Barriers against the chill and sticks to make you fly

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Gear to Go
Skiing Essentials

Barriers against the chill and sticks to make you fly
By Stuart Craig

Skiing is the ultimate head game, and how you protect your noggin helps determine how well you play it. Outdoor Research's Touring Cap ($32) would fit right in behind the wheel of a ragtop roadster, but its snugly warm WindStopper-fleece fabric will serve you better on exposed slopes, especially when nice days turn nasty and you can turn down the foldaway earflaps. For skiers who swear by the traditional knit cap, Perigee's Knit Drop Ear Beanie ($30) improves on a classic with subtle earflaps to fully insulate your lobes. Horny Toad's recycled-fleece Winter Toque ($40) is reversible, and for sunny spring days, Bula's Roll Grinder ($23.50 for Poly Print Roll Grinder; plain Roll Grinder, $21.50) dries quickly and has a touch of tropical attitude.

When Herman Maier wanna-bes try to use you as a human slalom gate, you'll be glad you're wearing a helmet. Leki's sleek Racing Helmet ($150) has specially designed hearing ports that don't force you to sacrifice auditory comfort for cranial safety. Leedom's Limit ($109-$189) is cut higher around the ears for lighter weight, and has adjustable air venting to keep you from overheating.

Winter weather is unpredictable by nature, so carry insurance. Wyoming Wear's Neck Gaiter ($16), Smith's V3 Turbo C.A.M. Gogglesmade of Polartec 200 in 10 colors and 10 prints, is small enough to stuff into a pocket, but soft and roomy enough to burrow into. Smith's V3 Turbo C.A.M. goggle ($170) has an almost unnoticeable battery pack, and the tiny fan is the anti-fog version of the Terminator. Boll‰'s Krait ($50) leans a little toward the punk look, and has a Gore (as in the folks who make Gore-Tex) All Weather Vent, a clever device that equalizes air pressure in the double lens without admitting any moisture. For sunny days, Revo's Icon Oval ($175) incorporates the legendary Revo optics into an understated, polycarbonate-lensed spectacle.

On your hands, wear Mountain Hardwear's Chugach ($99) or Exposure ($89) gloves, which both have a guaranteed-to-keep-you-dry Gore-Tex insert and a tough synthetic leather K9 Storm Grip palm. But where the Chugach is Primaloft-insulated for warmth, the Exposure offers the versatility of a gauntlet shell. Wrap them around the Hardcore soft grip of Scott's Team Issue pole ($80); with a heavy-duty aluminum shaft, it provides the heft and balance of a precision, well-oiled tool.

All-over comfort begins next to your skin: Hot Juan Micro Supreme Henley ($45) from Hot Chillys moves moisture off your skin, buttons to matching bottoms of varying lengths, and can even be worn on its own on warm days. In colder climes, pull on some Polartec PowerStretch tights, from either Lowe Alpine ($65) or Mountain Hardwear ($75). On top, The North Face Bouldering UltraWick Sweatshirt ($98) is a wicking update of the cotton version you wore to gym class, and when the mercury really plummets, the soft, dense weave of Ibex's Starbird lambs-wool pullover ($195) is a luxurious barrier against the chill.

Keeping warmth in is one thing, keeping weather out is a whole different ball of fibers. New from The North FaceMombosok's Front Side Jacket is the suave, waist-length E.G. Tech Blouson Jacket ($475) made from dependable Gore-Tex with an updated straighter cut. Boulder Gear's Gravity Shell ($215) provides good value in a waterproof/breathable storm shell designed to satisfy weather-protection needs in bounds. Mambosok's Front Side Jacket ($170) and Spyder's Kreitler Perimeter Shell ($309) both take their fashion cues from the aggro freeride skiers; Mambosok's Front Side is loaded with multiple pockets, a powder skirt, and a stowable hood.

For your lower half, Patagonia's Stretch Triolet Bib ($320) has traditional lines but moves with you, no matter how big the bumps or how animated your air-time acrobatics. Mambosok's Launch Pant ($180) is a hip and economical alternative, with its built-in, removable suspenders and full side zips. In deeper snow, a suit is a necessity, and Marmot's Gore-Tex Trient ($750) has Double Door venting to open your chest to cooling, an adjustable fleece-lined collar and detachable hood, and internal suspenders to keep the whole package comfortable.

Tecnica's Explosion 10 ($665) is stiff enough to pull you through the nasties, but not so stiff that it will just take you for a ride. For true Formula 1 performance, however, strap on Dolomite's FX1 Race ($590). Built up under foot, and with a higher heel than toe, the FX1 initiates turns at the speed of thought, and it holds to an arc like a pit bull. While ski boots may be the heart of the skiing interface, they are only as good as the sock they surround. SmartWool's Ski Cushion ($17 for the light, and $17.95 for the medium weight) is the only choice. The itch-free merino wool cozily cradles your foot, while the thick knit shin discourages boot bang.

For rip-and-tear terrain hounds, Salomon's X Scream Series ($775) will carve a fine line on all but the hardest ice, and still romp like a puppy in soft fluff. If racing is your bent, Atomic's new Beta Race 9.34 ($915) handles gates like a Porsche at LeMans, and for high-speed, big-turn aggression on the groomed, K2's Merlin VI ($795) will put a smile on your face — or is that G-force distortion? For a similar experience off piste, Rossignol's Bandit XXX ($699) thrives at maximum warp in untracked terrain, and has become the rad freeskier's weapon of choice in the war on gravity. If, on the other hand, your idea of "powder" is more metaphysical, then the supple smoothness of Volant's Ti Chubb ($849) will transport you to snow satori. Regardless of the ski, Marker's M9.1 Turbo SC Titanium racing binding ($395) actually reduces the required release force in backward twisting falls, and you can adjust the binding's flex to match different snow conditions.

Photographs by Gary Hush

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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