Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I learned a couple of new pieces of slang Monday, and I'm pretty proud of myself. I can use the terms "mini rocker" and "slackcountry" and sound almost like I know what I'm talking about.
Here we go.
The Black Diamond Megawatt measures 125 silly millimeters under your foot and is the perfect ski for the slack country, where you'll be turning in powder and crud over your boot tops every weekend this coming winter.
Don't feel bad if you're still confused. Todd Givnish at Ski Haus had to explain it to me, too.
The slackcountry is a mountain slope where you can enjoy non-lift-served skiing that's so close to Steamboat it isn't quite deserving of being called backcountry. If you're skiing Walton Peak, Buff Pass or Hahn's Peak, you're probably not in the backcountry - your stash is in the slackcountry.
I know it seems a little perverse to be talking about new skis on Sept. 30. The aspen leaves are in full glory and the mountain bike trails are bone dry. The truth is, the guys in the ski shops would rather talk bikes right now than boards. But if you check your calendar, you'll find that even with a late Thanksgiving this year, ski season is only 58 days away.
I was motivated to check out a couple of local ski shops Monday after flipping through the latest edition of Men's Journal magazine. The September issue is devoted to the world's best gear, tech, tools and toys. The editors are touting Anton Gliders ($1,790), which they describe as robotic skis. According to the ski writers at Men's Journal, the Anton Gliders have a dual suspension that can be adjusted to 20 different positions to ensure the shovels of one's skis remain in contact with the snow in all conditions. And I thought it was mountain bikes that came from the factory with dual suspensions.
Mini rockers aren't what they sound like, either. Don't think: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Think: skis that arrive in the box with reversed camber.
If you're an old school fool like me, you're probably accustomed to manually reversing the camber of the ski.
Camber is a word that describes the way a ski is designed to perform like a spring. Look at a traditional ski edge-on and you can see that it traces a line that looks a little like an archer's bow.
Camber is the reason that a ski laid flat on a hardwood floor doesn't touch the floor in the middle. Transfer the ski to snow, and when a skier pressures the ski, he or she effectively cocks the spring. When the same ski is un-weighted, it actively propels the skier into the next turn. It feels good.
In the kind of powder we had last year, I'm told that having to reverse the camber of one's ski can be a hindrance. That came as news to me. But, the ski industry has gone ahead and designed skis that curve upward at the tail and shovel - sort of the opposite of camber. They resemble the runners on a rocking chair, hence they are "rockers."
Givnish introduced me to the new Salomon Czar (full rocker), and they are meant to be used 90 percent of the time in powder. For someone who expects to be skiing on soft snow about 70 percent of the time, Salomon makes the Lord - its mini rocker.
Over at Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare, Derek Hodson is confident that intermediate skiers will get a boost from Atomic's redesigned Snoop Daddies.
"They give you a nice wide platform that gives you confidence in the trees," Hodson said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Fischer has rediscovered slalom and giant slalom racing skis with holes carved out of the tips to reduce mass, and thus vibration.
Hodson, who is careful to point out that he is not a ski racer, tried them on snow at the annual demo days in Copper Mountain last spring.
"They're unusually fast," he said. "But any race ski I get on scares the living junk out of me."
Living junk - that's another new expression I've just picked up.
- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org