As I often remind my skiing friends, since snowboards lock your feet to one object, we knuckle draggers don't have to worry about coming out of a yard-sale tumble with a knee or two bent in the wrong direction. We do, though, have to take care with our wrists, which, after a day of face-first falls, can end up bruised, wrenched, or worse. According to snowboard company Level, over 30 percent of all snowboarding injuries are to the wrists.
It was with this statistic in mind that I strapped on a pair of Level Fly Gloves for two days of boarding in Winter Park, Colorado. Besides looking burly on the outside, all tough nylon and Kevlar fingertips, the Flys have an extra level of protection inside: a Biomex Plus wrist guard attached to the thumb of each inner liner, consisting of two plates connected by a hinge. The guards cover the heel of the palm and the bases of the radius and ulna.
Putting the Flys on with the guards in place (you can take them out if you're feeling lucky) and tightening down the Velcro wrist straps feels a bit like putting on a splint, which seems to be the whole idea. Level and the Swiss and German Snowboard Associations co-sponsored a four-year study at the superbly named Klinic Gut, a bone-and-joint-surgery center in St. Moritz, which found that the Biomex wrist guards made wrist injuries 7.5 times less likely.
I did feel a bit more indestructible going down the slopes and through the trees wearing the Flys. It was like wearing a helmet for the first time: one part of your body is suddenly much less fragile. Pitch a header on the flats? No problem. Clip a spruceand laugh! I started to reach out and whack branches in passing just because I could.
There's a tradeoff in a bulkier feel and decreased mobility. You can't grab a backside air or scratch your neck as easily. I tried taking the guards out and felt liberated but exposed, abruptly aware of all the delicate bones that connected my hands to my arms. I put them back in.
Along with the wrist guards, the Flys boast a soft nose wipe and goggle cleanertwo different features, fortunatelyon the right hand. They're warm, waterproof, and breathable thanks in part to "air exchanger vents," little mesh-and-plastic nipples made to keep your paws from overheating. The inner gloves come out for climatic flexibility.
So the guards must have worked, since I'm typing this review right after two solid days of mountain thrashing. If you're safety-minded, or you don't like sacrificing feel or movement for security, then stick with your old mitts.
If you're prone to falling, thougheither just learning to snowboard or inclined to, say, jump a cornice sight unseen even though your girlfriend is standing right there loudly voicing her refusal to drag your broken body out of the backcountry on her own, no matter how nice the bindings you got her for Valentine's werethen the Level Fly is for you. $85; www.levelgloves.com