Aug 11 2014

Ski news from Summer OR 2014

Main entrance to the Summer Market Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.

Summer OR – Outdoor Candy Store.

The annual Summer Outdoor Retailer show was held last week in Salt Lake City. The focus is summer adventure, so lots of camping, running, climbing, and paddling stuff. Companies with winter product were there, but not with their winter specific stuff. Aside from outdoor accessories that are used both winter and summer there was noticeably less winter related gear visible on the floor. Although they weren’t showing off their winter goods, that didn’t prevent plenty of conversation.

AT News

One exception was Dean Cummings’ H2O-Gear crew who were more than happy to explain why their skis were superior to anything else on the market. I concur, wood core skis rule and the use of ash, maple, and poplar is clearly a notch above paulownia from Asia. My purpose in dropping by was not to discuss skis, but rather, Cumming’s experience with the Beast, Dynafit’s binding for aggro skiers who ski both sides of the boundary. Did it hold on when other tech bindings might let go? Cummings confirmed their stability for aggressive skiers adding, “it’s the only binding I use anymore.”

What’s new that’s coming? The rumors of a new tech binding from Marker have been confirmed, both in the way it has been denied, and with vague details on the absence of pins to hold the heel. How can a tech binding hold the heel without spring bars? We’ll just have to wait and see.

The rumor mill has gone quiet on the tech binding Salomon has been working on, leading to speculation that the project has been tabled. There was hope it might be introduced before the end of 2014. Salomon didn’t hire Greg Hill to convince him of the superiority of their 6½ pound Guardian, but as everyone who has tried to copy or even innovate on the 2-pin tech concept knows, the devil’s in the details and those take time to resolve.

A cure is being worked out for the scrapes and bruises Vipec endured in its inaugural season. It sounds like the adjustable toe pins will be history. If your boot has inserts with a width that’s too wide or too narrow, you’ll need to either get another boot, or another tech binding. What Fritschi has up their sleeve for making it easier to get snapped in at the toe is unknown. Practice can overcome that issue, so probably nothing will be added for this year and until more people experience a heel packed with snow you can bet that possible problem will be categorically rationalized away as a rarity. Me agree, except in sticky snow.

Tele News

One thing was abundantly clear — there’s no money in tele anymore. Maybe not exactly none, a few companies are doing well from a small business perspective, but not enough to indicate any growth in interest.

NTN compatible with a free-pivot and Hammerhead power? Stay tuned.

NTN compatible with a free-pivot and Hammerhead power? It’s coming.

Kim Miller, president of Scarpa USA admitted that improvements in telemark boots could improve sales. Reiterating a statement from a year ago Kim said, “[Scarpa] doesn’t want to make a boot independently of a binding so we don’t want to make boot changes until bindings stop moving.” The implication was that any future improvements to telemark boots will probably occur with the NTN models.

Now that 22 Designs has been licensed to make their own NTN binding, there is some uncertainty to the extent of mods that could/should be made to boots. Telemark skiers chomping at the bit for boot improvements will need to remain patient.

This decline of tele and lack of business value has been known for years. But the tele faithful have remained confident that the tribe would survive even if numbers declined. The threat of losing the equipment to be able to telemark with was never a serious thought. Recent events and comments overheard in the aisles of the Summer OR show suggests that might be a naïve perspective.

© 2014