Ski

Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody and Patagonia Merino Wool

All Fall 2012 including reviewed pieces on sale now (up to 60% off) at Patagonia.com

Blaze orange and loving it. While this jacket is specifically made for ice climbers, I have found it to be a fantastic jacket to layer underneath as needed for dropping temperatures and at the same time a great shell in virtually every season.

Mixed Guide Hoody-PaintbrushRed

What I love about this piece:

The hybrid soft shell material and Patagonia H2No® Performance 3-layer nylon ripstop fabric with a waterproof, breathable barrier, bright color, lightweight, and range of use and range of temperatures. The soft-shell areas are made of highly breathable, wind resistant Polartec® Power Shield® keeping you cool at all times.

The hood itself is large enough to slide over a ski helmet as needed and the draw cords are well done.  the best thing about the hood is your vision is not impacted in the slightest. It moves with your moves…a rare but stellar attribute in a hood. A great pick up for year round utility.

What to wear under this shell? Fear not Patagonia has an impressive lineup of Merino Wool to keep you regulated no matter your activity.

Here is my go to baselayer on a cold day: Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Zip-Neck Shirt – Wool…great for any multi sport activity of just under a sweater at the office.

Merino 2Pataagonia Merino 3 MidWeight Zip Neck

Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Crew Shirt – Wool…another excellent base layer that is great to wear alone next to your skin. Patagonia Merino 1 SW Crew – Long-Sleeve – a wonderful lightweight merino shirt that welcomes any training session.

While Patagonia has become a leading outdoor brand they have also become a leader in world wide conservation efforts. The companies commitment to sustainability is not only window dressing but common practice for employees and devout followers of the brand. This is demonstrated by the Uncommon Threads Initiative  partnership with eBay to make buying their brand more sustainable. Have you taken the pledge yet? 


The innovative GeigerRig hydration packs

I was provided this innovative hydration pack, Rig 500 Ballastic, from the folks at GeigerRig. I was excited to review as I had traditionally used CamelBack hydration bladders for everything from hiking, skiing, biking, golf (bladder stashed in bag) and hitting the beach with the family.

This is a feature rich pack that changes my thoughts on hydration bladders I had used prior to GeigerRig. This pack is loaded with cool features including a dry stash pocket for your iPod and other pockets with just enough room for an extra set of keys, wallet, snacks for the kids and parent(s).  One tip that I recommend is filling just past a 1/4 full with water and put in the freezer the night before your activity to have cold water on the go for many hours. I have filled half way to provide even longer duration on the hottest of days. It’s become the go to for any family activity in which we need water. 

Here is what seperates these guys from the crowd (please see videos highlighted below for full feature explanations):

1) Pressurized  bladder- no more sucking, after a few pumps it can be sprayed into your mouth, your dogs mouth or even to clean the grime off your legs after a muddy hike or bike.

2) Filtration System– you can easily remove the regular tube and use the filtration tube for times you know you will need more water and have the luxury to dip into any water source without the hassle of using tablets, boiling, etc to purify the water. I do think that the pressured spray isn’t as strong but who cares when you are filtering primarily to drink.

3) Cleaning– if you have used bladders in the past you know that taste you can get after a few uses and it’s frustrating to not be able to clean the bladder better after every use. These bladders come with a plastic slider on one end allowing you to reach and a revers bladder for a quick cleaning or for a better clean the bladder is durable enough for the dishwasher.

While I have highlighted benefits in the warmer weather the GeigerRig’s also have insulated tubes which allow you to retrofit for Winter activities.

Never suck again and get yourself set up for the ultimate in hydration technology.


Give life to your legs with Spenco insoles

Spenco sent me a few pairs of insoles to try out as a way to reduce knee pain. Specifically I was sent the Polysorb Total SupportFLOW Warm, and FLOW Cool, which I have tried with several pairs of footwear and in a multitude of environments.

I have used the Polysorb Total Support in my ski boots to provide further stability of my feet. Honestly, I found it easier to drive ski tip pressure with my big toe on the outside ski- allowing deeper early turn initiation. I swap these right into any of my hiking boots. These insoles have bestowed an extended life with some of my older boots, while providing a lively bounce in all footwear. I also used the Polysorb Total Support in my Sorel’s which didn’t get enough time on my feet during our lackluster Winter. They really have become an everyday insole in my Blundstones- they were tested over a few weeks in different conditions, and I’m happy to report they have greatly reduced my chronic knee pain (which is a story for another day!)

I was a little skeptical of the FLOW Warm and FLOW Cool insoles… but have become a believer after using them in my winter boot Chaco Credence Wool Nurl boot (which, btw, you can almost steal from Zappos right now.) The FLOW Cool have been coming into play lately with the spring weather, and are better suited for running or cycling shoes. While I flip-flopped this winter between the FLOW Warm and Polysorb Total Support, the FLOWs are thinner and meant more for running shoes in cooler temps. I currently use and won’t go without the Polysorb Total Support in my everyday Blundstone boots.

Takeaway: using insoles other then the stock insoles provided with your footwear will provide longer life of your boot or shoe, while alleviating pains that you have just lived with.  A simple switch of insoles can help!


Polarmax Technical Base Layers and All Year Gear

Polarmax products are all 100% made in the USA and utilize superior green initiatives with packaging.  I had the opportunity over the last month to put multiple Polarmax products through their paces. Being a strong proponent of all things merino wool this was a true test as I didn’t use any of the Polarmax merino base layers straying from my comfort zone.

The Heavy Weight Comp 4 Max Stretch top and bottom are made of 90% Acclimate Dry Polyester and 10% Spandex. The super athletic cut of the fabric made the spandex a key component allowing for the necessary flexibility dropping the knees for my turns down the 7 inches of fresh at Cannon Mountain. Cannon was also the perfect venue to understand if they would keep me warm but also breath. Being an East facing mountain staying warm is paramount at Cannon. Once at the top and in search of fresh tracks we hiked over to Mittersill and both pieces wicked away the moisture from my skin keeping me comfortable on the way up. It was warm for Cannon being around 24 degrees but a wind chill making it feel like 12 degrees.  I can see why Polarmax is the official supplier of the National Ski Patrol as I never felt cold, wet, or clammy beneath these base layers.

Image

What I didn’t know before receiving the product from Polarmax was that they produce a year round product made of cotton. I did say cotton! This isn’t your everyday cotton though as they have developed a wicking and stink free performance cotton.  The “All Year Gear 365” (AYG) made of 96% cotton and 4% spandex giving that additional support and stretch in the boxer brief and their short and long sleeve crew tops. The shirts did run pretty long even though I have a longer torso. I think the AYG shirts could be tailored with more of the athletic cut found in the heavy weight base layers offered by Polarmax and the AYG boxer briefs. The AYG shirts and boxers are perfect for all day or more appropriately in the gym or other active pursuit as they provide a no stink, quick drying fabric.

Helly Hansen Zeta 2L HT CIS Jacket

Guest Editor- Matt LeDoux

Helly Hansen is thought to be one of the best brands for outdoor gear. This jacket had a lot to live up to with such a heritage.

A little background: my first ski jacket was a Helly Hansen. My dad bought my brother and I matching ones for Christmas long ago. It was a shell, a new concept back in the 80’s. It was fluorescent colored, water resistant and did it’s job well.  I skied many years with it, from powder days in Austria to icy, finger numbing days in the northeast. Another reason I was eager to see how this jacket would stack up.

The Zeta 2L HT CIS (Component Insulation System) has many pros and a few cons.

Pros:
-Thin (minimal bulk) yet warm. The perfect combo as it’s easy to maneuver in yet warm on the bone chilling days with the Primaloft inner jacket.
-Welcoming pockets. The Pockets are lined with a soft felt-like material, it’s a little detail but it’s nice when you need a quick hand warm up.
-Ample pockets. I always have my iphone on me, and I dont want it in the lower pockets because it rubs against my keys and scratches the glass face plate. This Helly has two upper pockets on either side for safe, convenient cell storage.
-Pit vents. This is a nice feature. Plus, dual zippers are provided to zip open the vent from either side. Good if you’re wearing a pack.
-Inner Primaloft jacket and Helly Tech 2L waterproof breathable outer shell. This 3-1 jacket makes it a great all season multi-use jacket. Wear the shell in the rainy seasons for breathable protection and the inner jacket alone in the colder months when not needing waterproof protection from the outer shell.
-Solid helmet compatible hoody fit. A lot of ski jacket hoods are too baggy. I pull the chords but can never get it right. Or they hang too far over my face, like a flappy baseball cap. This one is dialed in in terms of proper fit. Nice to see.
-Weather proof zippers. Nothing new, but good to have. Velcro cuffs. I thought the cuff length was too long when I first put the jacket on but with the adjustable Velcro cuff it fits my short arms perfectly.
Cons:
-the hood doesn’t detach. I don’t always want the hood, it’d be nice to have the option.
-missing an inside pocket. Lots of outside pocket options, but no inside pockets. I like putting my wallet, iphone or camera there when skiing.
Overall: Helly Hansen has once again made a solid jacket for outdoor adventures. Only a few minor things were missing. The most important features, like being thin, warm and cut well overshadow those. This is a jacket I’ll ski many days in, and a product that once again lives up to the HH heritage.One warning, this jacket runs small in the shoulders (athletic cut). The large size fits like a medium. Keep that in mind if making an online purchase.
Thank you to HH for providing the jacket for review.

Helly Hansen Verglas 3L

I was more than happy to put the Helly Hansen Verglas 3L through it’s paces. This waterproof  (Helly Tech®O2 fabric) hardshell is more on the slim/athletic fit side. I wear a size Large jacket but found the slim fit to be fairly limiting for layering purposes. I was surprised, as a majority of hardshell jackets I have worn in the last couple of years have been on the roomier side, which I find to be more accommodating for freedom of movement. Luckily I  have a twin brother, Jamie, and he was eager to try it and give it a go and it was a perfect match. While I could have made it work, I prefer to have a slim fitting mid layer as opposed to my outer layer.

The Verglas 3L is a feature-rich ski shell that provided protection on some of the nastiest days on the hill this Winter. The helmet-ready hood rocked and was easily cinched down over the helmet. A unique feature that I didn’t understand at first was the placement of rubberized material across the shoulders. I then saw Jamie put the ski’s over his shoulder and noted that material provided a non slip spot for his ski’s as he carried them. I would imagine this material would also be great for holding backpack straps from sliding around as well.

The sleeves are articulated in such a way that when reaching they don’t slide up too far, thus exposing the wrists to the elements. The waterproof zippers also keep the elements at bay and are easy to manipulate. The detachable powder skirt is a welcome feature on the deeper days. The shell also includes some nicely placed pit zips for those days you are earning your turns.

As for the cool feature factor, the well-ventilated laser cut holes provided raves on the wicked cold rides up the lift.  These holes provided warmth and breathability while the jacket was fully zipped over the mouth to the nose.  Many thanks to Helly Hansen for providing us this great mountain classic for review!


A one ski quiver for New England…I think so!

Okay so next Winter can’t come fast enough as I had the opportunity to test a pair of 2012 Black Diamond Amps a few weeks ago in Utah. Okay..selfishly, my season is now over so maybe I anticipate next Winter more then most. For the record these aren’t the ski’s I crashed on! There was about 8-10″ of fresh powder on top of the worst Utah conditions in years so the new snow was welcome and great for testing purposes in the variable conditions. They also make a Women’s specific version…the Element.

The Amp’s have surprisingly soft rocker tips and lots of camber measuring 115mm underfoot and 142 in the shovel. These things sliced unbelievably through the crud and surfed like nothing I have ever rode through the powder. The most amazing thing I found was the turn initiation in the powder was effortless and to top it off they made snappy turns on the hard pack. We have less powder days then we would like in New England so to find a ski with this kind of versatility is a dream come true.

Black Diamond has been manufacturing ski’s for a while but they are really making huge steps forward to challenge all the big players in the ski industry with a much more diverse lineup coming for 2011/2012. I have always loved powder boards while out West but haven’t been able to explain to my business manager (wife Leigh) the need for multiple pairs of ski’s to add to my East Coast quiver. I may need another day to ride these on the true hardpack of the North East but I do believe this could be the ONE ski quiver go to for a more aggressive New England skier.

I must also admit that I didn’t ride these in a telemark set up but with an Alpine Touring binding with an amazing AT boot by Garmont called the Dellerium. However, I look forward to the day I can try these these ski’s set up for telemark.

If you are in the market for a jack of all trades ski you might want to wait to demo a pair of Amps prior to pulling the trigger.

I am thankful to write this review as my memory of my remaining time in Utah is lacking at best.