Voile at Outdoor Retailer, photo by Stephanie Nitsch
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding doesn’t get more urban than Northern Utah. The busy thoroughfare of the “Wasangeles” Mountains has contributed to the explosive growth of day tours and dawn patrols and attracted the global interest of big mountain rippers. Its proximity to city life has also lured outdoor companies to establish roots in the Salt Lake foothills, cultivating a thriving industry for mountain sports and innovation.
Along with a few thousand other brands, a good chunk of Utah-based companies displayed their most progressive ideas at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market this past weekend at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Like a candy store for winter gear aficionados, it’s hard not to salivate when the latest equipment makes its debut at this annual industry event. Especially when two of the coolest, new products are coming straight outta the SLC.
For casual backcountry skiers and riders, avalanche airbags are a relatively new trend, but the concept has been around for a few dozen years. Using a slightly archaic system of compressed gas cylinders, bags are inflated to keep you above the debris of an avalanche. After years of experimenting with different prototypes, Black Diamond Equipment will debut a new avalanche safety system next season with the JetForce airbag.
Using a high-powered fan in lieu of traditional compressed gas cylinders, the JetForce backpack features a motorized fan that spins at 60,000 RPMs and fills a massive 200-liter balloon in 3 seconds. The fan pulsates every so often to ensure maximum air capacity and automatically deflates after 3 minutes; reason being that you can get caught in a second avalanche and need to use it again, or that you’re already buried and need an air pocket as soon as possible.
Test it and inflate it all you want: Pulling the trigger on the JetForce won’t require you to track down a compressed gas refill station. In fact, according to Black Diamond, the battery can last up to six inflations (at room temp) before needing a recharge.
Did you know the first splitboard ever made was a DIY prototype, built by Voile here in Salt Lake City in 1992. Since then, this proud-to-be-made-in-the-USA company has become the world’s most widely used platform and binding interface for splitboarding.
Voile will introduce the new Revelator splitboard, a backcountry deck that features a channel binding system for infinite, micro-level stance adjustability. But perhaps most exciting is a new base material used on both the Revelator and the Vector backcountry ski: fish scale climbing skins under foot. The grippy, built-in skins—modeled after the scales on cross-country skis—enable hikers to ascend modest hills without the need to attach or remove climbing skins for traction. Yes, you’ll still want them for any decent terrain worth sliding, but the ability to skate along small hills in touring mode is no longer inhibited by the slow process of slapping on a pair of climbing skins.
According to Voile, the directional fish scales won’t affect your riding if you, say, land a 180-degree spin and find yourself riding “against the grain.”
Both the Black Diamond JetForce airbag and Voile Revelator splitboard will debut in Fall 2014 at specialty ski and snowboard shops.