More and more skiers and riders are taking advantage of open gate policies at resorts such as Jackson Hole and accessing terrain outside of the resort boundary. Deemed "sidecountry" skiing, many exhibitors at the Snow Industries America 2011 trade show showed an influx of new outerwear.
"Sidecountry" marries the durability and weather protection from hardcore backcountry apparel with the insulation, looser fit, and details such as cell phone/MP3 pockets that come with resort-oriented outerwear.
"Sidecountry users can't afford for their gear to fail, but they like the features that they get from jackets they wear inbounds," says Melanie Sirirot, apparel product manager for Outdoor Research. "It's important to have quick venting if you're hiking because you don't want to take your jacket off. Also important is a high collar to protect your face, a hood that fits over your helmet, Recco and pack compatibility."
Flylow Gear, a young Colorado company, capitalized on bridging the gap between mountaineering and freeride apparel and has seen strong early-season sales in their home state.
"We're like the Marker Duke binding of ski clothing," says Flylow Gear co-founder Dan Abrams. "Backcountry skiers used to use mountaineering gear, but as the gear got lighter and tighter, it got better for climbing but not for skiing. There's now a need for 3-layer waterproof/breathable shells that can hold up to the rigors of skiing with mountaineering durability."
New fabrics, laminates, and insulations are the real showstoppers. The latest innovation from Gore-Tex, called Gore-Tex Active Shell Laminate, combines a thinner and lighter Gore-Tex membrane with softer-feeling fabrics. Arc'Teryx and Scott have introduced Active Shell Laminate into their collections for 2011/12 to create more breathable and comfortable jackets that have better moisture management.
The new Burton [ak] line offers a variety of fully-taped Gore-Tex fabrics combined with linings that focus on breathablity.
Salomon, known as a big-mountain, freeride brand, has been seeing continued excitement in this category, which has been attracting new consumers. They construct 3 in 1 jackets for this category that combine 4-way stretch fabrics with Gore, Pertex windproof membrane, taped seams and down.
Mountain Hardwear unveiled their new proprietary waterproof/breathable and air permeable Dry.Q fabric system at SIA. Apparel companies such as Obermeyer, Oakely, Rossignol, Patagonia, and Marmot partnered with Cocona, which makes highly breathable, waterproof and water-absorbing fibers and yarns made from activated carbon from coconut shells.
Scottish hard shell manufacturer, Rab, incorporated the new Polartec Neo Shell stretch fabric, which combines the breathablity and stretch of a soft shell with weather protection from a hard shell. New jackets in the Ride/CAPP3L lines offer lining material called Strata DH II, a dual-layer laminate and coating that wicks moisture, breaths and prevents condensation build up.
Krista Crabtree is apparel editor for Snow Show Daily and gear apparel editor for PEAKS Magazine.
FlyLow Gear talks about their new sidecountry line for 2011/2012.