Around the start of each year I put up or shut up. Last year, see https://wildsnow.com/19011/ski-touring-new-year-predictions-2016/
Here are my prognostications — with my take now that 12 months have rolled by. Commentators, have at it!
1. In avalanche safety, competition between compressed gas and electric systems will short circuit what’s been a rather boring few years in gas activated avalanche airbag development.
This did not come to pass as much as I’d hoped. The electronic packs are so heavy and expensive they’ve failed to grab much market share. This while Mammut went ahead and redesigned their plumbing to save grams, as well as providing a carbon cylinder that weighs nearly nothing. Result, while they’re cool in concept, the 7 or 8 pound electronic pack, costing around thousand dollars, is for many shoppers an expensive dinosaur.
2. In ski boots, the trend to more an better “pure” ski touring shoes will continue.
Clearly, this is so. Scarpa Alien and F1 have come into their own. Dynafit TLT 7 is lighter, still. Arcteryx Procline is exciting and the new Salomon X-Alp version brings that form factor to pure touring.
3. Anyone see the news about nano infused magnesium? It’s said this crazy stuff is super strong and ready to industrialize. Nanomag instead of Titanal anyone?
Not seeing anything used in skis yet?
4. I’ll climb out on a thin limb and say at some point in 2016 we will find a thermal drink bottle that’s lighter than our vacuum bottles and insulates as well or better. Oh, and does not dent.
Anyone see progress in this area? I’ve not caught any mentions. Fact is that the double wall vacuum bottle has been the object of choice for about a hundred years. It still works pretty well.
If you want the best, do your own testing at home by filling various bottles with hot water. Cap and set next to each other for 12 hours or so, shake, then uncap and measure temperature of contents. Here at WildSnow HQ, such testing reveals our undamaged vacuum bottles of similar volumes to be nearly equal in performance. Some do slightly better, probably because the cap is smaller or better insulated.
Also keep in mind that with more volume for a given bottle, it may cool slower because you have more heat for a given surface area and cap. We have a couple of huge thermos bottles we use for road trips. I’ve left them in the truck for a couple of days, opened up, and the contents are still piping hot.
5. A DIN/ISO standard will be created and adopted for the shape, position, etc. of tech fittings in a ski boot sole.
There is movement in this according to insiders, but a final agreed standard did not happen. Turns out that creating a DIN/ISO standard is up in difficulty along the lines of a successful manned lunar landing. Oh well… standards are a mixed blessing that stifles innovation as much as helping consumers.
6. Snowmobiling for recreation will continue to explode, but at the same time snowmobile access for ski touring in North America will greatly expand…
Partly right on this one. Recreational snowmobiling did not “explode” but it continues as big business in the recreation sector. Sales of new sleds went down quite a bit, but field observations here in Colorado as well as various sources tell me that more people than ever are out motoring around. Perhaps because they’re working less and riding more — without money for a new machine every year. As for sled assisted backcountry skiing, clearly expanding, I hear about it all the time.
7. Ah, ski mountaineering racing. Undeniable mass popularity in Europe will continue. Growth in North America is obvious, but a slow burn due to a much smaller base of athletes from feeder sports such as nordic.
Popularity continues in Europe — it’ll be an Olympic sport sooner than later. We still have a slow burn here in North America due to a much smaller athlete and spectator pool. Worst thing about this? The word “skimo.” Is there something better? Please, comments welcome.
8. Back to the electric balloon packs, it probably won’t happen next week, but I predict they’ll get lighter due to battery technology as well as other changes. Further, look for electrical connectors allowing you to charge your various portable devices.
I’m told that Jetforce 2 will be improved but not so much on the weight side of the equation. As for auxiliary connectors, engineers don’t like the idea of porting electricity out of a safety device. But I do. We charged a phone using our Arcteryx Voltair pack, and made espresso.
9. The classic black or dark grey ski shell pant will stay available for those who need something they can wear more than 10 days away from a washing machine.
That prediction was probably a cheat, as why would any sane clothing company not provide a ski pant in darker colors? Yet I had to wonder about companies such as La Sportiva. They market some incredibly bright colors. I checked. They still have their options in “slate” for those of us who don’t have a friend running a dry cleaning shop withing walking distance of our homes.
10. …finding a phone with a screen you can read quickly and easily in bright multi-source sunlight (as on a snowy mountainside in full sun) is nearly impossible.
Still, nearly impossible. But. One of our regular readers reports his iPhone 7 Plus has a brighter screen and truly amazing battery life, along with simply being larger and thus easier to read. Perfect for a backcountry GPS that’s functional when you really need it? Anyone else with a 7 Plus care to comment?
11. Climbing skins might actually be the biggest arena for disruptive innovation over coming months.
The “glueless” type skins have been a disappointment. But the dual layer adhesive developed by Contour in Austria is an obvious improvement. Easily cleaned, not too sticky. More for European temperatures however, our testing in sub zero Fahrenheit indicted Contour Hybrid skins do have an optimal temperature range. Beyond all that, if you can swing it get on a pair of narrower skis with Pomoca Race skins. Change your life.
12. …Yet again predicting that the next 12 months will be the “tech war.”
Vipec Black came out and wowed us, now Fritschi introduces Tecton. Marker is going strong with Kingpin. Dynafit has interesting new grabbers coming out. G3 rocked the world with what was perhaps one of the least buggy new tech bindings ever (though it wasn’t perfect). Plum, ATK… it goes on and on. Clearly, it’s a “tech war.”
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.