Spring sales provide great bargains
Fashionistas, gear geeks, techies, and just plain recreational
skiers and riders, it's time to shop till you drop. The sales are
on and, oh my, what you can learn from a saavy salesperson, boot
fitter, or renter/demo expert! Like the latest trends in goggles,
helmets, mitts, poles, and boots and how high-tech translates to
comfort and fun.
Last week I wrote, "The fashions are colorful, the gear rocks,
and both are more than ever technical than ever - and guaranteed to
make you more comfortable on the slopes." Well, that goes for the
When I stopped into a few shops to check out what's new or hot,
I felt like a kid in a candy shop who was being beamed up to the
Here's what I learned and why you ought to check out the sales
and/or attend Demo Day at Killington this Saturday and see for
When I stopped in to see the guys at the Boot Pro in Ludlow, I
chatted with Matt Tripp, asking what's hot or new in
He showed me the Recon I/O Goggles from Smith Optics. They blew
my mind. It wasn't the anti-fog lens or 3-Layer DriWix Face Foam
technology that amazed me most, though. It was the MODLive
Technology features which utilize GPS and Bluetooth so you have
this tiny screen inside the goggle, which gives you everything from
your speed, jump analytics, altitude, distance and even resort
points-of-interest, text messaging and music playlist management.
You can track your buddies who have them as well, Tripp said. The
retail price of $650 makes this a definite one for the
Michael Boisvert, of Evolution Freeride at the Basin Sports Shop
in Killington, is another tech-saavy salesperson who delights in
explaining what's new. He showed me a pair of more "normal" goggles
that technology has improved for the rest of us.
This includes easy pop-out lenses so you can exchange them with
the second pair that came with them (one for flat light and one for
sunny days) or replace as needed. The lens frame is made from a
sturdier rubber that is more pliable; there are better foams that
keep the face drier and warmer; and silicon strips on the inside of
the straps enable them to stay on the helmet better.
Different shapes fit different face shapes and help to do away
with air gaps for less tearing at speed. There are improved
photochromatic lenses that work better in temperatures below 32
degrees due to new coatings.
The design of over-the-glasses goggles has improved, too, and
there's even a model with electric vents with a tiny fan controlled
by a button (operated by a thin lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
Noting that visibility is an important part of safety, Boisvert
advises proper care "Do not remove goggles while riding the gondola
- don't wipe the inside of the lens, be patient and they will defog
when you get outside and circulation returns. Never wipe the inside
lens when it is wet because it will wipe off the antifog coating.
Shake any snow out and then use the hand drier in the restrooms,"
he said. Adding it is only okay to "gently wipe the inside
lens when it is completely dry. Use the lens cloth or the inside of
the goggles bag to wipe the outside lens."
Noting that poor air circulation is what causes lens to fog up,
Boisivert stressed a good fit with the helmet is essential. Some
helmets now have vents built in that assist the air circulation for
the goggles, he said.
Helmets have seen huge improvements in materials and features, too,
and designs and colors are more stylish now as well. Some feature
built-in technology like Bluetooth adapters for music. There are
integrated headphones and plugs for cell phones and ipods.
There are also more options for venting.
Some updated helmets feature a liner of expanded polypropylene
(EPP) instead of expanded polystyrene EPS. Unlike EPS, EPP does not
deform permanently on impact and is therefore suitable to absorb
repetitive shocks. The POC patent-pending ventilated, double-shell,
anti-penetration helmet has a Kevlar-like material called aramid
which enables the outer shell to be softer (for better shock
absorption) and the inner aramid shell to provide a ballistic
penetration barrier (to withstand penetration from sharp
These and other changes are among the many that make helmets
safer and way more comfortable, Boisvert noted. If buying new
goggles, bring in your helmet and vice versa to ensure a good fit,
HEATED BOOTS & MITTS
Tripp couldn't help but point to two "hot" items in the accessory
trends department. First, the Hotronic electric heating system
works well in boots and sells well for those who need more help in
keeping their feet warm, he said. They have a heating element which
the shop installs on the customer's insole and a battery bracket
they place on the boot. With four heat settings and rechargeable
lithium-ion batteries, they retail for $239. There are optional
extension cords for those who want to attach the battery pack at
the waist or elsewhere.
Second, were the Power Heater Mitt ($380 retail,) which proved
to be a very popular item! After trying out the item last year and
selling out, the shop ordered more this year and sold out again.
Technology really has solved problems for people who get cold
easily, Tripp said.
Shon Racicot, owner of the Boot Pro and a Master Fit University
certified boot fitter, notes the importance of stance analysis and
balancing. The goal is to "match a boot to an individual and then
customize it to maximize the skier's performance. Ski boots can be
customized using various techniques to accommodate any individual
foot irregularities, he said.
"Footbeds are most important," he added, saying they are "the
foundation to good balance." They are customized to an individual's
feet and are a good investment that can make a big difference in
Additionally, boot shells and liners can be altered to
accommodate such problems as bunions, bone spurs, circulation
difficulties, and injuries.
"These modifications can greatly improve a skier's comfort and
performance," he stressed, noting no one should suffer from sore
feet or the problems created by ill-fitting boots. Such simple
devices as heel lifts can help correctly align the body for better
performance, particularly for women, he added. Better materials
allow for making warmer and more comfortable liners - some
are heat moldable and there are foam-filled customizable liners
Boot fitter Amy Smedley at the Basin added that boots are better
than years ago because they are made from newer plastics that are
softer and allow for more flex. Some new plastic shells can also be
warmed and molded to fit an individual's feet. The level of
customization can include shell, liner, and footbed depending on a
person's need, she said.
Some are lighter, others sturdier, and some feature more
convenience such as adjustability. There are neon colors and even
The materials vary with aluminum being strongest, but the new
composites like carbon and fiberglas are lighter and more
Some come with different or extra baskets that you can screw on
or off for powder days. The latest technology from Leki features a
Trigger S grip, which consists of a velcro strap that is attached
around the glove and clicks onto the pole for easy on and off and
reduced chance of injury in falls.
DEMOS & RENTALS
Bill Langlands of the Darkside Snowboard Shop noted that with so
many changes in technology, there are different boards for
different purposes and types of riders. After talking to a rider
and finding out more about them - ability level to where they ride
- staff can recommend two or three boards that they might like.
They demo and buy the one they like "the feel of," he noted.
Some people know what they want, but most don't and that's where
a knowledgeable salesperson can offer valuable assistance,
especially with all the changes with camber, full rocker, and
various combinations of rocker and camber now found in snowboards.
"Boards have never ridden better," he stated, but the choices can
be confusing so demoing is a good idea.
At Northern Ski Works, Scott "Scooter" Watelet explained that
people rent or demo for a variety of reasons including: they are
just learning, don't ski often enough to merit the purchase, want
to be on the latest equipment or don't want to haul skis up with
them from the cities. Rental packages are inexpensive and provide
the occasional skier with good value, he noted. Regular rental skis
have the new technology of sidecut and rocker but tend to be
narrower under foot, which makes them user-friendly.
Watelet reports seeing a 60 percent increase in demos this
Noting the latest trends of wider skis (88 mm-width and up under
foot), and rocker, he said that rocker is a definite advance for
all level skiers.
"If you take a 95 mm wide ski with no rocker, it skis like a
tank, but with rocker it has more float for powder and crud and
with camber it handles well on firm and crunchy," he said. He cited
the Blizzard Bonafide with its 98 mm width under the foot and
patented Flip Core 3D technology (the rocker is naturally built
into the ski during construction in a core built process) as
outselling other store skis three to one. He said 80 percent of the
store's demo skis have rocker or early rise, some both tip and tail
and some just tip and a few, like a park ski, have no camber so
they can smear a turn.
He agreed with Langlands that today's demoer needs guidance. We
ask about their skiing - what are you looking to do? Interested in
the next level? Challenge? He added that "a little education helps.
We let the skier know that these skis like to be on edge so don't
run them as flat. They want to turn and are happier on edge in the
natural shape of the ski."
FREE DEMO DAY
This Saturday, April 13, local shops will be offering free demos
which will give skiers and riders a chance to experience what the
new rocker and blends are all about - and see how they perform on
the variable conditions that spring brings.
The demo event will be held by Killington's Roaring Brook
Umbrella Bars where there will also be a Vermont Brewfest going and
Conniption Fits will play a live set from 2 to 5 p.m.
Additionally, Killington will provide Season Pass Holders with a
free BBQ lunch as part of Passholder Appreciation Day.
Photos by Karen D. Lorentz