1. Avalanche airbags will become as common as beacons (nearly everyone ski touring in avalanche terrain will use them).
2. Airbag backpacks will continue to lose mass, with around 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) being in my opinion the operative goal for a 30 liter capacity rucksack. In the farther future, better balloon fabrics and improved gas or electric inflation tech will lower the weight even more. I’m waiting to poll retailers on how well the BD Jetforce electric fan pack sold through after its limited release. I’ll not pontificate further, and let the retail shoppers have their say. If you clerk in or own a shop that got an allotment of Jetforce, how did they do?
3. Despite the admirable efforts going to making full-on alpine bindings out of tech bindings, the majority of the ski touring public will look to the lighter weight binding options — to the extent of using skimo race bindings for touring. This will require more involvement from retailers who can properly mount and test such bindings — whether that happens or not is an open question and beyond my powers.
4. Swap sole ski boots (touring and alpine) will continue to disappear. Instead, we’ll see more boots using soles such as WTR and other configurations that mesh with alpine bindings or beefy frame touring bindings. (Note: Thanks readers for reminding about WTR — a good idea that perhaps needs more development and less hype. As for swap soles, Dynafit helped originate this concept in touring boots, and they now don’t sell any boots with swap soles.)
5. Fashion perceptions change. In the case of ski poles, adjustable models will begin to be considered ugly and somewhat geekish; photographers will want nice slim clean sticks in their photos.
6. As airbags gain popularity, large clunky beacons will begin to feel impractical or downright stupid (compare features to a phone 1/4 the size). Likewise, multiple burial features will become a non-issue. As one reader suggested a few days ago, due to the popularity of carrying beacons in a pocket they’ll be sold naked, with harness as an option. (Corollary: look for more touring pants with special beacon pockets.)
7. Several ski bindings using the tech interface (at only the toe, or both toe and heel) will prove to ski hard on the resort as well as the backcountry. While some of these bindings will be certified to ISO standard 13992 for ski touring bindings, more research and testing will show whether or not these bindings actually do offer adequate leg protection and retention. Don’t be fooled by marketing spreech nor our own yammering about ISO standards. We need much more information to determine how good the latest bindings are — despite how nicely anodized the aluminum is or how good the photos look on some website (grin).
8. The one-kilo touring ski will go mainstream, with budget versions available.
9. Brands will continue to produce classic (brake-less) tech bindings that boast modern materials and design, using Fritz Barthel’s decades old design to continue winning the weight wars.
10. Despite efforts to market climbing skins with alternative adhesion, weight will trump things again when thinner skins are introduced with incredibly low mass and tiny storage profiles. Will we get miracle plush to match: fur that climbs like a Honnold and slides like a Hoji? Not sure I want to step in that one; seems that making plush do everything might be like making gum into a neck gaiter.
11. “European” style clothing fit (slimmer) will continue to make inroads, as North American skiers realize they can look good without skiing outfits resembling a burka with a southern waistband.
12. Travel style will continue to influence avalanche accident outcomes worldwide, unfortunately in a negative way due to the propensity of groups to bunch together like hens in a barnyard.
12. Skimo racing will boom in North America, and “uphilling” at resorts will continue to grow like a well fed puppy.
13. Ah, and lest I get staked over a double burner propane cooktop at glacier camp near Haines, I’ll give a nod to splitboarding as a ski touring tool and predict it’ll reach “mainstream” status by the end of 2015. What gives me hope is that I’m seeing obviously fewer snowboarders booting, snowshoeing or otherwise parasitically destroying skin tracks. Instead, they’re skiing uphill! Progress!
14. And what’s the next BIG thing? In my view, the exponential growth of “backcountry skiing” is the biggie. It’s phenomenal, a total example of compound interest. I’m not saying this is good or bad. Sure, fewer people at my favorite haunts would be nice. But I’m enjoying having a nearly endless variety of folks to ski with, and more users on our public land will hopefully lead to powerful advocacy for access and recreation friendly land management. And honestly, since I make my living from backcountry skiing I can’t help but be biased towards at least some degree of growth. But growth does have a downside — comments appreciated. What’s your take about the tracks on your private stash? And if you don’t already ski with an airbag, have any plans to change that?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.