Gear locker: 2015-16 skis from Liberty, Meier and Icelantic
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part gear preview. Look for snowboards and women’s skis in part two.
So long, extreme rocker. Hello, traditional camber.
Just don’t call it a comeback yet. After several seasons of seeing just how badly they could make skis clatter on hardpack — remember the K2 HellBents? — manufacturers across the ski industry have pretty much stopped building models with untamed reverse-camber and other funky shapes. The novelty has worn off, and now just about every ski or snowboard comes with a reasonable combination of rocker and camber.
That can only be a good thing for the folks who, you know, can’t afford a ski quiver that’s six pairs deep. After five or six years of tinkering, the 2015-16 crop of men’s skis truly represents the best of the best. If you’ve been in the market for a new pair, now’s the time to pull the trigger.
Before snow arrives (and it will), the Summit Daily sports desk snuck a peek at new and revamped men’s skis from Colorado’s top manufacturers. We also got our hands on a pair of freestyle tele bindings (made right here in Colorado, naturally) and a new men’s shell from Helly Hansen.
Now, time for the snow dance.
Liberty Origin, $699-$825
Sizes: 174 cm, 182 cm, 190 cm
Waist: 116 mm underfoot
One of Liberty’s best-selling models just got a facelift. This season, the Avon-based manufacturer decided to update the Origin’s core profile, giving it a multi-radius sidecut that pairs perfectly with mellow rocker underfoot and on the nose and tail.
All this tech jargon means the 2015-16 version is a high-end, all-around monster on the hill — the sort of ski that goes from groomers to trees to park laps and back again. It’s a bit thicker through the waist, nose (145 mm) and tail (136 mm) than most all-around skis, but hey, that’s the Liberty way.
And it’s working. The Origin was named an editor’s selection by POWDER, Skiing Magazine and Backcountry Magazine.
Find it: Adventure Sports in Frisco and NorSki Sports in Keystone both carry the full line of Liberty skis, men’s and women’s. You can also track them down online through Backcountry.com and Evo.
Meier Skis Big Hoss, $895
Sizes: 175 cm, 185 cm, 191 cm
Waist: 104 mm underfoot
Meier of Carbondale has one hell of a cool story. It’s run independently by a group of friends who simply want to build Colorado skis (aka powder machines) by hand, all while using locally-sourced wood, like beetle kill. They even earned a spot on the Science Channel’s “How It’s Made” with this approach.
After five years on the market, they’re doing better than ever, with 11 models for men and women. Every pair is still lovingly crafted by hand, which means they only produce several thousand per year.
The Big Hoss is the newest model on the roster, and it lives up to the company’s reputation with a “Skier’s Choice” award from Skiing Magazine. It’s built to handle punishment from big boys (hence the name), topping out at 191 cm with 19 mm of sidecut on the largest model. If you’re smaller, the shape could make it a beast to handle. But, if you’re tall, dark and mysterious, the Big Hoss just completes the package.
Find it: Meier Skis are sold at AMR Ski and Board Shop in Breckenridge and Breck Sports near the gondola at Peak 8. You can also find a pair to demo through Copper Rocker, Copper Mountain’s high-end rental shop.
From now through Oct. 18, buy direct through the Meier Skis website to get 30 percent off all 2015-16 models (yep, the new ones). The discount drops to 25 percent between then and Oct. 31.
Icelantic Pioneer, $599
Sizes: 166 cm, 174 cm, 182 cm
Waist: 96 mm underfoot
It’s hard to believe Icelantic is already five years old. Built and pressed at the Never Summer factory in Denver, the boutique manufacturer shares plenty with its snowboard cousin: Bulletproof construction, a long lifespan and a rabid cult following.
The Pioneer is one of two brand-new models, along with the women’s version, the Maiden. Why, you might ask, is Icelantic’s newest ski also the cheapest in its lineup? Because it’s made to be an all-mountain ski, and, up until this season, the company was focused on fat skis and touring models. They just didn’t have much for the skiing public.
Not like this everyman-approach makes the Pioneer a ho-hum ski. It comes with hybrid rocker (camber underfoot, rocker on the nose and tail) and shies away from odd waist measurements. This ski just makes sense, and, at $599, it’s nearly cheaper than the mass-produced counterparts from Salomon and Atomic. It also comes with one of Icelantic’s iconic, faux-tribal graphics, and we all know that a cool graphic is half the reason anyone buys a ski.
Find it: Icelantic skis are sold at Alpine Sports, Mountain Wave and Slope Style in Breck or Epic Mountain Gear in Frisco and MSO in Silverthorne. You can also find demos come skis season at the Copper Rocker shop.
Bishop 2.0 Telemark binding, $495
Sizes: Men’s U.S. boot 5 to 13, women’s 6 to 12
Alpine touring is getting plenty of love these days, but a small subset of touring/tele skiers are doing the typical action sports thing and pushing free-heel riding to its limits. That means dropping cliffs, hitting rails and boosting backcountry kickers with nothing but a few cables holding their skis to their boots. It’s impressive to watch, and it’s only a matter of time before someone (anyone?) revives a big air comp for tele skiers — much like the one that disappeared when Vail’s Teva Winter Mountain Games went belly up.
For all these hard-charging, certifiably insane tele skiers — and even those crazies who just like doing lunges down the mountain — Bishop Binding Co. is the freestyle answer to general use bindings. The Edwards-based company released the Bishop 2.0 this season, a retooled version of its original tele model. The 2015-16 edition ditches flimsy plastic components for stainless steel and aluminum, and it’s light as air at just 4 pounds per pair. It also features customizable flex, with three different positions available through the company’s mid axle feature. Plus, the heel clip doubles as a bottle opener. Techy and fun-loving — just what you need in a freestyle tele binding.
Find it: The Bishop 2.0 is only available through the website at http://www.bishopbindings.com.
Helly Hansen Ridge jacket, $500
Type: Winter shell
There’s a reason Vail Resorts tabbed Helly Hansen as its official uniform supplier, and it’s more than strategic industry partnerships. The Norwegian brand simply makes good, reliable gear, and it seems to be getting sexier with every season. By now, it’s nearly on par with the high-end duo of Patagonia and The North Face.
New to the Helly Hansen catalogue this season is the Ridge jacket, a winter shell that’s sleek, light and loaded with tech. The outer is made with three-ply Helly Tech Professional, the company’s best fabric, which means it’s breathable, waterproof and windproof. The seams are fully taped, and the arms have two standard-issue pit zips to dump heat on bluebird days. It also comes with a powder skirt and button system to connect with Helly Hansen pants, plus a RECCO rescue system chip.
Features aside, this jacket just oozes style, from oversized zippers and well-placed pockets to the occasional dash of neon.
Find it: You can find Helly Hansen across the county, including Breck Sports and Keystone Sports.
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