New ski gear hits the market

BOISE -- The ski gear industry is usually pretty conservative. Skiing and snowboarding gear doesn't vary much from year to year compared to sports such as mountain biking, which continues to rapidly evolve and diversify.

Ski gear typically changes gradually and subtly. Yes, ski fashions change, and occasionally gear trends veer sharply in a certain direction, such as the rise of snowboards and shaped skis.

But even those "revolutions" are gradually brought into the fold rather than completely dominating the industry.

This year, there don't appear to be any revolutions on the horizon. There are, however, some interesting developments, such as heating elements in clothing, and skis and snowboards switching from camber to rocker (think of the shape of a recurve bow compared to the shape of a kayak).

We've seen similar developments die of neglect from consumers. I remember seeing electronically dampened skis years back, but I bet you can't find them now.

Will some of this new gear become the standard years from now?

We'll see. In the meantime, here's a look at some interesting gear you might see in ski and snowboard shops this season.

Lib Tech banana snowboard

Lib Tech took the attitude that "snowboards aren't skis" in developing this board. Its tail and tip flare up, which makes it float in powder and puts the center of the board in contact with the snow for better edge contact, quicker turning and more control underfoot at your balancing point, the company says.

Interestingly, some new powder skis are showing up with a similar rocker.

The Lib Tech board also features "magne traction," which is a wavy edge with seven strategically located bumps along each side of the board for increased edge hold and control.

Does it all work? Riders will have the chance to vote with their wallets.

Price: $470.

See it at: www.lib-tech.com.

Therm-ic Power Gloves

One ski shop manager said he originally ordered these pricey gloves for a customer with Raynaud's disease, which makes a person's hands exceptionally sensitive to cold.

Others loved the gloves and wanted them, too, so they became a regular item in his shop.

The gloves have built-in heating elements and three warmth settings. They produce heat from 2 1/2 to 12 hours, depending on the heat setting.

They include a small, built-in lithium battery. A charger comes with the gloves.

Price: $375.

See it at: ecom1.sno-ski.com/product993.html.

Hot gear bag

Another heated gadget comes in the form of a boot/gear bag.

Put your boots, goggles, gloves, etc., inside, plug it in, turn it on and it heats the interior of the bag. On your way to the slopes, it can plug into your car's cigarette lighter.

The bag comes with a shoulder strap and backpack straps. Several sizes are available.

Price: From $149 to $179.

See it at: www.hotgearbag.com.

Smith audio kits

Want to add sound to your Smith helmet? The company has partnered with Skull Candy and Plantronics to provide add-on kits with speakers or Bluetooth capability.

You can jam with your iPod or get a wireless connection with your cell phone.

If you don't want to spring for the whole package, buy a helmet now and add the audio later.

Price: Starts at $30 for a basic setup and up to $200 for Bluetooth.

See it at: www.smithoptics.com.