Skip to main content
Original Issue

Unplug my boots and set me free

The new ski season features warmth and things that work. In addition to the gear shown on the preceding pages, manufacturers are introducing such items as the yellow slicker suit at left; this one, CB Sports claims, is so warm that all you need to wear under it is a turtleneck and pants or long johns. The U.S. Alpine team has ordered a supply for training in the rain. Applying much the same theory used for the heated glove shown earlier, Hanson is offering its Exhibition Hot Boot with rechargeable energy cells implanted in the soles. The cells deliver up to 25 hot shots before you need to plug in your boots overnight, and there are small red lights up front on each boot, apparently for no other reason than cold gamesmanship; when they glow, they alert everyone else that your heat's on. An industry survey shows that all ski boots are about 35% softer in forward flex this year, the better to save your shinbones, and many lines offer improved insulation and heel cushioning. The most controversial boot is sure to be Nordica's interior-springed model that may or may not provide the ultimate in shock absorbers. After years of cutting down on ski length, the majority of U.S. buyers seem to have settled on 170 to 190 centimeters. But a report from ex-Olympian Rip McManus, now a marketing consultant with Olin, cites a trend toward slightly longer skis, especially in the powdery West. As ever, the output of skis is an exercise in overkill; so many makes and models are now being offered that buyers still tend to be confused. If that were not bad enough, McManus points out that even the same size skis by standard measure aren't the same size by brand; some builders apply the rule when the ski is laid out, others take the measure after the tip has been curved. Elsewhere in the sport, the chief advance in ski togs is in new stretch insulation material under the already-stretchy nylon, enabling designers to combine the comfort of a bulky warmup suit with the sleek, poured-on look of racing gear. Finally, in the line of things that work, the Ski-Key shown in the inset above is an all-in-one tool. It buckles and unbuckles boots with a flick of the wrist; the screwdriver-type end is for adjusting bindings, the other end can be used as a snow scraper and, maybe most important of all, as a bottle opener. Inventor Peter Shields is turning over all proceeds from its sales this year to the U.S. Alpine team's Olympic fund.