If you’ve ever wanted to see what life in the outdoor industry looks like, take a jaunt across the floor at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver, which wrapped up on Friday. Sales reps, shop buyers, designers, athletes and media members discuss the future of snowsports, introduce new products and ultimately enjoy what might be the most casual trade show in America. In short, there’s a lot of flannel and dogs.
We went looking for the most exciting new ski and snowboard products for winter 2019-’20 and came away with eight new pieces of gear we’re excited to try out.
K2 Introduces the Mindbender Collection
For the first few decades of freeskiing, K2 reigned supreme. They had a talented team of pros, introduced some of the most innovative ski shapes and were at the forefront of progressing the sport. In recent years, though, younger brands have gained a stronghold on the freeride market. But with the release of K2’s Mindbender ski and boot line, the iconic brand is back at it.
With 12 skis—six for women, six for men—ranging in waist width from 85-116mm, each model comes with unique core construction (some have a Carbon Spectral Braid™, others have Titanal Y-Beam™) and boots meant to excel on the bootpack as well as the downhill. REI will carry the entire Mindbender ski collection in 2019 and a select number of the boots.
Black Diamond Implements Bluetooth Technology in Beacons
Black Diamond’s backcountry pedigree is second-to-none—the company’s JetForce Avalanche Airbag line and Helio skis are backcountry staples. The company is now looking to take transceivers into a new era by introducing Bluetooth compatibility to its Recon and Guide beacons.
The Recon and Guide will work similarly to beacons you’ve used in the past, but with its Bluetooth functionality, it will connect to your smartphone and—through the PIEPS app—continually update the beacon’s software and fix any bugs. You can also use the app for avalanche rescue knowledge, like reading up on strategic shoveling, pin-point searches and how to locate multiple burials. The end result? More reliable avalanche software and more alert beacon users. Both the Recon and Guide beacons will be available in select REI stores and online in 2019.
The North Face Debuts its Most Breathable and Waterproof Material Yet
Perhaps no product at this year’s Outdoor Retailer attracted more attention than the introduction of The North Face’s new outerwear material, FUTURELIGHT™. By using a process called nanospinning, The North Face has produced what they’re calling “the world’s most advanced breathable-waterproof outerwear technology,” and the results on display at the show were impressive.
In one demonstration, a fan placed underneath a tube of water with a floor constructed of FUTURELIGHT held all the water inside the tube with no leaking, while the fan produced a whirlpool-like bubbling in the reservoir. By comparison, the fan placed under a water tube with a floor made of a competitor’s outerwear didn’t produce so much as a ripple in the water. REI will be carrying a limited collection of these styles for women and men starting in October 2019.
Black Crows Reinvents Its Touring Skis
Since they entered the ski market in 2006, Chamonix, France-based Black Crows has made a lasting impact on the skiing world, quickly rising to become one of the premier boutique brands in the industry. Their unique colorways, shapes and immaculate performance have created a loyal following, and now they’re feeding that flame with an all-new touring model: the Ferox Freebird.
New for fall 2019, the Ferox is the cousin to their immensely popular Corvus Freebird, but while the skis have near-identical weights and waist widths, the Ferox skis much more like a true freeride board than the Corvus. Its twip-tip shape and softer construction means the Ferox is more playful in soft snow than the Corvus, while the carbon/fiberglass “H” shaped reinforcement strip helps it maintain pop in crud. If you’re looking for a one-ski backcountry quiver, this might be your go-to. REI will continue to carry the Black Crows Corvus and will be bringing in the Ferox for next winter.
Expand Your Field of Vision with the Smith 4D MAG Goggles
Smith’s upcoming 4D MAG™ goggles have been racking up awards on the trade show circuit. It recently won the 2019 ISPO Award for Snowsports Protection—and one look through its lenses lets you know why. By utilizing a patented construction Smith is calling BirdsEye Vision, the 4D MAG offers a 25 percent increase in field of vision by adding to your peripheral sight, according to Smith. The company achieved that breakthrough by dropping the lens below the typical sightline, allowing users a wider field of sight and thus an improved riding experience. REI will carry the Smith 4D MAG goggles in multiple sizes, frame colors and lens tint combinations.
Your Dog Deserves Eye Protection, Too
More people are venturing into the backcountry in recent years, and some are bringing their furry friends along. Rex Specs aims to give your dog eye protection when you’re out on the skin track hunting first tracks.
Designed and tested in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the goggles come in a variety of sizes with adjustable straps to ensure your pup isn’t constantly trying to take them off, while the single-lens design helps keep your dog’s eyes safe from scratches caused by debris and bushes. The lens also helps protect from harmful UVA/UVB rays that reflect off the snowpack. Plus, dogs just look funny in ski goggles, and there’s something to be said for keeping things lighthearted. REI will begin carrying the original black color online in the coming weeks, followed by an expanded assortment in select stores in April.
Strafe Makes Women-Specific Bib for When Nature Calls
Long days in the backcountry are great, but when nature calls on the skin track, it can be a hassle. Strafe, an emerging company out of Aspen, Colorado, is here to put an end to that with their new Scarlett women-specific bib.
Made with a halter top, the Scarlett bib was awarded a “Skier’s Choice” by Powder. The halter top and elastic properties of the bib’s back mean you can slide it down easily when needed, while the bib itself still provides all the durability and waterproof performance skiers and riders have come to expect from Strafe.
Spark R&D Continues the Splitboard Charge With Pro Model Bindings
Spark R&D has led the charge in the splitboarding realm in recent years. Their Arc and Surge models will continue to advance backcountry tech, thanks to a new Pro upgrade. Made with the same award-winning modeling as the traditional Arc and Surge models, the Pro models utilize carbon reinforcement in the highbacks and full Pebax® plastics on the straps. Aluminum components help the Pro models drop those precious grams to save your legs on the uphill. If you want to rip the backcountry and get unprecedented control out of your splitboarding set-up, the Arc Pro and Surge Pro are the bindings for you. REI will carry the Pro models for the upcoming season.