ColdAvenger, Merrell Nikita, McNeill’s Dark Angel
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Gear: Talus ColdAvenger Pro Softshell
I’ve always had some issues and dilemmas with balaclavas. I do love them: they keep my nose and cheeks nice and warm and prevent windburn and frostbite. Conversely, I hate how they make me feel suffocated. Also, when exerting myself and breathing hard, my ski goggles tend to get fogged over because some of my breath is directed upward. The ColdAvenger solves all that with a unique plastic ventilator mask that covers your mouth and nose without touching them, allowing you to breathe more easily and freely. The mask, made of cold-resistant, medical-grade plastic, also directs exhaled air downward, so you won’t fog your goggles. Cold, dry air can be quite irritating to lung tissue, as well, and can exacerbate asthma or provoke reactive airway disease, both of which result in wheezing and feeling short of breath. A rotatable valve on the inside adjusts air intake, and the air coming into your lungs has a chance to warm and pick up some humidity due to the dead space between the mask and your mouth. While the fabric at the bridge of the nose is mildly irritating, the cut of soft, stretchy, windproof fleece fabric is such that the neck gaiter fits well under a helmet. And, of course, for better or worse, you get to cruise around the mountain looking like Darth Vader. So crank the Imperial March on your mp3 player, throw on your ColdAvenger, and play worry-free!
$59.95; Skiershop, Stowe; Online at REI.
Gear: Merrell Nikita Waterproof Boot
After a cold day out on the trails or slopes, ladies, slip into the comfort, warmth, and style of this après-ski boot. Get to and from the mountain with out slipping or getting your feet wet. Full-grain waterproof suede upper, faux-fur accents, and wide laces make them classy, a sticky rubber sole makes them functional, and 200-gram weight Primaloft and fleece insulation keeps your feet toasty. Fit feels true to size, and there’s no break-in period: these boots were made for walking. They also worked well with touring snowshoes. Your friends will be so envious, they might actually try to slip their feet in with yours!
$165; Village Sport Shop, Lyndonville; Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel, Barre; EMS, Rutland; Online at REI.
Beer: McNeill’s Dark Angel Imperial Stout
Just like a good imperial (read: strong!) stout should be, this malty goodness pours like motor oil: jet black and opaque with a high viscosity. The dark tan frothy head stands tall and proud, like royalty should, and sticks around to give you a nice foamy mustache, but it does not give itself away in its odor, which is muted and a bit earthy, like humus or dried leaves. The power-packed flavor burst arrives on the throne of your palate with the taste of dark, charred malts, bittersweet chocolate, and a hint of licorice. Then, the banquet culminates boldly in a dry, bitter finish. Don’t take this peasant’s word for it … get thee to the brewery in Brattleboro!