A 21st Century skier can go downhill or alpine skiing with confidence like never before. What was once simply grabbing skis, poles, boots and a puffy winter jacket now involves sophisticated gear, apparel and accessories. Worrying about staying warm and dry or popping a knee has been replaced by the price, staying organized and getting all your ski gear there and back. The thrill, spectacular scenery and enjoyment of skiing are well worth it, but you need to be prepared!
The Evolution of Skis
Today’s skis are made for enjoyment. Strikingly long straight skis with front tips, a camber in the middle and tails in the back are no longer mandatory. Ski technology now relies as much on width, shape, materials and the emergence of a whole new category of skis such as “rocker”, “flat” or “reverse camber.” That’s without even getting into “twin tip” skis made for jumping and trick parks.
Skis are now specialized for particular conditions, terrain and skier abilities. Current ski technology increases speed and provides superior control through a combination of shape, width, length and lightweight materials. The available choices are nearly limitless for the types of skis, and the demand is keeping up. As of December 2012, US sales of Twintips were up 17% and US sales of mixed and reverse camber technologies were up 75% according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA).
The Evolution of Ski Apparel
Advances in ski apparel have also continued. Over the past 20 years all reason to fear the elements or one’s own taste has been virtually removed. Ski apparel is made from thinner, warmer, wind-proof or waterproof materials. Instead of relying on bulky cotton, down or wool clothing, including undergarments that act like a sponge, skiers now layer fleece and breathable materials that maximize comfort, warmth and mobility. All of this is, of course, wrapped in fashion influenced from New York, Milan and Paris. All you have to do is checkout the catwalk on the Fashion & Trends Show at the SIA SnowShow each January, or flip through your favorite ski magazine. Getting wet, frostbitten or looking outdated is now a matter of choice.
The Ski Helmet Revolution
The introduction of helmets to alpine skiing is nothing short of revolutionary. Virtually non-existent just 15 years ago, helmets today dot the slopes. On any given day skiers wearing helmets outnumber those without. Although there are still uncaring souls who opt to brave the weather and frostbite by wearing a bandana instead of a facemask, helmets are “cool” especially with stickers affixed to the side. The helmet market is big business with a plethora of companies battling in the market with sleek design and added safety features. Even during the horrendously dry 2011-2012 season US sales of helmet units were 1.2MM through March according to SIA.
The Cost of Skiing
The 21st Century has brought huge benefits to nearly every alpine skier from the recreational on groomed trails to off-piste, or the hard-core backcountry and heli-skiers. Skiing with all this technology is now a pleasure in almost any winter condition. However, as with any development, there is always a cost.
Skiing today and hefty price tags go hand-in-hand. From high-end jackets to costly gloves to lift tickets, travel costs and accommodations, skiing can easily become expensive. For the novice it can be overwhelming. That’s why most skiers “in the know” look to lower costs wherever they can, such as with seasonal leasing programs for children, passing used apparel down to younger children or staying with friends.
Not far behind the high price is the stress that can easily slip in. Gravity does the work going down the mountain and the chairlift going up, but that overlooks what it takes to get on and off the snow. Skiing requires the right gear, apparel, accessories and preparation. Just keeping track of your “stuff” while going from home to the condo, hotel and then to the lodge and back can be a massive chore. If you really want to feel like a miserable donkey, try bringing along the family without the right stuff and preparation! Forget or lose anything and it won’t just be about the big dent in your wallet.
People ski because it’s extremely fun and great family time, especially with all the modern gear, apparel and accessories available. The caveat, however, is that it takes preparation. As Louis Pastuer said, “fortune favors the prepared mind.” Look for our next article on how to be prepared for skiing in the 21st Century.