DENVER -- One of the best previews of what snow-sports manufacturers have for next ski season comes at the annual trade show thrown by SnowSports Industries America, whether it's a new line of skis or off-the-wall inventions like light-up snowboards.
Here's a look at some of what some of the 900-plus brands at the SIA Snow Show this past week had to offer:
_ CAMERAS – More skiers and snowboarders have been strapping cameras to their torsos or attaching them to helmets to capture action shots. This spring, GoPro will release a Wi-Fi BacPac that attaches to the back of a camera, allowing it to be controlled from a remote control worn on the wrist, or from a smart phone or device. That means kids riding through the halfpipe with cameras on their helmets could have their parents or buddies on the sidelines choosing when to snap the best shot.
_ NIGHT RIDER – Glowboardz LLC has embedded lights in the bottom of snowboards so they light up the snow when you ride at night. It's patented.
_ AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS – Skilogik has gotten attention for its artwork done not with paint or inks but by using different types of wood. The young company has won awards for their skis' performance so that company founder David Mazzarella is proud to say his products – with art designed by his wife, Mariella – ski as good as they look. For next winter, Skilogik debuts the Spinster terrain park ski with thicker edges along the edges under the foot for riding rails. The lightweight tips are designed to make it easier to spin. SIA lists Skilogik as among the top five brands with the highest growth in the last year.
_ SPLITBOARDS FOR ALL – New gear, technology and snow movies have fueled a hunger for riding terrain outside resort boundaries. Ski and snowboard makers have been branching out into making splitboards, which are worn like skis to hike up a mountain but can be joined so the rider can snowboard down. Next season Voile, Burton and Jones Snowboards are introducing women's-specific splitboards that in general are lighter, shorter and narrower to accommodate a smaller frame. Jones also has designed a backpack made for backcountry trips, with slots on the back and sides to stuff skis or boards, insulated straps to store hydration tubes, and an easily accessible storage spot in the front for safety gear.
_ SURFIN' USA – Surf shapes are showing up on snow. Norwegian snowboarding giant Terje Haakonsen has helped Burton design the Cheetah, which looks like a surfboard with a pointed tip and V-tail. Meanwhile tiny Venture Snowboards, based in Silverton, Colo., is bringing back its Euphoria board, this time shaped like a surfboard, complete with a swallowtail, and that can be ridden like a surfboard – with no bindings but a leash. Powder rider Johan Olofsson, known for surfing through snow, helped design it. "When you ride powder, it's really more like surfing than snowboarding," said Christine Rasmussen of Venture. The Euphoria is being offered as a solid board or as a splitboard. These boards are meant strictly for deep, deep powder, "at least knee-deep," Rasmussen said.
In a surprise, snowboard maker Lib Tech gave retailers a glimpse at its first surfboards, made with a proprietary closed-cell foam that doesn't absorb water, a concave top, and grips to hold on to on the side. Company co-founder Mike Olson said his goal was to design a surfboard with strong performance but that was made in a way that's less toxic to the environment, with less fumes, especially because he and an employee are making the boards themselves. "I want to live to be old," Olson said.
_ ROCK ON – One trend that is sticking around is the rocker, or reverse camber, shape in skis and snowboards that have made them easier to ride. The rocker is more of a "U" shape than the arc of traditional camber, meaning tips are less likely to get stuck in snow. Some East Coast shops say some riders who bought rocker boards are going back to traditional camber to ride icier slopes there. But many manufacturers are experimenting with exactly where to place rocker and traditional camber and mixing them together on a ski or board to give all riders better grip and glide through the snow.
"Creating a product that's easier to use on the hill is the giant race right now," Black Tie Ski Rentals co-founder Joe Sternberg said. "That's what it's about for ski resorts, making it easier for families and not having them want to go to Disneyland for Christmas but go to ski areas."
For all the bells and whistles of new products at the SIA Snow Show, Sternberg only goes to look for durable, attractive, high-end gear he can rent out dozens of times. His top picks for skis include the Atomic Access and K2 Superstitious, while his customers are fans of Atomic Live Fit boots.