What You Need to Go in the Snow

Winter racing equipment—and the way you modify it—is crucial to your performance. Here are eight cold-weather essentials.

    Photo: Eric Swanson

HYDRATION: CamelBaks ($30-$105; 800-767-8725; www.camelbak.com) and their kin are a must, and you can prevent the dreaded tube-freeze by wrapping quarter-inch foam insulation, available in hardware stores, around the hose (as shown at left). Make sure the bladder is stored close to your body, ideally inside your jacket, to keep it warm. Always blow all the liquid back into the bladder when you finish drinking to prevent water from freezing inside the bite valve.

GLOVES: A combination of Outdoor Research's Gripper gloves and Modular mitts ($45; 888-467-4327; www.orgear.com) gives you three temperature-regulating options: Wear the Windstopper fleece gloves for steady climbing and moments when manual dexterity is a must, the mitt shells alone if the sun is shining but you need wind protection, or the whole combo on long downhills when you're not generating much heat.

BIVY SACK: Should your event require overnight emergency gear, weight watchers will want Mountain Hardwear's Conduit SL Bivy ($99; 800-953-8375; www.mountainhardwear.com), a waterproof sleeve that zips over a sleeping bag and weighs just over a pound.

BASE LAYER: No matter how diligently you shed layers, always bring a backup set of midweight polypropylene or wool long underwear to change into in an emergency.

HEAT: Grabber MYCOAL hand and toe warmers ($1.50 and $2; 800-423-1233; www.grabberwarmers.com) utilize a pouch filled with iron and other elements that, when exposed to oxygen, produce heat through oxidation. Stick them in your gloves or boots for seven hours of 100-degree warmth.

SKINS: Essential for any backcountry ski race involving long climbs, kicker skins are shorter and lighter than full-length climbing skins. Ascension Kicker Skins from Black Diamond ($49; 801-278-5533; www.blackdiamondequipment.com) cover the crucial middle third of your skis, where your body weight provides the most gripping power.

SKIS: With a proven scale pattern that climbs moderate grades and variable snow conditions with aplomb, Fischer's lightweight BCX Mountain Crown skis ($230; 603-224-2800; www.fischerskis.com) eliminate the need for messy, frustrating wax jobs and feature full-length metal edges that provide plenty of control for downhill finishes.

SNOWSHOES: Snowshoes have come a long way in the last ten years, but racing in them can still be awkward. The Atlas Dual-Tracs ($229; 888-482-8527; www.atlassnowshoe.com) use a lightweight, tapered aluminum frame big enough to keep you on top of the snow yet small enough to accommodate a runner's natural stride. (For a complete snowshoe roundup see next month's Review.)

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