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Crossover Gear with Powerful Appeal

In 2014-15, lightweight gear is no longer just for backcountry skiers.
By Sam Bass
posted: 01/24/2014

When Luke Jacobson, VP and chief engineer at Reno-based Moment Skis, says his brand’s focus is “making a light ski with resort-style confidence,” he may as well be speaking for any brand playing in the backcountry space, ski or boot. As the line between backcountry and resort gear continues to blur, brands are chasing the holy grail of light-yet-strong equipment, building ascent-friendly gear that doesn’t sacrifice descending power.

Skis, Light and Strong

Carbon fiber and ultra-light wood-core blends are the soup du jour for a number of new tour-friendly big-mountain models, like Atomic’s Backland Drifter and Völkl’s new V-Werks BMT 109. Like last season’s high-tech V-Werks Katana, the BMT has an eye- catching, three-dimensional construction. G3’s Synapse is another 109-waisted carbon- wood blend, while Black Diamond’s Carbon Convert brings BD’s proven carbon- paulownia recipe to the versatile Convert shape (133/105/117).

Paulownia, a fast-growing Asian deciduous wood beloved by backcountry ski builders for being both stiff and light, is also used in Fischer’s new Hannibal 100, Dynafit’s Denali, and—blended with maple—in K2’s new Coomback 104, which also features a slick snow-shedding topsheet to prevent heavy buildup during ascents. Icelantic’s Ochroma core, found in the new Ranger, uses balsa, while Liberty’s revamped Variant 97 gets a light titanal/bamboo core (and a notched, skin-friendly tail). Voilé uses an aspen core combined with custom weave carbon glass in its new 100-mm V6 for “rigorous lightweight standards without sacrifice in performance.” La Sportiva dispenses with wood altogether in its featherweight Vapor Nano, a 101-waisted, all-carbon job weighing in at 2,400 grams per pair.

Moment’s Jacobson says his brand is always experimenting with new laminate con- figurations, and the 115-mm-waisted Exit World big-mountain touring ski is now lighter as a result. In Salomon’s new Quest BC Lab, a proprietary carbon-flax fabric called “CFX Superfiber” has damping properties that make heavier fiberglass and rubber layers un- necessary. Meanwhile DPS, whose lightweight carbon and carbon-wood fatties have long been popular with the powder-hungry touring set, will offer a metal-laminate construction for a more traditional, planted ride. For ’14-’15, Faction updates its Agent 90W touring ski with a paulownia wood core for lightness and carbon reinforcements for stability.

Two Austrian brands focus on shape. Kästle’s 82-mm-waisted TX 82 Tour Aguille fills a width gap in the brand’s TX ski-mountaineering line, between the TX 77 and TX 97, while new exhibitor Hagan’s Y-Series uses a wide-tip-and-pintail design for both float and agility.

Surface’s new Ruess is a 108-mm-waisted ski with Nordic-style fishscales for low- angle ascents, while Alpina’s WILD100 offers the same benefits in a slightly narrower package. And remember that blurred line we mentioned? RMU now offers skin-clip tail notches throughout its collection.

Boots, Strong and Light

As skis go, so go boots—light and strong is king. “Being only a lightweight boot or a performance boot is no longer an option,” says Chris McKearin, alpine commercial manager for Salomon. “Consumers are demanding both.” They’re also demanding heat-moldable custom liners and swappable soles, and nearly every boot listed here offers both.

First, the stout descenders. Salomon’s Quest Pro TR 110, with its massive 47-degree stride range, is designed for aggressive skiers who demand downhill power in a relatively light boot (two pounds per pair) with optional tech fittings. First Degree, the boot brand launched by Icelantic and based on a Deeluxe snowboard hardboot design, upgrades the liners for its ST1 and ST2 models for better fit and performance. K2’s Minaret is a women-specific version of the company’s successful freeride touring boot, the Pinnacle. And Dalbello’s Krypton Lupo 110 is a slightly softer version of the Krypton Lupo S.P. Both feature three-piece Cabrio constructions with hike-mode mechanisms.

Next, some lighter models. Representing its first foray, at least on this side of the pond, into the backcountry boot realm, Fischer launches the new Transalp Vacuum TS Lite, borrowing technology from its fully moldable Vacuum alpine boots. Scott’s Cosmos II, with its improved tech fittings, builds on an innovative three-piece Paul Parker design from the Garmont days. Dynafit’s new, four-buckle Radical CR promises unparalleled out-of-box fit and improved walk-ski mode transitions, while Scarpa’s F1 Evo boots, which blend the downhill chops of the Maestrale/Gea with the touring prowess of the Alien, switch between ski and walk modes automatically, depending on whether the boot heel is locked into the binding.

(From the SIA Snow Show Preview)

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