— Karakoram Splitboard Front Points
Dear Lord. Normally, we give this award to the most spectacular, over-the-top marketing copy from the show. But this year, Karakoram’s new splitboard binding crampons don’t even need words — which is truly the ultimate swagger. I mean, take a look:
Karakoram said that they have been testing their new Front Point splitboard binding attachments by climbing vertical waterfall ice — in snowboard boots.
If Batman was a splitboarder, this is what he’d use. And if Trump and Kim Jong Un issue in a nuclear apocalypse we’re betting on the survival of cockroaches and these crampons.
Extreme Makeover Award
— Line Chronic
After remaining relatively unchanged for years, the Chronic is receiving a facelift for 18/19. Line is tapering the tips, bumping the waist width up from 92 mm to 95 mm, and tweaking the flex pattern to theoretically improve the skis all-mountain performance.
The “We’re Finally Going to Review It Award”
Good news: we’ve actually already put a number of days on the Blend, so keep an eye out for our review in the next couple weeks…
The “Good Idea” Award
— Making Smaller Sizes of Ski Boots
Tecnica is making their new Zero G Tour Pro boot in sizes all the way down to a 22.5. That means smaller individuals (men or women) will still be able to use the stiffest version of Tecnica’s new touring boot, which we think makes a whole lot of sense. And the Lange Freetour XT now comes in a size 22.5 as well. And given how well that boot skied, we think this should be on the radar of a lot of folks with smaller feet.
— Black Diamond’s Removable Whippet
Black Diamond has been making the Whippet — a ski pole with a ice-axe style pick at the top — for years. It provides a bit more peace of mind while ascending steep, consequential terrain, but it’s also a bit unnerving trying to ski down that steep, consequential terrain with a steel blade sticking out from your hand. So, Black Diamond is introducing a redesigned version of the Whippet that allows you to remove the axe portion of the pole. Nice.
Intriguing Women’s Ski Gear Awards
— Tecnica Zero G Tour Scout W
Tecnica completely redesigned their Zero G boots for 18/19, and are not only offering their 130 and 120 flex version in sizes down to a 22.5, but are also offering women-specific versions with slightly softer flexes. The new boots use an all-new mold, lightweight buckles, a beefy ski / walk mechanism very similar to the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD boots, and are coming in at an impressively low stated weight (the stated weight of the 130-flex Zero G Tour Pro is 1320 grams)
— Blizzard Sheeva 9
Blizzard introduced the Sheeva 10 and 11 (102 and 112 mm underfoot, respectively) this season, and for 18/19 Blizzard is introducing the 92 mm underfoot Sheeva 9. With a playful rocker profile and similar construction to the men’s Rustler 10 (and new for 18/19 Rustler 9), the Sheeva 9 looks like it could be a fun all-mountain ski when the snow isn’t stacking up.
— Nordica Pro Machine 115 W
Nordica is replacing the GPX series (top stated flex of 105) with the Pro Machine, and the women’s version has a top stated flex of 115 for 18/19. The boot will feature a higher cuff in the stiffer flexes, which also seems to be a good move. All the boots in the women’s Pro Machine line have a stated last of 98 mm, come in sizes 22.5-27.5, and range in stiffness from 115, 105, 95, and 85.
Most Intriguing Outerwear Awards
— Strafe and Flylow’s Proprietary Air Permeable Membranes
Both Strafe and Flylow released their own air permeable membranes at the show, with Strafe’s “Recon Stretch 3L” being used on their updated Cham kit, and Flylow’s “Perm” fabric being used on their new Cooper Jacket and Smythe Bibs. The fabrics look to be some interesting competition for Polartec NeoShell, eVent, etc., and we’ll be getting time in them soon.
— Woven Baffles / Quilting
Rab and Marmot were both showing new down jackets that, instead of using traditional baffled or stitch-through construction, the individual channels were actually woven together. These look very interesting, and seem like they could help decrease weight and increase durability thanks to the lack of actual seams.
— “Gore-Tex Fabric With Stretch Technology”
Despite having one of the least inventive names at the show, this new fabric from Gore is very interesting. It’s debuting on two new products for 18/19: the Mammut Nordwand Flex HS Jacket / Pants and Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket / Bibs. The fabric stretches at very low forces (Outdoor Research claims it stretches at 25% of the force required to stretch other waterproof fabrics), and after a quick fit test, the fabric definitely provides an impressive amount of stretch and mobility. We’ll be getting in the Hemespheres Jacket very soon to give it a thorough test.
— Really Burly Snow Pants
Snow pants go through a lot — they have to deal with sharp ski edges, trees and rocks, and the occasional (or frequent) tomahawk down the hill. So, it makes sense to design heavy-duty options — two of which stood out to us at the show. Norrona’s 3L Gore-Tex Pro Lofoten Bibs use a 200-denier face fabric, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a heavier-weight Gore Pro shell. On the less technical side, but similarly impressive is Patagonia’s Mountain Utility Pant, which uses a 1200 denier face fabric with the brand’s proprietary H2No membrane. The fabric on these pants basically feels like that of a heavy-duty backpack, and we’d expect it to hold up very well to season after season of abuse.
— Black Crow’s Outerwear
Many people know Black Crow’s unique design aesthetic from their skis, but they also incorporate their famous chevron designs on the interior of their apparel — even down to the seam tape on their 3L shells. If you’re looking for the ultimate level of coordination between your skis and outerwear, Black Crows is probably the way to go.
Most Intriguing Base Layer Awards
— Craft Sportswear’s FuseKnit Base Layers
For 18/19, Craft is introducing “FuseKnit” across most of their line. Essentially, this refers to products that have areas where different types of knit structures (e.g. a tight jersey knit and an open mesh) connect without using a seam. Though Craft has been using seamless construction for a while, their 18/19 FuseKnit pieces look really interesting, and the degree to which they can change the structure of the fabric without seams is seriously impressive.
— Patagonia Capilene Air
We were big fans of the original Patagonia Merino Air Hoody, and now they’re bringing it back under the new name of “Capilene Air.” Check out our review of the Merino Air Hoody for more on this unique base layer.
A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words Award
We’ve got a tie this year:
NEXT: In part 3, we conclude with our “Favorite Person We Talked to; Good or Bad Industry Trends; Best & Worst Graphics; Most Innovative Product; WTF is That? Award, and More…