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High-tech and comfort are in, but it'll cost you

Email|Print| Text size + By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / November 9, 2003

Before the snow guns are turned on, the season starts with a run down the aisles of a ski or snowboard shop. This year, manufacturers are touting technology as the savior of the slopes, offering everything from snowboards that use materials from the aerospace industry to boards with a chip that tells ski fibers when to harden or soften. Product loyalty is being groomed, too, as factories are producing goggles to fit with particular helmets, or skis for a specific binding. According to Chris Leake, a buyer at Waltham-based Ski Market, the latter means "more control over how the ski is going to flex, carve, and roll into a turn."

Boots that stay warm and mold to fit are showing up in greater numbers. And instead of a hard-shell top, soft boots have flaps of synthetic material that aren't as restrictive as the traditional robotic ones.

Companies are also coming around to the influence of women with Gold Cards in their pockets. This year, for instance, the first cross-country skis designed for women will be introduced.

From boots to skis, snowboards, and snowshoes, companies are tailoring their gear to the sexes, and not just with cosmetic gloss. Women, after all, have different bone structures and centers of body mass than men.

Regardless of which gender it's aimed at, gear is plenty different -- and more expensive -- than a generation ago, when skis were $89 and boots $29.

Manufacturers used to count on consumers upgrading every four years or so, but with high-end skis now hitting $900, savvy skiers and snowboarders are hanging onto those boards longer, hoping the investment pays off on the slopes.

All in all, though, remember: Trendy new gear might be cool, but that doesn't mean it's for everyone.

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