Jeff Swanson, owner of Don Orr Ski ‘n’ Beach Haus ?in Traverse City, tells us what to expect in ski gear and snowboard gear for the 2014 Northern Michigan ski season.

On high-performance skis, the main advance is super lightweight materials like titanium and carbon fiber; at 20 percent lighter, new materials significantly improve flotation in soft snow. In the broader market, designers are making skis a smidge longer, though not as long as in days of yore. On comparable skis, expect 5 cm longer than a couple of years ago. The purpose: a bit more stable at high speed and better control and flotation in deep snow. And shaped skis with rockering (various camber configurations at tips, tails and center) is still taking command of ski design. Many possibilities: do some homework and investigate the configurations right for you. Also, expect more and more twin-tips on the slopes—they continue to eat into the terrain park market long commanded by snowboards.

The easy action and ski-ability of contoured and rockered skis have led boot makers to sell softer, more flexible, more forgiving boots (picture Alpine Touring boots) even for advanced skiers who have long favored very stiff boots. The results: in addition to delivering improved control, new boots are easier on the knees, easier to walk in, and easier to get on and off. And, yes, three-buckle designs (as opposed to traditional four-buckle) are giving excellent heel hold-down. Heat molded custom boot liners are expanding throughout the lines.

“The main trend is to own one,” our expert says—meaning adults are finally understanding that their heads can be hurt too, and they’re strapping on the headgear. Helping the trend: helmet designers continue to shave weight while adding comfort. Decoration? Anything goes. From electric day-glo to Army-drab green, search till you find your on-slope style.

Swanson is a fan of the Knee Binding, a design that allows boots to release in multiple ways, significantly reducing the chances of ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury in rearward-twisting falls—an injury that happens to thousands of skiers a year and is by far the most common injury related to skiing.

Board designers, anxious to bring growth back to their sport, are working to lighten boards and experiment with camber and rocker to make boards more responsive, controllable and spirited than ever before. Designers also continue to max out the art possibilities of that big snowboard surface—wild or mild, find the look that inspires you.

This article and additional tips & tricks are available in the October 2013 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s MagazineGet your copy today!

snowbuzz feature Traverse Magazine October 2013