Flashing lights accent new snowboards
It has come to this in the evolution of snowboards: The major new innovation that will be coming to stores near you this fall involves little flashing lights.A sport that once prided itself on its rebellious attitude has as one of its standard-bearers this season a device that is reminiscent of nothing so much as “Freaky Flashers” novelty glasses and L.A. Gear kids’ shoes that illuminate with each step.It is called the K2 Piezo dampening system, and it is supposedly derived from the same military technology that gave birth to the stealth bomber.What it does, reputedly, is use an electronic chip embedded in the board to transfer vibrations into heat and electricity and dissipate the vibrations for a smoother ride. The flashing lights located atop the board are the physical manifestation of the dissipated vibrations.As unneccessary as this new technology may sound, it is already winning over its share of converts.”I am a believer that either blinky lights work or K2 is making a good snowboard and this is just a gimmick that sells it,” said Derek Johnson, the D of D & E Snowboard Shops.But blinky lights are not the only advances being made in the snowboard industry for 1999-2000.There are also new and better binding systems and a boom in the number and type of fat boards being offered.And it’s all geared toward improving your performance and giving you a more enjoyable experience on the slopes. Step in new bindings Step-in bindings are nothing new in snowboarding. K2 introduced the Clicker system roughly five years ago.But this year will see three separate step-ins vying for a slice of the industry pie.In addition to the Clicker, there is also the Switch, which differs from the Clicker in that it holds the foot in the binding by attachments on the side of the boot.The Clicker has its attachments at the toe and heel of the boot. And last year, industry giant Burton entered the fray with the S1, a system similar to the Switch.While those three systems are not exactly new, this year “high backs are the thing,” according to Johnson, and all three binding systems will be offering the option of a high back to the bindings, something they lacked in the past. “The high-back system allows traditionalists who want the freedom and flexibility of a high back to have the convenience of a step-in,” said Johnson.But because snowboarders like to go against the mainstream, in this case step-in bindings, it comes as no surprise that “traditional strap bindings are making a comeback,” said Johnson. Straps Drake, Burton and Ride all still make good old-fashioned two-strap bindings for those who refuse to bend to the times.Of course, with bindings becoming more and more integrated with boots, due to the anchoring points needed for a step-in binding, selecting a snowboard boot is more often than not a simple process of finding one that fits and works with your binding system.And on that front, at least, little has changed. “Fat Bob” begets fat boards A number of years ago, K2 introduced a board called the Fat Bob that would eventually send shock waves through both the snowboarding and skiing communities by ushering in an era of fat skis.Initially, however, the Fat Bob was merely designed for those with large feet who suffered from the dread affliction “toe drag,” which occurs when large-footed types try to turn and end up sticking their overhanging tootsies in the snow. The Fat Bob alleviated this by simply making the board wider.As expected, a number of companies followed suit and put out fat boards of their own. This helped curb the toe-drag epidemic, but it did so while only offering consumers intermediate-level boards on which to park their big feet.High-end boardsThis year, however, many companies will be offering high-end boards of the wide variety for experienced riders with feet sized 10 1/2 to 12 1/2.Among these boards are the K2 Ultima, the Burton Canyon and the Ride Mountain. And for those with even larger feet, size 13-plus, K2 will also be offering the Trucker, the first extra-fat board. Split boards Lastly, as far as boards go, the oft-heard-of but seldom seen split board for backcountry snowboarding is finally making its mark on the industry.The leader in this category, the F2 Duotone, splits down the middle when its clasps are released, has four edges, making even telemarking a possibility, and has bindings that are hinged while in ski mode and fixed crossways when the board is put back together and ready to head down the hill.The above innovations and advancements can help with your boarding and make things more convenient for you, but one thing they can’t do is keep you safe. And that’s why the real next big thing in snowboarding is how you keep your melon intact.”Helmets are going off,” said Johnson. “We’ll sell more helmets this year than God ever intended.”
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