DENVER, Colorado - Innovation and intuitive smarts are leading the snowsports industry to new heights as it attracts a more diverse participant.
Despite a dismal economy that has stalled real estate and condo sales, ski-industry insiders were all smiles as they put a bow on the 2012 SIA Snow Show on Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center.
What they are witnessing is a broad acceptance to the lifestyle that frames winter snowsports, from the increased participation of women in all disciplines to the mainstream embrace from all walks of life in the free-expression side of the ledger as hip-hop and surf spill into snowboarding and fat-ski riding. And there's a new, yet very old-school, push to attract families when children are at a young, teachable age, and a key driver is that clothing and technology now make it easier for tykes to tackle peaks.
"Yes, there's a lot to smile about. We always have had a lot of work in front of us to market and attract participants and families because there are so many choices," said SIA President David Ingemie, who's been a part of SIA for 30 years. "As we've seen technology change the world, it's had a real positive result on ski and snowboarding. The products we offer have never been more smartly targeted. It's really a fun time to be in this business."
Here are 10 eye-catchers on display the final day at SIA:
Venture Snowboards - It's a marriage made for powder as the Branners have given birth to a no-brainer for powder surfing, the Euphoria splitboard, which debuted at SIA this week. Manufactured in Silverton, the company uses sustainable materials in a wind-powered facility. They devised a pintail shape with a wide nose combined with 21 millimeters of taper and a flat camber-to-rocker shape that keeps you coasting high in the powder. One test-riding blogger called it a "poor man's heli."
ContourROAM - Point-of-view cameras are revolutionizing the experience, be it a day on the mountain or a day out of bounds. The ContourROAM is prepared for anything! It can record at a water depth of 1 meter for as long as 30 minutes. It has a one-touch record switch, records in high definition with three resolutions, and the lens rotates 270 degrees.
Smith Skullcandy - The company's forward-minded Mountain Electronics collection lets you put your groove on while you take on any terrain. Skullcandy comes in three flavors: Bluetooth, Twin-Tip and Single Shot. "Gotta put your groove on while enjoying the day out," said David Currier, general manager of Smith's ophthalmic division. Currier, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team, knows about flow. He was at Volant when the company invented shaped skis and then led the charge at Bolle to take sports eyewear to new heights: tailored lenses for driving, tennis, softball, rain and flat light, all in your prescription.
Fischer Sports - Not a lot has been written about the Nordic niche of winter sports of late, but women have figured out how the sport's challenge fits their fitness regime. Fisher targeted its competitive RCS Carbonlite for women - a torsion-control system that supports the foot, heel and lower Achilles with great stability.
North Face - The Powder Guide ABS Vest is priced at $1,300. Expensive, yes, but consider it life insurance when you meet mayhem! North Face teamed up with Germany's ABS GmcH, which has been making avalanche safety gear for 30 years. The mechanics are the same as in the backpack: compressed nitrogen inflates two high-volume, brightly colored airbags in the sides of the back of the vest. You wear it over a normal ski jacket, and it has space for your normal avalanche safety gear - shovel and probe and Power Bars.
House of Marley - The Bag of Rhythm is a (waterproof) old-school boom box destined to sit atop the blue line and rock the halfpipe, with a shoulder harness to pack it in. It's complete with dual 32-watt 4.5-inch speakers, an iPod-iPhone dock, dual battery and made of recycled products.
Helmet Band-Its - In all their marketing jazz, they say you can go "Geek to Chic." It's an accessory program for the plain helmet. The more trendy and colorful bandanna disguises your boring helmet (one size fits all) and offers matching wrist cuffs. Warning: They sell real fur! Faux Fur from France and Amsterdam; Premium Fur, of Norwegian fox.
K2 - Contour, with its new lacing technology, is red hot for 2012, and it's the boot of choice of Gretchen Bleiler. The Double Boa lacing system is not all that's new in this hoof that designed specifically for females. They've fine-tuned the liners for heel fit and warmth.
HEAD - As HEAD Skis returns home to Boulder, it is reconnecting with the core ski audience: the pedestrian glider who carves groomers, skis packed bumps or just GS's throughout the day in anonymity. The HEAD Rev 85 offers a wide range of waist widths for "better floatation with tip-to-tail edge contact to decrease vibrations." The Rev does the hard edging for you, so you'll get more out of your day.
Tech 4 Kids - Tech 4 Kids' Outer Edge line offers a wide selection of ride-ons and foam sleds, including the Snow MX Polaris, the Summit Surfer and the Snow MX "Snow Bike," which combines the smooth glide of a snowboard with the steering of a BMX bike. It's a primer for kids not yet ready for for skiing and snowboarding or for an alternative day of play. Beware: Dad will want to test it out after a few beers late in the day.