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Gear: Leki Peak Vario S ski pole
If you’re not familiar with Leki’s unique Trigger S ski pole grips system, allow me to introduce you to what has become one of my favorite pieces of gear. Out on the slopes, when I want to do something seemingly simple, like read a map or grab a tissue, ski gloves don’t afford the necessary dexterity and must be removed, which often leads to fumbling around with equipment and the laborious and annoying task of removing gloved hand from pole strap, and then hand from glove. This, in turn, presents the risk of dropping a glove into the snow (or worse, off the lift). Leki removes most of this inconvenience by creating straps that attach to your gloves like a harness and then clip into the pole handle, rendering gloves virtually undroppable. Since the strap is fixed on your glove, you can simply pull your hand out of the glove, leaving the glove securely attached to the pole by the harness. What’s more, by designing a system in which the push of a button allows easy detachment of strap from pole, the system allows a seamless transition when it’s time to get back on the lift. Leki even makes special gloves with loops of durable fabric between thumb and forefinger so you can clip your glove directly into the grip, eliminating the need for straps entirely if you want. The only disadvantage to the system that I see is that it disables skiers from palming the tops of their poles when climbing, if that is their preference.
This particular pole, the Peak Vario, is also adjustable, making it ideal for back- and sidecountry endeavors, but certainly fine for lift-serve as well. It is lightweight and strong, incorporating aluminum in the top shaft and carbon fiber in the lower portion. The locking mechanism is as easy and bombproof as any other system I’ve ever used. Bottom line: I wish I discovered these poles years ago.
$169.95; Boot Pro, Ludlow; Equipe Sport, West Dover; Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, or at Backcountry.com.
Gear: Vasque Snow Junkie
Brand-new to the market this year, Vasque’s Snow Junkie is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill hiker. This boot incorporates Thinsulate insulation for added warmth, making them quite comfy in winter, whether you’re snowshoeing or just shoveling the drive. Vasque incorporated UltraDry fabric, making the uppers completely waterproof, and the tread is ideal for icy winter conditions. The Snow Junkie has beefed-up features without added weight: just 2 pounds 5 ounces per pair (men’s size 9). Some companies cut weight by taking out padding, leaving the footwear uncomfortable, but these did not twang any strange pressure points during my testing. A solid piece of gear for the winter enthusiast.
$130; Willey’s Store, Greensboro; Umiak Outfitters, Stowe; The Mountain Goat, Manchester Center; online here.
Beer: The Shed Mountain Ale
First crafted in Stowe in its namesake’s restaurant, this fine brew had become a perennial favorite in central and northern Vermont. But about a year ago, The Shed closed its doors, leaving many avid drinkers wondering what they would do without their beloved Mountain Ale. There was much remorse. But now we can rejoice: Otter Creek acquired the company and now produces The Shed Mountain Ale in Middlebury—and it’s being bottled and distributed to all of Vermont and beyond! The murky, unfiltered amber ale with orange highlights—perfect for imbibing on cold fall and winter days—can now be enjoyed in your home. While you won’t get the distinct smell of The Shed’s venerable popcorn machine that once accompanied drinking this beer, you will get the smells and tastes of herbs and spices, dates, and raisins, which seem unadulterated by the bottling process. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I can hardly tell the difference between the bottle and the old-school variety.