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Tyson Gillard | 03.04.2015

Despite meager winter snowfall for much of the western U.S., snow-focused winter activities continue to make up a significant and growing portion of adventure content on Outdoor Project. Backcountry skiing and split-boarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are all outdoor pastimes the Outdoor Project community holds near and dear. 

Winter activities are fairly gear intensive when compared to what's often required for summer outdoor outings. Sure, you may need a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a backpack for summer fun, but inherent to winter are the elements that necessitate using extra gear for getting around on snow, equipment for avalanche safety, and additional layers of clothing for warmth. With all these winter product needs, companies in the outdoor industry are constantly innovating and releasing the latest models of winter-related gear and equipment. One of the best ways to keep tabs on what's new is by attending the Outdoor Retailer (OR) winter tradeshow held each January in Salt Lake City. A few of us at Outdoor Project headed out to OR Winter Market to do just that.

While interesting new winter products are coming out for all types of snow-bound activities, the pastime that seems to be taking the winter outdoor product market by storm in terms of product-focus, media attention, innovation, and investment is backcountry skiing. A remarkable change from just a few years ago, it now seems that almost every ski, binding, and boot manufacturer has channeled serious investment into the release of a lightweight alpine touring (AT) model. For multiple reasons, from the growing cost of skiing in lift-served resorts to the desire for fresh tracks and solitary winter exploration, brands in the outdoor industry are seeing and anticipating continued growth in the backcountry skiing market. For both the occasional sidecountry skier and committed backcountry enthusiast, there have never been more options out there.

Here are a few of our backcountry skiing product takeaways coming out of OR:

  • AT tech bindings are all the rage, getting burlier and seemingly displacing many of the earlier frame-based AT bindings. Dynafit is releasing their lighter weight option, Beast 14, following last year's Beast 16 release - their burliest line of bindings yet. Marker has released the first AT binding to be certified by DIN ISO 13992:2007 in their Kingpin binding.
  • There is growing innovation with lightweight skis that are also strong (good for both the up and down). Check out DPS's Tour 1 ski line and Dynafit's 2015-16 Chugach and Hokkaido models.
  • Avalanche Airbags, such as BCA's lastest float models, are getting more affordable. There are also some new innovations on the market that are shaking things up: check out Black Diamond's Jetforce technology, for instance.
  • In terms of snow science and avalanche safety, one of the most innovative new products on the market is Avatech's SP1 Probe. The probe uses pressure sensing technology to measure snowpack structure, geotags the information, and then uploads to a cloud-based data-sharing platform called AvaNet to be used by guides and snow science industry professionals.

We're excited to see the innovations that make all of our toys that much lighter, safer, durable, and more sustainable. Gear is constantly evolving, and we're looking forward to seeing what the summer season has in store. Have favorite products or brands of your own? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

 

Comments

Here goes shameless promotion! Ha! I'll take this as another opportunity to thank the young guns at Peak Design, I've been loving their camera clip system. I'm wearing my NW Alpine hoody you see hear pretty much every day. Thanks Bill! Oh, and my Mountainsmith lumbar pack... I've had that one since high school! Can't forget our friends at Adidas Outdoor either. I've been rocking the Terrex Swift shoes on the trail for over a year now. And of course my all time favorite, "Gerdy," my fickle 1985 mistress. May she rest in peace!
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