New Ski Gear for the 2020/21 Season to Get Stoked About
There's no shortage of awesome ski gear coming out this season. Learn all about the gear ski expert Aidan Anderson is most excited about.
Winter is on its way, and what better way to get visions of deep powder days and bluebird groomers into your mind than admiring the coolest and most exciting new gear available this season. Every new ski season offers leaps and bounds of improvement in all aspects of winter gear, but the 2020-2021 lineups from many brands are truly a step up from what we’ve seen before. Whether you’re itching to treat yourself, or you need to float some ideas for early Christmas gifts, here’s what’s got us excited for this winter.
The 20/21 Rossignol Blackops Lineup
Rossignol has been one of the biggest names in the industry for a long time, and they’ve stayed that way by producing high-quality and reliable gear that people love. Everyone knows the telltale spoon shaped tip of the Soul 7’s that have dominated their category for years now, and the Rossi Experience series has topped the list as one of the best narrow-waisted all-mountain skis several years running. This year however, Rossignol is bringing something entirely different to the table. A completely new line of skis they’re calling the Blackops series. Make no mistake, these are not reimagined versions of old models. These are new from the ground up.
For men, the standout of the bunch is the Blackops Sender. An all-mountain hard charger coming in at 104mm underfoot in the 178cm length, this thing can swap fresh tracks for hardpack with ease. New damp tech and a paulownia wood core means there’s no chatter at speed, and it’s incredibly lightweight and responsive edge to edge. For those who want something a bit more burly, there’s also the Sender TI which incorporates a bit more backbone into the construction. All that being said, if you’re a lover of the old Soul 7 era lineup, don’t get rid of them. As good as these are, they do not replace the S series skis.
For women, the Blackops Stargazer answers the call for a lightweight but aggressive go-anywhere ski. Coming in at 92mm underfoot in the 162cm length, the Stargazer is wide and light enough to crush first tracks out of the skin track, while being solid enough to carve big turns down hardpack in the resort. And the same vibration-dampening tech means no tip chatter when you start to pick up speed. Brand new graphics across the entire line have these looking pretty darn good too. It may be important to take note however, these may not be quite as approachable for beginner skiers as the old Sassy 7 and Sky 7 that we’re used to.
The Marker Duke PT
Marker’s newest addition to the royal family is the Duke PT, a hybrid freeride binding, and their answer to the immensely popular Salomon Shifts. With more and more people wanting to have the option for uphill travel and resorts becoming more crowded, many skiers have been hunting for a binding they can tour in one day and push to the limit in the resort the next. After all, the concept of a one-ski quiver has been pretty much nailed, so why not have a binding to go with it? With Marker’s new Ride & Hike toepiece, the alpine-style toe can be removed to shed weight for uphill travel, exposing just the pin mechanism underneath. When you’re ready to come back down, just clip the toe back on, and you’ve got all the stability and advantage of a traditional alpine binding. Despite all this however, there are going to be a few shortcomings. This is probably not the binding for you if weight is really an issue; the Kingpin will still win out in that department. Additionally, if you don’t tour often and you don’t want to buy a touring-compatible boot, the Duke Pro EPF is another good option for keeping the door to the backcountry open.
The Völkl Blaze 106
Völkl is known far and wide for making some of the burliest, most hard-charging skis out there, and that’s a reputation they’ve proudly upheld year after year. Skis like the Mantra and the Katana are stuffed with metal and able to power through anything you throw at them. However, they’ve never been winners for anyone who wants to tour on them, or for those who don’t need something quite so stiff.
The Blaze line is the answer to those shortcomings, and the Blaze 106 is the king of the lot. You’ll find no metal whatsoever in the tip and tail, and only a small Titanal binding platform underfoot. They feel just as solid at high speed, and infinitely more nimble in tight terrain and bumps. There’s also more of a soft flex in the tip which is noticeable in soft snow. The full wood core means they are plenty light for touring, yet they are still responsive and playful unlike many carbon based touring models. Additionally, for the discerning skier, they’ve also added a full line of Smart Glue skins tailored to each Blaze model. It is worth mentioning, if you’re a lover of the Mantra M5’s or the Katana 108’s, the Blazes do not replace them for inbounds performance. After all, taking all the metal out of a ski does wonders for the weight, but it’s definitely going to affect its ability to live up to that hard charging standard of a full metal ski.
The Head Nexo Lyt
Head has been making boots for a long time, but they’ve never made anything quite like this before. The new Nexo Lyt line takes comfortable, lightweight, high performing boots to a new level. The Nexo Lyt 120 for men, and the Nexo Lyt 100 for women, are serious contenders for the best all around boot in their respective categories. The graphene shell construction makes for a super light feel that doesn’t compromise the stiffness of the boot, and the thermo-moldable cushion in the liner feels truly comfortable right out of the box.
One of the shining features however is the addition of Head’s new Liquid-Fit Liners. The ankle pocket of the liner can be molded with a wax injection into the boot while it’s still on your foot, meaning you can feel exactly how snug you want the liner and communicate that to a boot fitter. The kicker? It’s adjustable for the entire life of the boot. If you decide you want to change it at any point, the wax mold can be taken out and re-filled to adjust the fit. There’s a lot of customizable options in boot fitting these days, but as far as custom liners go, these take the cake. The caveat to all this unfortunately, is that obviously we don’t all have access to ski shops where we live. As great as the custom options are, it does hinge on the ability to consult a boot fitter to make adjustments to the fit.
The Nordica HF 110
The new Nordica HF 110 is perhaps one of the biggest steps forward in boot design of the past several years. Essentially, Nordica has brought back the rear-entry ski boot. What’s more, they’ve brought it back with a vengeance. The HF 110 is a total redesign of how a ski boot opens and closes. The HF back buckle closure system allows for a single instep buckle, and a single rear buckle on the heel of the boot. This allows the top to open a full 40 degrees, making the HF 110 incredibly easy to step into. The rear buckle system can also be opened and shut with the tip of a ski pole, ensuring easy access to get in and out. For skiers with any kind of issue getting into their ski boots, this could be the answer to how they can keep skiing without the struggle of forcing their foot into a boot each morning.
But wait, there’s more. Don’t think because of the design that this boot lacks anything in capability. The HF 110 can stack up to any other boot in its category with no loss of stiffness or on snow performance. Though, to be fair, this boot really only comes into play if you can’t make a traditional boot work for your feet. For some people, this might be the holy grail, while for most of us it’s more of a novelty.
The Smith 4D Mag
Smith has been killing it in the goggle market for a long time, and in recent years have joined the train of magnetic lens systems with their original IO Mag. The original IO Mag lens system had some pros and cons, but the general consensus was that it could use a bit of work to be more user friendly. Well, we asked and Smith answered. The new 4D Mag has both an updated lens interchange system and a new lens design as well. The peripheral vision on these goggles is pretty much unrivaled without going to a true XL frame goggle, which for many people just won’t fit. The curved bottom edge of the lens provides an even wider field of view, and with Smith’s ChromaPop Snow lens technology doing its thing, the clarity is impressive. The one major drawback to the 4D lens design however, is that if you already own a pair of the original IO Mags, the lenses will not be compatible with the new frames.
The K2 Phase Pro
This helmet made the list simply because it’s an awesome piece of gear and super accessible to everyone. At this point, everyone everywhere should be skiing in a helmet, without exception. It saves you in the event you make a mistake, but it can also save you in the event that someone else makes a mistake. That being said, a lot of the helmets out there are prohibitively expensive, don’t look that great, or are super uncomfortable. K2’s Phase Pro is a pretty darn good solution to that problem. It has a comfortable inside liner, an adjustable fit system that actually works well, good venting for airflow, and it comes pre-wired with in-ear audio. All for $100. Not to mention, it looks good too.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to look at a list like this and not immediately want to buy everything on it. What’s more, there are dozens of awesome pieces of gear this season that didn’t make the list, but that might be exactly what you’re looking for. Most of us don’t have the time or the money to ski every ski, try on every boot, and look through every pair of goggles. But if you want to talk to someone who has, just reach out to one of our experts on Curated. We’ve tried a lot of stuff, and we’ll help you find what’s new this season that will fit your style.