Two-plank two-step: New ski gear for the 2016-17 season
November 18, 2016
Editor's note: This is the first part of a three-part series covering new ski and snowboard equipment and apparel for the 2016-'17 season. Pick up a copy of the High Life section in Sunday and Monday's Vail Daily for additional articles.
With ski resorts pushing back their opening dates, it can seem like the minutes and hours are dragging along and the ski season will never come. But have no fear, the snow will eventually arrive — it always does — and these extra few days of down time present an opportunity to evaluate your gear and see where you might want to make a few upgrades.
We chatted with local ski shops about new ski gear they've picked up for the 2016-'17 season, and here are some of their favorite picks.
Faction Candide 2.0
• Length: 166, 172, 178 or 184 centimeters
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• Tip/waist/tail: 135/102/135 millimeters
• Radius: 16 meters
• Weight: 1,950 grams at 178 centimeters
• Core: poplar/beech
The details: "All mountain twin-tip" might seem like an oxymoron if you've been groomed to think twin-tip skis fall into the sole realm of park rats, but a twin-tip is a lot more versatile than you'd imagine, said Bryant Destefano, hard goods manager at Christy Sports in Avon.
"I think they were made so that people could perform different tricks in the terrain park, and because of that, you want a soft, twin-tip ski, a ski with a lot feel to it, so when you're landing switch, you can feel the ground underneath you," Destefano said. "But that has the same characteristics if you're a lighter-weight skier or an older skier who doesn't have the power or energy to drive a ski with two sheets of metal in it.
"So many times, we see an older skier who wants to improve in the moguls, and this is what they should be out on — no questions asked. We have to get them off of the notion that they have to be on a front-side carver and look more toward the freestyle options because they are lightweight, soft-core skies that handle that kind of terrain beautifully."
Enter the Faction Skis Candide 2.0, a fully symmetrical, all-mountain twin. Born out of the terrain park and named for Faction athlete and freeskiing legend Candide Thovex, the ski manages to kill it in the park while still satisfying all of the requirements to be an awesome all-mountain option, especially on bumps and in the trees, Destefano said.
"It's soft enough that older skiers would have an amazing time on it; they just have to get over the notion that twin tips are only for teenagers in the terrain park," he said. "It's a really forgiving and playful ski."
The Candide series also comes in the 3.0 (108 millimeters under foot) and the 4.0 (118 under foot), providing a wider platform for a little more backside float. Destefano said Faction Skis is a newer, smaller, brand that's starting to gain traction, largely due to the popularity of its ski videos. Check out the series of short films and get more specs on the skis at http://www.factionskis.com.
The goods: The Faction Skis Candide 2.0 ($749), 3.0 ($829) and 4.0 (special order, see store for pricing) are available at Christy Sports, 182 Avon Road, Avon; 970-949-0241.
Salomon X Pro Custom Heat
• Weight: 4,286 grams
• Flex index: 110
• Strap: 45-millimeter power
• Last: 100/106
The details: Nothing derails your powder-day buzz like cold feet, but the newest tech from Salomon could help keep you on the slopes longer, even on the most frigid days.
The company has created its X Pro Custom Heat boots with liners that deliver consistent, even heat all the way around the foot, rather than the limited range of after-market heated insoles, said Matt Carroll, general manager and hard goods buyer for Double Diamond ski shop in Lionshead Village.
"It has a little charging mechanism that you plug into the wall and then you plug that into the back of the liner," he said. "There's three different heat settings on the boot, so you can pick: If you're going to ski all day, leave it on setting 1 or 2; if you want a quick blast of heat, turn it up to 3 for a short period of time."
Carroll saw the all-mountain boot for the first time at last year's SnowSports Industries America Snow Show and was impressed with the product.
"We sell a ton of after-market heaters," he said. "If you take the cost of a regular retail boot and add the cost of the heater to it, it's about the same price, and if it's already integrated, it makes it that much easier and it's one less step to deal with."
A full charge on the liners will last four or five hours on the highest setting, or as long as 17 to 18 hours on the lowest, and both the liner and shell of the boot can be heat-molded. With a flex index of 110, the Salomon X Pros sits at an upper-intermediate to expert performance level, depending on a person's size, Carroll said.
"A lot of people have circulation issues. It doesn't really matter if it's the young guys who are in super good shape and are charging hard, their toes and hands still freeze," he said. "It's a pretty broad spectrum, as far as who uses heats. A lot of the ski instructors do, and a large majority of our customers do, too."
The Salomon X Pro Custom Heat also comes in a women's version, with a flex index of 90, and the heated liner technology is available on the company's softer flex Quest Access series for less aggressive skiers. Visit http://www.salomon.com to learn more about the boots.
The goods: The Salomon X Pro Custom Heat (men's, $900) and Salomon X Pro Custom Heat W (women's, $850) are available at Double Diamond, 520 E. Lionshead Circle, Vail; 970-476-5500.
• Weight: 1,010 grams
• Forward lean: 15 degrees to 18 degrees, plus release for walking
• Cuff rotation: 60 degrees
• Buckles: Ultra Lock System 3.0
The details: The Dynafit TLT7 performance boot weighs a mere 1,000 grams, making it one of the lightest-weight alpine touring boots out there. Its Titantex upper and Titantex Lambda Frame, made with a titanium-infused fiberglass, offer the best of both worlds by cutting weight in the uphill stride while also maintaining rigidity for the downhill.
Whether it's a casual skin up the mountain, schlepping gear on a hut trip or traversing deep into the backcountry, both newbies and seasoned AT skiers can benefit from the technology, said Sean Glackin, owner of Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards.
"If you're in a really heavy boot, all through your legs are going to be fatigued a lot faster. It would be just like you're training with an ankle weight on; you're getting a lot more of a workout," Glackin said. "These days, people are going further and further into the backcountry, so if something is increasing your distance, that's going to be very appealing to folks."
The TLT7 has a new buckle system, the Ultra Lock System 3.0, which lets the skier quickly transition between fit, walk and ski modes with the adjustment of just one buckle, and it also has a setback, pin-in-toe pivot point, rather than a front lip, which allows for a more natural stride and makes touring more comfortable.
"With these Dynafit-type bindings, you're not relying on that little lip on the front holding you into the binding," Glackin said. "There are pins in the toe that grab on the sides. There's no lip at all; it looks like almost a regular shoe."
Glackin said traditional alpine touring boots retain the front lip to hold a crampon for ski mountaineering, and eliminating that material cuts even more weight on the boot. But fear not, ski mountaineers: Dynafit also makes a crampon adapter.
The goods: The Dynafit TLT7 ($849) is available at Alpine Quest Sports, 34510 U.S. Highway 6, Edwards, 970-926-3867.
Salomon QST Lumen 99
• Length: 159, 167, 174 or 181 centimeters
• Tip/waist/tail: 134/99/116 (on 167 centimeters)
• Radius: 19 meters
• Weight: 1,575 at 167 centimeters
• Core: Internally milled Woodcore
The details: Long gone are the days of "shrink it and pink it" when it comes to women's skis. Across the board, ski companies have recognized the physical differences between men and women — from weight distribution to pelvic tilt — and created female-specific planks that allow women to shred just as hard as their male counterparts.
"Think about the iconic skier that jumps to mind when you live in our valley," said Blake Peterson, assistant manager at Vail Sports in Vail Village. "There's maybe two people who would say Travis Ganong, but everybody says Lindsey Vonn — you know her, you know how she races.
"We've addressed just about every physical difference between men and women on the ski wall. The equipment has adapted really well to women. Everything from lighter-weight boots to dealing with the longer calf muscle attachment … all of those things have been addressed."
In this vein, Salomon has reengineered the core on its freeride QST Lumen 99 — and its sister ski, the slightly smaller QST Lux 92 — for the 2016-17 season, making the ski lighter weight while retaining a high level of performance to help women excel in all playgrounds.
"A lot of times when you start to look at ski gear, you see the same process implemented in multiple different ways," Peterson said.
"With the Lumen, they've widened the ski tip and tail and milled the core so the ski has a real light swing weight. It makes it super easy to turn in the trees, in the crud, without giving the ski an exaggerated rocker profile. It makes the ski really light on the foot and easy to turn."
Rather than being built with Titanal, a flexible metal composite, the core of the Lumen is reinforced with CFX Superfiber, a patented fiber layer consisting of carbon and flax woven together, running the length of the ski. It combines the strength and minimal weight of carbon fiber with increased dampening and vibration absorption.
"You get a really strong ski that wants to hold an edge but doesn't weigh a ton and won't have the stiffer flex pattern of a ski that has a sheet of metal, or Titanal, in it," Peterson said. "It's only about as thick as a piece of tinfoil, but boy does it make a difference."
The Lumen is a ski that can grow with you, Peterson said.
"Anywhere from an intermediate to an expert skier is going to enjoy this ski," he said. "It's not so demanding of your ability that an intermediate skier couldn't have a great amount of fun with it, and it's not too remedial for an expert skier.
"It's a great ski for the person who's just moving to Colorado or a guest who comes every year and finally finds that ski that takes that snow condition that they hide away from and says, 'I can do it.'"
The goods: The Salomon QST Lumen 99 ($725) and Salomon QST Lux 92 ($600) are available at Vail Sports, 244 Wall St., Vail Village, 970-479-0600.
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