When it comes to ski gear, the most discerning, jaded shoppers are without a doubt ski town locals. Since ski bums often have access to it all, and they are usually difficult to please. Quality, performance…and never forget style (hey-you’ve got to have your own steez) all factor in the decision on what to buy for the season.
And sure, it’s supposed to be that gift-giving time of year, but since full-time skiers are a bit selfish to begin with, we are still thinking of ourselves. Here I’ve rounded up a few slightly off the radar options that are becoming ever more popular with the choosey skids in my ski town. Use these gifts to spread snowy holiday cheer-or just keep them for yourself.
A friend earnestly wondered aloud the other day- “I like this one-piece: but if I buy it, what are the chances that 20 other girls are going to show up wearing it too?” Hmm. Nothing makes a new outfit lose its luster like seeing it on everyone else. Now you can make that problem, and any other tailoring/matching issues go away entirely now, thanks to Idaho-based custom outerwear maker Burgess Custom. You can order bespoke ski pants, cut to fit you perfectly and choose from over 30 colors and patterns in 2 and 3 ply Gore-Tex, or choose from standard sizing. Starting at $280 for pants, the company is also planning on offering custom jackets in the future.
Full Tilt Boots: There seems to be a slow, 3-buckle ski boot re-revolution afoot since Full Tilt revived the beloved Raichle Flexon design. It’s a small operation at the moment, but if you take a look at their athlete roster, you might wonder why. I can’t answer that, but if they’re good enough for Seth Morrison…I’m not sure I need to say more. As my friendly bootfitter put it, “Most pro level skiers I know are on these, unless they are getting paid to ski other boots.” Here are some of the major useful attributes of Full Tilt boots: lighter than most ski boots, they have interchangeable tongues, which give the boot its stiffness (ie you can change the flex of your boot in five minutes), easily replaceable buckles, Intuition liners, and guess what? Three buckles keep heels in place better then four-imagine that.
Spending a lot of money on gloves and losing them at apres is a sadly common event. Maybe you’ll be crushed if this happens, as I have been, because you spent $150 on your gloves, or just slightly put out, because you spent very little. As in, when I first started skiing in Jackson Hole, I noticed that so many of the guys I skied with, who were construction workers in the summer, just wore their work gloves out, all day, every day. Despite looking like a good way to get frost-bite, they stood firm. “Just add a little waterproofing, and they’re good to go!” they promised. They weren’t lying. Now, FlyLow is making a slightly more ski specific version, for just a little bit more than the hardware store version, at $29.
While you maybe able to get away with work gloves, the same is not true for packs, whether you just want to take lunch and spare goggles or hit up backcountry laps, it’s an item that needs to be perfect to you and for the task. Which is why after a few years of dealing with less than perfect packs for me, I’ve returned to Osprey Packs,whose main focus is fit and options. They offer sizing charts to get the best fit horizontally and vertically, options like different ski carry methods and helmet carries, and usefully placed but not excessive pockets. And thanks to Osprey’s bomber construction, once you get everything dialed in, your pack will last for seasons of abuse.
There used to only be a few ski companies to choose from. Not anymore-thanks to ever-expanding growth of ski company start-ups, those days are long gone. Picking up steam lately is Faction, a Swiss-based company with a big park and slopestyle presence, but they’ve begun making serious big mountains skis and have even just come out with a lighter weight touring specific ski. Faction is still holding strong to their counter-culture attitude, but you definitely don’t have to have a bunch of piercings to ski these. With La Nina showing her pluck so far this season, I forsee the Royale, a rockered, zero-camber, twin tipped ski with a 150mm shovel and 122 underfoot making plenty of showings in my upcoming ski travels.
Sure, Smith Optics is not exactly off the radar in the ski world. But I’m hooked on Smith. Helmets and goggles that consistently work well together, and they look good on just about everyone. After all, these products are on your head and face…not the place to skimp on style. And now, they’ve launched a women’s model helmet, The Allure, which is a counterpart to the unisex Maze, with light-weight good-looking protection. And extra-fuzzy earflaps-something I'm appreciating more as the winter rolls on. Smith offers so many different goggles and colors you can always get your own image up one way or another.