Ski and Boot Trends of 2012

High-end boots that don't hurt. Skis that explode paradigms. Deeper forays into the sidecountry. Innovations abound in 2012. Here are the products to keep your eye on—some groundbreaking, some just fun. By Joe Cutts and Mark Ellin /SkiNet.com

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    Vacuum Packed Fischer’s new Vacuum technology might be the most innovative thing in boots since…well, plastic. Imagine a boot shell that is heat-molded to precisely fit the shape of your foot and lower leg. Fischer uses a new plastic that softens at particularly low heat. In the shop, the buyer dons his boots, inserts them into big bladder-lined galoshes and stands in the space-age Vaccum machine. The bladders are pumped full of air, which presses the heated plastic inward, molding it to the contours of the skier.  Not only does the shell take the shape of the foot and lower leg; the boot also morphs to match the angles of the lower leg, allowing otherwise cant-dependent skiers to stand more balanced without the need for complicated sole-grinding. Does it ski well? Two testers went through the process and skied the boots on home turf. “We wondered if it would be dead-feeling or weak,” says Jim Schaffner. “But it was just the opposite. There’s something crisp and snappy about it. Each run just got better for me, and I haven’t gone back to my other boots.” Pictured: Soma Vacuum 130
    Keri Bascetta
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    Amphibious Assault Just when rocker seemed to have settled into a few tried-and-true designs, Elan takes a unique approach. The tips of its new Amphibio skis are rockered on one edge, but not the other. You could call it “twist rocker.” The idea is to have aggressive camber on the downhill ski with a looser feel on the uphill ski. Testers suggested mixing and matching to suit conditions—rockered edges inside for soft-snow, cambered edges inside for hard snow.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Shrinking Heads Customizable boot shells continue to evolve. First Salomon gave us Custom Shells (heat-expandable in the “sixth-toe” area); then Atomic gave us Live Fit (flexible panels either side of the forefoot). Now Fischer nad Head are having a go at it. Head takes a simple and effective approach. Each sole of its new AdaptEdge boots each has a hidden waterproof slot. Turn a screw and the slot closes, making the boot instantly narrower. No more need to worry about your liner packing out too soon. Pictured: AdaptEdge Ltd.
    Keri Bascetta
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    The New Frontier of Boot Design The hottest topic in the boot industry now is how to accommodate the stance chances brought about by modern skis and technique. Essentially, manufacturers are using more-upright cuffs and a little less ramp angle in the boot board (or floor) of the shell to promote a taller, less-loaded leg angle and a more balanced feel underfoot. That's really the key to fore-aft balance: a planted ball and heel, with a leg angle that's flexed but not quad-smokingly bent. Example: Lange RX 130.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Back in the Bag An all-white one-piece? You could pull that off. Kastle’s OneSuit 2L Insulated keeps out the elements and tells the world you’re not just there for the hot cocoa.
    Keri Bascetta
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    AT, Uncompromised With all the different AT bindings out there, why would you want an MFD—an aftermarket hinging plate that allows you to tour with the alpine bindings of your choice? Because some guys just don’t feel comfortable on hairball descents in anything but their trusty (insert name of burly bro status binding here). And there’s this: the MFD’s slim profile puts you close to the ski, so there’s none of the slop of frame-style AT bindings.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Flex Index, Revisited Do you know your boot flex index number? Maybe you do. But what about your tongue number (Full Tilt)? Or your Dynamic Performance Code (Nordica)? Like traditional flex indexes, Full Tilt’s tongue numbers are higher for stiffer boots, lower for softer ones. Nordica’s DPC is a byproduct of the new Firearrow boot design (Pictured: Firearrow F1). It measures not just stiffness but also quality of flex using “progression” and “rebound” scores.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Rock Skis We’ve seen lots of materials in skis: woods of all kinds, various alloys, Kevlar, fiberglass, carbon fiber, bamboo, rubbers…. But rock? Never. In the case of the Rossignol Experience 88 (pictured), it’s basalt igneous—the most common rock in the Earth’s crust—which is melted, drawn into strands, then woven into fabric used for reinforcement. Does it work? The testers say yes (see our Gear Finder).
    Keri Bascetta
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    Wide Boots That Rip Used to be wide boots lived at the bottom of the boot wall, with thickly padded liners (soon to pack out) and flexes appropriate to moderate speeds at best. But now heavyweight experts with meaty feet can choose from a bunch of well-balanced boots with wide fits and robust flexes up to 110 and 120. Examples: Rossignol Experience Sensor2 120 (pictured; 120 flex, 102 mm width), Dalbello Boss (110/120, 103), Salomon Mission RS 12 (120, 102) and Fischer Viron 125 (125, 103). Need still more power? Several of the medium-width 130s would suit the huge and huge-of-hoof without much hassle.
    Keith Carlsen/MSI
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    Out of the Blue: BBR Easily the most distinctive new shape in the ski world belongs to Salomon’s BBR, the bright blue ski with the great big pointy tip—and the buzz to match. (Pictured: BBR 8.9) Part surfer, part carver, all attention-getter, it’s the singular creation of the same designer—Bertrand Krafft—who gave us the Pocket Rocket. Talk about good genes.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Gril Power This year’s boot test was a watershed for the women, eliciting more glowing reviews than ever from aggressive experts. Why? The upright stance angles that work for guys also work for women, letting those quads relax. And the women’s fits are better now, with lower heights, flared cuffs, removable spoilers and snugger heels. Add expert-appropriate flexes (up to 115) and a little faux fur in the liner, and it’s a great time to ski like a girl. Pictured: Head Vector 100 One.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Rock Skis II (Or: Get Your War Pig On) Do you ski to a rock and roll soundtrack in your head? Want a graphic on your ski to match? Head has entered a licensing deal with Motorhead, the seminal British new-wave-metal power trio, to use original album cover designs. Now you can rock the mountain on the Boneshaker 125 (pictured), Kiss of Death 110, Inferno 104 or Rock ’n’ Roll 94.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Sidecountry Sells Suddenly everybody wants a sidecountry boot, and every company offers one. Salomon started the trend, among alpine brands, of making boots that tour well enough but ski with the power and responsiveness touring boots usually lack. (Example: Quest 14.) Then Lange, Dalbello, and Atomic jumped in. This year Tecnica introduces the Cochise. Meanwhile, backcountry brands like Dynafit, Scarpa, Garmont, and Black Diamond are making boots that lifelong alpiners can love. All in the name of adventure.
    Keri Bascetta
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    K2s a Kid Can Love K2 continues to channel its inner teen. Every year it has at least one model for young adults that delivers K2 performance (and cool) at a teen-friendly price. This year it's the Sight: wood core, 85-mm waist, tip and tail rocker, hip graphic—listed at $500, but you'll see it for $400 in the shops. That's paper-route money.
    Keri Bascetta
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    Waaaaay Back The AT/sidecountry/backcountry trend shows no sign of abatement among mainstream alpine brands. K2, Marker, Salomon, Lange, Dalbello and now Atomic, Nordica and Tecnica offer everything from backcountry skis, boots and bindings to skins, probes, shovels and packs. There’s talk of an AT binding in development at Salomon, too, but we’ll have to wait till winter to see.  Pictured: Nordica Climbing Skins
    Keri Bascetta
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