Last week, the FREESKIER staff spent four days scouring the trade show floor at the OR Show 2018, seeking the best products, tech innovations and eye-catching advancements in gear presented by the industry’s top brands. Amongst the thousands of products on display, there were 15 pieces of gear that impressed our Editors the most, earning the coveted “Best of Show” award during the convention. Whether it’s a new technology or a renewed philosophy, improved design or details tried and true, the products below embody the spirit of innovation and promoting good times in the mountains. Without further ado, here they are in all their glory—products from the future that you need to know about right now.
Volkl — Mantra M5
We were so excited about Volkl’s Mantra M5 that we traveled all the way to the Völkl’s factory in Straubing, Germany, to observe its production from start to finish. The experience solidified our love for the ski. What sets this fifth generation Mantra apart from previous iterations? Most notably, the use of Titanal Frame Technology. Explained: Völkl’s engineers utilized a 0.6 mm-thick Titanal framework under the ski’s sidewall, along the shovel and tail. The frame sheds weight compared to a typical metal plate. And because the same level of power transfer isn’t required in the waist of the ski, a thinner (0.3 mm) Titanal plate underfoot (so, three metal inserts, in total) provides retention for binding screws while also cutting more weight (because it’s thinner) and providing a soft flex profile, all while delivering the liveliness and stability skiers crave. The rocker-camber-rocker returns—albeit with slight tweaks—and carbon in the tips provides rockin’ torsional strength, sans bulk. All told, the Mantra has been a favorite since 2005 and it’s now lighter and more agile than ever. And, a note for the ladies: The M5 Mantra has a sister model in the Secret, boasting the same engineering. Go behind the scenes of Völkl’s ski-making process.
Fischer — Ranger Free 130
One might think that a boot boasting tech inserts, wide range-of-motion walk modes and low weight with exceptional downhill power to the tune of a 130 flex is hardly attainable, yet the all-new Ranger Free 130 delivers. The Ranger Free’s integrated ski/walk mechanism allows for a 55-degree cuff rotation and the use of GripWalk soles makes traversing icy bootpacks and ridgelines a breeze. Fischer utilizes Grilamid in the construction for its high strength to weight ratio (the boot comes in at 1,540 g) while a minimalist yet customizable liner helps to shed extra grams, too. You’re gonna want to get your hands on a pair of these bad boys, that’s for sure. Click here to learn more about Fischer’s award-winning skis.
The North Face — Men’s Ceptor Jacket
The North Face (TNF) is highlighting a collection for ’18-19 dubbed “The New Backcountry.” Inspired in part by the 2018 U.S. Freeskiing Olympic Team uniforms created by TNF, as well as the droves of skiers who are transferring the progressive style of terrain park shredding to the backcountry, the garments masterfully blend hip looks with exceptional function. Of the many pieces within The New Backcountry line, the Ceptor Jacket stands out (seriously, that’s bright!) as one that’s sure to resonate with you, the FREESKIER audience. The DryVent 3L shell features bells and whistles galore, including a jacket-in-hood storage system; powder skirt with gripper elastic; two secure-zip chest pockets and hand pockets; media port; internal goggle pocket; underarm vents; ski pass pocket; jacket-to-pant integration; waterproof, exposed zips; and on, and on. The longer length in the back provides much-sought-after flair, as well. From the chairlift to the skin track, from the park to the backcountry cliffs, this jacket is a winner through and through. Meet TNF’s head snowsports designer, Ruth Beatty.
Zeal Optics — Hatchet Goggle
Zeal’s Rail Lock quick-change lens system—two tracks in the frame that slide the lenses in and out—gets implemented into the brand’s first-ever cylindrical-lens goggle for 2018-19. In addition to easy lens swaps, it allows users to slide the lens up slightly while hiking or touring for a fog-free experience. Skiers craving the look of a cylindrical lens who also desire the premium features of most spherical offerings will develop hearts-for-eyes over the Hatchet. Have your cake and eat it, too. Learn more about the intuitive design of Zeal’s Rail Lock System.
686 — Hydrastash Jacket
Ever hear of a skier bringing a backpack to the hill purely to hold a water bottle, yet they despise the pack for its bulk? Yeah, that’s us too. Well, here’s a show-stopper for ya: Four years in the making, this patent-pending jacket boasts the world’s first built-in micro hydration system, providing skiers with unencumbered, hands free, on-demand access to water whilst ripping. That’s right, this jacket features a hidden 25 oz Hydrastash reservoir, integrated into the powder skirt. An “engineered body wrap fit” and special suspension straps allow the pouch to move with the user and also ensure its weight is supported. Alleviating any concerns of gimmick, the system boasts anti-slosh dams to prevent motion when fluid is low; the reservoir is guaranteed not to break under stress; it’s easily cleanable and fillable; it’s designed to prevent freezing; its Microbite valve is tiny yet effective; and it’s all BPA free. On the chairlift or in the backcountry, this system requires no adjustment and is comfortable against the body. Plus, the jacket fabric itself is 20K/15K waterproof/breathable with mechanical two-way stretch and DWR treatment. Furthermore, 80g of Polyfill insulation in the body, 60g in the sleeves and 40g in the hood provide coveted warmth. Get to know 686: the snowboard brand that kicked down doors and welcomed skiers with open arms.
Salomon — SHIFT MNC 13
The S/Lab SHIFT MNC 13 is perhaps the most innovative skiing product hitting shelves this fall and will undoubtedly be of major interest to you, those shredders who split time between the resort and the backcountry. The binding allows skiers to tour uphill via clamping pin-tech jaws in the toe and then ski downhill in a fully TUV-certified Alpine toe and heel. This is made possible by an innovative lever in the toe that opens up the jaws and then closes them to transform the toe from tech to Alpine and back. The SHIFT is multi-norm certified, meaning it accommodates all adult norm boot sole types. It also weighs in at a manageable 850 g per binding with screws (the MTN binding is 390 g per binding, for reference) and boasts a DIN range of 6-13. We’ve tested the binding extensively—from Utah to Colorado to British Columbia—and it’s produced many fist pumps and blurtings of “holy shift!” You should be chomping at the bit to get a pair of your own. Learn more about Salomon’s revolutionary binding tech.
Dynafit — Hoji Pro Tour
When it came to the Hoji Pro Tour boot, professional skier and eternal gear tinkerer, Eric “Hoji” Hjorleifson, and renowned product designer, Fritz Barthel, had the goal of producing a perfect blend of uphill efficiency and downhill performance. And in our humble and correct opinion, the duo absolutely nailed it. Standout construction features include a weight of 1,450 grams per boot (size 27), a low-profile, shark-like nose, 55-degree range of motion in walk mode and 11 degrees of forward lean. But it’s the Hoji Lock System that’s the true star of this show: A sliding mechanism between the upper cuff and shell allows the upper and lower cuffs to be free from one another in walk mode. When the lever on the spine is switched to walk mode, a system of cables automatically loosens the tension of the upper buckle; this negates the need to unbuckle while touring, allowing for better freedom of movement. When the switch is in ski mode, the buckle reverts back to optimal tension, ensuring a strong hold on your foot during the descent. If you’re a hard-charging backcountry skier, you will simply go nuts over this boot. Click here to go on location with Hoji and MSP Films.
Icelantic Skis — Mystic 97
The Mystic 97 is an all-new women’s specific backcountry touring ski that fills a gap in the market; the need for women’s specific backcountry touring skis is unquestionably on the rise yet the manufacturers’ response to this trend, on the whole, has been slow. By utilizing sustainably sourced, ultra-light “Ochroma” wood cores, Icelantic has achieved a ski that registers at a feather-light 1,349 g per ski. The Mystic 97 boasts tip and tail rocker with camber underfoot, allowing for easy pivoting maneuvers and also strong edge hold—the best-of-both-worlds scenario that most of today’s skiers covet. And don’t be fooled by the ski’s light character; it’s bomber as can be, backed by Icelantic’s line-wide, no-questions-asked three-year warranty. Plus, you’ve got to love that price point for a backcountry-specific tool of such awesome caliber. Trust us, after one run it’ll have you beaming just like Icelantic’s soulful CEO, Annelise Loevlie, pictured above next to her pride and joy. Check out the Icelantic skis that earned Editor’s Picks in our 2017 Ski Test.
LINE Skis — Sakana
When Line unveiled its Pescado in 2016-17, it was one of the most talked about models among you, our readers (and frankly, our staff, too). That’s because 1) the ski looks frickin’ gorgeous at first glance, 2) it’s designed by Eric Pollard, one of most creative skiers of this generation and one of our sport’s living legends and 3) it provides dreamy good times for folks who frequent deep powder stashes. Well, let the chatter commence anew… Meet the Sakana, the all-new addition to the Pollard Collection. This ski is heavily inspired by the Pescado yet boasts a narrower turning radius and a versatile 105 mm waist width. Like the Pescado, the ski features a setback mounting point, elongated effective edge and a unique shape that encourages snappy turns, long, arcing turns and everything in between. For folks like you who view the mountain as their playground (and let’s be serious, who doesn’t?) the Sakana is one to have. See LINE Skis in action.
Full Tilt — Ascendant Boot
Full Tilt has long boasted a rabid contingent of loyal consumers, but those transitioning into the backcountry were forced to ski on different brands because of Full Tilt’s lack of a boot with tech inserts and a walk mode. That changes in ’18-’19 thanks to the introduction of the Ascendant. Based upon the Evolution Shell, the boot is built using Grilamid for its lightweight yet strong characteristics and features a hike mode with a 60-degree range of motion sans tongue (40 degrees with the tongue attached). In tour mode, minus the removable tongue, the boot weighs in at 1,700 grams and its brand-new Tour Pro Liner has a flexible “notch” in the heel to aid in providing a more natural stride while skinning. The boot comes standard with Alpine ISO 5355 soles but will be shipped with rockered Michelin soles, too. Full Tilt wearers rejoice—your ticket to the backcountry has arrived. Add some steeze to your situation with Full Tilt’s B&E Pro Boots.
Strafe Outerwear — Scarlett Bib
When we first got our hands on the women’s Scarlett Bib the harassment from family and friends began almost immediately—everyone wanted this as their own. And for good reason… Strafe has spent countless hours refining its women’s fit to 1) be rid of any restrictions while skiing and 2) look good as hell (read: flattering). Made from super light, durable, fully waterproof and air-permeable three-layer eVent® fabric, backed by fully sealed seams and DWR treatment, these bibs have users covered both inbounds and out, from chairlift rides to grueling skin-track slogs. Additional features include a zippered drop pocket with interior mesh sleeve; zippered side-entry access with snap-tab closure up top; exposed hamstring vents; thigh pockets; four-way stretch powder cuffs with gripper elastic; internal Cordura scuff guards and hem guards, and more. A unique halter-top design and stretch back panel allows for efficient bathroom breaks, too. Thoughtfully designed and masterfully crafted, the Scarlett Bib is just what you’ve been waiting for. Read our Editor’s Review of Strafe’s Cham 2 backcountry outerwear kit.
G3 Genuine Guide Gear — Climbing Skins
Heading into 2018-19, Vancouver, BC-based G3 has redesigned its climbing skins so that skiers can easily “choose the right skin for any mission.” The new Alpinist+ series boasts five different products, pictured above, each focusing on a different strength: Universal, Grip, Glide, Speed and Pow. G3 utilizes a combination of different fabrics to provide the ideal grip and glide for each specific condition. Each new skin also boasts a reformulated adhesive that will allow for more laps without glue application—rejoice! Featured above far right is the Pow, which utilizes an extended polyurethane tip for more efficient trail breaking. We recommend buying the Pow for a friend and letting ‘em do all of the hard work for you. Also check out G3’s award-winning touring binding, the Ion 12.
Pret — Cynic AT Helmet
To produce this all-new helmet, Pret stripped its ever-popular Cynic helmet to the bare bones in an effort to attract backcountry enthusiasts who covet weight savings above all else. The brand modified the ear pads and liner in such a manner as to only use the minimum amount of material needed. A passive Level 1 venting system and carbon-plated ACT construction also put a premium on weight reduction, helping to achieve an estimated weight of 375 grams. In a nod to the go-getter spirit of skiers who will gravitate towards this helmet, Pret added adjustable head-lamp straps to accommodate nighttime travel. Get to know the tech inside your ski helmet, featuring Pret’s Cynic X.
Oakley — PRIZM React Goggle
Oakley’s PRIZM React goggles utilize the touch of a button to adjust the intensity of the tint on the lens, aiming to rid skier’s of the need to swap lenses—or goggles—when the light turns sour. Oakley is ahead of the curve, here, producing a ski goggle that changes between dark, medium and light tints via a technology that shifts ions between two ultra thin lenses layered into the goggle’s main lens. Weighing next-to-nothing and with a charge that lasts up two weeks, the PRIZM React technology will be featured on the frameless Fall Line XL Goggle for the 2018-19 season. Explore the Harmony Fade collection.
DPS Skis — Phantom Permanent Base Glide Treatment
After employing a team of expert chemists and engineers, and following a year’s worth of development and extensive testing with over 50 compound variations, Salt Lake City-based DPS Skis has developed a patent-pending formula that permanently alters ski and board bases to make them both faster and harder for the life of the product. Said formula is also environmentally friendly as well as safe to the individuals applying it to a pair of skis or a board; the same cannot be said for traditional ski waxes. Whereas a traditional wax-job will last for a handful of runs or a few days, at best, the glide provided by Phantom simply does not degrade. Phantom permanently alters the hardness of the base material, providing durability in addition to glide. Watch DPS Cinemas’ short film, The Time Within, to see DPS skis in action.