Expensive mountaineering gear is not generally where you want to drop a lot of cash on a trendy item. There are a few items popping up in outdoor stores this year that may last longer than this year’s snowfall, but the debate is still on over rocker skis.
Rocker skis reverse the typical camber of a ski, curving the tip and tail up. The arc lets skiers stay on top of snow — the phrase habitually used is that these skis “float through powder.”
“It’s definitely a trend that’s here to stay,” says Marily MacDonald, marketing director for Outdoor Divas.
Designers are mixing up the use of the early rise in the tips and tail with skis that don’t use the reverse camber. The result has been a more versatile ski.
“Comparing last year to this year, the industry has picked it up in a lot of different ways. Before they thought rocker was just for riding in really deep powder and now we’re seeing it all across the board,” said Alison Lasure, market, sales and product expert for REI Boulder.
The reverse camber design has also carried over to snowboards. For both skis and boards, the design helps beginners initiate turns.
“Not only does it help you float in powder but it’s going to help you initiate your turns and keep you from catching your tips,” Lasure says.
People looking for a great all-mountain ski have started to turn to rocker skis, she says, particularly with the industry adding more options for the design’s use this year.
“I’d say it’s definitely something people are coming in and looking for in a new pair of skis,” says Lasure. “And having gone out and demoed this year’s gear, it’s definitely something I’d recommend for people who are just getting back into [it] — or those who are experts.”
Different manufacturers are using different names for the design, Lasure says, so identifying those skis with the reversed camber or early lift in the tips can get a bit confusing if you’re just reading labels. She suggests putting two skis on base-to-base so you can compare their profiles, or laying them on the floor to see where the tips pick up.
Justin Burger, owner of Crystal Ski Shop, which does ski tuning more than ski sales, says he’s not seeing many rockers with the reverse camber.
“I think it’s probably one of those things that people who have multiple skis, a large quiver of skis, are getting a rocker pair for those deep powder days, but most people are still in the one quiver skis and need a good-all around ski,” he says.
A moderate to considerable side cut is showing up a lot, and early rise tip and tail but with the standard camber has been popular, he said, and he’s heard people say that design provides better control on packed terrain, where rockers start to lose it.
Rockers are not taking over the way shape skis did with straight skis, he said, but they are building a reputation for being quite a bit of fun in loose snow.
His big sellers this year have been goggles and helmets, particularly for youth.
At Outdoor Divas, ski helmets have also become the territory of the every-skier. They retail for between $100 and $180.
“It seems like more people wear them than not,” MacDonald says. “If you go to the resort and you’re not wearing a helmet, people are kind of like, ‘What’s wrong with you, man? Where’s your helmet?” Designs are streamlining to be less bobbleheady, she says. Women’s ski pants are also becoming fitted, cut more like jeans. “People are still not tucking them in the boots I don’t think quite yet, but it’s definitely not like the boy pants,” she says.
Burton, Patagonia and Cloudveil have all come up with some of these slimming designs. This year’s outerwear is coming out with more details like embroidered flowers and trim pieces to add a little extra flair.
And versatility is in. “We’re seeing a lot of winter running apparel that’s kind of multi-use. You could wear it running or skiing,” she says. A lot of that apparel is being made from wicking fleece materials. “It’s great as a next-to-skin layer because it’s going to pull the moisture away from you so you’re going to stay warm, not wet and cold after the fact.”
For the man in doubt of what to buy, Outdoor Divas is hosting a men’s shopping night in mid- December.
“We’re giving them pizza and beer and hoping they can find something for the diva in their life,” MacDonald says.
At REI, popular items in all price ranges are popping up this year.
The Black Diamond Spot ($39.95) headlamp has bumped the lumens from 60 to 75 and added red lights for night vision, and it’s turning out to be a great socking stuffer, Lasure says. The DeLorme Earthmate PN-60W with Spot Satellite Messenger ($559.95) combines the GPS technology that keeps you safe with a satellite messaging system to send messages to family and friends to let them know how you’re doing and where you are. The previous model of the Spot only allowed for sending pre-programmed messages (Think: “Hey, Mom, I’m OK,” on repeat). The new model allows for freeform texting, meaning you can type messages as you go, and can link messages and photos to your social network accounts.
For kids, REI staff has been taking a lot of calls on the EyeClops Night Vision 2.0 Infrared Stealth Binoculars ($50), which sold out over the Black Friday weekend. (The store now has more in stock, though, and is expecting additional shipments soon.) The EyeClops runs on AA batteries to provide night vision for up to 50 feet in total darkness.
And, for the big kids, wearable camcorders have proved popular. The GoPro Digital Helmet Hero HD Wide-Angle Camera ($299) and the Contour HD 1080P Wearable Camcorder ($279) have been the more popular models.
“They’re real small; you could take them out mountain biking on your helmet,” Lasure says. “I’ve had friends take them down Boulder Creek tubing this summer and up on Loveland Pass skiing, so it’s been a real popular give with the young active crowd.”
In outerwear, she’s also been hearing some rave reviews of Columbia’s new Omni technology, designed to reflect body heat and keep the wearer up to 20 percent warmer.
Hand or toe warmers
Climbing tape or chalk