Each month we review outdoor gear and local beer. Want us to review something in particular? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gear: Scarpa Maestrale RS
No one charging the slopes on the fat skis of today wants to sacrifice downhill performance to save weight … and now no one has to. This winter, Scarpa, a longtime maker of many great telemark boots, brings the Maestrale RS and the Gea RS to the Alpine touring arena. Touted as the “lightest 120-flex ski boots in the world,” they provide an incredibly stiff ride without weighing you down. I realize their claim is pretty specific, so let me explain: the flex rating scale tops out at 150, and anything 120 or more indicates a boot ample for heavy, aggressive, expert skiers. The Maestrale RS does carry the 120-flex rating and lowers the scale needle to just under 7 pounds for a pair (men’s size 9). The shaved mass spares the user energy on side- and backcountry boot-packing and skinning endeavors. Also, in walk mode, the cuff affords almost 40 degrees of rotation, therefore keeping comfort in the picture, as well as performance. Uniquely, the tongue of the shell opens to the side instead of forward, which I thought made it easier to get my foot in and out. But it does make the boots bulkier, which can eat up hard-to-come-by room in the lodge at the resort or in your tent in the backcountry.
$699; First Trax, Montgomery Center; Skirack, Burlington; Base Camp Outfitters, Killington; online.
Gear: Genuine Guide Gear (G3) District
I tried a pair of these beefy planks, in a 187 cm, on a warm January-thaw day at Jay Peak—conditions (an inch of dirty snow over vegetation) were hardly appropriate to be riding such a huge surface area. So what I can tell you is, these new-to-the-market, tip-and-tail-rockered fatties really blast through mashed potatoes, recently poured cement, and spring-like slush! Their design, however, theoretically leans toward surfing pow in the backcountry. (If anybody knows of any of that still ‘round these parts, please don’t hold out on me.) They fill a new niche in G3’s lineup, providing a relatively lightweight ski (8.1 pounds per pair in the 174 cm) with a hefty waistline (140/112/130) for high-flotation tourability. They definitely hold their own inbounds too. Operator be wary though: they aren’t fond of slow skiing, and if you don’t take them for a ride, they will delight at taking you for one. When you aren’t relaxing behind their wheel, though, they grind over or through anything but rocks and logs without you really being conscious of what you’re plowing through … whereas, on a lesser ski, you’d know by the impending or realized ass-over-teakettle sensation.
$719.95; Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, Stowe; West Hill Shop, Putney; Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington; Equipe Sports, West Dover; The Snow Job, Jay; online.
Gear: Outdoor Research Inertia Jacket
When it comes to shell jacket construction, it’s seeming more and more like it’s the little things that matter most. This three-ply Gore-Tex Pro Shell material includes a lot of util features that don’t add much in the way of complexity or weight. For example, one of the Napoleon chest pockets allows the wearer to access inner layers with a “pass-through” zipper, allowing energy bars or hydration tubes to stay warmer without reducing their accessibility. (The inner zipper could use a pull-string, but this is easily remediable.) The powder skirt comes with tie-down points to hook to pants so that you don’t just end up with a powder bra. And the cuffs can be converted to serve as thumb loops for extra wrist warmth and protection against dreaded snow in the glove. Also, the jacket can be conveniently stripped of many of its accoutrements, such as the zip-out powder skirt and zip-off hood, to make for more of a minimalist jacket that could easily lend itself to fast-and-light Alpinism, as well. Outdoor Research, living up to the name, has done their homework once again and turned out a jacket that leaves little lacking. They will likely have a difficult time improving on this piece.
$525; East Burke Sports; C+C Outdoor Store, Waterbury; Onion River Sports, Montpelier; The Mountain Goat, Hanover, New Hampshire; Eastern Mountain Sports (Manchester, Rutland, South Burlington); North Star Sports, Burlington.
Beer: Lawson’s Finest Liquids Maple Nipple
Sugaring season will be upon us (or nearly so) when this issue hits stands, and Sean Lawson serves up an early taste with this brew. The almost bourbon-colored pour gives way to the scent of a syrupy pancake breakfast and the taste of toffee, caramel, and bits of raspberries and crackers. It is assuredly sweet, but not overly so, and it’s rounded out by a somewhat hoppy, bitter aftertaste. “Smooth and strong!” the label declares, and I would agree. “And you get to say ‘nipple’ when you order it!” says our editor, with which I also agree. Find it while it lasts, at the Three Penny in Montpelier or on-site in Warren.