While the feeling you get riding down a mountain never gets old, the equipment we take to the mountain sure does. Every year at SIA and ISPO trade shows, dozens of innovative new products make their debut, all hoping to become the Next Big Thing in mountain hardware and software. Here’s our pick of the 2015/16 crop.
Head tech for tech-heads
...or all you tech-heads feeling let down by the epic fail of Google Glass, here’s a consolation prize – some tech for your head. Recon Instruments are the geniuses behind Snow2, the new generation of heads-up displays (HUDs) currently being loaded into flagship goggles from Oakley, Smith Zeal and Uvex.
What is it, and what does it do? Well, maybe the simplest way to describe it is it’s like a tiny smartphone that sits tucked away in the corner of the lens. Simply look down at the tiny, high-res screen and navigate via a wrist-mounted controller to access… well, potentially, everything a regular smartphone has to offer. Ski maps, GPS and speed/altitude/distance data, friend tracking and phone functions, for starters. Then there’s action cam integration: currently, you can view Garmin VIRB cameras in-goggle before and after shooting (probably best not to watch during, mmmkay?), and we are guessing GoPros and the rest aren’t far behind.
The potential is amazing: in a few years time we can look forward to a fully virtual goggle-mountain interface, and we won’t need to look at a real mountain again – isn’t technology wonderful?
Next-gen body armour
In case you hadn’t noticed, jumps are getting bigger, people are crashing harder, but human bodies are as soft and breakable as they always were. As the stakes get progressively higher, the need for impact-protection clothing is greater than ever, but many folk are put off by gear that’s often sweaty, bulky and restrictive. Which is why it’s great to see some new body armour that isn’t any of those things, yet still meets the tough EN1621-2:2014 standard for protective garments.
Top of the class is Marker’s Body Vest 2:15: a spine protector that is currently the market leader in terms of force absorption, weight and thickness, thanks to its MAP system (Multi-impact Adaptive Polymer). Flexible under normal conditions, upon impact MAP begins to stiffen even while the strike is still happening, helping to absorb and spread energy, and it’s so efficient that MAP pads and protectors can be used at thicknesses up to 28 percent less than required with other kinds of impact foam.
Besides the spine protector, Marker are using MAP in helmets and goggles, and while MAP isn’t the only technology of its kind (D30 is the original), Marker definitely seem to be doing a great job design-wise.
Shape your own board? YES please
Judging by their latest developments in snowboard design, DCP, Romain and JP Solberg – the key rider/owners at YES Snowboards – have clearly been spending a lot of time catching waves lately, with three new concepts more or less inspired by surfboards.
First up, the 420 is a super short and wide board that follows the surfing trend of playing with volume distribution – the base-surface area of the 148 is equal to a traditional 158 cm board, but will feel way more maneuverable and skatey in the pow, and spin a lot faster, too.
Next is the 3D Powder Hull, where the nose and tail areas of the base are concaved. At the leading end (nose), the concave draws air under the board – just as a concave spoon-nose does on longboards in the surf – causing lift and floatation. As the snow moves across the base it releases off the tail and the exaggerated rocker line along the centre, causes the tail to drop downward. The result is a board that, in theory, rides switch as well as a twin-tip, and pow as well as a directional, tapered pow shape. Which, if it works as well as they say it works, is pretty mind-blowing.
Finally we have the ultimate tribute to the craft of the surfboard, The Clark: a shape-your-own snowboard blank. Named after the surfboard blank manufacturer, The Clark is simply a rectangle of P-tex, wood core and Triax glass – a blank canvas just waiting for anyone with a jigsaw and an idea to reveal the dream board (powder board, that is – no steel edges) that’s locked inside.
So, with all this inspiration, keep dreaming, thinking and planning for the season ahead with one certainty – these products will change the way we ride.