This week, Team FREESKIER hit the trade show floor at Outdoor Retailer 2019 in search for the best products, tech innovations and show-stopping advancements in gear presented by the industry’s top brands. From the thousands of products on display our editors narrowed it down to 18 pieces of gear to earn the coveted “Best of Show” bragging rights. Whether it’s new tech, updated design or details that have stood the test of time, the gear below embodies the spirit of innovation and promoting good times in the mountains. Keep scrolling for the Outdoor Retailer 2019 “Best of Show” products in all of their glory.
K2 Mindbender 108Ti
FREESKIER tested the brand new Mindbender line in Whistler, BC, back in December, and the 108 Ti, in particular, is a whole buttload of fun. K2 is unveiling two huge technology stories with the Mindbender line. The first is the Titanal Y-Beam, featured in this ski and other Mindbenders with “Ti” in the name. A specially-shaped Titanal strip runs up the gut from the tail, widens underfoot and splays like a fork in the tip. This allows for incredible stability in the tail and underfoot, but helps keeps the swing weight low thanks to its shape. The second big story comes with the use of carbon fiber, implemented into Mindbender planks with the “C” designation. K2 utilized a braid that covers the whole ski with fibers braided at different angles in different spots for the best rigidity and flex throughout the ski. Skiers who nerd out over space-age construction techniques will willingly have their minds bent this fall.
Volkl Revolt 121
The brand new Revolt 121 was designed with input from Völkl’s talented squad of freestyle powder skiers, like Colter Hinchliffe, Tanner Rainville, Markus Eder and Paddy Graham. There’s your selling point, right off the bat. The beefy pow slayer clocks in with a 121 mm waist and weighs a manageable 2,440 grams per pair, and it’s tip and tail rocker and near symmetrical dimensions allow skiers to press, pop, spin and butter through the deepest of the deep. However, Völkl implemented its new three-dimensional sidecut into the ski, which brings about a new level of “charge-ability” not common in freestyle skis. With a longer radii in the tip and tail, the Revolt 121 can rail huge, arching turns down big-mountain faces, while a shorter radius in the mid-body ensures it’s snappy and maneuverable when called upon. Freestyle powder hounds intrigued by their favorite pros’ skis will go gaga over the Revolt 121.
Freeskiers who grew up watching the sport evolve in the 2000s all have a huge respect for Eric Pollard—for his talent, creativity, artistic genes and, of course, contributions to ski designs with Line. The latest from the brain of EP is Line’s new Convex Base. Pollard added convexity into the tips and tails, a process he calls “harder than anything I’ve ever undertaken in the past.” The result is a more predictable reaction from the ski when pressuring the tips and tails in soft snow, allowing the user to press, butter and slash with more speed and control. Skiers with an affinity for Pollard’s creative genius are going to be flocking to shops for this ski.
Scarpa Maestrale XT
The Maestrale XT is Scarpa’s most powerful boot to date, catered toward rabid Maestrale loyalists who have been seeking a boot just a smidg’ stiffer than the RS version. Scarpa claims a 130-plus flex at 1,490 grams per boot, meaning users get that much-sought-after stiffness, but in a relatively lightweight package—the skiers seeking this boot aren’t as concerned with weight, anyway. The Italian-bootmaker utilizes a dual-injection overlap cuff to ensure a close fit to the lower leg and enhanced power transmission (while also providing easy entry and exit). Scarpa’s new Speedlock XT ski/walk mechanism provides 56 degrees of frictionless motion in walk mode, while it locks down tight in ski mode, and with the help of a built-in Booster Strap, ensures incredible leg and foot hold on the descent. Scarpa Maestrale loyalists will certainly take note of this boot in the fall.
Marker M-Werks Kingpin 12
What’s become one of the industry’s staple backcountry bindings for recreationists and top athletes, alike, Marker’s Kingpin will be offered in a lighter, stronger format heading into 2020. Utilizing carbon reinforced pins in the toe and heelpiece, as well as a larger mounting area for increased power transmission on the downhill, the Kingpin M-Werks 12 ups the ante for touring bindings once again. Standard risers—0 degrees, 7 degrees and 13 degrees—assist with uphill travel; a reshaped ski/walk lever is ultra-intuitive; and anti-ice pads underfoot keep snow and frozen buildup at a minimum. Backcountry skiers who care about weight savings and trust Marker’s tried and true downhill standards, will be looking at this updated version of the Kingpin with wide eyes next season.
Picture Harvest Jacket
Picture Organic Clothing truly leads by example when it comes to sustainability practices. Across the board, the company focuses on using as many recycled and bio-based materials as possible to create its apparel and accessories. However, the Harvest Jacket is the first to feature a partially bio-based membrane, called Pebax Renew. Utilizing Castor Oil—an organic extract sourced from Castor seeds—instead of petroleum-based materials in the production process, Picture aims to reduce the manufacturing business’ reliance on petroleum altogether. Even better, the Harvest offers best in class waterproofing/breathability ratings and a collection of technical features that allow it to shine amongst all of the other outerwear offerings on the market. For consumers who want to feel good about their purchasing decision and get top-of-the-line performance, too, the Harvest Jacket should check every box.
Le Bent Le Send Touring Socks
Backcountry veteran Cody Townsend teamed up with Le Bent to create the Le Send BC Touring sock–created specifically for the uphill. To keep the tootsies toasty, a double thickness in the toe accommodates the wider toe boxes found in many touring boots and the compression normally found in the forefoot of the sock was removed to avoid vascular constriction. For increased breathability, an innovative weave pattern on the upper forefoot–combined with Le Bent’s signature blend of Merino wool and rayon from bamboo–naturally wicks moisture away from the feet. Silicone strips on the heel also eliminate slippage, which lead to nasty blisters.
Helly Hansen Lifaloft Hooded Stretch Insulator Jacket
This breathable, packable, hooded, stretchy midlayer from Helly Hansen is ideal for a wide range of skiing purposes. It utilizes lightweight, synthetic insulation called LIFALOFT, which consists of extremely thin fibers that allow for microscopic air pockets to form within the insulation, allowing the layer to retain heat without the usual bulk of a puffy coat. It also promotes greater freedom of movement for the wearer. Adding a bit of tech flair to this piece is Helly Hansen’s proprietary “Life Pocket,” an extra-insulated chest pocket designed to extend the life of the user’s phone battery in freezing temperatures. All in all, the LIFALOFT is a workhorse that functions best in cold climates.
G3 FINDr 94
G3’s new FINDr 94 is built for steep, technical descents in variable snow conditions… a.k.a, the gnarly shit. The 94-mm-waisted ski features camber throughout with a slight bit of early rise in the tip and tail, for premium edgehold with enough maneuverability to help you out in tight situations. Its innards feature a combination of lively aspen wood with a Titanal mounting plate and two layers of carbon fiber for a combination of incredible weight savings with power and rigidity. The coolest feature? The edges are magnetic, allowing users to quickly snap each ski together and throw them on their packs for the bootpack. Hardcore backcountry users will love this ski.
DPS Koala 119
In December, DPS announced the signing of its newest athlete, Dash Longe, and with it comes the release of a pro model for the whole DPS athlete team in 2019-20. The Koala F119 is meant to walk the line between charging, directional freeride ski and floaty, playful freestyle powder plank. The ski is built with a more forward placed mounting platform, which encourages pressing, butters and skiing switch, yet it still features the guts of DPS’ Foundation skis—bamboo-poplar wood core, triaxial fiberglass, unidirectional carbon fiber—that adhere to a more hard-charging, directional style.
POC Obex BC Spin
Designed for skiers who frequent the skin track, the Obex BC Spin incorporates life-saving technology via a near field communication (NFC) chip that can be used to help first responders in medical emergency situations. By storing the user’s medical data on the chip, responders–including ski patrol and search and rescue organizations–can access that information through an app (called myiceinfo) to better guide their first response decisions. When a traumatic injury happens, time is of the essence and because of a one-year exclusivity deal, the Obex BC Spin is the only helmet on the market with this technology right now.
Flylow Domino Jacket
Flylow is introducing a high-performance, touring-specific line of women’s outerwear in 2020, coined the Women’s Z Line. The Domino Jacket, featured here, is the flagship piece in the new collection and is a true workhorse when it comes to breathability, durability and pack-ability. Most importantly, the jacket is constructed with Flylow’s proprietary fabric, The Perm by Intuitive, which is threaded in such a way that it remains air-permeable while boasting a 20K waterproof rating. Coated in DWR, weighing just 498 grams, designed with an articulated fit and staying true to Flylow’s eye-catching color schemes, the Domino is an ideal outer shell for backcountry-oriented skiers who want a jacket that’s weather-resistant but not bulky.
Icelantic Riveter 95
Icelantic gave its award-winning Pioneer line a sister in the Riveter 95. Like its bros, the Riveter (also available in an 85 mm waist) is a directional, all-mountain ski that’s super lightweight without sacrificing any power. The poplar wood core is responsive and energetic, while tip and tail rocker aid in maneuverability in all terrain and slight camber underfoot infuses stability into the equation. Icelantic boasts a rather rabid fan base, both in its home of Colorado and across the country, and the Riveter is sure to appeal to loyal Icelantic shredders looking for a dependable every day, all-mountain ripper with a bit of understated, aesthetic flair.
Salomon S/Pro 130
Salomon’s S/Pro is the brand’s best-selling line of boots, and it made them even better (how?) for 2019-20. The updated instep shape and a Sensifit Insert go a long way toward providing a true out-of-box, anatomically-correct fit, which is the biggest component of a great boot. From there, Salomon is able to provide incredible strength and weight savings by thinning the shell material but implementing an internal frame reinforcement that ensures top-notch performance and response. The S/Pro 130 is as close to a sure thing as it gets, and resort-only skiers who seek a stiff flex and great response will certainly want a pair.
Mammut Haldigrat HS Jacket Women
Backcountry enthusiasts and adventurers, take note: The Haldigrat HS Jacket for women is a new offering from the high-alpine experts at Mammut. With over 150 years of experience developing ski and mountaineering equipment in the Swiss Alps, Mammut applies a well-devised minimalist approach to the durable, breathable Haldigrat HS Jacket. Here, oversized underarm ventilation zippers help regulate body temperature, while 20K/20K waterproofing/breathability keep Mother Nature’s worst elements at bay. Plenty of pockets—with water-tight seals—and a helmet-compatible hood that can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally make this an ideal choice for ladies who thrive atop big mountains in far away places.
Oakley Fall Line XL
Oakley’s beloved Fall Line series got a big brother for the 2019-20 season. Designed for a larger fit, the Fall Line XL sports the same cylindrical shape and rimless design but boasts an even wider field of view than its smaller sibling. The Fall Line XL is also available with Oakley’s award-winning PRIZM lenses, including the all-new PRIZM Persimmon, a lighter, non-rose lens base which fine tunes specific wavelengths of light in overcast conditions to boost contrast and depth perception. Storm skiers, meet Persimmon.
Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Merino 200 Crew
Smartwool’s brand-new Intraknit baselayer collection is catching our attention, and deservedly so. Utilizing the same 3D mapping technology it uses for its socks, Smartwool’s Women’s Intraknit Merino 200 Crew provides a near-perfect, sock-like fit for backcountry-focused females. Blended Merino Sport yarn–56 percent Merino wool, 44 percent polyester–combines the power-house properties of the wool and the durable, fast-drying properties of polyester in a seamless construction that allows for different weights and weaves throughout the garment. Gender-specific ventilation around the chest, arms and abdomen turns the comfort factor up to 11 and reinforcements on the elbows provide added durability. This may just be one of the smartest baselayer tops we’ve encountered.
Nordica Santa Ana 88
Nordica’s Santa Ana line of skis is consistently at the top of our women’s rankings, year-in and year-out. Our readers and testers dig the fact that it charges and encourages aggressive skiing, no matter the conditions. This year, Nordica is dropping a carving-geared Santa Ana 88, for those frontside enthusiasts out there. Full length carbon stringers, Titanal and full ABS sidewalls give the ski a rigid character, able to hold on at high speed on-edge, while the use of vibration-reducing poplar and beech wood in the tip smooth out the ride. Women most comfortable pushing the speed limit on the frontside will be smitten with the Santa Ana 88.