10/1/2023 2023/24 Season Preview
With the aroma of pumpkin latte in the air and the first dustings of snow having been sighted (and skied) in the higher elevations out West, the time has come for our annual season preview. While in-category innovation is alive and well within the backcountry ski industry, category-defining products are largely absent this year. We have a strong suspicion that engineers and designers were simply too busy harvesting powder during last year's epic winter to dream up new products to address barely-existent problems. So with categorical evolution rather than revolution as our theme, we present our 2023/24 season preview:
Calling all Carbonophiles - While full-carbon boots are nothing new, the 2026 Olympic debut for Skimo racing prompted manufacturers to double down on their commitment to racers. Joining the likes of the SCARPA Alien 4.0 and Dynafit DNA, the La Sportiva Stratos VI is fresh on the scene and promises to assist all those with podium intentions. While not new per se, Pierre Gignoux has expanded his presence in North America, meaning that we can now offer the venerable Black and Mountain boots. With these additions, we are able to provide the most comprehensive carbon boot collection under a single roof. So come on down and try them on.
Binding Composites - With the latest crop of bindings from Salomon, Atomic, and Marker starting to hit our shelves, one trend has become evident: binding manufacturers are shifting towards composite materials with carbon fiber playing a big role. Long used in alpine bindings, composites have proven themselves to be durable and reliable in cold temperatures, all while being lighter weight and less expensive than their metal siblings. While the feel of an all-metal binding will remain confidence-inspiring for many, carbon composites offer a compelling alternative and are here to stay.
Airbags have Grown Up - Modular airbags have been around for some time. So have electric-powered systems that bypass the inconvenience of refilling canisters. However, these airbags were often accused of being heavy and complicated. Having survived their teenage years, the latest offerings attempt to shake off that stigma. Delaying launch last season for quality assurance, Ortovox has released its modular LiTRIC airbag system to the world. The touring packs find a compelling mix of weight, stability, and comfort. Available in multiple pre-assembled sizes, you can acquire additional Zip-On Packs to vary the volume you selected. If you prefer the lightest option for big missions, Ortovox offers the LiTRIC Zero 27 which utilizes the same electronics without the modularity (and associated weight) of the touring version.
Speed Touring Skins - While racers have long benefited from the superior glide and transition efficiency of tip-rip race skins, these characteristics have not been readily available for wider skis...until now. Landing at the tail end of last season, the Guide Speed Skin from Contour proved to be an instant hit as it paired race plush, reliable hotmelt glue, and bungee tips with a touring-friendly width. Slightly tweaking this formula, the Kohla Performance Mohair skin also uses a race plush while opting for a traditional elasticized tail strap so the skin can arrive preassembled. Finally, for the tailless adherents, Voile now offers their Hyper Glide Objective skins without a tail clip of any kind, speeding transitions while shedding weight. As always, we're happy to notch your skis so you can join the party.
Trans Movement Squared - With transition lenses that adjust to light conditions and superior breathability relative to goggles, sunglasses like the Julbo Ultimate Cover have long been favored by alpine adventurers. Skiers, however, can be loath to forgo their big shields. Smith is easing your alpine transition by supporting Cody Townsend's project with the Pursuit, placing a ChromaPop Glacier lens in a frame big enough for face shots. If you've already embraced your inner mountaineer, the Embark features the same photochromatic lens in a smaller profile. We affirm your transition from goggles to transition glasses.
More Lean Beef - When La Sportiva introduced the Skorpius CR in the wee years of 2019, many skiers were blown away by its game-changing ratio of tourability to skiability. We were even forced to coin the term "lean beef" to differentiate its performance characteristics relative to its competition. Now describing boots with better-than-average downhill performance and polite uphill mannerisms, this subcategory of "lean beef" has been rife with competition. Utilizing a carbon-infused cuff, the Transalp Carbon Pro from Fischer takes the throne as its flagship touring boot, offering better downhill performance than its predecessor. The Backland Carbon XTD 120 arrives from Atomic and bridges the performance between their freeride-oriented Hawx Ultra XTD and touring-focused Backland Carbon, all while offering a relaxed fit that is sure to please those with medium-wide feet. Finally, Dalbello has made some thoughtful updates to their lean beef boot, reintroducing it as the Quantum Free Pro.
Cross Breeding Packs - When the CAMP Ski Raptor made its debut in 2018, we noted it could be a trendsetter because of its smart combination of freeride and mountaineering traits. This upcoming season, a number of options have emerged that smartly combine features across categories. Built for freeride missions in the high alpine, the Ortovox Ravine combines the quick ski carry and easy-to-access crampon pocket of a mountaineering pack with the durable and supportive design of a freeride pack. The Mammut Aenergy ST crosses a roll-top lid and a dedicated avalanche safety pocket with the handiness of a vest. If you want to stick with the brand that started the trend, CAMP has thoughtfully updated its Ski Raptor 20 to include a safety compartment, making it even more user-friendly.
Free Mountaineering Company - When we first opened in 2013, freeride touring equipment was essentially alpine gear with adaptations that allowed it to crawl uphill (looking at you, frame bindings). Today, skiers have options to combine free skiing with reasonably efficient backcountry travel. From Dynafit, the Free Infinium getup provides relaxed, breathable, and functional (skin pockets!) clothing for those tired of sweating in waterproof shells. From Smith, the Summit helmet provides MIPS protection with backcountry-friendly ventilation and weight. ATK has released the lightweight Raider EVO series of bindings, offering even more skiability and performance in an intuitive platform. Salomon created the lighter QST Echo to provide a confident ski that excels across a variety of backcountry conditions. With high-contrast photochromic lenses that pop away for airflow, the Julbo Lightyear is the most compelling goggle to tackle every condition. The relentless gear progression may force us to dust off the Freemo.co domain name soon...
We've expanded - Heeding Ronald Reagan's famous words, we've torn down walls to join the (newly acquired) East and West parts of our store. Compared to our cozy storefront from years past, we now are able to comfortably display our evergrowing catalog of backcountry ski equipment, providing extra breathing room for those we are lucky enough to see in person. If winter running is counted among your list of activities, SkyRun now has its own dedicated space, meaning you can try on winter running shoes with tranquility. Perhaps more excitedly, we finally have the space to offer a specialized backcountry tune shop. So whether you need a wax to match the corn cycle, a base weld to hide rock damage, or a high-angle edge bevel for steep skiing, we have you covered.
And with that, we thank you for reading our annual season preview. Whether you need help preparing for the upcoming season or just want to say hi, we hope you'll come to pay us a visit. Either way, we will see you in the hills!
Best shop, expertise and service in the country hands down. Worth flying into SLC just to look around and get your gear properly fitted.