Just last weekend, numerous skiers and boarders got their preseason fix at the annual Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center on the harbor. Just a short stroll from South Station, the extravaganza is a must visit for the Christie clan and thousands of others to kick off the season on the slopes.

The bus from Portland got us there for the opening at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the day was spent visiting with old friends and the offspring of my generation who are running their families’ ski areas.

It was also the perfect opportunity to see what’s new at resorts from all over the U.S., Canada and even Europe at dozens of extravagant booths and displays.

Maine was well and dramatically represented by Sugarloaf and Sunday River, and the Ski Maine Association promoted the smaller areas effectively. Noticeably and distressingly absent was the Saddleback crew and their display. I spent a lot of time failing to answer questions from folks who searched me out to get an update, but I had to tell them I’m as much in the dark about the ownership situation in Rangeley as everyone else. To a person, they joined us in hoping for a successful resolution and the assurance of a bright future for what has become a destination of choice for many Mainers.

A large number of the nearly 200 booths and displays were occupied by equipment, apparel and assorted other companies whose wares they deemed potentially appealing to the attendees ripe for pre-Christmas selections.

A sign of the changing times was a Nordic Village Interactive Zone sponsored by Snowsports Industries America, where show goers were introduced to cross-country skiing, biathlon and snowshoeing. A Kids Snow Park and Learning Center proved popular, and aerial demonstrations by freestyle skiing and trampoline champions elicited rousing applause.

Many of us found the trends in equipment nothing short of fascinating: walkable boot soles for Alpine skiers and more customizable boot shells than ever. At last there are boots like Saloman’s WTR (Walk to Ride) boots that are the precursor to Alpine boots that will allow us to stroll around the parking lot and the lodge on comfortably rockered soles with rigid, non-rubbery boot/binding interfaces for crisp on-snow performance. Customization portends improved fit and stance, adding up to enhanced skiability.

Lighter weight, brighter colored apparel abounded, and even a device that allows snowboarders to hitch their boards to the restraining bar on the chairlift to reduce tension on their legs on the ride up. It all resulted in a fascinating look at the state of our sport.

One trend this older skier found especially appealing, and even vindicating, was what may be the beginning of the end of the “tyranny of fat.” Now I will admit that a bloated, rockered ski makes perfect sense in bottomless Western powder and backcountry junk. But here in the East, two feet of new fluff is a rarity, and most of our skiing is done on corduroyed groomers and, in the worst case, genuine hardpack.

But the trend the past few seasons to put skiers on boards with a width of over 100mm under foot and only about 100cm of the ski edge on the snow when making a turn bred a generation of high-speed sliders. They are, at the least, missing the wonderful sensation of carving a turn or, at worst, creating what my buddy Seth Masia, who teaches at Vail, has called “18-year-old meat missiles hurtling along at 40 knots unable to generate enough grip to change trajectory” on skis originally designed for backcountry heli-ski operations.

As for me, the pure delight of a carved turn that benefits from the entire ski edge being in contact with the snow, and the control allowed by my 78mm-wide under-boot ski surface is a sensation every skier deserves to enjoy. I feel badly that so many have only been able to slide around “on” the snow, completely unaware of the delight of skiing “in” it.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:

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