Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Any fool can paint a picture, but it takes a wise man to sell it. Samuel Butler



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That remains to be seen. But over at the Salomon display, it was clear the French mountain sport superpower was busy addressing the "lesser fit" market as well. Touting them as breakthroughs in the marriage of micro-electronics and ski gear, Salomon introduced a new line of snowboard and ski boots dubbed Loafers.

"Easy to get on and easy to get off, Loafers take the huff and puff out of gearing up for a day on the slopes!" reads the product pamphlet. The key to both boots’ appeal is the use of small, powerful servo motors to, "… lock and load all at the touch of a button!"

Loafers look like normal boots, but employ Sof-Touch™ technology, making them easy-in and easy-out. The real magic of these boots though is in the credit card-size remote control. At the touch of a button, the servos automatically tighten or loosen each buckle individually on the ski boots and automatically tighten or loosen cleverly-hidden, foot-forming closures inside the snowboard boots.

"Whether you have trouble bending over because of age or gut, these babies make that bit of torture obsolete," cooed one of the comely Loafer display girls draped around the booth.

One aging and paunchy skier/journalist, thrilled at the breakthrough, summed up the appeal of Loafers in one breathless word. "Finally," he said, spraying those nearby with cracker crumbs.

Other staid, ancient ski gear is beginning to get technology makeovers. Leki is just a few patents and partnership deals away from rolling out their new line of PDA Poles. "Pretty Damn Attractive," one of the booth attendants winked, making a lame play on personal digital assistant which is, apparently, what PDA refers to in this case.

A joint venture with Canadian giant Research in Motion, the Leki PDA Pole marries Leki’s cutting-edge pole technology with RIM’s wildly popular Blackberry. Looking a bit like a marriage between ski poles and an accordion, the PDAs have split the Blackberry’s keyboard in half and built each half into easily manipulable, ergonomically perfect ski pole handles. Alpha-numeric and function buttons are arrayed over the top of each pole and in form-fitting finger pads.

"It takes most people a couple of hours to get proficient at text messaging with the poles," said a Leki rep. "Even less if you couple them with our new line of PDA gloves."

The gloves, employing what the company calls Smart Skin™ inserts in the fingertips, transmit virtually the same button-feel as wearing no gloves at all. Made of a leather Gore-Tex blend, the gloves are warm, dry and waterproof.