The annual “season of gear” will close soon, bookended with the OR show in Utah and ISPO Munich. I’m staying in Europe for ISPO. Lisa and a gaggle of WildSnow guest bloggers will cover OR. The blogosphere is already fraught with previews, but along with the rest of the blogsters we might as well pant over the new gear like overheated dogs on a hot summer day in Munich.
La Sportiva in particular has nice new ski touring goods. I’ll visit them in Italy just before ISPO for core details about how this stuff is made and who makes it. For now, check it out and watch your shopping list magically expand.
You all know the La Sportiva Vapor Nano ski, which has possibly the lightest weight-to-surface-area ratio of any snow plank on the planet. The new Vapor Svelte probably won’t win the surface calculations as it’ll be narrower (96 mm waist), but overall it’s going to come in at almost exactly 1,000 grams. In our opinion the “1 Kilo Ski” is the end goal of any touring ski design, and the closer to that result the better. Sadly, the Svelte is not light colored. But in truth making these full carbon skis to be heat reflective requires extra layers of paint and protective coatings — perhaps it’s just not to be. At least as far as we know they don’t include duck ponds on the topskin (and as our astute readers suggest, white spray paint is always an option).
It’s been interesting to watch various ski companies attempting to work the North American market along with Europe. Over here (I’m in Austria at the moment) seeing a ski tourer on a 100 mm wide ski is like seeing a runner in Sorrells. Hardly ever happens. A 95 waist is considered big, and most people are on skis in the 80s — or less. Thing is, the EU market is huge compared to North America, so you have to wonder if skis such as Vapor Nano really sell enough to pay their way, or if they’re done for brand recognition or to keep North American distributors happy.
Some of you might ask, why the difference in ski choice? Mainly, most North American touring is done in snow that lends itself to wider skis: either full-on powder, or non-based conditions where the snowpack isn’t bridged and you tend to sink and wallow if you don’t have something wide. In the Alps, snow tends to be more based and consolidated though they do get plenty of powder and yes you do see freeride tourers on wider planks, usually closer to ski lifts. But in the core touring areas the skin tracks are narrow, as are most of the skis.
In any case, nice to see La Sportiva expanding their line of one kilo wonders. The 95/96 mm width does work in most European skin tracks — a few of our favorite skis are similar in form factor, e.g., Dynafit Manaslu (<> 95 mm waist) and DPS Wailer 99, especially the Manaslu. Thus, if the Svelte skis well it could be a market leader despite its steep MSRP of $1,200. So how much per gram will you pay for lost weight? Answer:“Me see ski, me have credit card.”
One other thing. While La Sportiva won’t tell me where their carbon skis are made, various industry insiders have told me they’re manufactured by Goode in the United States. I don’t have any real verification of that but it makes sense, as the first thing I thought of when I skied the Nano was they “sound like a Goode and sure weigh like a Goode, and under that white paint they look like a Goode.” Operative concept here is that Goode has had very mixed success with how their full carbon skis perform. Our hope is that La Sportiva’s skier/designers can work with Goode (or whoever makes these) and come up with a winner. But considering all, I’d suggest not going into a shopping panic until the Svelte is thoroughly vetted. We’ll try to do that for you in March when they’re available, if not before.
On the shoe side of things, La Sportiva has redesigned their Spitfire, Sideral, and Starlet boots. Spitfire 2.0 is intended for super fast touring or racing, 1,130 grams in size 27. Sideral 2.0 is an all-around ski mountaineering boot with excellent cuff mobility at 1,150 grams in size 27. (Starlet 2.0 has same features as the Sideral 2.0 with female shaping for calf volume. (Some of you might ask what’s going on with the 4 buckle Spectre? As far as I know it continues, and will again be one of the best power to weight ratios available.)
Looks like La Sportiva is staying after their clothing program as well, and it is probably best with that to simply cherry pick some pieces for review over the next few months since it won’t be available till next fall anyway. Gloves and a helmet are also on tap.
More coming from the Dolomites when I visit La Sportiva next week.
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.