You can check the full text of my 2015 predictions here. Below is a summary of how I did, with my take now that 2015 is closing. Commenters! Let it fly, what’s your take on my take? (New prognostications coming soon for 2016.)
1. Avalanche airbags will become as common as beacons (nearly everyone ski touring in avalanche terrain will sport a balloon pack).
Yes in Europe, not quite happening yet in North America. Important, studies are showing the efficacy of balloon packs has much to do with terrain and ski style. For example, they’re not going to help you much if most of your skiing is in timber. Also remember you have to be in the flow of the avalanche for an airbag to work — if you get dumped into a terrain trap, you might as well be wearing a sign instead of an airbag. Most worrisome, apparently quite a few deaths may be caused by users failing to trigger their balloon. We’re not sure what the solutions are for the latter, but we’re watching everything carefully.
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.
Indeed, happening. Not with the hoped for lightweight electric packs, yet brands such as Mammut and Scott are kicking out gas operated balloon rucksacks getting down there in mass. Thing is, many airbag rucks still have superfluous fabric and junk that can easily be scalpelled out. That stuff is beginning to annoy us. I’m running out of scalpel blades and my scissors are dull. For example, while we see how guides and avalanche workers need “tool compartments,” our observations of the worldwide ski touring public reveals the vast majority would do fine with a single compartment panel loading backpack. Further, the crotch straps are essential but most seem to have very little design sophistication, instead functioning like something we could cobble up from our webbing and buckle scrap bin.
3. Despite industry efforts going to making full-on alpine bindings (freeride, baby!) out of tech bindings, the majority of the ski touring public will look to the lighter weight binding options.
Definitely the case both in North America and Europe. Most interesting part of this is bindings such as G3 ION that stay on the simple classic side, but add modern materials and a bit of mass for a sort of “compromise” tech binding.
4. Swap sole ski boots (touring and alpine) will continue to disappear.
Yep. Most notably Black Diamond has stopped making ski boots. If you like the Factor, get a spare pair.
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 clean sticks in their photos.
I do see many more non-adjustable poles in the backcountry, but the fashion perception has not been changing as predicted. Still, after more than 100 days of uphill skiing last season, I can not think of one time I observed someone adjusting adjustable poles. More, a quick survey of ski magazines reveals many photos of backcountry skiers sporting non-adjustable poles.
6. As airbags gain popularity, large clunky beacons will begin to be perceived as impractical or downright stupid.
Commenters? BCA Tracker 3 sets the trend? Are you still wearing your beacon hooked to a climbing harness draped around your neck?
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 touring nicely in the backcountry.
Marker Kingpin appears to definitely fit the bill.
8. The one-kilo touring ski will go mainstream, with budget versions available.
Planks got lighter, but I don’t see any super-light skis that are price conscious. I’ll call myself wrong on that, or am I missing something?
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.
Yep, everyone from Dynafit to G3.
10. Despite efforts to market climbing skins with alternative adhesion, weight will trump things again.
Most definitely. A number of brands are touting lighter-thinner skins, though some of those are more for the 2015-2016 season. Note we’ve tested the “alternate” adhesive skins quite a bit now (High Trails, etc.). We see those as useful, but they simply don’t perform as well in cold or wet and might be more appropriate as “one lap” skins, or for use in less demanding situations such as resort uphilling.
11. “European” style clothing fit (slimmer) will continue to make inroads.
Indeed, it’s getting to the point that a person ski touring in huge pants looks out of place.
12. Gang skiing will continue to influence avalanche accident outcomes worldwide,
Sadly, last winter European accidents show this to be the case. Suggestions: Spread out, way out. To make spacing work keep group size small, use radios, pick appropriate goals considering current conditions and group skills (e.g., experts need not group tightly together, while guided novices may need the proximity of their mentor.)
12. Skimo racing will boom in North America, and “uphilling” at resorts will continue to grow like a well fed puppy.
COSMIC skimo racing in Colorado has big turnouts, and astounding numbers of people are uphilling at resorts such as Aspen’s Buttermilk. As a side note, European Alps are having a thin start to this 2015-2016 season, so flocks of uphillers have invaded resorts — resulting in some of the hard hit resorts banning uphilling!
13. Splitboarding will mainstream as a ski touring tool.
Happening, with some of the board and hard-boot setups equalling or besting ski gear in the weight department. Thing is, what do I mean by “mainstream?” Just that it’ll be common and work well, but splitboarding will not ace out skis any time soon as having one plank per foot — uphill and down — is simply the best in terms of versatility.
14. And what’s the next BIG thing? In my view, the exponential growth of “backcountry skiing” is the biggie.
As stated in the original blog post, it is indeed phenomenal, a classic example of mathematical compounding.
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.