Steamboat Springs Innovation isn’t dead when it comes to the ski and snowboard industry. A quick browse through any local gear shop will prove as much. New skis are designed to float in powder better than any before and still carve down a wide run of choppy snow. Cutting-edge snowboards bring to that crowd what powder skis did for skiers years ago.
Constant improvement to gloves, helmets and other equipment — some that winter sports enthusiasts don’t yet know they need — promise to provide safer days, more comfort and more fun.
This is the first of a two-story Outdoors page series on the new crop of winter gear.
First up: the softgoods.
John Kole at One Stop Ski Shop is happy to show off his shop’s latest skis, its most innovative boots and even an expandable ski pole that’s easier to use than some past versions. But he was quick to suggest one thing he said every skier and snowboarder could greatly benefit from, one thing that could extend the life of those expensive boots and make a cold morning a little more habitable.
“The most important thing about boot care is getting a dry, warm boot,” Kole said. “Most people don’t dry them.”
Bringing a pair of boots inside from a cold car for the night often isn’t enough to effectively and entirely dry them out, Kole explained.
“Moisture in the boot will collect in the toe area, and if you don’t dry them out, your feet won’t be really warm because you can’t warm the boot up once you get out into the cold weather,” Kole said. “If you don’t dry it, the boots will wear out more quickly. The best way to take care of them is to dry them all the way each night.”
When it comes to boot warmers — many of which also incorporate glove-warming mechanisms — there are plenty of options.
The DryGuy Thermanator boot and shoe dryer can handle two pairs of boots at the same time and costs $60. The Widebody Boot and Glove Dryer from the same manufacturer runs $90.
A DryGuy AC/DC kit that drops down into a boot and is cigarette lighter compatible costs $25. Similar options cost as much as $50, some of which include glove-drying options, as well.
Boots, bindings, bungees
It may make sense to keep those boots in tip-top condition because in the skiing and snowboarding worlds, great leaps have come that promise more comfort and better days on the snow.
The Ride Insano Focus Boa, a $280 boot from Powder Tools at the base of the ski area in Steamboat Springs, packs some of the best that snowboarding boots have to offer.
“They use Intuition liners. It’s really heat moldable, and it’s one of the liners that’s effective for reheat molding,” Powder Tools’ Trevor Burman said. “A lot of people who are looking to buy boots for three or four years, it can re-expand it and stay comfortable.”
The boots feature the Steamboat-invented Boa Focus system to tighten for a custom fit.
Powder Tools also is featuring a number of snowboard bindings, something different for every type of rider.
The Salomon Relay Pro binding offers a looser fit and a “surfy, skateboard feel” for $255.
“The Relay has a soft heel cup, and that allows you more lateral roll without any pressure points. It’s the most comfortable binding I’ve ever ridden,” Jake Jarvis, of Powder Tools, said.
Meanwhile, the Ride Nitrane Contraband binding ties everything together in one strap, meaning riders can pop on and off of their boards with one quick swipe of the hand.
The Nitrane Contraband sells for $235.
“It tends to be real good with the park rat kid who wants to be in and out of the binding fast,” Burman said. “It also has a lot of side-to-side movement and is real popular with guys who like to ride rails.”
Ski boots, too, have morphed to offer more comfort.
The Apex Ski Boot, at One Stop Ski Shop for $1,295, boasts options skiers never have had. A carbon frame offers the lightweight support for downhill skiing found in many boots, but in the Apex, that frame can be detached from a walking boot. The dreaded long hikes in unforgiving ski boots become much easier in the walking boot, which can even be fastened into snowboard bindings.
Speaking in his shop Thursday, Kole turned from a wall of boots for something more fun. He didn’t go far, settling quickly on the Banshee Bungee, which looks more like a water ski rope most outdoors enthusiasts would have packed away by the time the first snow falls.
“It’s great, though,” Kole said.
A water ski handle connects to a bungee cord, which can be tied to a tree or a post. A skier or boarder can either pull the cord back alone, or have it handed over by a friend. He or she then can point, straighten up and go for the ride, being catapulted by the bungee up a snow bank, over a kicker, on top of a rail.
“You secure to something stable, pull back and it can launch you at 35 miles per hour,” Kole said. “You can build jumps or rails on flat surfaces. You don’t need a hill or something to pull you. It’s a great, inexpensive way to have a lot of fun.”
The Banshee Bungee is available at One Stop Ski Shop for $159 for a 10-foot rope and $239 for 20 feet.