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SALT LAKE CITY – Local ski shop professionals are discussing major trends in ski equipment and sharing ski picks for the 2020 season now that the 2019 season is coming to a close.
The most exciting ski innovations for 2020
Among the changes in ski equipment for 2020, for Wasatch skiers the most significant is combining alpine and touring equipment into one kit, said Mike Thorpe, general manager of Sports Den in Salt Lake City.
“The whole industry is putting all their research and design into having a crossover alpine and touring combo," Thorpe said. "You get a walk mode for the boot and the ski is lighter for alpine. You won’t need to buy two setups anymore."
Efforts to create a single high-performance equipment setup that maintains comfort are taking several forms. In skis, Thorpe said manufacturers are trying to make lighter skis that are still stable.
Travis Moise and Esther Stokes, co-owners of Utah Ski Gear in Sandy, said this has meant that some ski-makers are adding more rocker (curvature to skis that improves powder skiing) to previously flatter models and others are taking away rocker.
Bindings have arguably made the biggest innovation gains toward creating a single ski equipment setup. The S/Lab Shift binding is this, “crazy invention that is going to keep your toe in with elasticity and you are not going to pre-release anymore. You get full connection in the heel,” Thorpe said.
Equipment buyers should also be on the lookout for innovations in ski boots that combine high-performance with comfort. Materials like Grilamid, a lightweight plastic, make boots lighter, and features that were typically seen on lower-performance boot models like walk-mode, GripWalk soles, and wider footboxes have become more commonplace in high-performance boots. Moise stated, “Technology is increasing so you can have both performance and comfort.”
All these changes add up to new possibilities for Wasatch skiers. Thorpe said, “A lot of people are starting to use inline alpine skis as touring skis.”
Equipment to be excited about
When buying equipment, Mark Gardner, owner of Sports Den in Salt Lake City, and, Dan Gardner, a manager at Sports Den, said that Wasatch skiers should be wary of making decisions solely off reviews in skiing magazines. One of the issues, they said, is that skis are not necessarily tested on the sort of snow and terrain we have here in the Wasatch, where the new models are tested by their employees.
“It would be helpful for someone looking to buy skis to come into the store and ask someone," said Dan. "We’ve tested them here in Salt Lake."
To help Wasatch skiers with their decisions, below is some of the equipment that the experts at Sports Den and Utah Ski Gear told KSL.com they are excited about for 2020:
- Nordica Enforcer 88 (men’s) and Santa Ana 88 (women’s) skis:
Moise also lauded the women’s edition of this ski, the Santa Ana 88, as comparable to the Blizzard Black Pearl. “The Blizzard Black Pearl was the No. 1 selling ski in the country (in 2019). It was actually the first time that a women’s specific model was the No. 1 ski. And that is an 88 underfoot ski that is made in the same factory. So, this Nordica (Santa Ana 88) should be really great direct competition.”
Esther Stokes, co-owner of Utah ski gear, added that the Santa Ana uses the same construction as the Enforcer with two sheets of metal, but it uses lighter woods and has a sidewall-construction so they weigh a little less and are less stiff for lighter skiers.
Specifications: Men’s lengths are 172 cm, 179 cm and 186 cm. The weight of the 172 cm version is 1930 grams. Women’s lengths are 151 cm, 158 cm, 165 cm and 172 cm. The weight of the 151 cm version is 1620 grams.
- Nordica Enforcer 104 Free skis:
“For those who want a one-ski quiver, they stepped it up a notch,” Moise added. If you were looking forward to buying a 93, 100, or 110 mm model of the Enforcer series in 2020, these will still be available.
Specifications: Men’s lengths are 172 cm, 179 cm and 186 cm. The weight of the 172 cm version is 2005 grams. There is no women’s equivalent of the Enforcer 104 Free according to the 2020 Nordica catalog available at Sports Den.
- DPS Dash Longe Pro Model – Koala skis:
Specifications: Lengths available are 179 cm, 184 cm and 189 cm. The ski has a 119 mm waist. The weight of the 179 cm version is 2324 grams.
- Line’s Sir Francis Bacon skis:
A contoured tip is rounded at each end, meaning that when you are skiing soft snow it is more of a “V” shape instead of a flat surface. “Think of a boat. In powder, this makes a performance difference. This is designed by (professional skier) Eric Pollard," said Thorpe.
Specifications: Lengths available are 176 cm and 184 cm (there may be a length larger than this also). The ski has a waist of 107 mm. The weight of the 176 cm version is 1750 grams.
- Atomic/Salomon/Armada S/Lab Shift ski bindings:
“The Shift is the hottest binding on the market,” said Thorpe. The lightweight, performance, and safety benefits of the Shift are significant because this is the first hybrid alpine-touring binding to have all these qualities.
Asked how the Shift compares to the Cast binding kit, Thorpe insisted, “The Cast binding is old news. Cast system, Quiver Killers; it just weighs a lot. The (Shift) is instant, it is really ingenious, and it works. When it came out it blew everybody’s mind.”
Specifications: The weight of the binding shown is 865 grams.
- Fischer Ranger One 130 (Men’s), 110 (Women’s) Boot:
“A lot of times stiff performance-oriented boots are very narrow, and this is a little bit wider,” said Stokes at Utah Ski Gear. It also uses a new material called Grilamid, making these boots significantly lighter than similar boots made of the more-commonly used polyurethane, without drastically changing the performance.
“The Ranger One also has a walk feature on it, a nice wide strap, and GripWalk soles,” said Stokes. GripWalk is a type of boot-sole that makes it easier to walk in. Stokes insisted, “(GripWalk) really makes things so much easier.”
As for walk-mode, this high-performance boot defies the old bias that only rented or cheaper boots have walk-mode. Moise pointed out, “In the past, a lot of times boots with walk-mode were looked at as lower-end, but now walk-mode is permeating.
Purchasing and pricing
Ski models reviewed were generally between $500 and $900. The equipment shown is currently available for purchase at Sports Den in Salt Lake City and the Nordica skis, DPS skis, and Fischer boots will be available for purchase at Utah Ski Gear in Sandy in August or September.
Ian Dempsey received his B.A. from Gonzaga University in 2011, his M.A. from Fairfield University in 2018, and has been hearing the call of the wild since it struck him that a hill is very different from a mountain.