If you’re headed into the backcountry on skis or by fatbike this winter, here are 4 pieces of warming new essential gear we love.
Smartwool’s PhD Ski Light Socks
We’re partial to a certain made-in-Vermont brand of sock but, truth be told, when we slipped on a pair of Smartwool’s PhD® Ski Light Elite Pow Days ($30.95) socks, we were sold. The new signature lines from pro skiers Chris Benchetler and Angel Collinson (each have their graphics on the socks), are just about the perfect ski socks, with a fit that feels like a second skin. Light, warm and stretchy in all the right places they contour around your feet and calves and feature meshed zones for breathability and cushioning in the heel. The super stretchy cuff is extra long to keep the sock from slipping down but not too tight. The socks are made in the U.S. using a blend of 55 percent merino wool, 42 percent nylon and three percent Elastane.
Mountain Equipment Dispersion Jacket
When we first opened this jacket it felt lightweight and a bit flimsy. And yes, it’s lightweight. But flimsy? Hardly. In fact, it’s withstood multiple ski laps in the woods, hiking, early season backcountry skiing and bushwhacking to cut lines. The Mountain Equipment Dispersion Jacket ($249) is now our go-to backcountry outer layer.
Why? The long tail easily covers your butt when you’re bent over on a climb. The ExoLite fabric is super stretchy and moves with you. It’s breatheable and the large hood fits over a helmet or you can stowe it in its own pocket. Best of all, the whole thing scrunches down to next to nothing so on warmer days you can pack it easily for the skin up. And did we mention that it’s waterproof, as well?
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoody
There are lots of reasons to feel good about Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Shadow Hoody ($250 at REI). For starters, we especially love that this fits a little lower than some of their other jackets, giving full-torso coverage, and has a horizontal band across the bottom. The Prima Loft synthetic insulation doesn’t bunch up like down does but keeps you warm all day (even in the heart of winter) and is a bit more substantial than the insulation in the brand’s popular Ghost Whisperer. But best of all, this jacket features Mountain Hardwear’s renewed commitment to sustainability: almost every part of this jacket is made from 70 percent to 100 percent recycled materials—from the insulation, to the shell and even the zipper tape. Mountain Hardwear claims each jacket keeps 5 PET plastic bottles out of the landfill. And that gives us a warm fuzzy feeling.
Montana Montamix Skins
New for this season, Swiss-based Montana International’s Montamix Skins ($180) have a chromium stainless steel ski clamp that fits any touring ski. Thanks to that—and the skins’ tapered forward tip—the Montamixes are reliable on even the coldest and snowiest or warmest, wettest days of winter. The effective tapered design also minimizes drag from snow that can often get caught up under the lip of a skin. We’d take these on a multi-day ski tour, and we love “The Skinny” a specially-designed synthetic sleeve that lets you efficiently strip your skins from your skis, fold them away from snow and grit so you can stash them (lint-free) in your jacket and keep them warm for your next lap on the descent.
Featured Photo Caption: MONTANA has been making top-notch climbing skins since 1936. Photo courtesy Montana