Snow has yet to pile up all over Bald Mountain and the expansive Nordic and backcountry terrain surrounding the Wood River Valley, but new gear for the forthcoming winter has already filled stores throughout Ketchum. From flyweight Austrian Nordic skis that list air as a main internal component to handmade wooden powder boards hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun, this winter’s latest equipment helps skiers and riders brave the elements, reach new heights in the backcountry and push the limits of their aerobic and downhill performance, often with the same gear.
Fischer Speedmax 3D Skate Nordic Ski
Developed from the legendary World Cup and Olympic-proven Speedmax skate ski, the latest generation of Austrian ski titan Fischer’s flagship competition ski features further weight reduction and new construction aimed at reducing friction and retaining wax. But the material that accounts for 80 percent of the space within the ski is incredibly low-tech: air. A hollow, honeycomb-like internal structure of composite materials helps Fischer achieve a featherweight 1,030 grams for a pair of 186-centimeter Speedmax 3D skis—just 515 grams per ski—while a hole in the ski tip reduces swing weight. By bonding bases to skis without heat or pressure, the Speedmax 3D base is designed to absorb and retain wax better than previous generations and competitors’ skis, and a new waxable sidewall further reduces friction.
Innovation like that is what sets Fischer skis apart, according to The Elephant’s Perch’s Liza Wilson.
“They’re leaders of ski innovation,” she said.
The Speedmax 3D sells for $800.
North Face Futurelight outerwear
Calling it their most advanced fabric yet—and going head-to-head with the longtime standard for waterproof fabric, GoreTex—North Face’s Futurelight series of outerwear claims superior breathability and low weights while remaining impervious to the elements. Offered at a variety of prices in outerwear for alpine mountaineering, backcountry snow sports and running, Futurelight fabric uses “ultra-thin nanomembranes” to shield athletes from the elements while keeping them dry underneath, according to North Face, which launched the fabric this fall with athletes including Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker.
“They’re disrupting GoreTex and disrupting an industry that’s been the same for 40 years,” according to Sturtevants’ Mary Geddes, who said that the material is “lighter weight and more breathable” than GoreTex.
Plus, she said, the fabric is made without harmful chemicals found in other waterproof clothing. Futurelight will be found in an even wider array of clothing next winter, she said.
Dynafit Hoji Boot
For backcountry skiers seeking maximum downhill performance in a lightweight boot that also minimizes the steps required to switch between skiing and hiking, Dynafit has not just one solution but two: the Hoji Pro Tour and Hoji Free boots.
Weighing 1,450 grams per boot, the Hoji Pro Tour offers 55 degrees of motion when hiking and locks into an 11-degree, 120-flex skiing position for descents. Lacking toe and heel lugs, the Pro Tour is compatible only with pin-style touring bindings.
Slightly burlier and featuring toe and heel lugs, the 1,550-gram Hoji Free boasts a 130-flex locked at 17 degrees forward and the same 55-degree range of motion as its lighter sibling. Both Hoji models switch between hiking and skiing via a single switch that controls the cuff lock and buckle simultaneously. A hinged tongue offers easy entry and liner removal, or the addition of a heated tongue.
“It’s brilliant,” Backwoods Mountain Sports’ Chris Trollan said, adding that his time in the Hoji proved it to be a “high, high performance” boot.
“I love the Hoji,” he said.
The Hoji Pro Tour retails for $799 and the Hoji Free retails for $899.
Nordica Enforcer 104 Free Ski
One ski to rule Baldy? It could be the Nordica Enforcer 104 Free, according to Formula Sports owner Bob Gordon.
“For a skier looking to tear it up in the bowls” and carve turns on corduroy with one setup, the Enforcer 104 Free is a “really good all-around width,” he said, with a “slight rocker design that works great in the bowls, bumps and crud for a great all-around ski.”
Weighing 2,250 grams for a single 186-centimeter ski, the Enforcer 104 Free “cleaned up on industry awards” this year, he said, “from editor’s pick to skier’s choice and best in test” from publications Freeskier, Powder and Gear Guide, respectively.
Overall, Gordon said, “Nordica is top of the heap in ski and boot design, and they have a real race heritage,” which lends a propensity for speed and on-piste performance to all their skis.
The Nordica Enforcer 104 Free sells for $699.
Gentemstick Super Fish 176 Snowboard
If last winter seemed to be the winter that all your friends went to Japan to ski and ride powder, this is the winter that Japan comes stateside—or at least to the Board Bin—via the new Gentemstick Super Fish 176.
Constructed in Japan with hand-laid bamboo and a fiberglass topsheet, and featuring a massive swallowtail, “they’re made for Japanese powder, but it’s a good all-around board,” according to Board Bin part-owner David Kelso, who explained that the “super-wide” board offers the flotation needed for powder that’s deep but not always steep.
One of only three U.S. dealers for Gentemstick, Kelso said, Board Bin sells the Super Fish 176 for $1,309, “or 142,000 yen.”
K2 Mindbender boot
Aimed at skiers spending half their time touring and half their time in the resort, K2’s new Mindbender boot offers touring capability in a stiff boot that’s just as capable skiing down Baldy as hiking up.
With a GripWalk sole, “the goal is that it’s going to fit into any alpine binding as well as pin touring bindings,” PK’s Ski and Sports’ Doug Yeates said. “The on-Baldy performance is phenomenal.”
With a 130 flex for men’s boots and a 110 flex in women’s boots, the Mindbender “is a 98 last but feels like there’s room for fatter feet,” he said, noting well-placed “pre-punched areas” in the shell. Both boots offer 50 degrees of motion when hiking.
A single size-26.5 boot weighs 1,675 grams—not quite a lightweight touring boot, but light for a stiff, four-buckle freeride boot.
The K2 Mindbender retails for $699.