The achievements within snow sports are ever-growing and impressive. Whether these adventures are occurring on the backside of Lake Louise or on some perfect pillow drop at Blanket Glacier, skiers and riders are going bigger, faster and smarter. This is thanks, in part, to gear being more inventive, intuitive, safer and smarter—with last year offering big tech advancements in the skiing and snowboarding worlds. We recently had the chance to test out some of the best-designed products available. The gear doesn’t make the skier, but it certainly helps.
Legendary Canadian skier Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson has had an enormous year—from his film, Hoji, by Matchstick Productions to his collaboration with Arc’teryx. Perhaps most impressive are his Hoji boots, made with Dynafit. Known for personalizing his touring boots to make them lighter and stiffer, Hjorleifson has joined forces with Fritz Barthel to create these boots, which feature a one-step system from touring mode to ski mode and a recessed welt—meaning there’s less plastic on the toe. Importantly, they offer excellent flexibility for walking, but remain one of the stiffest flexes in a touring boot on the market.
The Mammut beacon (aka avalanche transceiver), the Barryvox S is one of the most advanced iterations available, while also being one of the easiest to use. With a 70-meter range, there’s a smart-search function, multiple burial detectors and a reverse direction function to avoid search errors. There’s a larger, brighter screen now, along with digital and analog modes—both of which can be customized. While the device is highly intelligent, it’s simple to use. It can also, of course, be easily operated while a user is wearing gloves—and one-handed.
Alpha SK 32 Backpack
Sometimes it’s difficult to find a tech-forward backpack that’s still sophisticated and simple. Arc’teryx’s SK 32 is super-clever, but still offers a sleek silhouette. Crafted from durable, waterproof ripstop AC2 nylon, it’s lightweight but tough. There’s a watertight side zipper for easy access and a separate front pocket for safety gear. The pack looks smaller than it is and sits well on different size torsos—comfortably too, thanks to the padded back panel. With a helmet-friendly top, the backpack also boasts two TPU ski straps that make packing boots a dream.
Spy Optic Ace Goggles
Changing lenses is a pain while on the slopes, and many transition lenses don’t run the spectrum of light to dark or allow users to choose the level of tint. Spy Optic has developed the Ace Goggles which feature three different tints—sunny, mixed and cloudy. Boasting a small, lightweight button, the goggles’ lenses can be switched (via an electronic pulse through an invisible filament sandwiched between the dual lens) instantly. The goggles (which offer 100% UV protection) feature a silicon-ribbed strap which makes them very secure—whether worn bare-headed or over a helmet. They’re also charged via a micro-USB cable or batteries.
Canadian brand G3‘s latest is the ZED, which combines lightweight pure touring bindings and performance downhill bindings. Featuring a toe piece similar to their classic the ION (known for being the best toe piece in the industry), the ZED is functional, durable and prevents snow-clog. In the back, there’s a one-screw adjustment for lateral release and forward falling. (The ZED also has the same mounting pattern as the ION and is compatible with ION crampons.) Weighing only 345 grams, these bindings are unexpectedly light (some 200 grams lighter than the ION) considering how many tech-forward features they boast.
Switcher MIPS Helmet
Sweet Protection was founded in the ’80s when skateboarding was actually illegal in Norway. Today, the brand strives to maintain the rebellion of that decade. Substantially more high-tech now, their products are functional but playful. Their latest and most technologically advanced helmet, the Switcher features 22 one-hand adjustable vents, with a hybrid in-mold/hardshell construction that’s also lightweight. It even offers an Audio Ready system so wearers can listen to music while they ski or snowboard. Most importantly, the helmet is comfortable and safe—and comes in MIPS form, which is a tech developed to reduce rotation motion on the brain.
Patrol E1 30 Backpack Kit
Scott’s Patrol E1 30 Backpack Kit uses a super-capacitor which is a fully electronic system that eschews a heavy battery and has no travel restrictions. One of the lightest airbags on the market (1280g full), it features a clean design with three compartments, a soft and deep skin and tool pocket, a main compartment with a separated snow safety pocket and—of course—the airbag compartment. It charges with with a USB (but can take AA batteries) and also comes with an SOS label with emergency instructions and whistle. For those who really like being prepared, the airbag can be activated several times, so you can do some at-home practicing.
3D Scan Boots
Many skiers will tell you that boots are the most important part of a kit. It makes sense then, that the best are made with a 3D scan. Fischer scans customers’ feet (not just length and width) and analyzes their shape in order to select the most appropriate boot and liner. Considering the entire foot (and ankle) and pressure points, Fischer’s molding process is far more advanced than the regular “heat and fit.” The resulting Curv Vacuum fit boots themselves are high-performance and comfortable. Available in four stiffnesses (from 140 to 90), they are also offered in several colorways.
Made for free-riding and all-mountain skiing, these Shift bindings live up to their name. They’re Multi Norm Certified, making them compatible with all norm adult ski boots (from traditional alpine to touring boots) but the shift-levers at the toe piece transform them into a tech-toe with pins. The heel piece is free when in tour mode, but with a few “shifts” turns into true alpine binding (no pins engaged). Cleverly designed, these bindings mean you carry less gear, and will have to make fewer changes and decisions on top of the mountain.
Images courtesy of respective brands