New Year, New Gear: What Our Ski Experts Are Excited AboutPublished on 12/20/2022 · 9 min readLooking for some new gear for the 2022-2023 ski season? Look no further! Check out this list of some brand new can't-miss ski gear that our Ski Experts are loving!
Every fall, ski brands release their new models for the upcoming season, and it’s usually a mix of carryovers from the previous year, small tweaks to fine-tune successful models, and some brand-new items and directions for the companies. For 2023, many brands are continuing the push into the backcountry. This has been ongoing for a few years now, building upon it by making gear more versatile and capable than ever before, in and out of the resort. All this is being done with increasing concern for sustainability practices and reducing the impact of our consumption.
Skiing has long been a sharp contrast of environmental impacts. It’s a great way to enjoy nature and appreciate winter's profound beauty and peacefulness. Skiing is environmentally friendly, with little to no environmental impact from sliding down the snow.
However, its impact comes from everything else involved in the sport, from getting to and up the mountains to creating acceptable skiable terrain and producing and consuming the gear and materials we need to ski.
This impact is not negligible and rises over time as gear becomes more sophisticated and energy costs continue to rise. Meanwhile, this all happens under the ominous shadow of the ongoing climate crisis, in which rising global temperatures call into question many long-standing industry practices. Is it ethically and morally acceptable to manufacture and maintain snow or run lifts, shuttles, and snowmobiles to service snow sports when those actions only contribute to the climate crises and further push the future of winter sports towards extinction?
Many companies are producing their goods and services in a way that reduces their environmental impact. The increased use of recycled materials is one of the most widely adopted trends across the snow sports landscape. One of the most common recycled items is synthetic insulation in insulated apparel.
Brands are finding ways to not only use fewer materials in the production of their gear but also eliminate waste and the lasting impact of their products after their lifecycle has run its course. For example, Rossignol uses upwards of 30% recycled materials in their most popular freeride ski lineup, and Picture Organic Clothing uses recycled plastic bottles to produce 69% of the polyester in their technical apparel lineup. Tecnica Boots has created a program to collect old ski boots and plans on recycling 30,000 boots by 2025. While every effort to reduce our carbon footprint helps, it’s clear that the ski industry still has a long way to go. May that be our resolution for 2023!
New Gear for the New Year
During the pandemic, as ski areas were shuttered or only able to offer limited resources and amenities, the industry saw a huge push into the backcountry. People wanted to continue to ski and avoid the hassle of overcrowding that arose as people looked for fun and safe outdoor activities. This demand was further fueled by the proliferation of “hybrid” touring bindings. Offerings like the Salomon Shift and Marker Duke PT allowed people to ski in the resort and skin uphill in the backcountry with a single setup.
What was once an esoteric activity that required specialized equipment and often compromised in performance could now be done with a single setup in and out of the resort by the most casual participants. Ski brands have continued to diversify their offerings in response to this demand. Traditionally, resort skis were strong and stable for the downhill, and touring skis were lightweight but only passable on the downhill. But now more than ever, that line is blurred. This year, more brands have released touring skis that perform just as well going down as any resort ski, and many have started offering 50/50 skis, much like the hybrid bindings, equally at home riding lifts as earning turns.
The biggest splashy launch is Blizzard's introduction of the Hustle lineup. Blizzard’s freeride skis have an almost cultish following. From the uber-stable and powerful Black Pearl/Brahma/Bonafide/Cochise to the soft snow-loving Sheeva/Rustler, Blizzard skis are consistently among the best-selling and most award-winning every year. Blizzard looks to build on that by introducing the Hustle series of skis. Depending on your usage, this unisex lineup could act as a softer, more playful soft snow ski or a supremely competent touring ski.
K2 has introduced a similar style ski called the Dispatch; however, they took a different route to get there than Blizzard. Where Blizzard took a popular and high performing in-bounds ski and lightened it, K2 took their popular touring ski, the Wayback (and Talkback for women), and beefed it up for increased performance. The result is similar, a ski built for the descent but light enough to carry uphill.
Armada has had this type of ski in their lineup for a few years now, called the Trace (or Tracer for men), but this year they supplemented it with a new dedicated touring option that’s much lighter, the Locator. Other brands have tweaked their existing resort offerings to include new touring options, but not whole new lineups. For example, Elan took their already light Ripstick and tweaked the versatility in addition to lightening it for the backcountry. Likewise, Nordica expanded on their Enforcer and Santa Ana Unlimited lines to offer a broader range of width options.
Backcountry and touring isn’t the only area where new products are being introduced for 2023. One of the biggest continuing advancements over the past 5-10 years is the dramatic increase in ski versatility, which has continued for this year. No longer must you decide if you want a strong, stable directional charger or a playful freestyle ski. Many skis can translate to different ski styles and conditions and do it extremely well. One of the more notable names following this trend is Völkl. Making some of the strongest and most stable all-mountain skis for more than a decade, a few years ago, they started adding technology that makes it easier to make different-size turns. This started with their wider freeride skis and now has filtered down to the entire freeride lineup and some of their carving skis like the Deacon XT. Now they’ve tailored the stiffness and weight of individual skis depending on the length, so skiers on the shorter lengths aren’t stuck riding the same construction and flex as those on the longest skis. Both these tweaks make their skis more approachable while maintaining the high level of performance people have come to expect from Volkl.
Line Skis has a new versatile lineup, the Blade Optic, which is its take on damp and stable big mountain skis. Using “Gas Pedal Metal,” Line takes the traditional titanal metal laminate and puts its unique spin on it by slicing the sheet into pieces. This allows their skis to flex more while preserving the dampening qualities that a metal laminate provides. The result is a much more playful and forgiving all-mountain ski and one of the few freestyle skis with metal in it because, as Line says, it’s all about keeping it “More Funner.”
Skis aren’t the only category where the envelope is being pushed in terms of versatility. The line between traditional downhill-focused alpine boots and uphill-focused touring boots is becoming harder and harder to delineate than ever before. For example, K2 released a new alpine touring boot called the Dispatch. With 60 degrees of range of motion in walk mode and a burly flex rating, all while coming in about 20% lighter than their current 50/50 hybrid touring boot, the Mindbender, the Dispatch has impressed with its uphill performance and comfort combined with outstanding skiability.
Another new model that is making waves is from the Italian company Scarpa. A longtime major player in the backcountry world, their Maestrale model has been the best-selling touring boot for multiple years. Scarpa’s new model 4-Quattro XT aims to bring the company into the resort world while maintaining its strong touring heritage. It does this by being the lightest boot ever to feature GripWalk-compatible soles. This means they can be used with all of the most popular resort bindings currently being produced and still are light enough to take out the resort's gates and hike uphill with minimal effort. To bolster their credibility with the American resort crowd, Scarpa has enlisted Olympic gold medal winner Bode Miller, who joins longtime ambassador and big mountain ski legend Chris Davenport.
Tyrolia released the Protector series of ski bindings, the first and only bindings to offer a full lateral heel release shown to reduce ACL strain by 50% in the case of a fall. Knee injuries are the most common injury in skiing, and backward twisting falls account for 75% of all knee injuries. The Protector is specifically designed to mitigate against that by allowing your ski boot to release a full 180° laterally or vertically.
Salomon also released a new binding, the Strive, based on their popular Shift hybrid touring binding. After receiving feedback about the quality downhill feeling that the Shift binding offers, the Strive is built on the same platform but without the ability to tour. The binding features an ultra-low profile toe piece, which sits lower on the ski. It’s lightweight and, combined with the low center of gravity, provides enhanced sensitivity and allows the ski to flex more naturally than bindings that sit higher up.
Another new product from Salomon is a helmet that features integrated goggles, the Salomon Driver. The helmet is sleek and can be offered at slight savings than if you buy the two products separately. By integrating the design, ventilation is improved, reducing fogging. It has all the standard features you’d expect of a high-end helmet (MIPS protection, adjustable ventilation) and goggle (photochromatic interchangeable lenses).
There’s a lot of new and exciting gear coming out in 2023. Brands are making products with an eye toward a cleaner and more sustainable future for our planet. It’s great to see such a concerted effort to enhance our time in nature while also doing the best we can to ensure future generations have the same opportunities. Ski gear is also more versatile than it’s ever been. It's great we don’t need to second guess the gear we bring on the hill when we’re presented with different conditions or terrain choices. However, it can be intimidating to differentiate between different brands and models and then weigh the pros and cons of each to determine the best for your unique situation. I encourage you to reach out to me or another Ski Expert to discuss any gear needs you may have and get set up for a great year!