Self-confessed kit geek, Al Morgan, is one of those lucky souls who gets to see new ski kit almost a year before it hits the shelves. Al ran the Ski Club of Great Britain’s ski test for over 10 years, and has run retail and rental shops and ski service centres in the UK and the Alps. He works with ski brands and retailers providing training on ski kit, as well writing articles on ski gear for media. Here Al gives us the low-down on what Marker, Dalbello and Völkl have up their sleeves for next season.
Marker has been one of the main players in pushing forward the development of freeride touring bindings. In 2007 they released the Marker Duke frame freeride touring binding, then two years later they released their lighter weight F-Tour bindings. In 2015 came the Marker Kingpin, which was a game changer for many. The Kingpin has pins at the front, for ease of touring and so you don’t need a frame connecting the toe and heel which keeps them light. Then at the heel it has a downhill-style step in heel with sideways and vertical release for safety. This was quite unlike other bindings on the market. For 18-19 winter they had developed a super lightweight pin touring binding called the Alpinist. This also had some innovative features to enhance safety, ease of use and it was designed to be incredibly light (335g including the brake).
For next season they’ve combined the toe of the Alpinist binding with a lighter weight version of the Kingpin heel unit, to get the best of both worlds – lightness for the up and skiing performance and safety for skiing hard on the way down. The new binding is called the Kingpin M-Werks and weighs only 620g with a brake (540g without). It has a DIN range of 5-12 and will cost £500. This would be a great set up with the with the new Lupo Air boots (there’s more about that in Dalbello’s section).
Marker also has a new helmet called the Convoy. This is a double in-mould construction where the main body of the helmet is bonded with the outer shell, keeping weight low and increasing durability and performance. The Convoy has removeable audio-ready earpads and comes in three options, in a host of colours. The Convoy+ has a magnetic Fidlock buckle, while you get a standard snap buckle n the standard Convoy, and there’s a Convoy Jr too for the groms.
Marker’s also developed a new, slick looking frameless goggle called the Squadron. This is a large fit goggle, with a cylindrical lens (flat top to bottom but curved around the face, side-to-side) and as you don’t see any frame they look sweet in the deep mirror finish they have. These are also offered in a ‘plus’ model, and the Squadron+ comes with a magnetic lens, which you can swap out for the included low light magnetic lens, and a neoprene box case.
Dalbello has gone from strength to strength in recent seasons and the 2020 sees further improvements to their already excellent line-up.
Almost all of Dalbello’s boots for 19/20 season come with Grip Walk soles on them or as an option – so you can swap out the sole they come with for a Grip Walk sole. Grip Walk is a relatively new standard for ski boots but you will see this name cropping up more and more. This is curved, like a touring style sole, but has a specific stepped shape on the sole at the front of the boot with a hard insert in the sole that allows the boot to slide sideways safely and predictably out of Grip Walk bindings – ski bindings typically have a flat Anti Friction Device (AFD); a fixed or sliding plate in the binding toe piece that the boot sits on and can slide across in a fall allowing the boot to release safely sideways out of the toe piece. Grip Walk bindings have a curved AFD to work with Grip Walk and downhill ski boots (ISO 5355 boots). For next season you will see a lot of ski boots either with Grip Walk soles or with them as an option.
Within the next few seasons it is likely that all boots from all brands, apart from specialist boots like race boots and super light ski touring boots, will come with a Grip Walk sole as standard. You have to have a Grip Walk or multi-norm binding to be able to ski with a Grip Walk soled boot though – so make sure you check this before you step into those skis in your new Grip Walk boots. The good thing is if you have regular ISO 5355 downhill boots (the normal flat soled ski boots) then you can also ski in Grip Walk bindings.
The Worldcup DRS and Race DRS boots from Dalbello have gone from green and white to white and green – shocking, I know. The Race range still has fully customisable shells and liners but they’ve changed most of the flexes for next season. They’ll offer this 98mm last (width across the knuckles of your feet) boot in a 140 flex, 120 flex, 90 flex with a lower cuff, 75 flex up to ski boot size 27.5MP and two kids flexes; 60 and 50 which can both be fitted with Grip Walk Junior soles. This DRS range is quite different to their offering for 2018/19.
A step down from their DRS race boots sits the DS range of piste skiing boots. With their bold looks, powerful drive thanks to Dalbello’s Power Cage design, heat mouldable shells/liners and 100mm last, these boots are on-the-money for many piste skiers. They’ve added to the range for next season with two factory versions. These boots, the DS Asolo Factory GW and DS Asolo Factory W GW, are narrower than the other DS boots, slimmed to a 98mm last for men and 97mm last for women. The cuff of these boots is taller too, and these are stiff with a 135 flex for men and 120 flex for women. As if this wasn’t enough both of them will come mounted with Grip Walk soles and these boots are light; 1,750g for the men’s and 1,550g for the women’s version.
Things get even more fruity when you want a boot with a ski/hike function for freeriding and touring. The Panterra range is already superb and uses Dalbello’s carbio design. Rather than a wrap-around plastic cuff mounted to a one clog that you get in a regular two-piece ski boot, the cabrio design is comprised of three parts; the clog, the cuff and a tongue. This gives a different sensation when flexing the boot and works really well for freeride and freestyle skiing where you
may want a more progressive flex and not the classic flex performance you get in two-piece race and piste performance boots. For 19/20 the Panterra range has a lot of updates including a new shell, taking design cues from the DS’s Power Cage, a variable ramp angle (the angle your foot sits at in the boot), improved ski/hike mode with 50° range of motion in walk mode, Grip Walk soles and if that wasn’t enough the range is now a lot lighter. The top level Panterra 130 flex boot has been on a diet and lost 110g in a year, down to 1,690g. The women’s Kyra range is now called Panterra W, and there will be a new top-level W boot with 105 flex, as well as the 75, 85 and 95 flexes they have for 18/19. All of the updates mentioned above apply to the women’s Panterra boots too. The Panterra MX and Kyra MX boots have been dropped for next season though as that wider last can easily be attained in the main Panterra range due to their heat mouldable shells.
Panterra boots don’t have pin inserts though, for use with bindings like the Marker Kingpin, Salomon/Atomic Shift, Diamir Vipec and Tecton or Dynafit bindings. If you want to ski a pin binding then you should check out Dalbello’s Lupo range of boots. The Lupo AX (AX means it is 100mm last) in the 120 flex is a go-to boot for may wanting superb touring function without sacrificing that classic Dalbello cabrio freeride feel. They have two new models in their standard Lupo range; the Lupo Pro HD and the Lupo AX HD. The Pro is a 98mm last boot, in striking Dalbello green with a black cuff and tongue. They’ve mixed carbon in to stiffen up the boot, giving a 130 flex for those that want to charge hard. The AX version is a little wider at 100mm, and has a more forgiving flex of 110. If these are two stiff then you can drop down to a 90 flex Lupo AX boot, and they offer a women’s Lupo AX in 105 flex. The tongue on Lupo boots is easily removed when in tour mode to give you an even greater range of movement and they all come mounted with Grip Walk soles.
They have a new breed of Lupo boot coming for next season too though, called the Lupo Air, which comes in 130 and 110 flex versions. These lose over half a kilo per boot over their eponymous siblings, and although they may carry the Lupo name they’re quite different beasts. Designed in collaboration with Dalbello freeride legend Stian Hagen these boots offer what we all yearn for – a super lightweight boot that makes skinning uphill on skis as effortless as possible while not compromising that killer downhill performance modern free-tour skiers need. It has a standard alpine touring sole (ISO 9523) with pin inserts so will work with pin touring bindings, Marker Kingpin (and the new M-Werks Kingpin that’s coming out) and the Salomon/Atomic shift bindings. You can also swap to a Grip Walk sole but that is heavier. The Lupo Air doesn’t have a tongue to save weight and make going from ski to hike mode and back quicker.
Weight is kept low with a Grilamid clog and a carbon infused rear is light but provides power and drive when skiing. They’ve redesigned the ski/hike mechanism on the rear of the boot giving fantastic drive even though there’s no tongue. There’s a cable closure over the clog, again to keep things light, and a broad power closure around the top of the cuff to give you that power and performance for charging back down. All of this in a package that only weighs 1,299g and will just cost £625. Bring it on!
For 18-19 Völkl made a bold move and changed the legendary Mantra ski, releasing the Mantra M5 (96mm underfoot) and lady’s Secret ski (92mm). It was a wise move though as both models smashed it, winning a host of awards. For 19-20 they’ve added to these skis with the new Mantra 102 and Secret 102, both with a 102mm waist width. Both of these wider skis will feature Völkl’s new 3 Radius sidecut, which will appear in a few skis next season. See below for more details on this tech.
The narrower Kendo has changed for 19-20, following the construction developed for the M5 Mantra, and will be available in two widths rather than the 90mm version. You will be able to buy a Kendo with 88mm or 92mm waist. The Kendo 88 will also feature Völkl’s new 3 Radius sidecut.
The lady’s Kenja ski follows the pattern set with the Kendo, dropping from 90mm to 88mm underfoot and again with the 3 Radius sidecut. There’s no 92mm Kenja though.
Völkl’s RTM range of skis has gone for next season. These are being replaced by an expansion of the awesome Deacon piste ski range with some wider models. The Deacon skis offer fantastic performance with their powerful cores paired with tip and tail rocker. People are sometimes nervous of tip and tail rocker in a piste ski, but in the Deacon skis the rocker enhances their performance rather than hindering it. This profile carries over into most of the new Deacon skis too. There are seven new Deacon models for 19-20 season; Deacon 75 and Deacon75 Black, Deacon 84, Deacon 80 and the Deacon XTD, Deacon XT and Deacon X. The three Deacon X skis have a 72mm waist ski with a composite core, rather than wood, and only rocker in the front of the ski and standard camber through the rest of the ski. All of the other Deacon skis have rocker at the front and back of the ski. The majority of the Deacon skis will come with Grip Walk bindings as standard; a theme mirrored across the Völkl range for next season, including some the Racetiger range of race skis.
The headline skis in the expanded Deacon range are the Deacon 84 and the Deacon 80 which both have 3D Glass and 3D Ridge. These 3D structures increase ski performance while keeping weight as low as possible. The 84 (£775) is aimed at slightly higher performance skiers as it has a Titanal frame while the Deacon 80 (£675) has glass frame and makes it more ‘pingy’ in tip/tail. Both of these skis will come with a new Low Ride binding, which means you will sit 10mm closer to the top of the ski. Both skis will also have Völkl’s 3 Radius sidecut shape.
Triple radius (3 Radius sidecut) is a big new story from Völkl. This is where you have a long sidecut radius in front the and rear of the ski with a tighter sidecut underfoot, with some interesting shaping at the very front of the ski. To explain, the first 10mm in the contact area has the same sidecut as underfoot then it gets gradually longer over next 100mm to match the longer sidecut of around 30m through the front portion of the ski. The sidecut then tightens up again underfoot to around 17m before relaxing again at rear portion of the ski, where the sidecut radius is around 28.5m.
In the women’s award-winning Flair range of skis there are three new models for next season, including the new version of the Flair SC Carbon and completely new widths in the Flair 75 and Flair 72. The new Flair SC Carbon will be 2mm narrower underfoot at 70mm, and will also have 3D Glass, which it did not have the season before. The lengths available also change to 150cm, 155cm, 160cm and 165cm. The Flair 75 is a woodcore ski aimed at intermediate to advanced level skiers, with tip and tail rocker. The composite core in the Flair 72, with tip rocker, will really suit those just developing into skiing, offering a more forgiving ride.