By David Schissler
(February 2016) I hate trade shows. For years I’ve endured them as a necessary evil. The time, cost and effort expended to attend is substantial and the ROI uncertain. The annual Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) Snowshow is a happy exception. To me, it isn’t a trade show. It’s the world’s biggest ski shop!
I was recently in Denver for this season’s show. Approximately 900 snow sports companies were exhibiting their 2016/2017 product lines to nearly 20,000 winter sports gear buyers. This is where you find out what’s coming. Here are some teasers.
Advancements in helmet technology are making them lighter and stronger than ever. I was impressed by several helmets from HEAD. Their line provides multiple options for weight, style, color and features for racing, back-country, front-siders and children. Some higher end models incorporate a visor which eliminates the need for goggles.
Giro is promoting their Avance MIPS system or Multi-directional Impact Protection System which was developed with the input of the most decorated downhiller in US history, Daron Rahlves.
What makes these helmets different is that the inside is constructed with two layers of premium polypropylene foam. It’s covered by a hard outer helmet made of Textreme Carbon, creating a lighter, stiffer and tougher shell. In Giro’s own words, MIPS Spherical redirects rotational energy from multiple, high-energy impacts at any angle. To see the whole line visit: www.giro.com/us_en/
I’ve always admired OSBE helmets for their Italian style and superior quality. I first learned of them skiing with Wayne Wong, a long time proponent of the brand. Romie Sidabras told me they’re made with high performance thermoplastic resin and certified to the highest industry testing standards. The full-helmet design covers your whole head and the mirrored, integrated yet removable visor locks in place forming a tight seal. Each OSBE helmet is equipped with a Direct Air Flux (DAF) ventilation system, which regulates temperature inside the shell. A removable and washable plush inner lining is provided to ensure comfort and proper air circulation. See the line at http://www.osbeusa.com/
One of my missions was to look into how technology is changing the nature of goggles. They continue to evolve with advancements in three particular areas: chromatology (light sensitivity as in Transition eyeglass lenses), polarization, and mirrored lenses. Danny Barone, National Sales Director for Zeal Optics, a Maui Jim company, says their Z3 GPS Live goggle is so light responsive that as you move from dark to light or vice versa it only takes about 10 seconds for the goggle to adjust to the changing light. Its polarized lens also blocks harmful rays and allows better vision of reds, greens, and blues. Increased definition also provides an advantage in flat light too.
Bolle’s top product for next season is the Virtuose. It’s mirrored and also boasts chromatology technology. National Sales Manager Greg Kottenstette gave us a demonstration of how easy it is to pop lenses in and out. Apply pressure on one or two points and the change is complete. That’s important because the Virtuose is available in an array of lens colors such as Lemon gun, Green Emerald, Sunrise, Citrus Gun, and Vermillion Gun.
One of the more technologically innovative goggles comes from ABominable. Their website says they’re a group of inventors, scientists and designers using their superpowers to create world-class gear to make the future more fun. Well, their A-Bom certainly supports the claim. In a very clever demonstration the goggle is encased inside a closed, windowed display.
Chief Technology Officer Vince O’Malley pressed a button and a small mist of water formed inside the lens creating a foggy mess. He pressed another button and within seconds the fog and mist began to disappear. A few seconds later you would have had no idea the fog ever existed. It works, and here’s how.
Abom has taken a two-part lens and slipped an invisible heat-conductive film between them. When turned on a built-in, 6-hour Micro USB rechargeable battery creates a current through the film to heat the lens. Speaking of lenses, there are four to choose from: Xray Grey, Resolution Red, Lumen Yellow, and Eclipse Black. For more info visit www.abom.com
As Ann and I were working the SIA show we almost literally bumped into Glen Plake and his wife Kim. Glen is a long time fan of the White Book. We’ve met a couple of times before but this was the first time I ran into him with a copy on me.
I pulled a vintage issue from my backpack and asked Glen if he would mind autographing it. Always the gentleman; of course he said sure. I handed the book to him and instead of just signing it somewhere he began to run through the pages with me. As he thumbed through a number of states he would point to the areas.
The conversation went pretty much like this:
Glen: Yup. Been there, been there, been there, that one’s closed now. Been there, been there, and been there.
Me: How many US ski areas have you been to?
Glen: Over 400!
Me: Wow. Were a lot of those on promotional tours of some kind?
Glen: No. I would just go through the White Book, ski every place I could and check them off. I still have the book.
Glen’s inscription is at right. Its sincerity is unquestionable. He’s a man driven by his passion for skiing.
“If You’re Nostalgic for the Good Old Days; You Weren’t There!”
So said National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry as he addressed a group of retailers and media at SIA. Of course he was referring to the technological advancements that have made the sport quite different than only a decade or two ago. Factors such as equipment design and materials, high-speed lifts, efficient snowmaking, and meticulous grooming have all contributed to changing the skiing experience for the better. These improvements haven’t come without cost to skiers. The only comment Mr. Berry made that had me scratching my head was that skiing is not expensive! He defended his statement by saying the average cost of a lift ticket in the US today is $60. I rather doubt that. A ticket at any destination resort today, east or west, easily exceeds $100. Tickets at the most upscale resorts can go as high as $150. To bring the average down to $60 there would have to be a lot of really cheap tickets sold at numerous smaller areas.
Here are some facts I brought away with me that I think will interest you:
- There are 10 million “core” skiers/snowboarders in the US (that’s a little over 3% of the population). A core rider is one who participates at least five times a season. While numbers fluctuate from season to season the number of core riders has largely been flat for nearly two decades.
In spite of this direct spending at ski resorts in 2013-2014 reached $7.5B.
- Percent of alpine skiers who have been skiing 10 years or more: 57%
- Average number of skier visits per season since 2002-2003: 57.5 million
- Number of ski areas in operation during the 2014/15 season: 470, down from 546 in 1991-1992.
If you find these types of stats as interesting as I do, visit www.nsaa.org for a wealth of data.