What was the buzz at last week's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show? Our roving reporter, Sara Lingafelter, recaps her experiences here.
As North America's largest winter lifestyle and snow sports industry gathering, Outdoor Retailer attracts brands from all corners of the outdoor industry. Everyone from the largest established brands to first-time-exhibitor startups are here to share their wares. The show isn't open to the public, but credentialed members of the media are welcome, so for a few days I get to be a journalist and share what's new and cool in gear and apparel with our Facebook fans.
I'm now a 6-time Outdoor Retailer veteran (which still makes me a rookie compared to attendees who have attended 20+ shows), but the Big Show is still a highlight each winter and summer. Partly, it's because of all the cool gear and trends I get to see. But even more, it reminds me just what an amazing privilege it is to work in this industry. Here we're all under the same roof twice a year because of our shared love of playing outside and helping YOU play outside. The show is hard work and a lot of fun, and when you walk up to a booth you may wind up chatting with a pro athlete, a headquarters' staffer or the vice president—you never know until you introduce yourself!
The fun started with the All Mountain Demo on Wednesday, which I recapped in this separate REI Blog post.
From Thursday morning until the ending bell rings on Sunday afternoon, it was a mad dash to try to find the coolest new product releases for the upcoming season. I saw product that's mostly hitting the market in fall of 2012, so what you see here hasn't actually been made yet in most cases. The products covered here may or may not actually reach market—and not all will be available in REI stores—but here's a sneak peek at items and themes you can expect for NEXT year's ski season.
For more information about individual products, check out additional sneak peeks in our Facebook Gallery.
Turn Up the Heat
Heated clothing is huge for fall 2012. There were vendors I haven't seen before, and "heat" was a buzzword even in products that aren't heated. Jambu had models walking the show floor in their heated boots, and new brands are popping up in the space. This is great news for those of us who "run cold." I've used a variety of heated products since the late '90s, some of which actually made me overheat, but the new generation of heated apparel seems much smarter. Take, for example, the Omni-Heat line from Columbia Sportswear. They use a "reflective dot" lining that retains heat while maintaining a high level of breathability to reduce excess heat and moisture. This allows them to shave off additional "puffy" insulation. The battery-heated jackets (and a new vest) have heating elements that run along your kidney area to keep your core warm.
Earn Your Turns
As more and more skiers and snowboarders who came up in resorts look to the backcountry and earning their turns, Alpine Touring (or AT) gear is growing fast. The very first product I saw that stopped me in my tracks was a new splitboard from Arbor Collective. Splitboarding allows the user to separate their board into 2 "skis" for skinning up the mountain, then the "skis" snap together so that the user can snowboard down. New for next winter, the Arbor Abacus Splitboard features Karakorum attachments and has mountain twin styling for riding on varied terrain.
Scarpa AT boots—especially the Maestrale (above) and Gea—have been huge this ski season, and for fall 2012 Scarpa is planning to release an RS version of both. The new Maestrale RS (men's) and Gea RS (women's) is 20% stiffer than the current models, but only 40 grams heavier. The new boots will provide increased downhill performance while still being lightweight for the uphill part of your ski.
Year-Round Minimalist Running
Minimalist running continues to be a trend, and we've got great news fans of our Vendor Partner of the Year for 2011, Vibram FiveFingers. The new-for-fall-2012 Lontra is the model you've been asking for, for cold-weather running. The Lontra has a laminate upper with fully seam-taped seams for water resistance, and a moisture-wicking micro pile fleece liner for softness and warmth against the skin. The neoprene ankle cuff keeps out snow and debris, and reflective surfaces make you more visible at night. The 4mm EVA midsole provides underfoot insulation against cold pavement or trail, and the outsole is designed with lugs for traction and durability.
Power Yoga Draws Men In
And finally, after years of growth in yoga for women, we're starting to see men's yoga get more attention. I had the opportunity to sit down with Beaver Theodosakis, the founder of prAna, and author and meditation teacher Mark Coleman, who works with prAna athletes, to discuss why men are starting to turn toward yoga in increasing numbers.
While yoga has traditionally been marketed to women, more and more male pro athletes have embraced yoga for injury prevention and rehabilitation. The advent of "Power Yoga" has helped make yoga more accessible to athletes who are interested in the physical benefits but not the spiritual aspects of yoga.
"Yoga is training for so many pro sports," Beaver observed, "and the guy men idolize on the field is now doing yoga."
"Bikram and the movement toward intensives—it's hardcore," noted Mark. "Most men have strength but not flexibility and suppleness." He added, "The thing that's ironic" about yoga marketing being skewed so heavily toward women "is that so many great teachers are men."
The industry is responding by adding yoga products for men to their lineup. PrAna's collection has always had yoga-friendly options for men, featuring deconstructed styles made with natural fibers plus Lycra for stretch, that can go from everyday to the yoga studio. The styling isn't like women's yoga, with form fitting silhouettes and stretch fabrics. The styling is more comfortable technical engineering in street silhouettes. Board shorts function as running wear, swimwear, Bikram (hot yoga) wear; hemp blend pants with inseam gussets and a light stretch go from street to climbing gym to yoga class.
"It's the idea of moving meditation," Beaver said, "Yoga is where you find it. For some people, running is their moving meditation."
Insulated Skirts are Here to Stay
Finally, a growing trend is the controversial insulated skirt for women. Adored by cold-weather athletes and maligned by casual observers, the insulated skirt is here to stay. The Stephanie skirt from LOLË is new for fall 2012, with a low-slung style that got buzz on the show floor for its fashion sense. That's all relative, though—many women (and men) among our Facebook following have shared their opinion that insulated skirts are "ugly" or unflattering. But for those of us who have gotten on the insulated-skirt bus, they're not about fashion; they're about keeping warm. Worn over shell pants or insulated leggings, an insulated skirt keeps your hips and pelvis warm the way a long insulated parka would, but can be easily removed if you get warm. They're also great for après—after peeling off ski pants, I used to pull on a jean skirt rather than walk around in my baselayer. An insulated skirt in a technical textile is such a better (warmer) solution for baselayer cover up! Love 'em or hate 'em, insulated skirts are here to stay.
For more information about all of these products and many more, including highlights from MSR, Sierra Designs, Outdoor Research, The North Face and many more great brands, visit our Facebook Gallery.