Making Winter Fun: 5 Smarter Ski, Snowboard and Snow Sport Gadgets and Innovations
It’s the beginning of March, and like it or not, spring is still a ways away. Rather than sulking indoors, embrace the cold and the snow and get outside. Here’s a list of products that use interesting technology or design to make playing in the snow that much more fun.
Sports Innovation #1:
Tech geek meets hyper-performance skier or snowboarder, the Satski offers a world of functionality in a sleek little device (or software platform for a touchscreen smart phone). Satski is a touchscreen, GPS-based system that first and foremost allows you to drop the annoying trail map and use GPS mapping, where you’ll find detailed ski trails and nearby amenities and contact information including restaurants, lodges and first aid. Navigate the mountain like never before.
While GPS and resort mapping are very practical functions, the Satski offers a whole host of other functions that will make your day on the slopes more productive than ever. Sum up your entire day of skiing by calculating stats like average speed, top speed, number of runs and much more. You can even use the device in conjunction with Google Earth 3-D to map your day out and see exactly what it looked like on the mountain. Get weather and snow reports and even get telephone numbers of ski patrol and use Satski to relay your coordinates if you get in trouble. All this and Satski loads onto the smart phone you’re already carrying with you.
Satski is currently far more widely available in Europe, but has added a few North American resorts to its coverage area this season including Big Sky, Whistler-Blackcomb, Jackson Hole and Lake Louise. GPS-based devices like this, from Satski or others, will likely become increasingly popular as the technology continues to progress.
Sports Innovation #2:
Kahtoola FLIGHTdeck TS
Kahtoola is an interesting company that was born from the very roots of inspiration and innovation. The company was created after owner Danny Giovale slipped on some ice during a climbing trip in the Dolomites and took a slide—1000 feet worth of a slide. Luckily, Giovale was virtually unharmed during the incident. He came back to the US on a mission to find a better crampon and ended up making it himself. Kahtoola was born.
Kahtoola now offers a variety of traction solutions for snow and ice. What makes the FLIGHTdeck particularly innovative is simple—it combines an aluminum crampon with a snowshoe. Standard snowshoes already use a built in crampon-style binding system; the FLIGHTdeck merely allows you to detach this binding from the snowshoe deck and have a solution for ice as well as deep powder. The FLIGHTdeck is one of those inventions that leaves you wondering why the bigger manufacturers hadn’t produced a similar model years ago. After all, no matter how predictable conditions look, winter weather is fickle and can change in an instant. The FLIGHTdeck keeps you prepared. (Update: The FLIGHTdeck is no longer available, but they have replaced it with what is possibly a perfect now traction system - Kahtoola Microspikes Traction System - with almost perfect reviews from folks who have tried it.)
Sports Innovation #3:
Graf Luge Sleds
While skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and the like are fun, there’s a pretty big learning curve involved. If you ever yearn for the simpler times when a snow day meant making snowmen and finding the kid in the neighborhood with the best slope on his front yard, then Graf Luge Sleds may be just for you. While the motivation may be rooted in your youth, Graf adds a distinctly mature touch with beautiful hardwood craftsmanship, Swiss engineering and luge-style sleds begging to be ridden as though you’re rocking on the starting gate of an Olympic track. Our favorite, the foldable Hill Racer Ice Luge, features aluminum, wood and stainless steel construction with comfortable form-fitting seat. Foldable design makes it easy to stow and go. Graf has just begun offering some of its products in the US.
Sports Innovation #4:
Rossignol Harness Pants
Moving on to the other end of the spectrum—maybe the thrills and challenges of lift-served skiing aren’t enough. Maybe you’re one of those individuals that looks at a near-vertical mountain crevice in the distance and ponders how you’re going to skin up and tear down (rather than soiling yourself in awe like the rest of us). In this case, your day on the mountain includes provisions like avy kit, skins, ropes, climbing gear and trekking poles. Since your load is clearly heavy enough, Rossignol Harness Pants are a functional pair of ski pants that feature a built-in harness, allowing for quick, precise rope work the minute the traverse turns sketchy. There’s no need to lug one more piece of gear along or spend extra time putting a harness on. Have it ready whenever the need might arise.
Sports Innovation #5:
SnowatHome SG-7 X-Stream
The previous gear here assumes one important factor: you have some snow to play in. Not all of us live in the Pacific Northwest or Wasatch Front, so SnowatHome personal snowmaking systems make no such assumption. Though SnowatHome makes some cheaper models, the SG-7 X-Stream is the Mercedes of home snowmaking. The snow maker uses a powered air compressor, snow gun and water pump that hooks to your garden hose. Never again stare at the frigid, crystal-clear, bright blue sky in anger and contempt, get outside and start making your own pow. This handy little device is a real ace in the hole. Of course, you’ll still need sub-freezing temperatures and low humidity to get it working, but it’s a pretty cool thing to have.