Information about products for xc skiers
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Fresh winter air and outdoors in nature, where fun and fitness come together. Step on your cross country (XC) skis and go. You want good glide on the flat terrain, effective grip going up hills, and controlled turns down the hills.
The XC ski equipment and clothing is designed for skiing on groomed trails or in the snow covered untracked terrain; for sunny days in fresh powder or whiteout snowstorms in freezing temperatures. With regard to gear, there are many factors to make or break the XC ski experience. XC skis for example provide varied width, flex, and edges, all designed to perform optimally in different XC skiing conditions.
Every year, ski magazines and websites deliver their annual gear review with a focus on what's new for the XC ski expert or racer. It is thought that the technology used in these products geared to advanced skiers will "trickle down" to be incorporated and become beneficial to recreational skiers in the future…well, XCSkiResorts.com wants to provide a view specifically for recreational interests, to look at select products that offer a great experience XC skiing.
To address the lifestyle interest in XC skiing, there are more progressive colors being introduced by the clothing suppliers. Bright colors as well as muted color ranges are becoming more mainstream with neon highlights. Waxless technology continues to be refined for better performance across the classic ski product range eliminating the need for kick wax, streamlining the pre-ski process and get on the snow quicker.
XC SKIS: Rossignol touring skis within their EVO category are compact skis that are easier to maneuver, transport, kick, etc. EVO skis are also a bit wider to feel more stable in softer snow. There are two levels of EVO skis designed around how much someone will use the equipment.
The EVO Trail, Tour and Action are designed for skiing more frequently, which could be in different snow conditions – new, old/glazed, unconsolidated, etc – which impacts how the pattern will grip in the snow. With these three models, the Positrack waxless pattern gives excellent grip in varied snow conditions. The ski cap construction allows a bit of an edge where it meets the base and this adds grip and confidence when snowplowing and getting around turns.
The EVO Glade and First are designed for skiers that may not plan on skiing on a regular basis but would like to have some skis on hand. A cut pattern in the base for grip works great in many snow conditions, but it does not have the same range as the Positrack base. The construction changes from cap to sidewall with the Glade and First and that change does not allow for the slight edge that is in the cap construction. Glades and First are great skis for ski areas with prepared tracks, golf courses or open meadows and the Trail, Tour and Action will be more dynamic on snow and have increased versatility.
With the EVO skis, it's easy for skiers to choose their model determined by the level of use or performance to suit the skier's needs. The ski width would be based on where they'll be skied and how much floatation is needed.
The Spider 62 is Fischer Nordic's most popular ski for a variety of uses including machine-groomed tracks at the ski area, in man-made tracks, or on unmaintained terrain. The Spider is available in three sizes, has a steel edge for control, and a base pattern that holds going uphill.
A few years ago, Fischer XC introduced the NORDIC CRUISING line of skis. The unique shape and look of these skis help you understand the benefits and simple, but effective logic behind this series. Fischer's Wide Body Technology (WBT) is the original concept behind Nordic Cruising, and is responsible for the stability and grip features. The shape creates a ski that is noticeably wider under foot with a narrowing in the forward and tail sections. Nordic Cruising sidecuts are defined by 3 measurements. The Cruiser series features a wider waist, which provides control and stability by allowing more pattern contact with the snow to improve uphill grip without reducing glide.
The Alpina Sports Corporation's Control 64 Edge ski is for tracked or untracked terrain with a ¾ steel edge (is only on about three quarters of the ski edge rather than fully tip to tail) for better gliding. There's a waxless base and good flex on the ski so it is great for shuffling skiers and those who want more downhill control.
XC SKI BOOTS: The biggest change in XC skiing is that the ski boots are built for support, comfort, and warmth. For recreational touring boots, Fischer has 5 men's models and 5 women's models to address different fit, performance, and pricing needs. Fischer's models of boots are available in a men's or women's fit. There are differences between a male and female foot, which are addressed in the last of the boots. There's Thinsulate insulation in the boots and the women's boots have a fleece lining to provide increased warmth. Similar to skis where use will help determine the model, boot models can also be determined by increased support or warmth.
Alpina Sports has the T40 boot that includes a supportive cuff and counter system for support and a better sole to prevent slippery walking. The T30 version of the boot for women has the same features but is lasted for a woman's foot with more curvature, narrower heel, and a rounder toe box. Alpina's T30 also has a plush liner inside the boot and Thinsulate insulation where needed for warmth.
XC SKI CLOTHING: Sporthill's Super XC versatile medium-weight pant crosses a wide spectrum of temperatures and weather conditions. Perfect for both running and Nordic skiing, the slim fitting, low profile Super XC features front panels that are made of Windshield, a water-repellent stretch knit softshell that sheds water, breathes, and blocks the wind. The back panels are made from SportHill's soft, stretchy SwiftPro fabric which allows the pant to wick moisture from the inside out. The articulated knee overlaps a stretch panel built in for extraordinary mobility. Ankle zippers reveal an inner gusset, so unzipping allows hem to go over a wider boot without exposure.
For comfort, fit and convenience, the Super XC also has a contoured elastic waistband with a draw cord and a back zippered pocket.
The Craft AXC Touring Pant has zippers along the entire length of the legs and at the ankle there is an elastic area closed with a zipper and a snap. This pant ankle set up is the most significant aspect of the pants because it tightly fits around the boot and keeps snow out of the shoe top to avoid getting wet socks while skiing. And if you've ever lost a set of keys, the zippered side pockets are comforting to lock away your valuables. The comfortable lined material of the Craft pants is also enough to stay warm with or without a base layer underneath.
The Sporthill Symmetry II Jacket has everything you might want in a jacket except pit zips to provide an extra way to cool off and transport perspiration away. The jacket's mesh liner and material are comfortable when you have to zip up the collar on a very cold day. The packable hood on the jacket is a valuable asset in frigid temperatures or when it suddenly gets cold out on the trail. The high-hip fit keeps you warm and the zipper side pockets can be closed to avoid losing pocketed items. The jacket arms have extended fleece cuffs, which are a nice touch to keep snow out of your glove. The inside chest pocket has a zipper and a hole for an IPod and earbuds for the times that you want musical accompaniment on solo trail outings.
The Sporthill Women's SwiftPro Zip Top is a jacket that follows the contours of the body with flattering chafe-free seam lines that form the underarm gussets and side panels. It has a shaped body hem with a slight drop tail to help keep the cold out. This quick-wicking, breathable top has special touches like a zippered key pocket on the left front hem, and curved, built-in thumbholes as well as inner mitts. The fabric's stretchy comfort and ability to block the wind (up to 25 mph) are good characteristics. The 13-inch front zipper helps regulate your temperature and the zipper features a storm-guard at the top and reflectivity at its base. The SwiftPro Zip Top is embossed with a snowflake pattern that makes this high performance top fun and feminine and it can be worn alone or as a base layer under a jacket.
Socks and Gloves: Folks at Darn Tough, one of the hottest brands at the moment say look for a form fitting performance sock in a micro crew height (that means that it will come up just to the top of your boots), ensuring maximum comfort and support. Depending on the fit and comfort of your boots you might want either a minimalist lightweight pair or one with some light cushioning, but any pair of socks for XC skiing should have seamless toe construction to prevent bunching and pressure points in your boots. You want a reinforced heel and toe and some elastic around the arch for miles of blister-free bliss.
Merino wool socks (actually, Nylon and Spandex are in the socks, too) are especially good for high output winter activities like XC skiing thanks to their many natural attributes. Merino wool socks are breathable, non itchy, wick moisture away from the skin of your foot so that you won't feel clammy, stay warm even when wet, don't rub and won't cause blisters!
On top of all that they are naturally thermo-regulating, which means they will adapt to your body temperature because Merino sheep live in extreme climates so their wool has evolved to work equally well in hot and cold environments. Merino wool socks can be machine-washed on a warm cycle and then thrown in the dryer with the rest of your load, although Merino wool socks are naturally anti-microbial (no stink) so you can always wear them for another workout if needed. There are plenty of other great sock producers but a really cool thing about Darn Tough is that there is an unconditional lifetime guarantee – no strings attached!
The Yoko Convertible glove has a pull out waterproof and windproof cover (hence the name). This versatile glove is perfect for cycling commuters, back country skiers, and for those who want the flexibility this glove offers. Different pairs of gloves are needed to correspond to various temperatures, so more insulation is needed for extreme cold. Additionally, it is useful for the glove to be reinforced in the areas that grip the pole and have some cuff method to shut out cold air and snow.
So there you have it, a few name brands and products along with some tips for the recreational XC skier. Now get out there before the winter ends!
The SIA Snow Show, held in Denver, CO is where product suppliers show off their lines and retail buyers look into their crystal balls hoping to come up with the right products to entice their customers next fall.
This year, the Snow Show held in late January welcomed a record number of 554 exhibitors (172 new exhibitors) representing more than a thousand product brands. The attending retailers represented a reported 80.6% of the total buying power in the snow sports industry. The show usually attracts more than 20,000 total attendees (vendors, reps, retailers, etc.)
The intensity at the show lasted from early morning until late evening with parties, dinners, concerts, and fashion shows, along with doing business. Denver has proven to be a hugely successful site for the show since relocating from Las Vegas about six years ago, and the proximity to ski resorts, where on-snow testing can take place, is another big plus. This year, Copper Mountain was again the host resort for the two-day demo event for alpine skiing, snowboarding, and XC skiing that followed the show proper.
The day before the show marked the first-ever "Industry & Intelligence" gathering hosted by SnowSports Industries America (SIA) the snow sports industry's member-owned trade association, prepped the entire industry for the SIA Snow Show with day-long educational offerings, market intelligence, networking opportunities, keynote speakers and social gatherings. With 60+ seminars and clinics during the show as well as opportunities to meet with peers on issues that affect their business, retailers, reps and brands can all find a way to get inspired - keeping the industry in tune with issues and trends concerning all aspects of the snow sports business.
The industry day had nearly 20 sessions covering five core intel tracks - State of the Industry, Production and Protection, The Challenges and Opportunities of the One Season Business, Social Media and the Wealthy Retailer. There was also a job fair, a program on mountain tourism and Product Category Overviews by SIA Director of Research Kelly Davis. "The whole idea behind today was to help the industry prepare for the Show and make smart business decisions - Show attendees are often booked solid from morning to night with appointments so today gave many people the opportunity to sit in on sessions they couldn't before," commented Davis.
Davis delivered an overview of the market as well as information about the new NPD data system and SIA's Downhill Consumer Intelligence Project. There were also new educational offerings such as The Wealthy Retailer seminar series, a panel discussion on Attracting Today's Time-Starved Consumer and two remarkable keynote addresses that energized professionals from all segments of the snow sports industry.
Amy Purdy, the top-ranked adaptive snowboarder in the U.S., who is a three-time World Cup Para-Snowboard winner and 2014 Paralympic Bronze Medalist, took the stage closing out the day with her presentation about the power of imagination. She inspired the crowd and showed by personal example that our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by the choices we make.
Some reflections about the Nordic ski business were uncovered at the show. Brands are introducing features that allow for going between conventional trail cross country to backcountry skiing. Minimizing weight and maximizing performance are also top of the list - using carbon and other lightweight, but strong, materials to shave off ounces and increase stiffness.
To address the lifestyle interest in cross country skiing, we are seeing more progressive colors being introduced by the clothing suppliers. Bright colors as well as muted color ranges are becoming more mainstream with neon highlights. Waxless technology continues to be refined for better performance across the classic ski product range eliminating the need for kick wax, streamlining the pre-ski process to get on the snow quicker.
"With the participation growth of over a million skiers in the last 2-3 years (in 2013, the SIA Participation Study showed 3,307,000 XC skiers in the US), we are seeing more alpine ski shops stocking cross country gear. Their customers are asking for it and the suppliers are actively creating complete equipment packages to accommodate this need," commented Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Director.
The new "Nordic Center" (in photo) sponsored by Cross Country Ski Areas Association and media partners such as XCSkiResorts.com and SnowshoeMag.com offered show attendees an exclusive preview of apparel, equipment, accessories and technologies specific for the cross country ski and snowshoe experience with marketing and merchandising education.
CRAFT @ SIA returned to the Snow Show with even more exhibitors in its second year to educate the industry about the small, independent, hand-crafted ski and snowboard manufacturers. Another popular spot on Show floor was the Women's Lounge uniting the latest in women's gear and apparel. "The lines look great - people are in great spirits and there is a huge women's presence and exposure to the marketplace at this Show in comparison to others. At Backcountry Experience, the launch of "Project Zero's Backcountry Starts Here" industry collaborative backcountry safety campaign convened retailers, reps, and the media to consider and discuss safety issues surrounding this growing segment of the industry. Stay tuned cause there's a full article about recreational XC ski products coming to the Product News Page soon.
INGEMIE STEPS DOWN
David Ingemie joined SIA in 1976 as marketing director and became president of the non-profit organization in 1981 and over the span of his 39-year career at SIA, David has worked diligently to grow snow sports participation and sales and has focused on strengthening the core organization and trade show.
"The industry has been incredibly lucky to have David Ingemie as the driving force behind SIA for 39 years. David has been instrumental in working with the Board on defining what SIA is today and next steps to guarantee its future success and a smooth transition," said Bob Gundram, Chair of SIA's Board of Directors and CEO of C3.
"I feel so fortunate to have been a part of an industry that represents one of my life's greatest passions - snow sports. It has been a great run, working under twenty-one different Board chairmen/women and seeing so many changes within the industry; equipment, resorts, retailers, reps, and even ways to get down the hill," said David Ingemie.
A transition plan comprised of a long range strategic vision for SIA and development of job description and recruitment strategy for David Ingemie's successor became a top priority for SIA's Board of Directors beginning in May 2014, when Ingemie advised the Board of his plans for stepping down as president. The Board has developed a comprehensive understanding of SIA's future goals and the qualifications for an ideal candidate.
David Ingemie's successor will begin in a transitional role in June of this year and assume the role of president following the 2016 SIA Snow Show. David Ingemie will remain at SIA in the role of Immediate Past President and lead an archival project preserving the organization's 60+ years of history. Happy Trails, David! Top photo: snowsports.org/photography; Lower photo: Chris Frado
The SIA Snow Show will open in Denver for retailers and industry insiders at the end of January and the Preview magazine has been delivered with a snapshot of what is coming next year. The Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report showed cross country skiing equipment sales are up 15% in dollars led by the women's sector, which is up 28%. See article about XC products designed for women.
This increase follows a 6% uptick in sales last year, which followed a substantial decline in 2011-12. One brand manager said there is a healthy cross over participation from other endurance sports but a close look at categories that are selling may tell a different story. For example, a trend suggests that off track and backcountry skiing is resurging and leading renewed sales growth. Also, the use of carbon materials is saving weight in products encouraging some performance-oriented enthusiasts to upgrade their equipment.
Fischer is premiering a super-lightweight backcountry ski with an integrated "Easy Skin" system that attaches through a hole in the forefront of the ski. Madshus will introduce the Terrasonic IntelligGrip Classic waxless ski with a price point suited to novice skiers. The IntelliGrip skin is a mohair/nylon blend material used on the waxless base of the ski, which will also offered as an accessory that can be fitted on waxable skis.
Madshus also has an updated version of its women's Metis boot in skate and classic with a single-piece RevoWrap upper that conforms more precisely to the foot. Alpina Sports T30 R Boot is made with an antimicrobial replaceable foot bed that has a large size stamp on the heel for equipment rental operators. Alpina's CER ski is color-coded by size for easy rental use, too.
Rossignol has refreshed its touring equipment with brighter colors and its wider Nordic backcountry ski offers a more progressive tip rocker. There's new construction, camber profiles and sidecuts on the Rossignol EVO Tour and Action skis for easier maneuverability and Rossignol has incorporated a more forgiving fit in its touring boots.
Whitewoods brand has the Outlander ski and binding, which is a hybrid ski/snowshoe for traction with some glide. It claims easy turning, a waxless base for climbing and a short length (130/145 cm). The binding does not require a ski boot, working instead with an adjustable ratchet over the toe and ankle of other outdoor boots. Photos: Top:Whitewoods boot/binding and Whitewoods Outlander Skis.
Stay tuned cause there's a full article about recreational XC ski products coming to the Product News Page soon.
Using the simple premise that women's products need to be different from men's, some cross country (XC) ski companies went to work designing lines of women's skis and boots that incorporate various differences between the male and female physical characteristics and their interests. For example, women generally have narrower feet, so companies have built boots to accommodate this difference. A woman's whole center of gravity may be shifted compared to a man, which means that application of force from the legs to the skis is shifted, so different flexes in a ski are appropriate.
Some product differences are cosmetic (feminine colors) but they can also address fundamental interests such as stability or downhill control. Moreover, they are not just for the touring lines—companies recognize the need for women's products in each equipment category, from touring to backcountry to performance and racing.
Jan Guenther owner of Gear West, a retail dealer in the Minneapolis area commented that women are often shorter and lighter than men so they might be matched to a ski with a shorter length or softer flex that corresponds to their ability and skiing goals.
Alpina Sports designed a line of women's XC ski boots after analyzing 2,500 women's feet using a patented Optical Measurement System and 3D Scanner to arrive at the "ideal" proportions. The fit of the Alpina's women's boots is dramatically different than the typical men's - women are often sold differently lasted and smaller sized boots. The flex patterns are totally altered, the heel pockets are much narrower, and the cuffs are redesigned for the slightly different calf/ankle configuration of a woman.
Leading brand Fischer is making a big splash with its women's XC line of skis and boots referred to as the My Style collection. The skis have a stable platform and excellent grip and the package includes color-coordinated skis, boots, poles, and a ski bag. The skis with names such as Inspire, Mystique, Desire, and Passion include a Fashion product line and the Sport line option.
These skis are configured lower than their unisex counterpart to account for lighter body weights and designed for the classic technique with less effort required. The ski camber is adjusted to a lower height (from the floor or snow) so it will accommodate the skier who can use less energy to get the ski base waxless grip pattern on to the snow. And there's a new specially developed, very light binding for fitness-oriented women that is very user-friendly with an automatic step in/out mechanism.
Fischer has 14 models of women's boots ranging for high performance skate and classic to recreational and off track backcountry. Behind the fashionable designs lie numerous specific developments for enhanced female performance on the trails. Additionally the individual models are tuned to the varied individual skills and sporting ambitions of the respective skier.
Salomon Nordic has women-specific boot models in classic, skate, and combi (can be used for either skate or classic skiing). These boots include lightweight carbon chassis, heel adjustments and dialed-in flex for women.
Mariah Frye-Colie of Cross Country Ski Headquarters, a Michigan cross country ski retail and area operation commented, "Women like to feel good with product options that flatter a women's body, but also are functional and comfortable. The Nordic ski manufacturers have woken up to the demand and it's great to have more feminine equipment and clothing." Photos: Fischer My Style XC Comfort Pro My Style Boot and Fischer Spirit Crown My Style Ski. For women's XC ski and snowshoe event listings click the Women's Page.
Roller skiing, the non-snow equivalent of cross country skiing, was developed as early as the 1930s and it was used as a way to train for cross country ski racing as early as the 1950s. Today roller skiing is a low-impact high-intensity workout that is a full body exercise and easy on the knees.
Roller ski gear uses short skis on wheels with mounted bindings that enable a cross country ski boot to connect. Factors in selecting roller skis include durability, smoothness of the ride, matching skier ability, the road condition and the type of training that is desired. There are different products for classic and skate roller skiing and prices for skis range from $99 - $500.
Roller skis are much improved compared to the old products. Cami Thompson Graves, head women's Nordic Ski Team at Dartmouth College stated that "roller skis closely simulate cross country skiing, especially skate skiing."
Retailer Jamie Hess of Nordic Skater in Norwich, VT commented that "after the recent winter Olympics, there's worldwide recreational enthusiasm for roller skiing." He also said that the fastest growing region for product sales is the American Sunbelt. There are more than 50 roller ski models for different uses available for every budget and ability level. Roller ski enthusiasts are mostly cross country skiers who want to continue training after the snow melts.
Classic roller skis usually use wider small diameter wheels while skate ski wheels would have narrow large diameters. The difference involves speed, wear ability, handling rough road conditions (cracks or debris), and getting a similar feel to skiing. Roller ski construction involves weight, flex, and durability and are available in aluminum, wood, or composite materials.
Softer and wider wheels provide a smoother and slower ride. Hard wheels will be faster but can vibrate excessively on rough pavement. Ski poles have rubberized tips that resist slipping when planted on pavement rather than the metal tips used to dig into snow. Accessories are available for speed reducers and brakes to control speed on steep downhills, but not all models are compatible for adding them.
According to Coach Thompson Graves, "for safety on the pavement, it is important to wear helmets and high visibility clothing and be aware of the road conditions particularly at the bottom of hills."
Learning to roller ski can be a challenge even for advanced skiers and it is reported to be more difficult than inline skating. First timers should expect it to take some to get comfortable on roller skis but once you get the feel, you'll emulate sliding on the snow while you wait for the flakes to fly once again.
Recently, there was news in the business world that the projected sales of wearable computers would reach 585 million units and billions of dollars within a few years. These computers include various sensors or displays worn on or placed in the body that perform activity tracking. You've probably seen wristbands and smartwatches. Is it over-hype or will sales skyrocket similar to the IPhone or GoPro camera? Will consumer attitudes and adoption rates drive and accelerate this market segment?
Wearable technology information was featured in an InsideOutdoor Magazine article including survey feedback, the current situation, and the future of wearable computers. The early applications of wearable technology serve active and fitness-minded consumers. Wrist-worn devices can monitor and communicate information about motion, sleep, location, heart rate, and other body functions or health metrics such as steps taken, calories burned, etc. Concepts such as "fitness optimization" and the "quantified self" are currently chic and in 2013 there were nearly 5 million activity tracker units sold. Venture capital for biosensing wearables multiplied ten times between 2011 ($20 million) and 2013 ($229 million). It was cited that 10 million activity trackers were to be shipped in 2014 along with 7 million smart watches.
Companies that are already in store display cases include Nike, Fuelband, and FitBitForce…but in short time watch for a wearable tech tsunami led by Apple, Samsung, Google, and others with their smart watches, glasses, and so on.
The surveys show that 10% of Americans are strong candidates for early adoption of this technology. There are statistics showing those who are interested desire geo-tracking, fitness cues, goals, rewards, and the ability to share or compete with a group.
Among American adults, 46% are at least a little interested, while 53% are not at all interested in wearables. Many people can not envision any benefit of wearables or view it as just another fad. Many people are currently uninformed about wearables and don't understand the need for such technology. About 17% will consider wearables when the price drops and the "bugs" have been worked out and 19% say they will never buy a wearable device. Interest is strongest among younger consumers but most want the technology to meet their needs better or replace technology they already use. Research about smart watches regarding gender showed men who are generally more gizmo-friendly (52%) are more likely than women 40% to be a little interested.
Factors for adoption and utilization for any products include quality, fit, utility, aesthetics, out-of-the box ease, etc. Outdoor recreation has already applied wearable tech to things such as insulation, moisture management and anti-odor, insect deterrent, and sunscreen. But we'll see touch-button materials to operate portable devices, solar panel materials to charge devices, monitors for concussions, and the delivery of various analytics for performance optimization (ski turns, paddle stroke, golf swing, etc.).
Applications with apparel, for health and training needs, and protective sports gear are only the beginning. Frankly, the options for wearable technology extend beyond activity trackers and biosensors and currently the use of wearable technology is just beyond our imagination.
The 2013-14 snowsports sales data from SIA RetailTrak is in for last season showing $3.6 billion in snowsports product sales, which is up 4% in units and 7% in dollars.
Inventories are cleaner so things are looking good for 2014-15 in the business. There were record sales for apparel and accessories related to the cold weather. Equipment sales were the highest since 2010-11, which was one of the snowiest years across most of North America in memory. Internet sales continue to surge rising from $808 million last year to $867 million this year (7% increase). This good news looks even better when considering the draught in California, which negatively impacted snowboarding statistics and other snowsports meccas such as the Tahoe region and Mammoth Mountain.
Nordic ski equipment sales were up 15% in units and 14% in dollars to $41 million. The women's Nordic equipment category boomed to $6 million, which was a 32% increase in units and a 28% increase in dollars. Again, weather giveth and taketh: for example in the east there was a rainout in the second half of the holiday week and a frigid temperatures with rain in January. The later winter snow was better in the east and central states and that bodes well for the following pre-season.
Previous Year Report
The SIA RetailTRAK numbers for the 2012/2013 season were recently reported and they are based on total market projections based on data collected from the point of sale systems at more than 1,200 snow sports retailers. This season, snow sports retail sales reached $3.4B, up compared to sales last season.
For Nordic skiing, the early season statistics were worrisome despite the improved snow conditions and timely snowstorms starting in late December. There was pent up demand and popular wellness perspectives, which when combined with a more consistent snow cover brought good late season increases in participation and sales. First, the positive news has Nordic sales in specialty shops up from last year in dollars and in units sold. Nordic equipment specialty shop sales in the west were substantially up and New England specialty shops also saw an increase in sales. Nordic equipment specialty shop sales in the Midwest were not as strong compared to last year. It must be remembered that the report shows statistics compared to last year and that was a year with a terrible winter considering the lack of snow and warm temperatures.
Many of the Nordic ski areas reaped the benefits from snowstorms during the December holidays, MLK weekend, and President's week. These holiday periods can represent as much as 40% of the annual visitation statistics at a cross country ski area. Jackson Ski Touring Foundation's Thom Perkins commented that "while the December vacation may be significant for visitation, it is much more relevant as a kickoff to establish the mindset to go skiing during the winter." There have been some very exciting reports from cross country ski areas this winter about incredible increases in visitation and equipment sales. And a glimmer for the industry reported by Perkins was that the Nordic retail shop at Jackson had a record year and the ski area visitation boasted the best year in the last decade.
In reviewing Nordic equipment sales statistics August through January across the board (all retail outlets, not just specialty shops) between 2009 and 2013 in the same time frame (Aug-Jan) in general, the sales for this winter were 50% under sales during the great winter of 2010-11 and 5% below last year, which was a terrible winter. The retail report showed that from August through January there were 243,290 units of Nordic ski equipment sold (skis, boots, bindings, and poles) valued at $24,272,153. The final season statistics show a brighter winter for Nordic skiing.
Many retailer inventories were cleaned out between the mid season and late season because February included the longest winter holiday period (President's week and multiple school vacation weeks) and there were better snow conditions across the country. There were also consistent snowstorms in the early spring. While great snow always bolsters the Nordic ski industry, questions remain how the industry can parlay the opportunities such as the widespread wellness perspective or pent up demand from poor previous winters. Additionally, there are American medal expectations in the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which can result in substantial dividends to the Nordic ski industry if it can get prepared to take advantage. The statisticians tell us that traditionally a good pre-season follows a good snow year, so we should expect optimistic consumers, who are more willing to spend on equipment in the coming fall and the first half of the 2013-14 ski season.
XCSkiResorts.com expresses appreciation to SIA Director of Research Kelly Davis for sharing information from SIA RetailTRAK, which is presented by Snowsports Industries America and Leisure Trends.
I've often wondered why there isn't more hoopla about cross country skiwear. I'm not talking about the suction suits worn by the cross country ski racers; I'm referring to the recreational garb, which is versatile, functional, and fashionable. Currently, I cross country ski wearing items from Craft, Sporthill, and Bjorn Dahlie, but what is important is that the products that I select to ski in fit a number of personal parameters.
The Craft AXC Touring Pants that I wear have zippers along the entire length of the legs and at the ankle there is an elastic area closed with a zipper and a snap. I feel that this pant ankle set up is the most significant aspect of the pants because it tightly fits around the boot and keeps snow out of the shoe top to avoid getting wet socks while skiing. And if you've ever lost a set of keys, the zippered side pockets are comforting to lock away your valuables. The comfortable lined material of the Craft pants is also enough to stay warm with or without a base layer underneath. The Bjorn pants that I use are lighter but have similar accoutrements.
The Sporthill Symmetry II Jacket has everything I want in a jacket except pit zips to provide an extra way to cool off and transport perspiration away. The jacket's mesh liner and material are comfortable when you have to zip up the collar on a very cold day. I've used the packable hood on the jacket quite a few times when it got suddenly cold out on the trail and it was a valuable asset. The high-hip fit keeps you warm and the zipper side pockets can be closed to avoid losing pocketed items. The jacket arms have extended fleece cuffs, which are a nice touch to keep snow out of your glove. The inside chest pocket has a zipper and a hole for an IPod and earbuds for the times that I want musical accompaniment on solo trail outings.
Socks, gloves, shirts, and base layers are an entirely another matter that will need to be covered in a separate article. Director of Research Kelly Davis at SIA (national trade association of snow sport product suppliers) says that there are three different demographic types, who purchase snow sports apparel as casual wear and her synopsis fits the cross country ski apparel market very well. The "urban woodsman" is a hip male style that touts outdoor authenticity. The "young urban male" is an athletic-influenced style, and women especially in the suburbs are buying snow sports styles for around town and even work.
Further, Davis cites that 80% of snow sports apparel spending comes out of women's wallets. They make decisions for the whole family, so it is important for manufacturers, product designers, and retailers to consider and focus on women's preferences. One of the challenges that confronts cross country skiing apparel availability is the fact that there is such a limited inventory of these products in retail outlets. There are too few sales in the stores, and retailers react by purchasing fewer items offering less selection in the following year. To break this cycle, we've got to go out and purchase more cross country skiing apparel!
When it is time to go skiing or snowboarding it only takes me a few minutes to get out the door. Of course, it takes some time to dress with base layer, selected socks, and top (ski shirt) and bottom (ski pants). I admit that it may be a bit obsessive to organize a "get away" bag of accessories; but the next step to get on the snow quickly entails reaching into my oversized bag that is in my living room to get the accessories needed.
For XC SKIING the bag includes the following:
3 pairs of xc ski gloves including light for spring-like warm days, regular winter days, and extra insulated for cold days;
Belt pack that has emergency (hand and toe warmers, matches, knife, repair tool, sun cream, scraper, compass, and some speed wax. Depending on how cold it is, I might add a neck gaiter to the pack and often a spare pair of light gloves to replace wet gloves;
There is also a water bottle in a net pouch on the belt pack and a very old wrapped granola bar in a zipped side pocket;
1 pair of sunglasses in a case;
3 headbands for warm, regular and colder days;
1 hat and 2 skull caps (new and old);
2 headlights (you need to have the extra one for your spouse or a friend to ski at night);
Additional hand and toe warmer packs and sun cream.
Obviously, skiers who use waxable skis have an assortment of waxing paraphernalia. I use only waxless skis and only occasionally hot wax my ski bases, so I keep my waxing items in a separate bag in the garage.
As a snowboarder, I keep some additional items for SNOWBOARDING in the accessories bag, which include the following:
2 pairs of gloves for regular and cold weather and a pair of extra glove liners;
3 pairs of goggles including an extra old pair with dark lenses and a pair with yellow lens for overcast days;
1 runaway strap (some ski areas still require it);
1 small accessory bag that includes an extra stomp pad, 5 different replacement binding straps, spare boot laces, 2 runaway straps, bag with various binding screws and washers; chunk of hard wax, tin of paste wax, and antifog lens cleaner in rub-on and spray versions.
The value of this preparedness bag is untold. Within the bag, the gloves are kept clipped together so it is easy to find a pair when needed. When getting ready for a ski trip near or far, the bag can be thrown in the car and that eliminates the need to worry about remembering any accessories. My daughter has followed my lead and created her own accessories bag. This winter when she was on college break, we were able to get out the door in less than 10 minutes from the time that we agreed to go snowboarding. And that includes checking the ski area website for conditions and the trail/lift report.
When going on nearby ski outings, I often will do a test ski on the short trails from my driveway to decide about the temperature and snow conditions. Afterward, I can easily dip into the bag to change any of the accessories that I need. Next is selecting the skis or snowboard, getting into the car, and away I go. Living so close to xc ski trails and alpine ski areas is indeed a blessing�but being organized makes it so easy to focus on what counts, which is getting outdoors and on to the snow.
Check out more info about the varity of gifts here on XCSkiResorts.com:
If you are interested in finding products online click High Peaks Cyclery.
Sean McCabe of Sean McCabe Studio was an award-winning art teacher, climber, and avid cross country skier, who lived in the Methow Valley in Mazama, WA. He combined his career in art with his outdoor interests to establish himself as a unique artist portraying these active sports with his colorful and sometimes whimsical style.
McCabe designs can be seen on The North Face, Patagonia, and Black Diamond clothing labels. His illustrations have been featured in American Alpine Journal, Climbing Magazine, the Alpinest, and Cross Country Skier Magazine.
McCabe's high quality prints are available on canvas or paper in various sizes framed or unframed ranging from 6 x 4 to 36 x 24 at different price points.
Click to view galleries of and order from SeanMcCabeStudio.com
Atomic Nordic ski equipment features touring skis with traditional length and compact length and one of the factors that sets Atomic apart is the excellent selection of waxless patterns on Atomic touring skis. These patterns provide the grip needed for uphill skiing while allowing a great glide on level and downhill terrain, too.
The waxless patterns on Atomic cross country skis have been tested for 10 years with different design variations and technical combinations to provide excellent grip with faster, smoother, and quieter glide. The Posigrip pattern, which is a positive base pattern, which at the end of the manufacturing process is inserted into the actual cavity in the ski kick zone was found to be superior to the most popular patterns currently used on Nordic skis.
The Posigrip has gripping teeth that are far apart in the pattern with a smooth surface area in between the teeth. Additionally, the waxless pattern just barely sits above the glide zone (aka a positive pattern) so as not to deter the glide. Other positive waxless patterns have gripping teeth that are closer together and they sit higher above the glide zone, which makes them genuinely slow because of the amount of drag on the snow. Atomic has produced the first high performance waxless ski base pattern based on testing the base variables. The Atomic ski models that are available with the Posigrip base include a range of in-and-out of-track options including the Vasa Classic, Team Classic, Mover 48, Mover 52, XCruise 53, Alea 53 and XCruise 59.
The Atomic Skintec waxless base, which uses inserted mohair strips on the ski base, is extremely effective for all temperatures and snow conditions. It is the high performance waxless base technology for the classic skier, who prefers to use a waxless ski. The Skintec strips are produced by a Swiss manufacturer of climbing skins and they do not ice up because they have a Teflon-like material that is resistant to freezing. Skintec is available on the Vasa Skintec, a specific ski model that has a flex that was created in conjunction with the Skintec material so that it rides above the snow in the glide phase, but is easy to kick down for excellent grip during the kick phase.
The G2 Syncro was introduced by Atomic four years ago and it provides excellent grip with a curled claw teeth design with the teeth close together in a very dense pattern. However, the G2 pattern provides a very fast glide because there are a series of small raised flat sections between each of the gripping teeth to prevent drag from developing with the dense pattern. The result is a base that provides secure Grip and fast Glide, thus named the G2. The G2 Syncro base is available on Atomic ski such as the Pro Classic G2, XCruise 55, Alea 55, Motion 52 G2, Motion G9 G2, and the Ski Tiger G2.
THOR-LO has revamped the majority of its snow collection featuring its new THOR-WICK- yarn made with 100% recycled material. THOR-LO socks use protective engineered padding to protect the shin area of the leg and the ball and heel of the foot, and THOR-WICK has excellent wicking properties to keep the foot dry.
The socks are available in a Thick Cushion or Thin Cushion Ski sock and there are different sock styles (including kids' socks) in different colors ranging from $18.99-$21.99 per pair.
THOR-WICK yarn is produced from 100% post-consumer recycled Polyethylene Terephtalate material commonly referred to at "PET" or "PETE" bottles. Using the recycled raw material in the manufacturing process reduces the amount of waste materials from going to the landfill (one metric ton of recycled material prevents 872 kg of bottle waste); produces 60% fewer CO2 emissions that would be created to use virgin polyester; and the process requires 65% less energy per unit of weight than that which would be used to make virgin staple (one metric ton requires 825 less barrels of oil).
According to the US EPA 2/3 less energy is required to manufacture products made out of recyclable plastic and studies show that production with recycled plastic emits 2/3 less sulphur dioxide, 50% less nitrous oxide, and uses almost 90% less water. The recycling process causes the yarn to cost more, but the company is committed to (and believes that consumers will) support the long-term environmental benefits.
For more info www.thorlo.com
Swix, a Norwegian manufacturer of ski wax, poles, and ski wear joined with ski company Fischer to create an educational retail environment with Gorham Bike and Ski Shop where skiers visiting Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH can experience for themselves the latest skiing innovations from skis to ski wax and tuning techniques.
Skiers can view and compare an extensive range of product lines to feel confident in their purchase decisions, share feedback with the manufacturers and maximize the performance of all their gear both new and what they already own. Almost the complete line of Fischer skis, boots, and poles will be showcased in the shop that attracts thousands of cross country ski aficionados all winter long.
The two companies will provide additional training to the Gorham Bike and Ski Shop staff and there are demo days for skis and roller skis, plus ski waxing and race tuning sessions. The retailer also features machine flex testing, which mean that each ski is individually evaluated and marked with its particular flex pattern to match to a heavier or more powerful skier to perform with a more subtle touch.
Jackson Ski Touring is a community based nonprofit corporation chartered to maintain cross country and snowshoe trails in and around Jackson village that has been in operation for 39 years. Situated in the White Mountains, it is a wonderful match of a quintessential New England with the white steeple church and wood covered bridge married to cross country skiing.
Nordic walking (or ski walking) is taking off and the Human Kinetics book entitled Nordic Walking for Total Fitness by Suzanne Nottingham and Alexandra Jurasin has got it covered. For those who are unfamiliar, Nordic walking is a fitness activity that combines walking with specially designed poles to engage the upper body muscles.
Trekking (hiking with poles) and Nordic walking are two different activities that use very different poles and techniques. It may sound silly, but perhaps "walking is not just walking." The pole angle, weight, grip, and straps are different between the aforementioned modes of walking. The Nordic walking pole is designed to allow your hands to relax in order to target the larger wrapping muscles of the back. But using poles of any kind automatically stimulates your spine and all of the muscles around it, even with inefficient technique. When walking, the key postural muscles of the core and upper body are engaged.
Nordic Walking for Total Fitness outlines the health and fitness benefits and the enhancement of body posture that result from the activity. Equipment including poles, shoes, apparel, pedometers, and heart rate monitors are covered.
There are photos for every segment of the book showing technique progressions, fitness exercises, power training, and variations for balance, agility, and flexibility. Common technique errors are also reviewed as well as uphill and downhill techniques, advanced cardio training, and drills for strength training and calorie burning.
The book also includes fitness assessments, sample workouts for varying levels of interests from first timer to cross training triathletes. There are also suggestions about customizing your program. Training program recommendations are offered for building distance, fluctuating daily intensity, and rest days. If this all sounds a bit like overkill, that's because it is, particularly if you are a recreational fitness enthusiast but you need read only as much of the book as you feel is relevant to your personal situation.
I've been a Nordic Walker for a few years and found many of the claimed attributes in the book regarding posture and exercise to be true. I've always been in search of a way to decrease the amount of time spent exercising, so I was sold when I heard that using the poles increases caloric burning by 40 percent. Being a cross country skier, it is easy to quickly master Nordic walking. After a summer of Nordic walking, I noticed a marked improvement in my cross country ski poling in terms of strength and timing. It seemed that I increased the amount of forward momentum that was attributable to poling and I was able to pole stronger and longer when skiing.
Nordic Walking for Total Fitness provides a foundation for anyone, ranging from those just looking for an activity to lose weight to health aficionados interested in taking it to higher levels of fitness.
Nordic Walking for Total Fitness is available for $19.95 plus shipping from Human Kinetics at www.humankinetics.com or call 217-351-5076.
New software has been created by a group of companies representing about 100 apparel brands to measure environmental impact of products from "cradle to grave" or more explicitly, from raw material to garbage dump.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, this so-called Eco Index will perform similar to the Energy Star rating of appliances. The Eco Index concept will be officially announced in August 2010 at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. It will provide comparative perspectives of brands with relation to environmental and human rights issues. Another way of looking at it is as a sustainability barometer for operations or a litmus test for product greenness.
This project has been underway for three years and the coalition of brands involved include Nike, Levi Strauss, Target, Adidas, Timberland, Columbia, and Patagonia. Most consumers are not aware of factors involved with the apparel business such as the toxic chemicals used for leather tanning, crude oil used in the manufacture of synthetic fabrics, incredibly low wages and no benefits for foreign workers, and excessive shipping distances for manufacturing various aspects of apparel. In 2008, Americans discarded 12.4 million tons of textiles, up from 1.8 million tons in 1960.
The Eco Index software provides a self-reported score of points on various questions regarding raw material, production, shipping, and disposal. A brand can score points with for example, a wastewater purifying system, a recycling program, good labor standards, less bulky packaging, and even washing in cold instead of hot water. There are estimations involved in the scoring system and proof is not required, but this could be the infancy in the development of international standards.
The Eco Index is a beginning but we do not know how much of a motivational factor that it may become in the eyes of consumers. It is admirable that competitors have come together to work on this concept and most of the participating companies have previously undergone an internal analysis of these issues. Environmental issues are driving some product design these days such as printed info on garments instead of separate tags and using less or recycled packaging. And not surprisingly, many of the applicable design ideas save processing costs, too. If the Eco Index succeeds and companies vie for a higher score, we all will win.The Eco Index is a beginning but we do not know how much of a motivational factor that it may become in the eyes of consumers. It is admirable that competitors have come together to work on this concept and most of the participating companies have previously undergone an internal analysis of these issues. Environmental issues are driving some product design these days such as printed info on garments instead of separate tags and using less or recycled packaging. And not surprisingly, many of the applicable design ideas save processing costs, too. If the Eco Index succeeds and companies vie for a higher score, we all will win.
Reported in August 2012, a newly developed Higg Index is an internal learning tool for companies to highlight ways to reduce environmental impacts, increase efficiencies, and identify opportunities for innovation within their supply chains. Industry organizations realize the need and value of a consumer-facing rating for products and they feel that this is a long-term aspiration but they have not set a timetable for developing a consumer-facing label based on the Higg Index. The Higg Index may be downloaded from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition website, at apparelcoalition.org.
The Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group will continue to contribute to the evolution of the Higg Index for apparel. In addition, the committee is focusing work on four other key areas:
1. Index work - building indexes (using the Higg Index model) for footwear and equipment
2. Responsible chemicals management
3. Materials traceability in the supply chain, starting with a focus on goose down
4. Social responsibility and fair labor.
"Cross-Country Skiing" by J. Scott McGee with excellent photographs by Luca Diana is the newest edition on the topic and it is easy-to-understand with plenty of photos. It is among the Falcon Guides and Basic Illustrated series from Morris Book Publishing. McGee describes equipment selection, learning the basic techniques, planning and safety and 100 pages of everything about cross country skiing.
McGee is out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and he knows his stuff even though he omitted XCSkiResorts.com from his list of websites. This book is $12.95 and can be purchased at www.falcon.com.
"Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" by Bruce Tremper is a new edition that is easy-to-understand and accessible for snowsport novices as well as technically insightful snow safety veterans. Approximately 150 people die in avalanches each year and thousands more are lucky enough to survive them without injuries.
This manual is ideal for backcountry xc skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and others and it is organized according to the structure of American Avalanche Association classes and it has been reviewed by peer experts.
Staying Alive covers different avalanche types, judging terrain's hazard level, routefinding and safe travel essentials. Rescue strategies and an analysis of human nature versus danger is also included. The 304-page paperbound book has 235 charts and illustrations and 60 photos, and it is available from The Mountaineers Books for $18.95.
"The Story of Modern Skiing" by John Fry is a book viewed by ski industy insiders as the definitive account of the revolution in ski equipment, technique, resorts, and competition that took place after World War II. It is 408 pages, has 86 photos and maps, a timeline, and an index of more than 1,000 names and places. Jean Claude Killy calls it a remarkable memoir and history of the sport.
The book manages to capture the essence of xc skiing in about 15 pages (though there are a few xc ski writers that could create a separate book on the topic of modern xc skiing), but the book would be a monument to anyone that is into skiing.
You can get it on Amazon but for a personally signed copy send a check of $29.95 ($29 for additional copies) to author John Fry, Editorial, 23 East Lake Drive, Katonah NY 10536. Include the name (s) of the person (s) whom you want the book dedicated to, plus address where you want the book (s) shipped to. Tell him you heard about it on XCSkiResorts.com.
Another resource book of xc ski and snowshoe trails by First Ascent Press is "Ski Trails of Southwest Montana." This 112-page book by Melynda Harrison has 30 xc ski and snowshoe trails around the Greater Yellowstone region of Big Sky, Bozeman, and the Paradise Valley. The book is $16.95 and can be ordered at http://www.firstascentpress.com/ski-trails-volume1.html
The book "Cross Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness" by Steve Hindman is available from The Mountaineers Books. Steve is a long-time Northwest PSIA certified instructor and former National Nordic Demo Team, who participated in the XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 Page panel of experts.
"Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness" provides techniques demonstrated in step-by-step photos, special learning activities to reinforce instruction, sidebars for trouble-shooting common problems and matching technique to terrain and snow conditions and tips for the whole family including 10 activities for teaching kids to xc ski with fun and games.
The book acknowledgement of contributors and photographers is a virtual who's who in the xc ski industry. It is 240 pages and it can be purchased for $19.95 at www.mountaineersbooks.org
Dick Hall and friends whip up a tasty batch of innovative teaching tips in the movie "The Joy of Telemark Skiing." It is the perfect blend of clear and precise instruction, great music, and inspirational skiing. To order 800-835-3404 or on the Web site www.telemarknato.com
Dick Hall is one of the forefathers of American telemark skiing and the founder of the North American Telemark Organization (NATO). This organization has been an educational resource for two decades and has helped 40,000 people master telemark and backcountry skiing. Hall created and conducted one of the world's largest and oldest telemark skiing parties at Mad River Glen in Vermont. The annual NATO Telemark Festival is usually scheduled for March.
Keep your eyes out for the NATO telemark camps, workshops and adventure tours on the XCSkiResorts.com Resort News Page and in the words of Dick Hall, "Ski Hard, Play Fair, and Have Fun."