The 2016/2017 ski and snowboard season is officially upon us. If you follow the Instagram feeds for Snowbird, Solitude, or Park City, then you've seen the snow flying in the Wasatch Mountains already. In preparation for resorts opening next month, the following is a roundup of the best outerwear and support gear for the new season.
This reductionist jacket offers just about every layer you'll need. It is waterproof, windproof, and breathable thanks to a GORE-SEAM taped GORE-TEX fabric outer shell. And the interior is stuffed with just enough 800 Down Fill for maximum warmth and maneuverability. This jacket and a base layer is good for crazy-cold days in Maine or Jackson Hole. The killer feature is a media pocket inside the jacket, tucked between your body and the insulation to keep your phone from freezing. But it can be easily accessed without unzipping the jacket.
When temperatures are in the 20s and 30s, I typically opt for a GORE-TEX waterproof/windproof shell, such as this, and layer accordingly for the given day. The Free Thinker is a high-performance ski or snowboard jacket designed for both resort and backcountry use. Unlike many backcountry-oriented jackets, which tend to be minimalist, this has modern features like an insulated internal phone pocket and stretch-mesh goggle pocket. The fixed adjustable hood also accommodates helmets.
Most mid-layers are pure function. They trap body heat. The Hybrid Insulator adds huge style to the equation, particularly in the Jungle/Fir colorway. The upper half of the jacket is constructed with Primaloft Stretch insulation for warmth and maximum range of motion, while the lower is a highly breathable and fuzzy fleece. The collar is also cut low to accommodate outer layers and a balaclava.
SAAX Subzero Long John ($64)
There are plenty of base layers on the market, but only SAAX offers its patented "BallPark Pouch" to support and center one's manlihood. This hammock-shaped feature also reduces skin-against-skin friction and stickiness, yielding greater comfort and performance. Otherwise, these tights are constructed from nine panels of polyester and spandex fabric to support quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings with subtle compression.
Smith I/07 Goggles ($230)
ChromaPop is the latest lens technology from Smith Optics, and it's phenomenal. With interchangeable lenses for low, medium, and bright light conditions -- Storm, Everyday, and Sun respectively -- this one goggle handles everything. The lens tech enhances colors and thereby provides better clarity and contrast of the terrain from bluebird to whiteout conditions.
Dakine Rover Gloves ($85)
I'm a big fan of gauntlet gloves. I like to keep my jacket cuffs cinched tight to my wrist, so a gauntlet like the Rover allows me to easily remove the gloves to access my phone or camera and then put them right back on. With a yank of the gauntlet chord, they are secure. The Rover includes a GORE-TEX insert for waterproofing and breathability, while Primaloft provides insulation.
Hiking to in-bounds terrain has a multiplier effect because for every turn you earn, the lift assistance gets you several more for free. These hikes are often short sprints, so I'll do a lot of pre-season trail running to prepare. The new Heirro trail runners are my choice this season. I feel like my center of gravity is low in the shoe, providing more balance and stability; yet the outsole provides huge cushion and traction. The ankle support is especially noticeable because the last thing you want is an ankle injury before the snow even starts to fly.
If your car was an iPhone, racks and accessories would be the apps. They add function and personalize your ride. Thule's Flow 606 also adds some style. Primarily designed for skis and snowboards, it is a low-profile design that sits low on the roof. The case is uniquely molded around the mounts, so it hugs the crossbars and contours to the roofline. This is precisely the type of case you'd put on an Audi S6 or Mercedes E65 sedan.
This is my new favorite casual ski layer, and it's almost as much fun to say as it is to wear: the shacket. Like skorts and sporks that came before it, this is a combination shirt/jacket. It has the collar and buttons of a dress shirt, so you can wear it with a t-shirt. But it has the insulation and weather resistance of a jacket. The result is a seamless, indoor/outdoor layer that looks and feels right at the dinner table, at the bar, or any place in between.
Trend Alert! Bib Pants
These are the farmer jeans of ski and snowboard wear. They've been around for years, but 2017 is bringing them to the forefront. Bibs are superior to regular pants in many ways. They don't have to cinch tightly at the waist, which can cause discomfort when bending over to buckle boots or clip-in to a snowboard. With material extending well above the waist, there is very little chance of getting snow down the back of your pants. Plus, they provide an extra layer of wind protection for your chest and additional chest pockets, which can be very convenient. All of the following are lightweight shell designs with waterproof/breathable GORE-TEX material.
Burton [ak] 3L Freebird ($580): Most ventilated. Zippered vents on both sides of the thighs make these great for backcountry hiking.
Dakine Prospect Gore-Tex 3L ($420): Coolest front pocket with a fold-down platform, thanks to the side-load zipper design.
UA Chugach GTX ($400): Easiest to get in and out of, thanks to quick-release suspenders. Front panel also doesn't come up as high as the others.