As the always-pioneering Ski Test in Kühtai fast approaches (5 – 9 March 2017), where expert skiers test the very latest in ski and snowboard equipment, Inghams looks at the coolest gadgets and trends, and asks GB Olympic skier Martin Bell for his opinion.
Inghams, the ski and snowboard holiday experts, teamed up with Martin Bell, four-time Olympian and competitor in over 160 world cup races, to create a list of the top 10 gadgets, trends, snow safety gear and in-resort technology to inspire skiers who are looking to push their potential:
1. Zeal Goggles
According to Martin, Zeal Optics Camera Goggles are currently the coolest ski / snowboard gadget in the market. With their aim being to redefine how we see the mountain, the goggles create true point-of-view photos and videos. Depending on the model, some have an in-goggle viewfinder to review the magic whilst on the next chairlift lap, whereas others wirelessly connect and transfer images directly and instantly to the skier’s phone.
2. Avalanche Airbags
In terms of the development of off-piste safety equipment, “the avalanche airbags from Arc'teryx and Black Diamond, which use electronic fans (allowing for multiple use and making air travel simpler) instead of compressed gas canisters, are a commendable development”, says Martin. Airbags are designed to prevent the wearer from being buried, which is key to survival in the event of an avalanche, as suffocation is the main cause of death. Research shows that wearing an inflated airbag improves the chance of survival by 50%.
3. Boots with heat-mouldable shells
When asked what he thought was the best ski innovation to come out of the Ski Test in recent years, Martin simply said: “ski boots with heat-mouldable shells. These have enabled most people to purchase ski boots that will be comfortable.” Over the years, technology has advanced the plastics being used in ski boot shell construction and this has allowed the possibility to completely reshape a boot to suit the unique shape of a skier’s foot.
4. The Ski Mojo
The development of on-snow equipment not only aims to make skiing even more enjoyable and safer, but gadgets such as The Ski Mojo, which Martin recommends, enable those who can’t otherwise ski due to knee pain to enjoy skiing for longer, in comfort and without fatigue. The device uses spring recoil technology to supplement the power of the leg muscles and reduce strain on the legs and knees.
Similar to the Ski Mojo are CADS. The skier wears a harness around their waist and attaches thin pole-like struts to the waist belt and to a fitting on the back of their ski boots. The struts are detached on the chairlift and remounted at the top of the hill. CADS (Constant-force Articulated Dynamic Struts) function like shock absorbers, offering enhanced suspension in skiing and reducing the pressure and impact for people with bad knees.
6. The SkiA Sweetspot Ski Trainer
Inghams also asked Martin what his recommendation was to skiers who wanted to improve their strength and technique at home: “The Sweetspot is excellent for working on fore-aft balance”, he said. SkiA Sweetspot Ski Trainers facilitate skiers in finding the ‘sweetspot’ of their skis through a series of exercises conducted on a series of blocks that get progressively more difficult. In limiting free movement of the ankle joints, the gadget very closely simulates the balance challenge of skiing, encouraging users to make use of their whole body to balance.
7. The Skier's Edge
Other alternative gadgets to help us master the sport include the Skier’s Edge for dry land ski training, which Martin says is fantastic for lateral balance. The Skier's Edge is a non-impact form of exercise; an apparatus designed to increase endurance, coordination and muscle memory. By using this, aspiring novice and intermediate skiers can learn and practice the proper edging technique before hitting the slopes.
It sounds obvious, but skis themselves are the coolest ski equipment around and are constantly being improved to assist skiers in mastering the best technique. Martin says that the most significant development in all skis is that they are being made with lighter materials, making a longer ski easier to pivot quickly. “In terms of the dimensions of skis, the designs are beginning to settle down now, after the rapid change of the past two decades. The manufacturers will continue to put much of their research into making skis more stable, using sub-binding plates, and other structures on the topsheet of the ski.”
9. Fat Biking
Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there is a range of alternative cold weather outdoor pursuits to also tempt adventure enthusiasts onto the mountain. Trends such as Fat Biking are expected to last, according to Martin, as the added grip of the oversized bike tyres, designed for low ground pressure, and the overall performance of the bikes on the snow are constantly being improved.
10. Snow Farming
In-resort technology is crucial for the skier’s overall experience and during moments of low snowfall. Whilst snow cannons are continuously being invested in, snow farming is also on the rise: piles of snow can be held during the summer months in insulated storage facilities. Martin also says: “Clever skiers will learn to re-think when they ski. Right now, everyone is desperate to ski at the beginning of the season… In spring, there is always excellent skiing to be had at high altitudes.”
When Inghams asked Martin what the biggest upcoming trend or gadget to watch out for would be, Martin replied: “3D printing of ski boots - perfectly customised to the skier’s feet!”
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