The Downhill Report, December 1996
Pity the ski outfit. One moment it's expected to keep you cool and unencumbered while you duke it out with the moguls. Minutes later, it needs to toast you up for a long and chilly lift ride. Mix in a summit blizzard concurrent with near-equatorial sunshine at the base--well, you're asking an awful lot of your clothing. Which leaves two options: Spend your nest egg on a closet-choking orgy of ski attire, or opt for an ensemble-for-all-seasons like the one we've assembled below.
Zip into Columbia's Omni-Tech parka ($320; 800-622-6953) and you'll quickly understand why Columbia dominates the interchangeable-jacket market. Partner the Omni-Tech with the company's Shoshone fleece vest ($62) and you have six different options, from mating the waterproof-breathable shell with the inner fleece jacket for cryonic wind chills, all the way to donning the vest alone on 60-degree days. Once you've selected your layers in the morning, you can use the lengthy pit-zips, removable storm hood, and adjustable built-in gaiters to micromanage your comfort on the slopes. Columbia is an old hand with zip-in, zip-out components, and it shows in the details: Small buttons at neck and sleeves prevent the liner from shucking out of the jacket with you; fleece pads keep zippers from reddening up your chin and throat; and fleece-lined pockets warm the hands nicely.
Outdoor Research's aptly named Hat for All Seasons ($48; 800-568-8008) puts enough spin on traditional hunting-cap design--with its small brim and Gore-Tex fabric--to cut down on the Elmer Fudd jokes. Its seam-sealed outer shell stiff-arms wind and wet; a pile liner tucks in extra insulation. Wear them together with the goofy earflaps pulled down and you're ready for the hardest driving snow. Or don the shell alone (it has a comfortable wicking lining) on sunnier days. And for those dry, cool afternoons, the sleek pile liner alone should suffice.
They may seem like handwear overkill--two three-layer Gore-Tex shells plus a cozy pile liner--but with the MontBell System 3 AT gloves ($134; 800-683-2002) you can keep your digits warm and dry no matter the conditions. Shed the inner Gore-Tex layer for added breathability, or just wear the liner separately. The outer shell has some nifty details: Kevlar-reinforced palms and stretch Gore-Tex on the backs of the knuckles.
When it comes to climate control, your legs are an easier customer than your torso. Pick the right weight of long undies in the morning, and Burton's Tri-Lite Pants ($210; 800-881-3138) can do the rest. The waterproof-breathable Tri-Lite coating together with taped seams protects in the most miserable conditions; when things start to heat up, you
can release some personal steam through the hip-to-knee zippered side vents.