1. Oakley Sunglasses – Oakley has always been one of the most innovative companies when it comes to eye wear. I’ve been wearing Oakleys for years and still own my very first pair I bought for baseball. They offer awesome, comfortable lifestyle sunglasses as well as amazing, unique sport sunglasses. Oakley’s new technology, their Prizm Lenses, enhance colors and better your vision, boosting performance for specific sports. I have a pair for mountain biking that I wear for fun rides as well as races, and I’m telling you: they work. I see everything on the trail faster and more clear than I could with the naked eye. For road biking, I have a pair of the new Jawbreaker frames and they are the most comfortable sunglasses I have ever worn, plus they breathe extremely well and vent amazingly. Way to go, Oakley. I love you.
As you can tell from this post, I’m in it for the fashion. While I love, use, and appreciate the top-of-the-line techie gear we have at Shep’s, if I’m honest, the expanding departments of everyday apparel is more my thing. Here are a few of my favorite items this summer.
1. Ahnu Saratoga Sandal – They’re casual, simple, and comfortable right out of the box. Made from soft, genuine leather and nubuck, their footbed and generous cushion & support make these so much more than a flat, basic sandal. With jeans or shorts or skirts and dresses – they’re always the perfect option! (And yes, both colors are great!)
2. United By Blue Fairmount Crossbody Bag – United By Blue quickly became a staff favorite. Their super-soft organic cotton apparel is cute enough & comfortable enough to live in every single day of the week. Their bags are just plain amazing and come in tons of shapes and sizes to meet your preference. All made with genuine leather and organic canvas, they have purses, totes, backpacks, travel cases, pouches and lunch boxes. UBB’s good deed? They’re committed to removing 1 pound of trash from oceans and waterways around the world for every bag they sell. Win, win.
3. Toad and Co. Linette Skirt – Toad and Co. (formerly Horny Toad) is impossible not to love. Their collection so perfectly balances on the line of performance and casual, everyday apparel. While this washable linen chambray skirt I happen to love is tailored to their “lifestyle” category, many of their pieces are from wicking fabric, wrinkle free, and always perfect for active lifestyles as well as travel. This skirt is adorable for work, picnics, concerts, or summer parties. It’s a summer staple.
You might be surprised to learn that we have a store full of apparel like the pieces you see above. And through June, you can save 20% on apparel, accessories, footwear, and more. You’ll love what you find.
Each week, we’ll be highlighting a few staff picks of our favorite gear around the store. After all, we don’t just sell great clothing and equipment here at Shep’s; we also buy our great clothing & gear and use it for our own outdoor adventures! This week, Sep wanted to share a few items he just can’t live without.
1. Patagonia Arbor Pack – This 26L is one of my favorite backpacks of all time. It’s cool retro styling combined with easy entry and a bulletproof build make it perfect for a day of hiking or a place to stash your books. Plus, because it doesn’t have any built in padding along the back, it’s easily packable and hugs my body like a glove when I’m out exploring the outdoors.
2. Chinook Superlight Mummy 45 Bag – I have the older version of this bag, and it’s been a champ for years. This one have been upgraded with Insufil 1 making it lighter and warmer than it’s predecessor, costs a mere $49, and is one of the best 45° lightweight bags I’ve ever used for any money. These are a true bargain in the camping / hiking world for sure!
3. Patagonia Wavefarer Engineered Board Shorts – I’m kind of a Patagonia junkie, and for good reason. As a company, they continue to push for environmental causes to keep our world clean and renewable. They haven’t lost sight of the fact that people buy their clothing to be used outdoors, in tough conditions, with the highest demand for performance. Their fit and quality is amazing, and pretty much everything they design looks great! I picked these board shorts up before a recent trip I took to Oregon with my wife, and I never wanted to take them off. These shorts are super comfortable and built to last for years.
You can swing by our Downtown Wausau location to check out our full line of backpacks, sleeping bags, and swimwear for all your outdoor needs!
This past month members of our shop crew got the chance to go to Afton Alps and demo the 2016 ski and snowboard lineups. They each took a look at the new product, and pegged different aspects that stood out to each of them. Each of their notes on the new product lineups are as follows.
It’s always hard to pick a favorite ski in today’s offerings – technology has come so far and nearly every ski performs great. That said, I did test a few that seemed to perform at a level above the rest. Before I share though, a little about me. I’m just shy of 6’0, weight 145 pounds, and ski very aggressively. I prefer medium radius turns to short ones and primarily stick the groomers. That out of the way, here are my top picks:
Overall favorite ski: Salomon MTN 95, tested length 177. If I could only buy one ski next year, this would be it. It’s light but stable, wide but quick in the turns, and carves extremely well. This was one of only three skis that made me laugh out loud with enjoyment.
Best sub $500 ski: Salomon X-Drive 80, tested length 177. We carried this in the store this season, and it’s returning unchanged for 15/16. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this ski all day long. While it’s great for cranking up the speed, what I loved about it is it’s versatility: fast, slow, long turns, tight turns – it simply does it all. And it does it all really well. (For a sub $500 ski!!!) Unlike last year with no real contenders though, Head’s new Natural Instinct gave the Salomon a run for it’s money at $449. Minus top end speed stability, it performed wonderfully and was a joy to ski.
Race ski recap: Both Volkl and Head return for the following season unchanged, and like I mentioned last year, both are amazing race skis. Torn between which to purchase? Pick a color. They’re both equally good. I only give the nod to Head in the junior race department with their Worldcup iRace. With sizes available down to 100cm, we love having a true race ski to offer our junior racers for their early racing development.
Women’s ski recap: While none of our women staffers came to the demo, we still made a point to ski as many women’s skis as we could. Why? We sell a lot of skis to women, and we want to provide the best advice and information to our women customers as well. And let me tell you this straight away: women’s skis have come a long way! Want something that simply rips? It’s out there. Want something that practically skis itself? Easy. There are a ton of skis waiting for you. So my favorites? K2 nailed it with their new women’s skis, and the Luv Sick 80Ti is going to be a favorite for sure. Super quick edge to edge, very easy to turn, stable, and light weight. It’s really the perfect on piste ski. For those looking for something even move versatile, the Nordica Belle to Belle skied great and would be a wonderful ski for that beginner to intermediate gal looking for one ski to do it all. Head’s Joy line of skis continues to surprise me with great looks, low weight, and killer price, and I had a blast on their Absolut Joy. Lastly, Volkl remains the ski to choose if carving is your thing. Even their entry level Aurena carved a great turn at moderate speeds, and felt racey from turn to turn. With nearly all the skis I tried, it was easy to forget I was skiing women’s specific models halfway through each run. They’re that good!
Other favorites: Without going into more detail other than saying they were a blast to ski (which usually means they carved really well, felt lively underfoot, didn’t have a speed limit, and would likely be very versatile in all conditions), I have to say these skis topped my list of favorites and very well may make their way into my ski arsenal next year:
-K2 Pinnacle 95
-Armada E-Dollo (rename of this year’s El Dente)
-Head Instinct Ti
Lastly, I was able to use a pair of Leki poles with the Trigger system during the demo, and while I always like how they worked when I tired them in our store display, I’ve never actually skied them. GAME CHANGER. They are without a doubt worth the money, and will really change the way you think about poles.
(6’3″, 220 lbs, skis like his hair is on fire! Loves to be aggressive.)
Salomon MTN 95 184cm: Ski that has no limit. Extremely light carbon and wood built ski that pushes like a GS ski or slides right around like a fat powder ski. Absolutely fabulous. This ski had no limit and had no end. When I wanted to take fast quick turns it reacted, yet when I wanted to slow it down and slide my turns or even take slow long turns it did it all. Awesome looking snow camoish cosmetic and definitely a ski I recommend for anyone looking for that one ski quiver. Old or young, this ski will make skiing bring an even bigger smile to your face.
Head Monster 88 177cm: light easy cruising ski. This is the new all mountain ski that was spun off the old rev series skis. This ski gives you the stability of being a true groomer ski while acting and playing like a powder ski.
Head Instinct 83 184cm: This ski was the most like a “beer league” race ski. The ski will toss you and is very strong. The ski turned quick and held an edge like you would expect a race ski to do. The beauty of it all, though, is that it’s not a race ski, just an awesome groomer ski. Super cool looking cosmetic to this new ski as well.
Volkl RTM 84 177cm: Sleek new look for the RTM series this year. Volkl cut off lots of weight and added UVO plates to dampen the ski in the 84, 86. Ski (of course) is fast and quick and an absolute power house for that skier looking to take fast, hard turns.
K2 Pinnacle 95 184cm: K2 has a new look and a new shape, and it’s looking good. The cosmetics look awesome with the bright green top sheet you’re for sure going to be looking good out on the slopes. The weight felt balanced and the turn initiation was tight and quick. Great do-it-all versatile ski for anywhere from intermediate to far advanced level skiers.
Nordica NRGY 80 184cm: Ski is light and fast. Still the traditional 80 underfoot and completely rips just like a GS ski. Swing weight is fast and this ski will toss you around if you give it enough energy. Anyone with a race background who is now retired from racing, please jump on one of these!
(5’8″, 150 lbs, loves short, fat skis and making a ton of turns. His very favorite, though: tree skiing.)
Volkl RTM series-This series from Volkl now has a new shape and lighter design. These skis deliver precise edge control while still allowing you to explore the mountain. Volkl always makes some of the best skis out there.
Salomon MTN Explore 95-This brand new series of ski from Salomon is amazing, definitely a staff favorite. This ski is super lightweight, while still giving you the control needed to conquer the whole mountain. Can be used as a mountain charger or as a touring ski.
Head Monster 88/98/105-Head replaced the Rev series with the Instinct and Monster series of skis. The Monster, being the larger of the series, starts with the 88 waist and goes up to a 105. Ski handles nicely, giving nice easy turns while handling the crud and groomers. Great for intermediate to advance skiers looking for an all mountain ski.
Nordica NRGY Series. The Nordica NRGY series is still one of my favorite newly designed skis from all the companies. These skis can ski anywhere on the mountain, including the race course. Definitely try these out if you have the chance.
Volkl Racetiger and Salomon XMAX- looking for a “beer league” race ski or just some of the tightest turning skis on the hill, look no further. These skis will amaze even the most advanced skiers.
K2 Pinnacle Series- K2 has a new series of skis in the Pinnacle. These skis not only look good but ski great. Both the Pinnacle 95 and 105 skied hard, while being playful enough for the rest of the mountain.
Armada Edollo- the upgrade to the Al Dente, this ski looks good and is super soft in the tip, while still being a playful all mountain ski.
(5’11”, 155lbs, an ex-racer who skis like one.)
A new ski from Salomon, the MTN 95 was the hands-down favorite.The MTN 95 is extremely lightweight and at 95 underfoot it should provide excellent performance in the soft stuff. We tested this ski on hard-pack conditions where it held an edge as well as anything else that I’ve skied and had virtually no chatter.
My second favorite ski of the day was Volkl’s Racetiger SL. A very different animal from the Salomon, the Racetiger SL is a pure race ski. The Racetiger is quick, agile, and aggressive; you have to stay on top of them but as long as you do they will deliver you quickly and precisely from turn to turn.
Coming in third was the Volkl RTM 8.0. This is one of our entry level package skis and very little has changed from previous years. I was surprised at how well this ski held an edge and how aggressively it could carve. Upon completing a turn, this ski does not have as much pop its higher-performance brethren, but that makes it easier to handle for beginner to intermediate skiers.
On a side note, it was good to see that Salomon had not changed the Q-Lab except for the graphic; because why mess with perfection.
Josh and Jay’s Notes:
Lets be honest. Every snowboard company out there has some cool technology, but K2 continues to stand out with some unique new arrows for your quiver. While introducing some all new board shapes as they head into their 27th year of snowboarding, K2 is shaping (in more ways than one) the growth of snowboarding. With the 2015/16 season they are continuing to not only advance board technology, but shapes as well. No aspect of the mountain is overlooked as focus was put into a variety of areas from the pow to the park and of course with a variety of styles.
There are two new faces this season in the CoolBean and the Carveair. Their shape may standout like a sore thumb in the lift lines, but your riding will standout ten-fold the whole way down the mountain. Both of these boards have been designed with powder in mind. Even with that said they have the ability to simply turn hard pack into a wonderland of hard carves, that after performed will have you scratching your head and asking yourself “did I just do that on a snowboard”. These boards are a step back to early days of snowboarding when all of the board shapes were created to maximize the surfy feel and weren’t the cookie cutter true twin that we are used to with today’s board line-ups. While they are a step back into the past they are also a giant leap into the future. These boards are a nod to the future of snowboarding as a sport and showcase just how far board shape can be pushed.
If you’re interested in trying out these new products “before they will be on the market”, come visit us at Granite Peak this upcoming Saturday. Registration starts at 9:00 am in the main village (a $5 donation is requested with all proceeds going to support Wausau area youth ski programs). Demos go out from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Stop by, say hi, and ride something new!
A few weeks back, Robb, BT, TonyZ, and I made our way over to Afton Alps in Minnesota for the dealer ski demo. Most of the big names were there with next year’s gear, and for five hours straight, we put dozens of skis through their paces to make sure the gear we offer you next year is the best possible skis on the market.
While we each walked away with a list of personal favorite skis on the day, all four of us agreed on two as clear standouts: for the second straight year, the Salomon Q98 was a clear winner. Smooth, stable, able to ski anything by any type of skier – this ski just rips. The other favorite? K2’s Rictor 90XTi. An unbelievably stable ski, we couldn’t make it loose it’s grip in even the hardest of turns. That said, it was super easy to make turn any radius turns we threw at it, while remaining smooth the entire time. It was hard not to smile riding this ski.