Over the past 20 years, there’s been no shortage of innovation within the ski industry. Hell, every year, virtually every company claims to have the “game changer” that will “change skiing forever.” For the most part, these revelations in technology fizzle, and designers are left to go back to the drawing board to come up with the next product that will undoubtedly change skiing forever. Every so often, however, a product comes along that does indeed change the direction of skiing. Whether they’re functional or safety products, these enigmas leave us scratching our heads, asking ourselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?” These are those products.
The ABS Air Bag Pack
The ABS pack is likely the most important product in terms of avalanche safety/rescue since the avalanche transceiver. The device, which essentially increases the surface area of the victim and ultimately increases the likelihood that he or she will “float,” has a survival rate of 97%. A small minority of critics argue that the air bag pack has increased risk taking amongst backcountry users because of the pack’s success rate. I assume that these same critics would argue that having a fire extinguisher increases the likelihood of fires.
The Salomon 1080
While the 1974 Olin Mark IV Comp can technically claim to be the first twin tip, the Salomon 1080 was the true game changer. As anybody that tried to land switch on a pair of K2 Fours can attest, the Salomon 1080 was the first product that empowered the newschool movement. While the newschool movement was being nurtured in small circles across the country, the 1080 proved that there was enough of a market for the greater ski industry to take note. The Salomon 1080’s success, in many ways, legitimized the newschool movement.
The Marker Duke Touring Binding
Before you immediately scroll to the comments section to rip me a new one, hear me out. Was the Marker Duke the first alpine/touring binding? No. Is it a good alpine/touring binding? Not particularly. The original Duke was heavy, not very user friendly, and had far too many moving parts. Where the Duke did succeed, however, was in its marketing. For the first time there was a mass-marketed alpine/touring binding that got an entire new generation of people thinking about the backcountry. Until the Duke, having an entirely separate backcountry setup wasn’t feasible for many weekend warriors. The Duke made the idea of touring into the backcountry a reality for Joey Bagodoughnuts….for better or worse.
The GoPro is not on this list because it finally gave your friends and family a way to relive your ski vacation- turn for turn. Rather, it’s included on this list for its roll in giving individual athletes a voice and presence they otherwise would never have had. For the first time ever, unknown, individual athletes could get their names out there for the whole world to see. It didn’t matter if you didn’t have the connections with the right photographers or film companies- fame seemed to be just an edit away. Plus, without these little bundles of joy countless hilarious crashes would have gone undocumented.
The Volant Spatula
Of all the gear on this list, the Volant Spatula, the brainchild of Shane McConkey, has likely had the biggest effect on the way we ski. Moreover, reverse camber hasn’t simply revolutionized powder skis; the technology has trickled down to virtually all aspects of skiing. Freakish when it hit the market, the Volant Spatula could easily have been dismissed as a gimmick. However, thanks to McConkey’s steadfast belief in its functionality, the Spatula wasn’t just another gimmick that became a footnote in skiing history, and it truly changed what was possible on skis. Thanks Shane.