May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside's Annual Travel Guide, 1999/2000


Snowboarding's gone legit, with a participation growth curve rising steeper than Corbet's Couloir. And while the wheres and whens of your first powder turn of the new millennium may still be a mystery, your gotta-have-it shopping list of new gear to covet is ready.


The uptight textile magnates and petrified ski nazis who once pooh-poohed the color palette and styling of snowboard apparel sit in deflated silence; from the cat track to the catwalk, the snowboard look is in. Even fashion stalwart Ralph Lauren has entered the snowboard-apparel fray. The fully seam-sealed Women's Free Rider Jacket ($495) from RLX Polo Sport uses two-layer Gore-Tex and melds Ralph Lauren design sensibility with the on-the-hill savvy of six-time world snowboard champ Michele Taggart and boardercross ruler Andy Hetzel. Too recherché for your taste? The Bonfire Platinum Jacket ($360) and Sessions JL Arc ($389) offer articulated hoods that maximize peripheral vision, venting options for bluebird-sky days, and fully seam-sealed waterproof-breathable construction. Both eschew the tired two-tone outdoor-and-ski look with subtle, no-shine fabrics that are like buttah to touch.


Whether you're trying to stomp your backside sevens or simply learning to link your turns, you're going to spend a lot of time sitting in the snow. Don't be a numb-ass; choose a pair of waterproof-breathable pants that bolster high-wear zones with abrasion-resistant fabrics. Look also for articulated knee and leg seams for improved mobility, and easy-to-open ventilation options for that sweaty hike to the powder stash. Good choices are Option/NFA's Ultrastorm 3L ($190), Special Blend's Vertex Pants ($230), or Prom's Amethyst Pants ($150). Each offers effective waterproofness and no-brainer features such as elastic snow cuffs with boot hooks and side-zip vents.


To step or strap? This year's selection of step-in bindings aren't just about convenience; they also permit performance nearly on a par with strap-ins. But devotees of conventional strap bindings remain legion; most contend that strap-ins are still more responsive. Which to choose? For deep powder, terrain-park styling, or long slogs through the backcountry, this year's setup of choice is the Nidecker Carbon 850 strap binding ($199) with Northwave's Reset boot ($269–$279). The lightweight 850 includes a ligament-saving lateral dampening system for less-than-perfect landings and a height-adjustable power pedal for increased toeside leverage. The Reset's thermoformed upper, combined with ankle-protecting Biomex liner, create a lightweight, supportive fit. And Northwave's new Profilesole offers independent flex zones for the perfect sole-to-binding interface. The Salomon Pilot P5 binding ($200) with Pilot Malamute boots ($300) make up the most distinctive step-in combo on the market this year. The single boot/binding connection point, located midway down the outer edge of each foot, allows the boot to partially hinge off the board, increasing leverage and providing camber control for ollies and carving. The new K2 Clicker HB Pro binding ($239) has a lightweight all-aluminum baseplate, an ultrastiff clear external highback, and a svelte aluminum forward-lean adjuster that adapts to any riding style. The Reaper ($259), Shimano's first linered boot, is designed to closely hug the contours of the Clicker HB highback to increase sensitivity and enhance the system's all-mountain performance.


Twenty years ago snowboards sported skegs and waterski bindings, and they were unbelievably sketchy to turn in anything but deep powder. Those days are thankfully long gone. Designs are now refined to maximize individual riding styles and body types. The K2 Ultima ($499) is a wide board for big-footed riders. High-speed crud bashing, rail slides through the park, or deep-powder floating—the Ultima handles it all. And K2's unique piezoelectric dampening system converts vibration into electricity (it actually fires up a couple of tiny lights), keeping the Ultima's performance smooth and responsive through the worst ice-induced chatter runs. Women's boards are nothing new, but the Burton Feelgood ($440) was designed by two of the best: Burton team riders Victoria Jealouse and Shannon Dunn. The fast, slick-sintered base and light Triax fiberglass are combined with Burton's Super Fly II core, for an all-mountain board perfect for lightweight riders with smallish feet.


Don't dream of skating onto that detachable quad without snowboarding's version of the Ten Essentials. Hardcore heroes everywhere are sensibly donning brain buckets. The Leedom Scream ($140) has a fast-wicking CoolMax mesh liner and a comfy padded chin strap that prevents chafing. UV rays from high-altitude sun can wreak havoc with your eyes, so buy high-quality goggles like the Iris Ellipse ($95–$105) or Oakley A Frame ($120).

Customize the fit of your boots with S-One's Team Design 3mm Insoles ($24), which mimic fatty heel tissue for shock absorption. Da Kine's Ranger Glove ($60) features a dexterous waterproof-breathable design and a removable fleece liner. For on-the-go hydration, the sleek, fits-under-your-jacket construction of CamelBak's SnoBowl ($53) comfortably carries 50 ounces of cotton-mouth control. Finally, to educate yourself about the dangers of backcountry travel before heading out beyond your local resort, get Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow ($9) from Alaska Mountain Safety, a great primer on avalanche awareness. —Sean O'Brien

For a Directory of Manufacturers, please see page 123.

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