Hot winter gear for 2016

Hot winter gear for 2016

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By Marty Grabijas

If you attend enough trade shows it starts to look like “same stuff, different year.” Undoubtedly, the essence of why we play outdoors is to tap into our inner child – especially in winter. Give kids a piece of plastic and a snowy slope and soon they’ll be sliding down it. So why are we are led to believe that we need the latest and greatest widget? Certainly a day in the mountains with good friends is just as enjoyable on a ski or board of some vintage as it is on the latest model.

For me, it boils down to maximizing enjoyment. Those days, hours and minutes in the outdoors become ever more precious as the years tick by. My gear room is full of well-worn goods that contain memories no new piece of gear could replace, yet every year I have an item or two that should be replaced due to advancing age.

While traipsing through Snowsports Industries America’s annual trade show in Denver this last January I was again confronted with the reality of “same stuff, different year,” but I was also reminded that someone, somewhere out there will have gear that needs to be replaced. These are the standouts from my viewpoint.

K2 Pinnacle 95:

MSRP: $850

Lengths available: 170 cm, 177 cm, 184 cm, 191 cm

I like narrower skis. Go to Mt. Baker Ski Area on any given day and watch instructors who have attained PSIA Level III certification. Look at what these folks are skiing on, even on the biggest powder day. Guaranteed it will be a board of under 100 mm underfoot, and that advanced crew moves like silk in the wind over groomers, through trees and through the deepest manke.

While skiing the Pinnacle 95 at the SIA on-snow demo at Copper Mountain, it reminded me of a more agile, more nimble version of many other popular skis that are wider underfoot and sport the same silhouette. It is even light enough to tour on. It could be a great one-ski for your quiver for skiers who prefer a sharper nail to a bigger hammer.

Mammut Ride Short
Protection Airbag for women

MSRP: $899.95 for the pack. Air cartridge $200

Volume: 28L

While fan-operated avalanche airbag systems have been widely loved in media, we are seeing from recalls and failures that the system still needs refinement. That leaves compressed air as the tool for the job. Mammut has been a leader in the category. Getting Mammut’s Protection Airbag System, which provides superb neck and head protection when inflated, to fit shorter torsos has been challenging as the stowed bag occupies significant volume in the shoulder straps of the pack. By tweaking the pattern of the airbag and pack, Mammut has been able to make it fit women and smaller men while still providing full protection.

G3 Scapegoat Carbon Splitboard

MSRP: $849.95

Lengths: 158 cm, 162 cm, 166 cm

Carbon rocks. It brings new life to every recreational tool from fly rods to cycling shoes. G3’s pow-specific Scapegoat embraces carbon to make a lighter (5 lbs, 13 ozs at 158 cm) and more durable tool for backcountry riders. While G3 has introduced a slew of interesting new skis and boards for 2015, the Scapegoat Carbon drew my attention because it is more power specific, a plus for those ripping up the Baker backcountry.

Thule RoundTrip Double Ski Roller and Boot Bag:

MSRP: Rolling Ski: $239.95. Boot Backpack: $99.95

Ski bag length: 195 cm

Boot bag volume: 3,477 cu. in. / 57 L

In the grand scheme of things, toting your gear shouldn’t be that hard, and is a great “first world” problem to have. However, when plans call for multiple airports and two pairs of skis, good luggage is almost as important as any technical piece of gear. For years I have been a huge fan of Thule’s luggage. Their success lies in good organization, robust materials and their own wheel kit – which is the heart of any rolling piece of luggage. While virtually all other brands have relied on stock wheel kits already available in Asia, most of which are not designed to go anywhere outside of an airport or a hotel’s marble floors, Thule bit the bullet to design and implement their own extremely robust wheel kit. Thule created their pieces from the ground up.

Flylow Genius Jacket

MSRP: $400

Polartec Neoshell is my favorite waterproof/breathable material for high-output activities in the Pacific Northwest. Neoshell provides superior breathability compared to many other waterproof/breathable fabrics, and Flylow is one of the earlier adopters of Neoshell.

Prior to the Genius jacket, Flylow never seemed to hit the mark for backcountry users. While its Labcoat was hugely popular, it placed cargo pockets squarely where a pack’s hip harness should rest – a design fail in my book. With the Genius, Flylow remedied that and created a Neoshell garment that will serve snowsliders equally well in all four seasons, and did so with a waterproof/breathable jacket that is extremely lightweight. The weight of the 2016 model was not available as of press time, but it is on the lower end of the spectrum for a full-featured backcountry hard-shell. The Genius mates with Flylow IQ Pants.   x