When Mike Horn of StokeLab posted this recap of our heli-ski trip to British Columbia’s Pemberton area with Columbia Sportswear earlier this winter, I felt compelled to share my favorite gear from the trip. We were there to test Columbia’s line that will come out next fall and give them feedback. And, as any smart gear tester would do, I brought a plethora of other items to try out. Luckily, we couldn’t have hit it more perfectly. Heading up into the craggy mountains around Mt. Currie with Coast Range Heli, the clouds parted, the sun swept across the alpine terrain, and the helicopter was free to fly—something that doesn’t always happen. In fact, the weather was so bad the day before and after our ski day that the bird would not have been able to lift off. As we surfed endless fresh lines across open-wide glaciers, our guide mentioned that the conditions were the best he’d seen all season in terms of depth and quality. But my favorite description comes from Horn: “Every turn propelled crystalline snow into tubular clouds, contrails momentarily hovering in suspension." True not only of the snow, but also of the memory; it lives suspended in my mind somewhere, untethered between reality and a dream. —Ali Carr Troxell
Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody, $219
There is no more versatile midlayer than the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody. This lightweight, insulated hoody fits slimly under a ski jacket for added warmth but is breathable enough to wear on its own while on ascent in the backcountry. From snowboarding to walking the dog to backpacking, this soft-to-the-touch jacket manages to find its way into my luggage on every trip. Insulated with Arc’teryx Coreloft material—which traps warm body heat in negative spaces within the insulation—and trimmed in strategic areas with Polartec Power Stretch, the Atom LT is a no-brainer for active missions when you don’t want your movement to be restricted. Fun fact: Every single person at Arc’teryx’s headquarters owns at least one Atom LT and most women own two.
Rome Bastille PureFlex Snowboard Boots, $240
The thing I like best about the Rome Bastille PureFlex snowboard boots is how flexible and mobile they are without compromising on a tight, no-slosh fit. That’s thanks to Rome’s proprietary PureFlex lacing system, which lets you adjust the fit of the boot very simply. Two pulls criss-cross their way up the boots, locking out at certain points to give you one of the best fits on the market. These boots have a particularly narrow heel cup, which nixes heel slip—a major problem with snowboard boots that hurts one’s ability to control a board and have maximum efficiency. And, because the laces lock out, they never need re-tightening throughout the day; they stay put. Note: Try these on in person—the sizing can be tricky.
Bergan’s of Norway 1985 Soleie Lady Shirt, $85
Merino wool tops my list when I’m looking for a baselayer to wear on a day when I know I’m going to be really active. It thermoregulates better than any other baselayer material—and doesn’t harbor stink in the way synthetic material does. Plus, it breathes well and keeps me warmer than most baselayers. Bergan’s of Norway’s 1985 Soleie Lady Shirt is 100 percent merino wool and has a slim, athletic fit (which means it looks good in the bar after skiing all day). The flat seams didn’t chafe at all after a day at the resort.
Columbia Millennium Blur Jacket, $330
The fully-featured Millennium Blur jacket’s biggest highlight was how much it stretched. The softshell-like material moved with me whether I was sending steep lines with waist-deep powder, maneuvering between bumps, or hiking up a ridgeline at Whistler-Blackcomb. The hood was large enough to fit over my helmet in sudden fits of flurries and the wrist gaiters sealed in heat. The lining’s OmniHeat—Columbia’s space blanket-like silver dots that reflect body heat back into the jacket—meant I could lose a layer. Seriously. I run cold and am always as layered up as possible. But OmniHeat definitely keeps the mercury high within your apparel and, when the going got too hot, pit zips let me dump some of the warm air. Coming out fall 2013.
Columbia Millennium Blur Pants, $200
Made from the same material as the Millennium Blur Jacket, the pants of the same name also stretched and moved with me in moments of aggressive riding. I never felt constricted by a too-tight fit, nor did I feel bogged down by too much fabric. The weight of these softshell bottoms was just right. I’ve also long wanted to join the bright pants club out on the hill and these are my first pair. The hibiscus pink-red was garnering compliments all over the place. OmniHeat on the inside of the pants kept them toasty, but not too warm, even with OmniHeat-lined baselayers. Bonus: bottom leg zippers meant they opened up enough to go over snowboard boots, unlike many ski pants out there. Coming out fall 2013.
Burton Feelgood Snowboard, $530
From feet-high powder pillows to racing down the groomers at the resort, the Burton women’s Feelgood Flying V snowboard handled it all smoothly and with a lot of stability. It’s no wonder it’s been the best-selling women’s all-mountain board for a decade. The reverse camber board has camber built-in in strategic places to give this piece of gear a spring-loaded feel. The board’s large amount of flex makes it a laid-back ride for cruising around the mountain, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on the ability to get aggressive or ride expert-level lines. There aren’t many boards that can do it all, and so well; this one does.
Coal Headwear V-Neck Gator, $20
Blustery days when snow is pinging your face as you ride the chairlift are no fun. The V-Neck Gator by Coal Headwear fixes that. Its soft, comfortable fleece keeps your neck warm all day and then, when the wind gets too intense, you can pull it up over your nose and keep your face protected. The V-Neck gives it a little bandana styling.
Smith Intrigue Helmet, $150
With 10 vents, the Smith Intrigue helmet never got too hot, no matter how much hiking we did. And it’s so lightweight, I never felt like it was weighing down my head. The Boa dial on the back let me crank down on the inner cradling system so there was no wobble in the helmet’s fit. And I loved that the helmet paired well with my goggles—Oakleys—so I didn’t have a gaper gap. If you don’t want to rock a brim, this is the helmet for you.
Columbia Kiry Neve Gloves, $95
When I was first handed this pair of Columbia Kiry Neve gloves, I was skeptical. I’ve been long-committed to a pair of brown leather Burton gloves and have yet to find a pair that is as comfortable and waterproof. But I decided to give the Columbia’s a try. Because of the OmniHeat lining—silver dots on the inside that act as a space blanket—these waterproof gloves, with goat leather palms, didn’t get cold except for first thing in the morning in single-digit temps. Almost no glove will feel completely warm at that temperature. But the Kiry Neves had fantastic dexterity for tightening boot laces, zipping up jacket pockets, and carrying my snowboard while hiking a ridge. Because they are pre-curved, they have an incredibly comfortable, natural fit. For less than $100, these are going to be a bang for your buck when they come out next fall.
Oakley Stockholm Goggles, $130
Unfortunately, the airline lost my snowboard bag somewhere between Albuquerque and Vancouver for the better part of four days of my trip, so I had to buy new gear. Luckily, I knew the exact items that would best replace my missing goods. The bright colors on the Oakley Stockholm Goggles pictured here not only popped thanks to my flashy pants, but kept my eyes protected from snow blindness, wind, and blowing powder. And, because they are designed for a woman’s face, they fit better than any other goggles I’ve owned. Full disclosure: I have multiple pairs of these goggles at home for everything from low-light to full-sun days in the snow. These should be a downright staple in any snow bunny’s goggle quiver.