Thursday, November 22, 2012
Steamboat Springs Every trend comes to an end, and even as the newest crop of skis and snowboards push the envelope in some areas, manufacturers have doubled back in others, perfecting or even reversing some of the trends that have defined the marketplace in recent years.
It’s not quite “what’s old is new again," but rather the bold lessons of the new mixed with the expertise of the old that shoppers will find when they set out early this season to cobble together the latest and greatest in ski and snowboards.
Take snowboards, for instance. A few years ago, rocker was the brave new step in boards. Those boards came with a large built-in curve, their profile looking more like a contact lens than a flat piece of wood. A rider’s feet sat flush with the ground and the tips bowed up on either end.
That had its advantages.
“Everyone loved it because you could go into some deep trees, it floated like a dream and you could land front foot heavy,” Powder Tools’ Teddy Heid said. “The only thing was when you got back to that hardpack, it could be sketchy.”
Camber — often with more of a bump in the middle — is the more traditional style of board. When a rider is weighing down the center, the board makes plenty of contact with the snow.
The rocker advantages can be great, especially on sweet powder days, but the number of riders capable of owning a board for every individual snow condition isn’t large. For the everyday rider, an everyday board makes more sense.
Heid pointed to the Salomon Villain, a gleaming white $449 camber board.
“A lot of the stuff is starting to come back to full camber,” Heid said. “The Villain is a new all-around freestyle board. They do an equalizer side cut with three angles. This year they added a little radial sidecut, which makes it a little more aggressive and makes it a little easier to ride, too.
“They’ve gone through all the other shapes and kind of trial and errored their way back. They’re trying to get that one board for everybody, what I call the roadtrip broad.”
Skis adjusting, as well
The story isn’t far different with the 2012-2013 skis. Sure, there are a slew of big fat options, the kind you may struggle to squeeze into the ski compartment in the gondola. Then there are others, where the industry has doubled back to fill in holes left in the scramble for rocker market share.
Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare’s Bill Kipper offered one of the skis he says offers a bit of the rocker bend that’s been so popular in skis but also is designed to maintain excellent handling on groomers and harder snow.
The Cham 97 from Dynastar may be unfortunately named for the United States market. Cham doesn’t refer to sham as in a hoax, but Cham as in Chamonix in France. But Kipper said the ski, $800 at Ski & Bike Kare, is a great way to get around the mountain.
“It has a really wide shovel with lots of rocker up front, so it floats really well in deep powder. In the back, they have what’s called the pintail, to help the ski sink a little in the powder to keep the shovel up and allow it to release really easily out of the turns,” he said. “I skied it last year and my biggest comment was that it flows down the hill. It’s super easy to ski.”
Dynastar also makes slightly wider and skinner versions.
He also mentioned the Salomon Rocker 2 and the women’s version, the Rockette, both for $625.
It obviously also features rocker up front and a bit in the tail, as well.
“Having it in the shovel and the tail makes for a little easier turn initiation,” Kipper said. “That price, $625, is an awesome price for a ski like that.”
John Kole at One Stop Ski Shop stocks Dynastars, as well, but he also offered a similar ski from Rocky Mountain Underground, a Denver-based ski company, that featured rocker in the front and straight in the back.
“That flat tail, that’s going to track like a mother,” he said. “It’s a really nice all-mountain ski.“
But as proof that a lot of things come full circle, one of the skis that One Stop is offering is the Triumph from Armada that doesn’t feature anything from the rocker revolution.
“Not everyone wants rocker. Some people want a more traditional style, and we have it here,” he said. “It’s fun in the bumps and making smooth turns. On piste it just rips.”
It doesn’t feature any of the gnarly graphics of other skis and instead has a simple deep slate gray topsheet.
As the industry becomes ever more complex with varying bends, sidecuts and dozens of features, it’s hard to argue with plain old simple.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com