The fashions are colorful, the gear rocks, and both are more
high-tech than ever - and guaranteed to make you more comfortable
on the slopes.
Guaranteed? No way, you think.
Think again, and then shop till you drop 'cause right now the
sales are on!
For many a snow-sport aficionado, the weather presents the
biggest challenge to great days on the mountain. For some it can
present a problem of being warm enough, for others keeping cool or
dry. But when it comes to personal comfort, consider that there is
no such thing as "bad weather," just the wrong clothing.
Ditto for equipment. Skis and boards are so much better than 10
years ago that there really isn't any 'bad' equipment out there,
but there is 'wrong' equipment for your specific needs, terrain
preference(s), and ability level. In fact, the plethora of choices
can be overwhelming.
The solution to such challenges is good communication with a
salesperson at a winter-sports specialty shop. Their staff "are
knowledgeable because they attend clinics and seminars and get to
talk with manufacturers," notes Sharon Funaro, assistant manager at
the Okemo Snowsports Shop.
Lee Quaglia, owner of Aspen East and Surf the Earth in
Killington, adds that, "Our staff tests equipment at several
on-snow trade shows before we order for the next season so we
really know how the equipment performs."
"Staff can fix any problem," observes Bill Langlands, proprietor
of Darkside, a 'core snowboard shop in Killington.
Even if you don't have a problem and are just looking to update
your wardrobe or gear, knowledgeable salespeople can assist by
explaining features and function - and that can lead to more
personal comfort and, thus, more fun.
ADVANCES IN SNOW WEAR
For anyone bothered by cold hands, simple hand-warmer packets may
be the answer. Funaro calls them "little miracles." However, there
are also heated gloves with pushbuttons to control the heat
setting. With their thin lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, they
are comfortable and can be the answer to a vexing problem.
Other "heated" garments available include balaclava masks,
vests, and socks. All are more expensive routes to comfort, but
work amazingly well. For most people, the technological advances in
fabrics make heated items unnecessary.
Funaro advises outdoor enthusiasts to choose "base layers made
from synthetic fibers - not cotton, throw it out." Synthetics allow
moisture to escape, keeping you drier and therefore warmer. Wicking
fabrics have been around for a while but are now made from more
advanced fabrics that work better, she added.
Photo courtesy of Killington
BJ models an Obermeyer outfit while showing the men's orange
jacket and plaid pants that were so popular this year. Yellows,
pinks, purples, prints and florals were popular in adult and
Advanced synthetics have improved the performance of most
clothing, from socks and base layers to outerwear and gloves.
Barbara "BJ" Jeromin, who works at the Killington Sports'
Obermeyer Shop, said that new membranes foster waterproofing and
breathability, lighter and warmer linings and insulations
(micro-weight fleece, Permaloft, recycled polyesters, etc.), and
other advances like laminate constructions and DWR (durable water
repellant) outer coatings and make clothing more comfortable while
offering more protection from the elements.
Jeromin explained that tags with numbers like 10,000mm/10,000g
indicate the degree of waterproofing and breathability built into a
garment. The higher the numbers, the better and the more expensive
the garment is likely to be.
Those who only ski in fair weather can do fine with less
expensive products, but if layers get damp, a more breathable pant
or jacket that allows body-moisture vapor to escape will be
appreciated, she noted.
For those who ski/ride in any and all weather, waterproof and
breathable clothing with additional features like sealed seams,
waterproofed zippers, and ventilation inserts (to prevent
overheating) will provide the most comfort, she added.
Fleece linings at wrist, neck, or ear locations, tricot-lined
pockets, powder skirts (in jackets), and jackets that zip together
with pants are among other features that increase comfort.
New mid-layers like Obermeyer's women's "down sweater" are
lighter in weight, toasty, and fit under jackets thanks to new
weavings of down fibers that also enable them to double as a light
jacket on a warm day or for après evenings, thus solving a packing
problem for trips. Ski sweaters also feature soft merino or alpaca
wools and new designs.
New fabrics that mimic the sweatshirt or jeans look, sport
features like water repellency and breathability, thus enhancing
the options for the youthful market or those who like to appear
casual. A woman's high-tech silk jacket can similarly satisfy the
fashionista who craves function and performance.
Children's clothing is more rugged to withstand playing in the
snow while sporting the new features and fabrics that will keep
them warm and dry. Obermeyer's I-Grow feature in children's
jackets, bibs, and pants provides generous hems that can be let out
for additional years of use, Jeromin said.
The trend has been toward more colorful prints, florals,
stripes, plaids, and bright solids extends to womens' children's,
and men's wear, Jeromin added, noting that Obermeyer's bright
orange print pants for men sold out quickly. Plaids vary from the
red/black traditional lumberjack look to the brilliant blue flannel
of Helly Hansen's Odin insulated shirt, a mid-layer that can double
as cool après-wear or an 'urban woodsman' look in the city.
Jeromin noted that since Klaus Obermeyer started Sport Obermeyer
[62 years ago] with the first down ski parka, the many innovations
in fabrics and fashions have made them "more efficient and
effective" in keeping people comfortable, which, in turn, has
contributed to less time in the lodge and more time on the
Cathy Quaglia observes that some of us have a tendency to hang on
to our ski wear for too long and miss out on the new advances which
lead to greater comfort, whether it's warmth that is needed or
staying dry in all kinds of weather.
She points to the Gore-Tex demonstration kit that shows how
high-tech fabrics really do make a difference - by illustrating
that our bodies generate heat and moisture vapor which can make us
uncomfortable if it can't escape (demonstrated by a two mitt - one
Gore-Tex, one clear plastic- experiment.
Gore-Tex® is an extremely thin membrane that's waterproof,
windproof, and breathable because it has over 9 billion pores per
square inch that allow human moisture vapor (sweat) to escape
through it because water vapor is 700 times smaller than a pore. A
water droplet, however, is 20,000 times larger than a pore so it
can't get through and thus the membrane is waterproof and
Some manufacturers use Gore-Tex while others feature their own
proprietary membranes. "It's important to look for the numbers
which indicate how waterproof and breathable the products are,"
TRENDS, ONE BOARD OR TWO
While vibrant colors, florals and prints have recently become the
rage in skier clothing, those fashion developments can be traced to
snowboarding, noted Langlands, who stated that years ago,
manufacturers were more amenable to "experimenting and taking risks
due to snowboarding's more youthful culture."
Similarly, snowboards led the graphics revolution seen on
today's skis, and skiing copied sidecut from snowboards, too.
Snowboards also sported rocker first with Lib Tech's original
Banana board featuring full rocker (a base profile shaped like a
banana), Langlands added.
There have been many technology changes since with camber, full
rocker, and various combinations of rocker and camber now featured
"Boards have never ridden better," Langlands said. One of the
changes he likes is the NUG model from Burton, which is a
full-rocker board that can be ridden 8 to 10 cm shorter.
At Surf the Earth Snowboards and the adjoining Aspen East Ski
Shop, salespeople in both departments noted the tremendous range of
features among various makes and models of snowboards and skis.
While everyone can find a snowboard to meet their needs, there
isn't one board that will suit everyone so it's important for the
salesperson to learn about the rider's experience and preferred
terrain, noted Ted Manning, manager and buyer for Surf the
Among the latest trends are "the hybrids that blend rocker and
camber and a resurgence in traditional camber boards, driven from
more aggressive riders who want a more powerful feel," Manning
said. The spectrum of boards include those designed specifically
for learners, powder, terrain parks, kids, and ladies (with softer
flex, different binding placements, narrower width.) They come in a
variety of flex patterns, camber/rocker blends, or pure rocker or
camber only, which make some more versatile and others more
specific to a type of terrain with literally hundreds to choose
from, he noted.
Today's trend in skis is wider, rocker, and hotter graphics.
Wider waists underfoot offers better stability in variable snow
conditions with 84-98mm waists now the average for all-mountain
skis (compared to 72-82 mm five years ago,) explained Lisa Swett of
The widest or "fat" skis (105-130 mm underfoot) and super-fats
(140 mm) work best in powder.
When it comes to rocker skis, they are beneficial for all levels
of skiers due to their easy turn initiation, being less hooky, and
enabling a smoother entry to the turn when on edge," Swett
Swett demonstrates rocker technology (or upward bend of a ski)
by placing a pair base-to-base. Under the foot and extending toward
tip and tail, most skis have camber, which means the bases are not
perfectly flat but arch outward (away from each other) so they
don't touch for much of their length. (This enables a skier to
weight the ski under foot and pressure it so that when tipped on
edge, the ski engages the snow and starts to turn.)
When cambered skis with rocker, or upward rise in the tips and
tails, are squeezed together at the waist, the tips and tails bend
outward more (upward when on snow) which makes them less
susceptible to hooking in loose snow, more manageable, and
facilitates learning to carve.
Manufacturers are making skis with traditional camber only,
camber with tip rocker or tip and tail rocker, and full
Fatter width (113 mm waist, 143 mm tip, 132 mm tail) with camber
plus a lot of rocker makes for a versatile ski that can work in
powder and on hardpack.
Twin Tips also feature varying degrees of rocker today and are
"super fun, all-mountain skis, not just park skis," Swett
Lee Quaglia noted that mogul skiers still prefer more traditional
narrow skis because they are quicker edge to edge for falline
skiing. "You'll see lots of Dynastar Twister skis that we've sold
for the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge this weekend," he
All agreed that demoing - trying new models before purchasing - is
advisable for everyone.
Photo by Karen D. Lorentz
Sharon Funaro shows the new heated ladies glove with three
heat settings from Sierus.
DESIGNED FOR WOMEN
Thanks to Jeannie Thoren's pioneering work that led ski
manufacturers to recognize that a woman's build and center of
gravity are different from a man's, we have women-specific skis
designed for all categories of skiers - beginners to experts,
racers to powder hounds. These skis are softer flexing, shorter,
lighter, and have a binding location forward of center, Swett
Another major change came with women-specific boots with narrow
heel pockets, softer flex, and lower cuffs for greater control and
comfort. While stronger women can still ski a shorter unisex or
men's ski, most really need the women's boot, Swett observed.
JoAnn Kavouksorian, co-owner of Mountain Travelers Hike and Ski
Shop, explained that the increasing popularity of Alpine Touring
(AT) and how great it is for an "uphill fitness workout." AT
equipment gives athletes the "ability to climb up with free heels
and ski down with locked heels alpine-style."
Noting that Alpine skiers are already familiar with the step-in
style binding, she said the AT binding can "lock their heels and
have the 'release' they are accustomed to" for downhill runs while
they can free the heel for ease in uphill climbing. "We are selling
more and more AT every year," she noted.
Spring brings bargains in the clothing and gear departments as
shops make room for next year's lines. So it's the best time to
take one's fashion/gear level up a notch.
With the almost four feet of snow that fell in March and
extending their seasons - Pico is reopenign Saturday, Okemo's new
close date is April 21 and Killington appears headed into June! -
there's still time to enjoy new equipment and the latest
Technology is improving all the time, so be sure to ask an expert
to explain the newest features and function.
Next week, look for local experts advice on boots, accessories,
demos, and tuning.
Debate: Rocker technology, who is it designed
When it comes to the new rocker technology, one view says that
the introduction of rocker to alpine skis has improved the ski
experience for all skiers from first-timers to powder hounds to
World Cup racers. It does this by helping skis to "turn with less
effort, carve more easily, and float better in deep snow."
Another view holds that rocker is appropriate for new skiers and
beginners to intermediates or for Western powder.
Rockered powder skis are an epiphany and pure delight in powder,
but they can't carve at high speed on groomed, observes Jackson
Hogen, a recognized ski expert who writes: "any attempt at
simulating a tip-to-tail carved turn is futile, even an expert will
skid like a newbie" (Skiing Heritage, March-April 2013).
That inability to turn as precisely as carving skis do raises a
concern for John Fry, a former editor of SKI Magazine and another
knowledgeable expert. He is concerned that a rockered powder ski
designed for off-piste may not work well for "a skier with
imperfect technique" and could potentially be "dangerous" if its
tendency to skid turns leads to a high-speed skier on hardpack
being unable to avoid colliding with something or someone.
Such concerns illustrate the importance of choosing appropriate
equipment and most likely account for the blends seen in today's
boards and skis, especially for Eastern skiers.