Winter Gear Gift Guide
By Jules Older
Starting at the top and working down, down, down, here’s gear that’ll get you going this winter.
Helmets. There are two major trends in helmets, a.k.a. brain buckets. One is connectivity; the other, safety. For connectivity, it’s hard to beat Swagtron’s Snowtide helmet. Not only does it have Bluetooth, it has its own Android and IOS apps. It plays music, takes calls, lets you talk to your posse, even sends SOS in times of trouble. It’s also good looking and, more importantly, well vented. $150-165.
When safety’s the chief concern, well, first, wear that helmet. These days, seven out of ten skiers and snowboarders do, up from three out of ten a decade ago. Second, get rid of your helmet if it’s old, wearing out, or been in a crash. They’re designed to do their all-important job just once.
When you’re buying a new one, get one with either MIPS, Multi-directional Impact Protection System — a low-friction layer between the outer shell and the inner padding — or, SPIN technology — which does the same using carefully placed pads. In a crash, both reduce the chance that your brain will bounce against your skull. POC’s Obex SPIN retails for $200.
Movin’ down the body, let’s re-visit the waist. Re-visit because fanny packs, a.k.a. butt bags, are so very out of fashion. Truth is, for skiing, they’re great; they hold your snack, your phone, tissues, an extra layer, cash and keys, and they hold them down low, where, unlike backpacks, they don’t mess up your center of gravity.
The new Wayfinder Waistpack does all that and more. The medium (but not the small) holds a pair of water bottles as well. And Wayfinders are made from recycled windshield coatings, keeping landfills a little less full. They cost $30-40.
Dropping from the waist to the feet, a surprise awaits. Though it’s hard to believe today, in years gone by, ski socks sucked. The wool itched. The elastic stretched. The socks sagged into your boots.
Today, it’s hard to find a bad ski or snowboard sock. They stay up, they don’t itch, they come through the washer and dryer just fine. What’s more, they’re tricked out. Some have graduated compression. Some have cushions at all the right places. And some are designed for different activities in different climates.
What I like about FITS socks is that they’re made for warm-weather skiing. Sure, you can get arctic models, but more important in our warming winters, you can also get light and even ultra-light too. If you’re a Nordic skiing, they make one for you as well. They aren’t cheap — most cost north of $22 — but they’re skier-friendly.
Concluding our trip south, let’s look at boots and boards. Every year, both have improved by significant increments So, if you’re planning to return to the sport after years away (yes, it’s a thing), I advise you not to dust your ancient gear off and put it on. Old plastic deteriorates, straight skis belong over (or in) the fireplace, and if you’re sorely tempted to save cash, rent before you buy.
After you take those new boots off, slip into Stegmann Clogs. They’re not only super-comfy, they’re decent walkers, not shufflers. Made of wool blend and cork soles, most models cost $125.
How to pack all this gear without paying ever-increasing luggage fees? Eagle Creek has a solution, the Morphus International Carry-On bag. Though it’s billed as the “world’s biggest carry-on,” it looks too small to hold the goods. What’s up? Morphus splits into an expanding bag for overhead storage and a capacious backpack that slides under the airplane seat. It’s very light, well designed, and the only problem is that I had to watch the video to figure out how to work the magnetic buckles.
And finally, when you must combine work with play, The Fort. In California, Mammoth Mountain has created a slopeside co-working space at 9,000 feet. The Fort is ski-in/ski-out and rigged with highspeed internet and cubbies for private phone calls. Send that email, make that call, then jump back on the slopes. FoMoInfo, https://www.mammothmountain.com/fort.
Jules Older’s multi-author ebook/ski book is SKIING THE EDGE.