SIA Snow Show, part I

The annual SIA Snow Show is wrapping up today, a quick blur of a weekend full of fancy new gear, networking, strategerizing, and more gear. Today’s post is just the three most noteworthy stops for me – Pieps, Dynafit, and Hestra. I’ll have another post tomorrow with lots more. My first stop was at Pieps, to check out their new GPS beacon, the Vector.

It’s very slick and has some features that can make searches more efficient, including one screen that shows the fastest line to follow to cover an entire debris field (jokingly referred to as “Dig-Dug mode”), and the ability to pinpoint another beacon and get to it without following flux lines. It has a built-in rechargable battery, which is both good and bad. I look forward to playing with one more in the future, though I just picked up a Pieps DSP yesterday to upgrade from my old Tracker – they were selling at the show for a price I couldn’t pass up.

Also new and of-note from Pieps this fall is a stripped-down version of the DSP, without the compass and altimeter modes, a dog-beacon that operates on a different frequency (and that only the DSP and Vector can detect), a “back-up” mini-transmitter, and a beacon-checker.

Next up was a good long talk with a Dynafit rep about their new bindings and boots, and a brief discussion of their packs and clothes.

A big selling point of the redesigned bindings is the heel-elevator system, which just requires flipping a riser in to place instead of rotating the “volcano” of the old bindings. I have no problems using the existing heels, but apparently there is an added benefit – the heels will only be able to rotate in a single direction, eliminating the “phantom pivot” which can result in a sudden, undesired heel-lock when breaking trail through deep snow. The real bits of interest are additions to reduce pre-release. The biggest addition are new “power towers” in the toe piece.

The towers are fixed in place and eliminate later prerelease, which can happen if a decently-hard impact is taken at the toe. Solid idea and I imagine this will go a long way in convincing current Dynafit hold-outs to convert. The other addition – and the one I’m more interested in – is a carbon plate connecting the toe and heel. The existing Vertical FT has a purely-cosmetic connector, but this one can actually provide some benefit. One unfortunate side-effect of the heel-pin system is that under certain circumstances – mostly with softer skis – is that the heel-piece can hit the boot (under a hard positive flex) and knock the toe out the front of the binding, or get sucked out of the heel (under a hard negative flex), each of which result in coming off your ski. The plate can be “turned off” if you prefer the natural flex of the ski, and is only available with the Radical FT.

The boot lineup was interesting as well. A couple months ago, a Dynafit rep was hinting towards a “carbon Super-Titan” on TGR, which is now official and will be out next fall.

It’s as stiff as the old Titan (that is to say, very) but now weighs several ounces less. Very cool. Also new is an updated “Green Machine,” less than 100g heavier than Scarpa’s Maestrale but almost certainly offering a stiffer flex. I took a quick look at their packs, and I’m pretty intrigued. I hope to try one out soon.

I stopped by Hestra to check out their wall-o-gloves and see Hestra’s Marketing and Operations Manager, Jax. As expected, they’re continuing to put out the best gloves in the business. Not a lot of changes to the ski line, though there wasn’t a whole lot to improve upon.

They’ve got some new spring touring gloves that seem pretty nice. I might have to pick up a pair and give them a spin. They also have a new (to the US – it’s been around for a few years overseas) “Job” line, made for patrollers, lift ops, etc. and at very reasonable price points ($30-ish).

They also had their new Bike line, which I was hoping would be at the show. They’ve got offerings for commuters, roadies, and mountain bikers (with models for XC and DH), and I’ll almost certainly pick up some of these this summer.

I’m heading back down to the show shortly, and have a whole bunch more for tomorrow.

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