Breaking news: This season, it has already snowed three feet in Montana. Sure, four months from now this headline likely wouldn’t turn heads, but in early October, it’s the start of a near pandemic in the ski community.
Catching many by surprise, the freak storm was caused by two systems colliding during an unseasonably cold snap, turning the waning days of summer into immediate winter. Most of the snow is likely to melt over the next month, but that doesn’t matter. The switch has been flipped. Fresh tracks and deep powder are back – at least in your dreams and on Instagram.
As a sucker for burly winters, I caught this bug and went down a rabbit hole of web crawling and phone calls across the industry to round up the biggest gear innovations to hit the slopes with this winter. Advancements range from performance, safety, and sustainability.
Forget the brand names. Forget iconic mountain towns. Hidden in Burlington, Vermont is an 8-year-old upstart called Renoun that just launched a pair of skis called the Citadel. They are a wider, lighter, carbon fiber ski with … less chatter? Using a proprietary non-newtonian polymer called HDT, the polymer hardens when exposed to vibrations, actively damping the ski. This ability to adapt to conditions is completely new and worth a deeper look.
Designed primarily for ski mountaineering, the Ascenionist builds on a well-established line of packs and apparel used by world-class athletes. The jacket is a lightweight, waterproof, breathable three-layer GORE-TEX, but none of that is new. What makes this jacket special is that it is made from fully recycled materials – just like all 60 other shells that Patagonia launches this fall. Fair Trade Certified, too.
A permanent, one-time application, Phantom forever eliminates the need for waxing skis and snowboards. It’s patented technology offers both convenience and performance, that works well across almost all snow temperatures and for the full life of the ski. While some racers may never give up the pre-race ritual of a fresh wax, Phantom is great for the vast majority of skiers, from inbounds to remote backcountry users.
Designed specifically to be a rugged climbing pack, the Prism is built to carry all the tools necessary for ice climbers, alpinists, and backcountry skiers and snowboards. It was designed as a hybrid of speed, weight, and comfort, the pack uses the Dyneema material that Hyperlite has become known for and adds a removable lid, strong hip belt with gear racks, and straps to keep the pack close to the body. Also, it has a rope and ice axe carry.
The first snow helmet to incorporate NFC Chip technology, the Obex Spin stores users’ medical profiles and can be accessed by first responders. The information allows first responders to provide the best care as fast as possible. Further, the Spin technology is patent-pending to address all types of impacts. A Kevlar reinforced foam liner adds additional strength.
One of the lightest avalanche packs on the market, the Jetforce UL utilizes two small cartridges that combine compressed gas to inflate in less than five seconds. The innovative Alpride 2.0 system clocks in at only 440 grams, making the pack light and still powerful. The cartridges are sealed, making them travel-friendly too. A dedicated avy-tool pocket stores a probe and shovel, and the pack has enough room for essential gear like extra layers, water, and food, too.
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