10 Must Haves for the 2017/18 Winter
As usual the ski wear, ski, board and boot manufacturers have a bewildering array of new gear available for the coming winter, each gaining rave reviews with talk of how they’ll dramatically improve your skiing/boarding technique. Again. So, forgetting all that for a few minutes, here are 10 items that seem truly innovative with each having the potential to improve your ski holiday a little bit. Or perhaps a lot.
The Life Pocket
Ok, we never thought we’d be touting a “pocket” as a “must have” but Helly Hansen are so excited by their new pocket they’ve included in some of their newest jackets even trademarked it The Life Pocket™ and made an extra-advanced edition The Life Pocket+™
What’s special about it? Well it stays twice as warm as a normal pocket which apparently isn’t for keeping your hands nice and toasty but your phone, camera and other hi tec gizmos. Keeping your tec warm means that a common problem skiers and boarders find on the mountain – that the battery life drains out of their gear in much shorter periods because of the low temperatures, is rectified.
The slightly more advanced, The Life Pocket+™ is engineered with Prima Loft Gold Insulation Aerogel and keeps your pocket three times warmer than traditional ski jacket pockets. This state of the art aerogel was developed by NASA to protect electronics in space apparently so it’s only right you should share in this technological advance (hellyhansen.com/en_gb/)
Let There Be Light
One thing that often comes in handy in a ski resort, whether you’re out on a serious multi-day ski touring expedition or just trying to find your way back to your chalet after a night in the bar is a bit of light. But good torches can be cumbersome to carry around and you may need both hands free for balance so a lightweight headlamp is the perfect answer.
The Axis headlamp comes in two varieties – battery powered or rechargeable – but they both have several key plus points – an exceptionally bright LED light for their size, long battery/charge life (up to 150 hours on the recharge version with a six metre beam if you just need to see where you’re going, but also the option to increase the beam to 58 metres for the long view!), water resistance and light weight (81 grammes). (£49.95; whitbyandco.co.uk)
The Burton Step On™ System
Burton has announced what it is describing as “snowboarding’s next evolution,” the Step On™ boot-to-binding connection system will hit the stores on November 2nd. Essentially it’s a boot-to-board binding which the company claims is by far the quickest yet made for boarders.
“Over five years ago, I challenged our hardgoods team to evolve the way snowboarders get in and out of bindings,” said Jake Burton, Founder & Chairman of Burton Snowboards. “Personally, I was sick of sitting down to strap in and knew we needed more convenience, which is one area where skiing has been ahead of us. I had very high expectations and didn’t want to compromise at all on performance or the ride feel. After hundreds of prototypes and thousands of hours of testing, Step On™ has exceeded everything I thought it would be. The convenience, comfort and feel is next level. Step On™ is the only thing I rode last season, and you won’t see me sitting down to strap in again.”
Buying a ski helmet can be a bit of a quandary. The idea is you’re buying one to increase the likelihood of you not being injured in some accident where your head takes an impact, so do you spend less than £20 on a helmet from a store like Decathlon or should you be spending over £300 for an apparently ‘state-of-the-art’ helmet. In short, does spending more means greater levels of safety? Well a number of top end brands argue it does and several now offer MIPS technology as part justification for their higher price tag. MIPS has an inner and outer shell the idea being that the force of an impact on the outer is directed sideways around the inner and not straight at your noggin. The Smith Quantum is one of the new breed of MIPS helmets (£260, smithoptics.com/uk)
Gizmo of the Winter
What new-season-must-haves list would be complete without at least one gizmo? There are always dozens and dozens of them every autumn. They’re all state-of-the-art with the latest tech and they’ve usually got a number one higher than the state-of-the-art latest-tech opne they releast 12 months earlier.
Watch maker Suunto has gone for a name not a number though with its ‘Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro.’ You may be naïve enough to still think this looks like it’s a watch but no it monitors your heart; display’s the length of your ski runs, verticals and maximum speed during descent; advises on the local sunrise and sunset times; provides route navigation with estimated time of arrive (ETA) and remaining distance to destination; offers points of interest navigation with alarms inbuilt air pressure sensor and even provides precise altitude readings and a storm warning. It also tells you where you are and, yes, what the time is. (£439, suunto.com).
Drying Wet Ski Boots
Getting your ski boots dry doesn’t seem to be the problem it was years ago. More and more properties have heated boot rooms and many of them special boot drying racks. But innovators are still coming up with new ideas to get boots dry which can be handy if you find you’re not in a place with good boot driers. One such great new idea is marketed as ‘Drysure’ a device you drop in to your wet boots where its silica oxide beads get to work and amazingly absorb the moisture. The manufacturers say they’re actually a safer way to dry your boots than heat, especially if you have heat moulded foot beds and shells. (£30, drysure.co)
Thermonet Your Neck
Headwear manufacturer Buffwear has been putting technical fabric Thermonet in to many of their products, particularly those neck tubes you can pull up over your chin and mouth when the temps are way down low and the wind is icy, then push down in to your collar when it warms up. Thermonet, Buff claim, is a “research-based, technical fabric” which combines high-thermal insulation with advanced moisture management to keep users warm and dry in the most extreme weather conditions. Their tests prove it to be four times warmer than the regular microfibre used in most hats and neck warmers. As an added bonus, Thermonet is reported to be highly breathable – meaning you want get too sweaty, quick drying (if you do get too sweaty) and the manufacturing process creates a seamless garden so no annoying stitching lines rubbing against your neck.
Get A Grip
There’s a very interesting niche ski company that you may not have heard of, but who are responsible for some very cool pieces of kit. Sidas was established back in 1975 by three ski instructors with the idea of making the skiing experience better and more comfortable by focussing on the feet. They don’t really make ski boots or socks per se exactly (apart for some heated socks) but they make everything to make your feet more comfortable in your boots and your skiing better. So this is the company to look for if you want insoles adapted to your foot, gel skin protectors, technical socks, made-to-measure boot liners, batteries added to insoles, socks or liners to ensure all-day warmth or shells adapted or shaped to your foot. This season there’s a new flexible, one-size-fits-all traction device for ski boots, the Ski Boot Traction. Once you've adjusted it to the correct length you simply clip in at the front, and then pull the elasticated section back to clip in the heel. It improves safety on icy ground, whilst making it as simple as possible to take on and off. also carries (£25, sida.com).
Coffee has made great inroads in to British culture in recent years, with coffee houses leaving tea houses in the dust as they sweep the country. So it is that many of us now have a serious good coffee addiction and find our ski holidays severely impacted if we land in accommodation or a resort where it’s more difficult than it should be to source a decent espresso (not Italy though, obviously). But help is at hand in the shape of a new Handpresso range of personal coffee makers. These are not just coffee-versions of teas bags that you drip hot water through top make something lukewarm and vaguely coffee-flavoured but serious pressurised pumps to extract the best flavours. The company makes a big range of hand-coffee-making-machines including some that are manual, others you can plug in to a car power socket. Perhaps most practical and lightweight for your suitcase is the Handpresso Pump Pop, a quality machine delivering a true espresso at 16 bars which is available in a funky range of pink, apple green, orange and sky blue colours (£69.99; handpresso.co.uk).
Put a Sock On It
If you’re a terribly old-fashioned kind of skier you may imagine that a ski sock is just a ski sock and it doesn’t matter if it compresses your calf or is made of the latest hybrid of Merino wool or has its own thermal; heating system built in. If so, how wrong you are. There are lots of ski sock manufacturers lining up to tell us about the latest type of ski sock we need to completely transform our skiing simply by, well, changing our socks. One of the big, long-established and trusted names in the ski sock world, Falke, do, however come up with a credible reason why you should update your sock wardrobe. They haven’t designed socks with any particular gimmick, but they have fine-tuned their designs to different skier type. They even say they’ve made socks specifically for the British market having checked out our typically ski style (and being polite enough not to criticise). So many of us should go for the intermediate level Falke SK2 sock which uses 75% merino wool and has zoned cushioning to ensure softness, dryness and comfort. More advanced skiers might try the thinner SK4 providing excellent contact between the foot and the liner and there are others including the ST4 for the back country skier (£27 - £32, Falke.com)