Before hitting the slopes, strap on all the right

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Before hitting the slopes, strap on all the right

"Technology is the future of skis," says Lee Hyung-soo, manager of Pro-Am, a ski shop in Chungmuro, Seoul.

This season, Head is first out of the gates with a set of computerized skis that become more or less rigid depending on the skiing conditions. The i.C 300, or the "Intelligence Ski," uses a material called "intellifiber." It has a computer chip that senses the terrain and adjusts to conditions just as muscles tighten or loosen.

From these futuristic skis to rapid-release boots to wide-vision goggles, check out the latest in ski gear, all available locally.


HELMATS

100,000-250,000 won

The correlation is simple. As skis improve, downhill skiing gets faster and more dangerous. These days, more skiers and snowboarders are investing in head protection.

At Yongpyong ski resort, almost all the beginner snowboarders wear helmets, up to 80 percent of the more advanced boarders wear helmets and about 15 percent of skiers wear helmets. At the Pro-Am shop, about one in five customers buying ski sets are also buying helmets.

Which helmets provide the best protection? Two years ago, the American Society for Testing and Materials set standards for skiing and snowboarding headgear. The helmets at local shops should conform to those standards.

Helmets provide an added bonus: warmth. Ventilated helmets are popular because they don't get too hot.

Boeri has lightweight, vented helmets with Outlast insulation and a snap for goggles.


SNOWBOARDS

200,000-1 million won

Local ski resorts are becoming more snowboard friendly; some, such as Phoenix Park and Daemyung Vivaldi Park, now have slopes devoted to snowboarding.

Last season, the snowboard maker Nitro upped the ante with the Supernatural. The Supernatural has a long nose and a progressive radius sidecut, making it good for turns.

This season, Nitro introduced the Shogun, calling it the ultimate freeriding weapon. The board has a wood core covered with a carbon Kevlar optimized weave, making it powerful and hard, but easy for professionals to control, says Suh Chang-hee, manager of NexFree, near City Hall.


SKIS

300,000-1 million won

When it comes to downhill skiing, speed is king. But along the way it gets gnarly; there are moguls, sudden turns, ice patches, eight inches of powder and short uphill portions. What's a ski to do?

If it's a Head Intelligence Ski, it has a computer chip that reacts to electronic stimuli. Within 5/1000s of a second, the material in the ski tightens or relaxes, improving torsional performance (the ski's twisting movement) and helping you cut through ice or glide over powder.

The Intelligence Ski is the first of its kind, and reviews are mixed. Freeskier Magazine says, "It's light, quick and stable due to the intelligence chip. This classic, mid-fat design is perfect for those long arcs in crud." But a local skier who tried it says the results weren't so noticeable.

One thing is for certain -- the ski's hourglass shape ?ith wide fronts and backs with sidecuts -- is in. The width helps it glide on powder.


BINDINGS

Ski prices include bindings

You used to be able to mix and match different brands of bindings and skis. Now most companies' skis will only work with the same brand's bindings. The skis and bindings designed by Salomon, Atomic and Nordica work as integrated systems.


BOOTS

100,000-400,000 won

Comfort is key here. The second priority is rapid locking and releasing. One of the more popular boot brands in Korea is Tecnica, for its wide sole. Tecnica also offers a rapid access system. The upper front of the boot has a cuff that swings open on a hinge. Once you set the hinge, all you have to do is open and close.

by Joe Yong-hee
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