During our recent visit to Crested Butte Mountain Resort we tested a bunch of new gear, including hard and soft equipment, socks, backpacks, lotions and even a drink to help us with the altitude. The following are some of our favorites this year.
Mammut Nirvana Snowpeak Jacket
Featuring a great cut that maximizes mobility, the Mammut Nirvana Snowpeak Jacket is comfortable and warm. Using a mix of DRYtech and Gore Windstopper, the softshell also features a removable lining which makes it useful for a wide range of activities and weather conditions. Pockets are strategically placed for wearing a pack. Available from Mammut for $550 (above left).
Outdoor Research Ninjaclava
The OR Ninjaclava is a versatile microfleece balaclava that can be worn many different ways depending on the conditions and several of us donned it and were thankful for it in the subzero, snowy conditions we experienced during our time at Crested Butte. Warm and comfy, flat-seam construction eliminates any bulkiness that could be uncomfortable underneath a helmet. It's now on our must-have list for extreme conditions; Seth has even taken to wearing it when riding his motorcycle here in NYC. Purchase it at Outdoor Research for $24 (above right).
Gregory Drift Backpack
With a 20L capacity, the Gregory Drift is a great size for on the trail or back country. A slim profile makes it easy to sit with on the chair without sacrificing volume. A molded back panel ensures comfort and there are quick side-zips for easy access. Hydration capability includes a fully insulated tube sleeve that runs along the shoulder strap and features a zippered port to help fend off the all-too-common problem of freezing. The Drift is both snowboard, snowshoe and ski compatible and can also fit a shovel blade or other back country accessory in the front pocket. Available from Tahoe Mountain Sports for $130 (left).
While we have an obvious bias toward Freehands for urban use, Northface's glove liners with conductive finger tips, called Etips can be used with the iPhone without having to sacrifice your fingers. They're also useful for laptops and MP3 player click-wheels. Available from North Face for $40 (above left).
Burton CO2 EST '09 Bindings
Light, simple and strong, the Burton CO2 EST '09 Bindings are no-frills but rip on the mountain. The EST system affords more sensitivity on the board but just enough padding to dampen flat landings. Available for $390 from Burton (above center).
Burton Jeremy Jones Boot
Softer and with more flex than I'm used to, the Jeremy Jones Boot is a lot of fun. Featuring all the latest tech specs, including Aegis Antimicrobial Coating, B3 Gel Cushioning and an outsole with EST optimized midsole, at $200 this boot is underpriced for what you get. Availble directly from Burton (above right).
Burton Un Inc '09 Snowboard
This board, light and snappy in the park while offering just enough stiffness for all-mountain, the Burton Un Inc '09 Snowboard could be my ride for the foreseeable future. The Infinite Channel Mounting system makes for super easy adjustments and a wide range of stance options. Purchase it from Burton for $550 (above).
Holden Northfield 3L Jacket and Pant
Holden worked closely with Schoeller to create Holden's C_Change 3-Layer Fabric, a highly technical textile membrane that reacts to changing body climate by opening and closing to regulate temperature. The result is that the Northfield 3L Jacket (above left) and Pant (above center) is perfect in any situation. Even better, Holden is committed to using more environmentally friendly materials, laminates and packaging. Purchase the Northfield 3-Layer Jacket for $440 and the Northfield 3-Layer Pant ($360) from Holden.
I/O Biocompatible Contact LS Zip
Made of 96% natural merino wool and 4% elastane for four-way strech, the I/O Biocompatible Contact LS is a great base layer that kept me warm in the 8°F weather. Thumb loops and an extended back ensure a great fit. Available for $70 from I/O Biocompatible (above right).
Patagonia R1 Hoody
In my opinion, one of the best base layers available is the R1 Hoody, a technical hooded pullover designed as a baselayer fit for any adventure. Using 60% recycled R1 fabric, it features a snug-fitting balaclava-style hood that fits comfortably underneath any helmet. Wrist cuffs with thumb holes and a tighter but longer bottom hem ensure a snug fit keeping all elements out. Even better still, the R1 Hoody is fully recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program. Available for $135 from Patagonia (right).
Teko EcoMerino Medium Cushion Ski Socks
Made of naturally wicking organic merino wool this sock is specially made with the ski boot in mind. Strategic cushioning at the top, bottom of foot, heel, shin and ankle keep feet comfy. There's also an arch support band, stay-put ankle band and seamless toe for added comfort. This sock keeps Teko at the top of my list of favorite sock brands. For cushion and warmth, purchase the EcoMerino Medium Cushion Men's Ski Sock for $21 from Teko (above right). (For the ultimate in cushy hiking socks, Amis also a fan of the EcoMerino Women's Heavyweight Hike/Trek, which sell for $23.)
Crested Butte Mountain Resort's base is at 9,000 feet, so getting acclimated to the elevation is vital if you expect to be active. Formulated by doctors, Acli-Mate is a powder (just add to water) comprised of low glycemic ingredients which makes it perfect to have daily. For energy enhancement and immune support, it's high in electrolytes, B-vitamins and adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola, Ginkgo and Reishi for increased energy and improved altitude adjustment. Calcium and Magnesium are also added to prevent early muscle fatigue and cramping so that you can ride all day. Available from Acli-Mate for $24 for a tub of 30 servings (left).
We used Dermatone everyday to prevent both wind and sunburn. Formulated in Sweden, it forms a barrier on the skin to help retain the body's own natural moisture and effectively protects exposed skin and lips. The sunscreen factor is especially important on the mountain as snow reflects sunlight. Made of all natural ingredients including Safflower Oil, Aloe Oil, Candilla Wax, Tea Tree Oil and Vitamin E, Dermatone also works to soften skin—just don't expect a grease-less experience. Tins are available from Dermatone starting at $4 (above).
K2 Apache Coomba Ski
Of the five I've tested this season, the K2 Apache Coomba is my favorite so far. It's wide enough at 102mm to float the deep stuff, but stiff enough to hold on the groomers and bust through crud. An homage to the late ski legend Doug Coombs, the Coomba Ski is a monument for everything he loved about skiing and can really handle anything you throw at it. Purchase it at Evogear (as K2 is sold out) for only $440—down from $800. Part of the proceeds goes to Coombs family and the American Mountain Guide Association's Chad Vanderham Endowment.
Mammut Stratus Hybrid Jacket
I haven't taken this jacket off since I got it. On the hill, I was never cold or hot because of its superior breathability. Using an innovative mix of Fiberfill where warmth is needed most and Soft Shell in abrasive areas like the arms and shoulders, it's a true hybrid and great for any alpine activity in low temperatures. The jacket has been great in Wisconsin at −8° and back in NYC at 10°, proving just as good in urban settings as on the slopes. It's great for travel because it's so lightweight, but I wish it was a little more iPod convenient. The jacket can be purchased on the Mammut website for $240 (above left).
Westcomb Flex HX Pants
I found these lightweight ski pants to be extremely comfortable and of great quality. Details like the full zip legs, houndstooth fabric, reinforced patches by my boots and the fleece-like material on the high back kept me warm and the pants in place. Available for men or women, both cost around $300 but I chose to wear the women's version as they're a better fit for smaller frames like mine. You can buy them at Wilderness Exchange Unlimited or The Alpineer (above center).
Mammut Nakiska SC Gloves
Although my fingers inevitably got a little cold, the Mammut Nakiska SC gloves were super comfortable. Made of high quality materials, I liked the detailed stitching and elastic/neoprene arm sleeve. Available from Mammut for $95 (above right).
Mammut Womens Stratus Hybrid Jacket
The Mammut Womens Stratus Hybrid Jacket is cut according to a woman's curves, keeping the jacket in place with no slipping or riding up and eliminating the frustration of needing to readjust when on the mountain. A slim cut makes it great for layering and the hood, which featured an adjustable elastic cord, was super comfy. The high neck is lined with fleece which kept the lower half of my face warm without any chafing and plenty of pockets provide ample room for accessories. It's details like these that are constant reminders of the overall high level of engineering and design behind Mammut's garments. Purchase it from Mammut for $240 (above left).
Snow Zip Women's Longsleeve
Like Mammut's jacket, the details and cut of this layering piece make it superior to others. Made of a poly-blend fabric, it's soft to the skin and dries quickly. A zip-up high neck adds extra warmth, as do thumb holes. It's $70 from Mammut (above right).
Special thanks to Shannon Walton, the CBMR retail team at Crested Butte Ski & Snowboard and all of the manufacturers for generously letting us test the above gear.
with contributions by Karen Day