Snow Sports


I want to replace my old all-purpose Mountain Jacket from The North Face, since it has lost its outer water protection and is fairly heavy. Would you go with a soft or hard shell? I cross-country ski, snowshoe, and hike with my malute in the Colorado mountains. Anne Silverton, Colorado

I 13 and looking for a pair of all-mountain skis that are not too much above my level. I an intermediate skier who skis mostly black dionds on large mountains. Aaron Massillon, Ohio

Sun Valley, Idaho: Sure, Lance and Sheryl got engaged here, but celebrity is nothing special in this town. It's all about the steep and deep. For the 70th anniversary of America's first ski hill, we celebrate this original snowsport mecca in style.

Last winter I discovered the joys of cross-country skiing at a local resort, but as soon as I stepped outside the tracks I was about as controlled as a cel on a hockey rink. I'm used to skis with metal edges and I could barely stand on my rental skinny skis. I'd like to buy some skis this year that I can use to cruise the Forest Service roads and use at the resort. Can you recommend some for a big guy and his fiancé that could be used in both situations? Mike Reno, Nevada

I seek your advice because I'm tired of lift lines and bad snow conditions. What's the best way to get around in the backcountry for a snowboarder? The new Verts from C3 design? Snowshoes? What about the split kit from Voilé? Also, what setup would you recommend for boots? Mountaineering boots? Simon Montreal, Quebec

Back in the day, we used to ski in Levi's with big nylon gaiters—but now, despite trying on every brand out there, I can't find a pair that will fit over my Garmont randonnée boots. I've even spoken with the good people at La Sportiva, who admit that their gaiters are only designed for their mountaineering boots. Is there a good-quality gaiter large enough to wear over randonnée or alpine ski boots? Scott Eugene, Oregon

Do you know of any battery-heated socks that I can wear with ski boots? If not, can you recommend the warmest possible socks? I love to ski, but my feet freeze, even with toe warmers. Lisa East Greenwich, Rhode Island

I'm starting to get into snowshoeing and I'm not sure about the best footwear to go with the snowshoe. Should I wear Gore-Tex socks with a trail-running shoe, hiking boots, or something totally different? Joey Calgary, Alberta

I moving to southeast Alaska this month, and I need a relatively inexpensive, waterproof, and wind-resistant winter jacket. I need something that will keep me warm for extended periods in cold, rainy conditions. Should I buy a heavy-duty rainjacket and wear it over a Polartec fleece, or buy more of a skier's jacket? Mallory Haubstadt, Indiana

I've been looking for a winter cycling jacket and can't seem to make up my mind on the best piece to withstand rain, sleet, snow, and city winds. I'd like it to have a hood and be warm yet light enough to move around in. My search has tossed up the Gore-Tex Stre Jacket, REI Randonee, Cannondale Facet, and a few others. When I checked with some of my friends, they told me to ask you, the Guru of Gear. Ryan Chpaign, Illinois

I looking for an overbag to extend my ten-degree bag into the winter months in New England. I have seen the Big Agnes Cross Mountain, the Wiggy's overbag, and the Feathered Friends Great Auk. Which one is a reasonably priced option to extend the range of my current sleeping bag? Have I missed any? Bill Portland, Maine

What's a good, durable, and reliable car rack for skis and snowboards? Joon New Orleans, Louisiana

What gives with the Icebox Igloo? This apparatus supposedly makes a really cheery snow shelter in two to three hours and costs much less than a good four-season tent. A friend and I are going to do some winter camping and this sounds like the middle ground between lying in an exposed tent and curling up in a cozy cabin. Is this thing the real deal or just a snow-job? Michael Houlton, Maine

Can you suggest a tent that would work in extreme conditions but won't break the bank? I find myself in areas near and above 10,000 feet during the cold months in the Sierras. Snow, rain, wind, and price are definitely a concern. Willi San Diego, California

Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, what is the lightest, warmest winter sleeping bag available? Brian Reno, Nevada

I enjoy cross-country skiing and snow camping in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. I would like to buy my own skis as opposed to renting. I over 250 pounds and find that many of the skis I've used have had little or no glide. It ends up feeling like I walking on plywood boards. Do I need a stiff ski? Or a wide ski? I would also be using a Berwin binding with this ski. Tim Appleton, Wisconsin

Last winter I blew out my knee pretty badly because I couldn't read the different lines in the snow; I guess I basically bece color blind. I've heard that different lens colors are better in different conditions, but I don't know which color suits which condition (i.e., snow, fog, sun). If you could give me a hand on this that would be awesome. Devin Edmonton, Alberta

My husband and I would like to purchase snowshoes for some exercise and fun, but we have no idea where to begin. What brand, size, and so forth do we look for? Carol Frisco, Colorado

I often ski in both the east, mostly Vermont, and the west at mountains in Colorado, Utah, and sometimes California. I've heard a soft shell, specifically Mountain Hardwear's Alchemy, is perfect for out west where it's fairly warm and wind is the only real concern. I was wondering if it would also work in the east where it can get much colder, wetter, and windier. If not, would a simple waterproof shell worn over it be enough? Brett Westchester, New York

I'm giving up my old straight skis for the newer shape of skis. How do I decide what length to get, since I understand that you can drop back on length with a shaped ski. I'm an advanced intermediate with bitions to push my ability, currently skiing on 165-centimeter planks. Ann Bedford, Virginia

Road Trips skiing road trip Snowshoe Break: on the road in Colorado High-Speed Ski Safari Why choose between Summit County’s bounty, Jackson’s steeps, Steamboat’s trees, and Big Sky’s big sky? On this nine-day, Denver-to-Bozeman Rockies odyssey, they’re all yours. Day One: Rent a car for the 90-minute drive west…

Can you suggest a few jackets that can multitask for snow sports, short hikes, and the commute to work? I like the hard-shell feel but don't need expensive Gore-Tex; I'd like adjustable cuffs and a removable hood; I would prefer something without a powder skirt but with a zip-out style that's not parka length; I like a simple jacket in solid colors without oodles of pockets and zippers. Hope I didn't overload you. Suggestions? Jim Ann Arbor, Michigan

Oh, wise gear guru, what are the best gloves for winter hike in the Adirondacks? Lorne Brooklyn, New York

I feel overwhelmed by all the different types of ski equipment. As someone who skis hard maybe a dozen times a year on mostly East Coast snow (probably once out west, too), what kind of boots, bindings, and skis would work for me? I know I'm a little early here, but I'm already dreing of that first snowfall. Ron Washington, D.C.

I have a place in Vermont's Green Mountains and wondering what full metal-edged skis would work for skiing in the New England woods? I currently use the 170-centimeter Fischer E99, but is there a shorter ski that I can use for skiing logging roads, snowmobile tracks, and general rough in the woods? I don't think telemarks are the ticket as I'll be skiing on the flat, and I can use my E99's for any cross-country trails. Nigel New York City

I getting ready for a February snowshoeing trip to the Sierra Mountains, and I want to nix my usual problems with cold hands. In the past, I've tried using a base-layer glove combined with a higher loft glove and a waterproof Gore-Tex shell. Unfortunately I still get cold hands! Needless to say, I in desperate need of your awe-inspiring, sage-like wisdom to find that warm-hand solution to all my problems. Nathan Louisville, Kentucky

I'm considering buying the Makalu boot from La Sportiva for extended backpacking and mountaineering duties, thinking it would be flexible enough for backpacking yet stiff enough for some crampon work. I understand that for really cold winter climbing I'd want something insulated, but am I wrong in thinking the Makalu will be up to the task? Christopher Mountaintop, Pennsylvania

Last year in Breckenridge, my 14-year-old son was having a hard time snowboarding because his hands were so cold. What can I get him to help? Do you suggest mittens or gloves for snowboarding? Gale Savannah, Georgia

With the downhill ski season quickly approaching, I'm looking for a new shell-type jacket to replace my current insulated jacket, one that will work in almost any weather with appropriate layering (to be worn primarily in Vermont and New Hampshire, where rain is an occasional factor, but not a daily occurrence). Basically, I'm wondering if the $400-plus Gore-Tex jackets (like the Arc'Teryx Javelin SV or XCR Sidewinder SV) are really worth it, or if I'd be just as happy 99 percent of the time with a soft shell. Erik Hoboken, New Jersey

With the downhill ski season quickly approaching, I'm looking for a new shell-type jacket to replace my current insulated jacket, one that will work in almost any weather with appropriate layering (to be worn primarily in Vermont and New Hampshire, where rain is an occasional factor, but not a daily occurrence). Basically, I'm wondering if the 400-plus Gore-Tex jackets (like the Arc'Teryx Javelin SV or XCR Sidewinder SV) are really worth it, or if I'd be just as happy 99 percent of the time with a soft shell. Erik Hoboken, New Jersey

As someone who's five-foot-two and 104 pounds, I'm looking for snowshoeing clothing that I don't disappear into! I have several pairs of insulated pants, but they are really bulky (snowboarding-type pants). I see tons of form-fitting "pants," but there are so many different kinds I don't know where to start. Any advice on layers and brands that will keep me warm but fit closer to my body? BJ Guilderland, New York

As a beginner skier living just one hour from Mount Hood, I'm trying to decide whether I should buy or just rent skis when I go; if I do buy, what equipment won't zero out my bank account? John Portland, Oregon

Any recommendations for a beginner's telemarking setup (skis, boots, skins, bindings) to use on groomed downhill runs and backcountry trips? I also recently bought a used Mountainsmith sled in the hope of taking my toddler up and down some trails at a local ski resort. Can this sled handle this type of use or I putting my kid's life in danger? Wayne Cleveland, Ohio

What's the deal with trekking poles? I seem to be the only one hiking without them. Are adjustability and shock absorption really worth the extra money? Or can I get away with using the beat-up downhill ski poles I bought at my neighbor's garage sale for $2? Kristen Seattle, Washington

I a strong trail/road runner and interested in doing some snowshoe racing this winter. I would like to buy something that I can use for training as well as racing. Could you give me a few options? Robert Grandville, Michigan

I'm trying to find a pair of cross-country skis that I can use on and off groomed trails. Does such a pair exist? Thanks! Jenni Juneau, Alaska

Not so much a question, more a comment about ski helmets. I'm a ski instructor and the following is my mantra: If I'm skiing normally, I don't really use a helmet. If I plan on skiing in the park, I wouldn't go without it. However, when it's 20 degrees below and I still have to teach, the helmet keeps me way warmer than any toque, any day. Generally, you know it's cold if I'm teaching in my helmet. Also, helmets for snowboarding are a must. Sometimes, a person just falls way too fast to prevent cracking your head on the hard pack. ber Toronto, Ontario

You recommend the Marmot Equinox as a three-season tent, but will this work for winter camping when temps hit the mid-20s and 30s? I'm looking at some convertible tents (Mountain Hardwear's Skyview 2, Marmot Swallow 2, and The North Face's Nebula), as well as non-convertible options like the Equinox and TNF's Roadrunner 2. Thanks, I just started reading your column and really appreciate the insight. Alexis Syracuse, New York

I'm an improving intermediate skier who will ski practically everything on the mountain—though not always gracefully! I'm looking for a pair of skis that won't hinder me as I progress, but that won't be too advanced for my current skill level. What do you recommend? Joel Manhasset, New York

I seek your vast wisdom in selecting a small pack for the upcoming ski season; something comfy but lightweight that can pull double duty for lift-access skiing and limited backcountry use. I'd prefer a low profile pack under 1,800 cubic inches, with some sort of attachment point for skis as well as hydration-bladder compatibility. Also, do you think a panel loader would be better suited for this type of pack, thereby eliminating the need for a top pocket that might flop around when not completely filled? I asking for too much here? Joe Victor, New York

All I want for Christmas is a good headlp for winter use, but things have gotten complex. Voltage regulators, duo headlps, multiple settings, alkaline versus lithium batteries: these have all muddied what should have been a simple choice. Basically, what's the perfect headlp for an overnight or multi-day winter backpacking trip? Scott Maple Valley, Washington

I need some of your sage wisdom: As a pretty serious mountain biker and alpine skier looking to the approaching winter, I want to score a hard shell that will serve me both on the trails and the slopes. I've looked at Patagonia, Cloudveil, The North Face, and Lowe Alpine, but I'm lost in the many options. I want something that breathes well, keeps me dry in wet conditions. Insulation ain't important (got a great Patagonia fleece already). Please, point me in the right direction! Nathan Washington, D.C.

These days it seems pretty much everybody's wearing bike helmets. Why can't you say the se for skiing helmets? And, do you think it'd be wise to shell out on a ski helmet? I've just booked up for a one-week ski trip to Colorado next February. Not having done much skiing before, I want to enjoy myself but also stay safe! Andrew Charlottesville, Virginia

So, the winter snow will soon be upon us. As a snowboarder, my feet always seem to get extremely cold. I wear SmartWool socks, and I sometimes need to wear two pairs of socks (though not necessarily both SmartWool). Do you think my feet are just overly sensitive to the cold, or is there something else out there to keep my tootsies cozy?

I plan on doing some winter backpacking in New Hampshire's White Mountains for the first time. I need some help with sleeping bags—there are so many to choose from! Should I go for down or synthetic? What's a good temperature rating for this kind of trip? Mark Boston, Massachusetts

Which do you think would be better for a backcountry winter camping trip in Yosemite: snowshoes or a ski like the Karhu Morph (which looks like L.L. Bean's Boreal and features a built-in climbing skin)? Tom Marina del Rey, California

Now that the venerable Patagonia Ice Nine ski bibs have been discontinued, what do you recommend in their place? I want something similar: waterproof-breathable, light but durable, great features. However, I've read not very complimentary things about The North Face's Gore-Tex XCR bibs. Richard Oak Ridge, Tennessee

What's your take on the soft-shell craze if the activities are both ascent and descent in nature? In other words, I very interested in the breathability for aerobic activities, but concerned about warmth for activities like downhill skiing. Question is, can I have my cake and eat it too? Second, if I can have it both ways, what is your first choice and why? Brad Peacock Medina, Ohio

I want to buy some new cross-country skis that I can use for both touring and downhill, maybe something along the lines of the Karhu Catounts. While these seem to work well for touring on ungroomed trails, would these also suit for telemarking on blue-square trails? Rusty Cresco, Pennsylvania

Gear Guru, what eye gear do you recommend for cross-country skiing when it's windy and snowy? Every pair of goggles I own fog up when I cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Would glacier glasses solve this problem? Craig Portland, Oregon

I would like to buy shaped skis. I currently ski on straight 160s and 5-foot, 2-inches tall. I've gotten so many different opinions on how long my shaped skis should be. Help! Jacklyn Meriden, Connecticut

Are there poles that could do double duty for downhill skiing and trekking? Or is that too much to ask from a set of poles for around $100? Dan Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I'm staring down the barrel of a long, cold, wet winter, which will put a crimp on my outdoor bicycling. Now, I can't afford a house big enough to install a velodrome, so I'll need to purchase either a trainer or rollers to ride my bike inside. Should I fear the rollers? Will I need to put fo padding all around them? Will true believers mock me if I buy a trainer instead? Glen Novato, California

I'm a snowshoer and snowboarder. I wear hard-shell snowboarding boots and I have the step-in type bindings on my board. I would love to find some snowshoes that also have a step-in type binding that would work with my boarding boots so that I could do some backcountry boarding and only need to haul one pair of boots. Any suggestions? Ryan J. Richmond Boise, Idaho

What's the best tent for winter camping? I'm interested in a two- to three-person tent that's lightweight, packable, and available at a low price. I will be spending time in northern Massachusetts and the White Mountains this winter. I've been looking into single-pole shelters like the Black Diond Betid ($98), and while comfortable with not having a sealed floor, I worry about water seeping in. Do these tarps really work? Are they reliable? Is it possible to find a reliable four-season tent under $200? Boaz Sender Boston, Massachusetts

I'm a road and occasional trail runner. Given the current season, I'm looking for a pair of shoes with a waterproof component to keep my dogs dry when I'm "on the run." However, everything I've looked at so far seems to lean toward trail running in design. This is fine since I'll be traversing ice, snow, slush, and road crud, but the treads on these shoes seem too aggressive for the road. Any suggestions for a good compromise? Ben Marlborough, Massachusetts

I just bought new ski boots and I love them. Next on my list is buying new skis. I a solid level-nine skier and can ski anything on the mountain (New England or Rockies), although not always as gracefully as I would like. I love moguls but don't want a ski that submarines in powder. I was looking at the Salomon X-scres but heard that their tails were too stiff and therefore a lot of work in the bumps. Do you have any recommendations for top-of-the-line skis? Will New York, New York

I have been happily skiing and snowboarding in my Patagonia Nitro II pants for the past few years. However, having recently signed up for a mountaineering course, I was told they aren't designed for mountaineering because of their two-ply, mesh-lined material. I'm confused as to why pants perfectly fine in a skiing environment can't work for mountaineering. I don't want to shell out $300 on another pair of pants! Ken Toronto, Ontario

I often ski and snowshoe in the Adirondacks backcountry, but my back always gets soaked under my pack whenever I'm going uphill. I have tried different layers to avoid the wetness, all to no avail. What do you recommend to keep my back comfortable? Ian Lake Placid, New York

I interested in buying a quality set of boots and skis, primarily for Vermont and New England skiing. Problem is, I wear a two-centimeter orthotic insert in my right shoe that corrects a leg length problem and heavy over-pronation. Can I get this custom built into ski boots? Any other options? Also, what's your opinion on the softer boots like the Atomic Beta Ride 10.50? Are they worth the $600? What is the best ski for varying New England snow conditions (i.e. one day powder, next day ice)? Walt McMann Hden, Connecticut

What is the best type of footwear to wear when snowshoeing? Do I wear my hiking boots (kind of stiff but durable)? Or my low-cut trail hikers (comfortable but less durable)? Or something else? Katie Gold Boston, Massachusetts

Hailing from sunny California, this is my first year in college in Boston. Here's my situation: New England weather is windy, chilly, and often wet. I need a jacket that will get me through the winter but also look good around town. However, once I buy this jacket, I'll still need money to eat. What can you recommend that won't break the bank, i.e. as close to $100 as possible? Kyle Boston, Massachusetts

I'm looking for an ultra-lightweight three- to four-season ski touring tent for spring in the Sierra, though it'd be nice if it could handle some winter weather also. I HATE carrying a lot of weight ski touring. Any ideas? David Hunn Long Beach, California

I looking for a cold weather running jacket that is extremely breathable and wind-resistant (waterproofness is not a necessity). I've been using Lowe Alpine's Adrenaline jacket, which is great for hiking but stes up quickly when I running hard. I usually buy The North Face and Patagonia products but I not sure that they make the best stuff for running. What do you think? Nick Kogevinas Washington, D.C.

Can you recommend a good cross-country skiing package that's suitable for both groomed trails and backcountry use? John Duluth, Minnesota

On a recent spring trip to snowy Mount Whitney, I took a gble and wore my comfy Sundowners along with a pair of Wild Country gaiters, instead of plastic boots. But, the front part of the gaiters kept slipping up and my boots quickly got soaked with all the postholing. Do you think a regular boot and gaiter combo can replace plastics (too heavy and uncomfortable) for snow travel? I'm talking multi-day trips in the California Sierras here. Jake Irvine, California

I need something to go over snow terrain in the most efficient way possible for a winter approach/ascent of Split Mountain in the Sierras. Instead of clunky snowshoes, what do you think about the Yupi Skishoes? Or the Salomon Meta Skis? Between the two for rough, snowy terrain, which would you recommend? By the way, I'm a VERY novice skier, so something easy to learn is important. Jake Kim Irvine, California

My family of five—myself, wife, and three decent-sized kids—plus the dog would like to go snow camping, and I think I've got everything covered except the tent. As for cost, we'd prefer to be comfortable and broke over rich, frozen, and miserable. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a suitable five-person tent—MSR's StormKing comes close, but only allows 12 square feet per person. I have concerns about splitting the family into two tents in potentially nasty weather. Do you have any advice? Nathaniel Nevada City, California

I have Scarpa T1 boots and have noticed that my ski edges are going to massacre my boots if I don't protect them. A solution I have heard of is to wear "supergaiters" with either Kevlar or other sturdy material on the instep to protect the inside of the boots. Unfortunately Black Diond (she on them) no longer makes a supergaiter and the Outdoor Research X-Gaiter is overkill in that it is expensive and so insulated that it will cook my feet. Any advise? Bill Hirshberg New York, New York

Gear Guy, dress me for kayaking in the marshes of the lower Connecticut River this winter. It's prime roosting territory for Bald Eagles through late February. David Hadd, Connecticut

I need to find a tent for winter camping and mountaineering. Living in Oregon I intend to stay within the Cascades. I have narrowed my search to the Fusion 2 and the Fury 2, both made by MSR. They fall into the same weight/price/size category. The Fusion is a convertible tent while the fury appears to be a four-season tent. Given the conditions I'm expecting to face, which tent would be the ideal choice for me? Is the Fury too much tent, is the Fusion too little? Is there another tent that you would recommend? Kevin Portland, Oregon

I have been told that Sierra Designs & MSR's new range of four-season tents (in particular SD's Tiros AST and Stretch Dome AST) have floors that are not suitably waterproof for Australia's wet and windy winters. Is this true? Can a waterproofing agent be applied? Also, do MSR's continuous pole sleeves allow adequate ventilation between canopy and fly? What's the verdict on these tents? Justin Trevorrow Darwin, Australia

I'm an Australian looking to travel in North America from December to February. Can you recommend a good trekking tent for the season that will house two to three people and their gear? I would like to use the tent year-round and for it to be fairly roomy. Rod Sydney, Australia

Can three-season tents be used in the snow? Is it necessary to have a "mountain" tent for snow camping? With a full cover fly, what is wrong with using a three-season tent for occasional snow camping? Lyn Greenhill Roseville, California

What tools do I need, and how do I build a good snow cave for winter camping in the Colorado Rockies? Daniel Denver, Colorado

I would like some advice on a permanent or removable roof rack, mainly for carrying several pairs of skis on my Isuzu Trooper. Isuzu sells a rack for around $350, but I'm sure I can find something better for the se money or even less. John Boise, Idaho

What are the best winter socks for snow skiing? When I ski, I rent boots and skis, but I find my feet always get cold. What socks should I get to make sure my feet stay warm? Should I use sock liners in addition to high quality wool socks? Brad Chapel Hill, North Carolina

What gear do I need to climb K2? Just kidding! With winter fast approaching, I'm thinking about backcountry skiing again. I take avalanche safety VERY seriously and therefore take every necessary precaution. That said, accidents do happen, so I'm looking to buy an avalanche beacon just in case. I'm interested in the Tracker DTS, but how does digital technology fare in cold environments? I've also heard that earlier Tracker DTS beacons had problems with the unit switching to "receive" mode if the wearer's body pushed up against the toggle switch. Is the Ortovox F1 Focus a better, more reliable choice? Michael Vancouver, British Columbia

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