Brands talk new gear during the All Mountain Demo at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

Just when skiers and snowboarders were becoming comfortable with the idea of “shaped’’ skis and boards, they now face a new term -- “rocker.’’ And just what is rocker?

It’s a look or design. Think of it as the shape of a ski or snowboard resembling the base of a rocking chair with turned-up tips and tails. It can also be described as an exaggerated version of the popular twin tip skis with a more pronounced upturn. It is the rage this year and will have an even stronger presence in the stores in 2012-13.

Technical terms used to describe rocker include camber, reverse camber, inverse camber, early rise, gull wing and negative camber. The report is that the rise in the tip will help the skis and snowboard float in powder, crud and over groomed surfaces with ease. And, contends manufacturers, because of the rocker design skiers and riders will be able to maintain better balance and make the ski or snowboard more maneuverable. Bottom line: Easier and more stable turns.

Reports also indicate that the rising tips and tails will make initiating turns easier and once the turn starts then the carving capabilities of traditional camber under foot will enter in to complete the turn. And, report ski reps, the technology works for everyone from beginner to expert.

Some of the new 2012-13 models were recently presented at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in downtown Salt Lake City.

There are, in fact, a full range of hard goods options for skiers and snowboarders offering a range of varying shapes for different riding and skiing styles within the rocker family. Meaning, buyers will need to spend more time making their selection to make sure they make the right choice. And, as always, they will need to make sure they’re working with a knowledgeable salesperson.

Photo by Scott Markewitz / Ski Utah.

Gaining popularity, brought on by rising prices, is alpine touring gear. New advancements will make it easier to walk and ski with lighter-weight boots and compatible bindings, some with a hike and ride switch that will eliminate the need to remove the skis to switch from uphill to downhill.

Regaining some interest are backcountry skis with reverse-scale bases to make uphill climbs easier and downhill rides smoother, thus eliminating the need for a variety of waxes and the knowledge to use them. Some ski makers will also try to revive a slumping telemark market with new skis, bindings and boot combinations.

The biggest changes in ski boots will focus on weight and stiffness. One boot made for touring, for example, comes in at 3.2 pounds and offers more power and tourability. Emphasis will be placed on the walking mode that will make it easier to get from the car to the lift and into lodges. Boot makers have also found that along with fore and aft stiffness, good boots must also offer more lateral control, which makes it possible for skier and boarders to take a more upright stance to compliment new ski and board technology. Snowboard boots will have better lace systems to compliment the new design of boards.

New goggles will offer more options. Studies show buyers are likely to buy multiple goggles to match varying conditions -- sunny, snowy, cloudy and flat lighting. New goggles will come with a variety of lenses that can be changed easily. A high-end goggle will come with a display within the goggle that will have a built-in GPS and will display time, temperature, speed and altitude. There will also be several lines of women-specific goggles.

Helmets, rapidly becoming standard equipment with skiers and snowboarders, will come out in 2012-13 lighter, more comfortable, better able to accommodate goggles and some will have built-in audio systems.

There will be a whole collection of new ski/snowboard gloves available next season, many that will allow the wearer to have touch-screen capabilities. One company will have 70 new styles in its line and another 28 new styles, so options will be broad.

The bad news is new products next season will also cost more. The main reasons are higher cost of production and in raw materials. For example, the average cost of cotton in 2007 was 63 cents per unit where in 2011 it was $1.55. And, the cost of fine wool jumped from $9.73 per unit in 2007 to $16.38 in 2011.

In order to keep pace with the competition and demands from consumers, manufacturers continue to improve on their products, which is a definite benefit for those hitting the slopes. So spend a little time next fall and look at all the new gear coming out next season.

Utah Statewide Skier/Snowboarder Days

Season               Days                    Rank
2010-11              4,223,064              2
2009-10              4,048,153              5
2008-09              3,972,984              6
2007-08              4,249,190              1
2006-07              4,082,094              3
2005-06              4,062,188              4