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New gear for 2018-2019: Lots of action in the backcountry skiing market
With the Winter Outdoor Retailer show one month away, we are already starting to see a bunch of products being released for the 2018-2019 season. And with the explosion of backcountry skiing over the last few years, more and more players are getting serious about human-powered skiing. We thought we’d start talking about what’s new and exciting in the touring world, no limiting ourselves to what we carry as a store. So here we go, part 1!
The Dynafit Hoji Boot and some improvements in the skimo racing lineup
I really like Bigline’s article about that new Dynafit concept! It is very thorough and the videos show very well the different mechanisms. Here is the link if you are curious. Wildsnow also has a complete article about what the German brand has been up to.
With the Hoji, Dynafit keeps trying to shift their "lycra-wearing Euro" vibe and message to the growing North-American freeride-touring segment. It will be interesting to see how it will one-up their benchmark freeride boot, the Vulcan. The concept is great. With the help of a moving spoiler, the boot locks itself in ski-mode without needing any rear anchor point (unlike any other ski/walk mechanism out there). By squeezing the cuff between the shell and a pressured lever, the spoiler transmits the forces of leaning forward on the cuff differently to the shell. This is to eliminate shell bulging, one of the major problems of touring boots design.
The Hoji will come in at a reasonable weight for a touring boot, it should be plenty stiff (really, who needs a plug-boot giant slalom flex in the backcountry anyway?!). We had the chance to see a pre-production version of the boot, and thought it walked amazingly for its weight. It should compete well with the likes of the Scarpa Maestrale RS, Atomic Hawx and other free-touring boots out there. The closure system is fast and reduces the need of fiddling around with readjusting buckles all the time. Judging by the amount of testing the Hoji has gone through already, it should be durable and looks easy to repair.
The new crampon system is sleek-looking and should lighten up ski packs. The boot will still work with semi-automatic crampons too.
Dynafit did make a few interesting decisions with the Hoji. First, it will be a 104 mm last, which will cater to a higher volume foot. Creating room in a ski boot is much easier and more effective than taking room away. While we usually see "performance" alpine boots with 98-100 mm lasts that can be customized to be wider, the Hoji does the opposite. The second thing is the "shark-nose" at the front of the shell. The Hoji won't have any toe welt. While the is no big deal for tech bindings, this prevent it from being used with the new Salomon Switch binding, next year's "OMG I need that thing" trend. Rumors has it that it won't be compatible with the Marker Kingpin.
Dynafit is also redesigning part of their ski-mountaineering racing lineup. The PDG gets a shiny new carbon cuff, which should make it better at skiing downhill. It also gets widened to a roomy 104 mm width and loses the toe bail. Expect to have to re-drilll your race skis to new BSLs if you want to change from the old to the new PDG. New race skis are also on their way (as hinted by some Dynafit athletes) and they look like a complete redesign of the current DYNA and PDG skis.
A 49 grams binding and another full-carbon boot also enter the "Race" category. With racers having to meet a 750 grams minimum per ski (including binding) and with many skis being well below 700 grams already, will racers have to start adding weight to their skis?Maybe a slightly heavier and sturdier race ski to make up for the weight saved on the binding? It will be interesting to see this new system being used on the World Cup this Winter.
Salomon Shift Binding
If Kingpins are one of the biggest hits of the past season or so, expect the new Salomon Shift to be next year's biggest hardgoods hit! Like the kingpin, many skiers will buy those based on the huge marketing effort and not because they necessarily need a full on alpine binding for touring. Lots of "awards" and "editor's choice" will be won in the powder and cliff-huckage oriented publications.
The area where the Shift shines is in offering a true slackcountry and short days binding. Being able to go for short and easy tours and to hit the snowpark or anything else in the resort with the same gear is the Holy Grail for some skiers. The 1.7 kg weight (for a pair) will still keep the more hardcore backcountry skiers away from this binding. As ambassador and famous Chamonix guide Tony Lamiche said on Facebook " I will still use tech bindings for longer approaches and days where I ski more than 1000 meters of vertical", so basically most of the time...
Those bindings have it all, massive heel-piece elasticity, DIN-certified with release value up to 13, multi-norms compatibility, etc, etc, etc. Lots of plastic and lots of moving parts might make it interesting in case of icing.
Some will wonder what is the difference between the Shift and the Kingpin. The Kingpin has a "tech" toe piece (a pin interface) and an alpine heel. It is designed for optimal retention and does not provide added safety. It is still a pin toe piece, which really is the limiting factor in providing safer releases. On the opposite, the Salomon will provide full lateral release at the toe piece, exactly the same way as an alpine binding. In the case of a crash, the boot will release both from the front and the back instead of having the heel-unit rotate and "force" the toe-piece open (like a regular tech binding). Great features for top-end free-touring and freeride skiing that most backcountry skiers won't benefit much from. Like the kingpin, it has been designed with the rad huckage folks in mind.