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Retailers demo latest in skis, boards

Allyn Harvey

There may not be any earthshaking changes in next year’s ski andsnowboard equipment, but the incremental changes under way sinceshaped skis and step-in bindings revolutionized the industry maybe worth checking out.In fact, that’s just what buyers from ski and snowboard shopsthroughout the nation did this week at Buttermilk, strapping onthe ski industry’s latest hardware and testing it out on the slopes.The trade show put on by the Western Winter Sports RepresentativesAssociation is just one of two where retailers have a chance totry out the equipment they’ll be selling next year, accordingto Sandra Butterfield, association director. The other is heldin Vermont.”It’s not all fun and games,” Butterfield said. “A lot of veryimportant decisions are made here.” But that doesn’t mean the trade show was all business and no smiles.”These are so much fun,” said Aspen’s Karinjo Devore of Volkl’stop-of-the-line P40. “They power around sharp turns, and theyhandle really well. I don’t think serious skiers who are usedto old-fashioned straight skis will be disappointed.”Volkl, said company representative Pat Sipe, has added two rubberinserts on top of the P40, just beneath its titanium casing. Theyrun parallel to the edges, from the binding toe piece halfwayto the tip, which Sipe says channels energy through the turn andeliminates the vibrations that hinder high-speed skiing on shapedskis. Similar vibration control systems can be found on many differentskis from several manufacturers. Fischer, for instance, has addeda similar design to its entire line, which has been entirely revamped.Its vibration control system – two rods thrusting from the bindingstoward the tip – is atop the ski for all to see.Reps from both companies admit skis aren’t changing much technologically,although incremental improvements such as vibration control rodsare addressing issues raised by their customers.Snowboarders shouldn’t expect any major design changes, either.Arbor Snowboards representative Ben Kinsella said that the onlyreal change for his company’s product is in the graphic designon the company’s Heritage Line. Arbor holds a unique niche inthe snowboard market, Kinsella said, because it is the only boardmade entirely from wood.”Wood has good linear flexibility,” he noted, “and it’s a naturaldampener. Besides that, every board is unique – no two piecesof wood are the same.”Perhaps the biggest change at industry giant Sims is in the split-tailof its new racing board, which looks like a snowboard with thetails from a pair of skis attached on the back. “It’s the only split-tail race board that’s made,” said Sims teamrider Raul Pinto. The point behind the two-year-old design isto make the boards easier to control. As at Fischer and Volkl, other equipment upgrades at Sims areless profound. The ratchets on next year’s line of bindings arealuminum instead of plastic; a layer of honeycomb insulation hasbeen added to the heel of its boots; and its top-of-the-line board- Project Hex-fc – weighs only 3.2 pounds.


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