will sense a change in the terrain and after a few steps auto-magically adjust to support your heel in the new position. Is the weight trade-off worth it? To be determined but we think some customers will see ease-of-riser-flippage as the main selling point. Kudos to Atomic for rolling the dice and attempting to measure this demand.
Tagged Products: Atomic Backland Autoclimb Binding
Sniffing Smart Glue. Cheers to Pomoca for opening the eyes of North Americans to the joys of “manageable” glue while day touring. That is, easy to peel apart from itself and to pull off your skis in one rip. Contour followed suit with their Hybrid glue formula. Kohla now comes to market with a related but different “smart” glue that’s amazing to handle. The key change was to switch the backing material from cloth to rubber, thus altering the requirements of the adhesive. Together, this makes the new Alpinist and Freeride skins waterproof, super packable, and a pleasure to manage. We’re offering these as kits and off the roll.
Adjustable race-weight bindings. Perhaps a touch over podium weight, some bindings this year are offering a good amount of release adjustability for practically nothing. Okay, before you get too excited, that “nothing” is measured in grams - not dollars. The Dynafit Superlite 150 weighs nearly that little in grams but offers a rather impressive release adjustment range of 4-13, laterally. The BD 200 LT weighs only 20ish grams more while adding fully adjustable vertical release to the mix. Many skiers will argue this category is the perfect blend of weight and safety. All skiers, however, will agree that brands should stop naming their bindings after a weight-in-grams when they don’t actually weigh that amount. As always, you can check out our “Specs Verified” listings for the true story.
Pre-mounted skis. Dynafit is attempting to change the marketplace by selling backcountry ski kits with bindings and skins already attached. These kits are more straightforward to buy and are also convenient for folks migrating to online shopping due to Covid-19. Dynafit debuted the kits with beginner tourers in mind. The Youngstar ski set caters to the kiddos while the revamped Seven Summits ski set offers older folks a quick and affordable way to begin exploring out of bounds. Admittedly, these packages may sacrifice standing in the perfect position on your skis, but it’s a tradeoff many are willing to take, especially parents whose kids are changing boot lengths so fast anyhow.
Knocking down walls. At our physical retail store, we’re literally knocking down a wall and expanding into the neighboring space. This will enable us to social distance better while we bootfit and will also make storing the world’s largest skimo gear collection a little less comical. Our tech team is especially psyched to get a larger space with, gasp, natural light!
Swing on by to say hello and check out the new space as you make your way back down from the Wasatch mountains. We are open to the public with Covid-19 precautions in place so please wear a mask, use the supplied hand sanitizer, and call ahead or make an appointment online for a social distanced bootfitting session. It may look a little different this year, but we’re more excited than ever to help you gear up for an amazing winter.
Regardless of where your home mountains are, we wish you a deep and stable snowpack. See you out there!