Winter is here, as is the ski season, along with travel to ski resorts. So this is a good time to talk about what’s new in ski gear.
There’s ski equipment aimed at men, at women, at kids, at experts, at beginners. However, these days a huge segment of the people on skis are Boomers. And there’s some seriously nice gear that can best be described as “senior friendly.”
What makes ski gear right for Boomers? To answer that question we talked to Kevin Dreher, ski shop manager at Gerk’s, a ski chain in western Washington State.
“A lot of older skiers grew up skiing on skinny skis with their feet close together,” Dreher said. “For some, learning to break that habit has been hard. Still, modern tech in the form of shaped skis has made the sport so much easier.”
So enter the compromise, the pin tail shape ski. It still has a wide shovel and a more narrow waist. But the tail tapers, so it’s not quite so wide, not so much an hourglass shape.
“This does two things,” said Dreher, “It allows a skier to keep his/her feet closer together and also, if they are tired, to slightly skid the turn. But it also has all the easy skiing benefits of shaped ski tech.”
Pin tail shaped skis ia not brand new technology, but it’s getting more popular lately, perhaps as a segment of the ski population has gotten older.
Dreher told me Salomon and Atomic are two brands in his shop that have tapered tails– Salomon’s QST 85 and 92 run $400 and $500 respectively. The more expensive ski is aimed at a more aggressive skier.
Atomic’s Vantage also has two models, the 85 and 95, again $400 and $500 retail.
But none of these are aimed at highest-end skiers. For experts who still want a bit of taper, he suggested the K2 Pinnacle 88, $600 retail.
What About Boots?
Once again, amazing tech is available in ski boots. Custom liners, heated to fit the foot, have been around a while. But now there are also custom shells that can be heated and shaped to your foot. Virtually all the higher end boots have this. The exact model in a specific brand depends on your basic foot shape, wide or narrow, high arch or low. And again, gone are the days when you had to go to a specific boot brand if your foot was, say, wide or narrow.
The Salomon boot, for instance, offers the Xpro for wider feet and the Xmax for narrower feet.
Ski boots aren’t cheap, but they may be the single most important piece of gear you buy. Dreher told me the $400 boots are his most popular and called them “a lot of boot for the price.” He added, “These are boots that will take you through advanced intermediate. For experts, it really is necessary to move up to a $500 or $600 boot.”
So how long will that boot, which may cost more than your first car, last? Figure 150 days of skiing, according to Dreher. So if you are like most folks and average only 20-30 ski days a year, the boots will last you a long time a long time. And you can prolong this, Dreher told me, by thoroughly drying your liners.
No, not everyone has the hand strength to wrench their liners out. And for them, there’s a wide range of wand style boot heaters.
Onto Ski Bags
Then, we get to my favorite … the heated (yes, heated) boot bag.
Don’t you just love driving hours to the hill and then trying to wrench stone cold boots on? Now, there’s a boot bag with a cord that works on either AC (house) current or DC (your car).
One version of this bag is made by “Hot Gear,” but appears to be sold as Zip Fit through Amazon.com for about $200. Another version, Transpack, is sold for about $180 through Amazon and REI.
Finally, among the senior-friendly bits of gear are boot warmers. The bad old days when these things hooked onto the back of your boot where you couldn’t reach the controls but the chair lift sure could (good bye battery), are gone. They now attach on the side of the boot.
Now, you can also get those disposable foot warmer packs and do as the patrollers do and put them ON TOP of your toes instead of under them. Take it from one with chronically cold toes, that works.– Review by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor
For more information on skiing for seniors – www.seniorsskiing.com