Saturday, January 27, 2007

The latest skis, the latest snowshoes... and a little bit of huh?

The outdoor retailer show started Friday in Salt Lake, with an on-snow demo day at Brighton Ski Area. Dozens of gear makers turned a snowy field on the far end of the area's parking lot into a tent city. There were skis from Atomic, Rossignal, K2, Karhu, G3, Goode, and a few smaller manufacturers.
All the big snowshoe makers were hawking their latest wares, including the two big ones, Atlas and Tubbs, which, oddly, are both owned by the same company, K2.
Most the the retailers were there to ride the latest and greatest gear.
I spend most of the morning trying out new skis. The verdict: skis have gotten wider; boots (at least for the tele crowd) have gotten stiffer, and no one is making a ski that doesn't feel supercharged.
A few favorites from talking to the crowd were the G3 Reverend and the K2 Wold Piste. I loved the quick, snappy turns of the Rossi Powderbirds.
Riding up on the lift with a ski shop owner from Virginia, I asked, "Is this really where you decide what your shop will sell next year?"
"Not really," he said. "A lot goes into it, like relationships with sales reps, wholesale prices... but you know, it's nice to ski so many skis in a day. You can't do that in Virginia."
One thing no one was buying was the skishoe ( It is a snowshoe-sized Swiss Army knife-type contraption that folds out from a stubby little ski to a snowshoe with the push of a lever (and another lever, and just one more lever). Huge crampons can easily be snapped to the base. The shoe could lock down into a downhill ski, sort of like a snowblade, or have a free heel for touring (though I'm not sure what touring on a 24-inch ski is like.) It was so multi-purpose and funny looking it seemed like something out of an old James Bond movie. It retails for about $200. But poor skishoe. No one was stopping at its booth. People only slowed down, like cars looking at an accident. I felt so bad I had to stop in.
The guy in the tent was the inventor, owner, and president of Ski Shoe Inc. He had the bubbling, somewhat confused confidence of someone who'd waited in line for hours to get his chance in front of the American Idol judges.
"This is the first skisshoe," he said. "We have our new design almost ready, which is made right here in Salt Lake, and it's much, much better. It has none of the problems of the old skishoe."
I didn't know what the problems of the old skishoe were, but he seemed so hopeful, I didn't really want to ask.
I only hope the real show, which starts today, with over 800 different gear makers, holds as many weird things as the skishoe. I think a lot of the small retailers feel the same way. They need something new and a little unusual, to bring in the customers.


zen said...

I for one will be keeping an eye on the Shoeboard. I've been asking the same question for years myself (Why doesn't someone come up with a snowshoe that can convert through attachment to an edged skiboard?)

Hell I even pitched the idea to Atlas once (though I never heard back).

I love snowshoeing and have proudly strapped on Atlas shoes for some 10 years now. Snowshoes are most definitely my preferred winter gear for backcountry travel.

But there are those times when you get to the top of a long climb where you wish you could sled or slide on down that icy or packed trail. There is a niche here that a few have dabbled in over the years (most notably Karhu with their Meta ski). Nice to see someone else is trying.

Dave Philipps said...

well, there you go.

Steve Wright said...

I saw people using Shoeboards a couple of weeks ago in the mountains in Utah and it was so cool looking. They had snowshoed up a trail and were skiing back down and they were going fast! They did both with just the Shoeboard. There were some other people trudging along behind them that just had snowshoes on and looked pretty tired. I met up with them and asked them about it and they said they only weigh 4 lbs for the pair and that they fold up. I asked where I can get some and they said they got them from a friend but that they should be in stores next year for about $250. It looks like isn't selling them. Cross-country, snowshoe, adn ski all in one. Too cool. I was thinking about getting new snowshoes but I think I will hold out till next year and try the Shoeboard. That makes a lot more sense to me because I do like to ski. The perfect trail runner.

Steve Lombardi said...

Is that Jamie Pierce in this photo? Wow dude! Babu'