The view from our crew at Style Altitude on new gear for winter 2019
More Big Senders than Big Spenders, this winter the STYLE ALTITUDE crew have been fine tuning their kit and adding essential tech knowledge for backcountry and practical additions such as helmet, ice axe, goggles and gloves rather than splashing the cash on superfluous skis or ski wear. Only our North American Editor couldn't be seen in Aspen wearing a jacket that's so last year - and our Ski Contributor would never get through a whole winter without a new pair of skis...
GAVIN BAYLIS - Tech Editor
There's all the hype surrounding the new Salomon Shift but why would I go old school and a heavy frame binding? In much the same way that a large percent of skiers who have bought the Salomon Shift will probably never actually tour on them, or might not even have bought touring boots and/or skins, my logic for the Markers is that having mounted them on another pair of Black Crows Atris 108 (my favourite all-round ski) I can ski more lift-orientated off-piste in alpine boots (with basic walk mode) as opposed to touring boots - and by packing the same skins I use on my touring Atris setup, mounted with Tectons, I have the option should needs must to be able to skin up to where I want to go rather than maybe boot-packing in knee/thigh deep powder which was the case only a few weeks ago. And should someone lose a ski further up in our group I'd be able to climb up and help.
Prior to going to Siberia ski touring last November I mentioned to Per our guide, who unfortunately did not make the trip, that I had this piece of kit - and he was relieved as he knew that in surroundings such as Siberia or off-grid where a phone is pretty useless due to no signal, it is good to know that, in an extreme case of emergency, contact could be made and precise positioning communicated to the relevant rescue service.
And it's not just in locations such as Siberia. Here where we ski tour in the Hautes Alpes there are a few areas where mobiles do not work, and the thought of being out of signal and out of contact is pretty scary if there's an emergency.
Fortunately, I have yet to use it in anger - and I hope I never will have to. However, there is other associated functionality to use with it via the Earthmate® app which easily pairs the INREACH MINI with your SmartPhone so you can download routes and tracks from your laptop to the App and use these as navigational aids.
Then, of course, there is the SMS Text and email functions where you can send predefined messages to people and loved ones, such as 'I'm starting out from here' or 'I'm stopping and starting descent' or 'I'm back down and returning home', all will have the grid reference of the location where you sent the message from.
Probably the bargain of the season and proving you don't have to pay major bucks for good kit, these gloves are only €15 from Decathlon. They're mitts that convert to fingerless gloves so perfect for ski touring. I've also wrapped squash racquet tape around the top of old Black Diamond telescopic poles for a great grip while ski touring bought at the same time from Decathlon in December. Thanks Martin Chester for this tip in our international Mountain Guide interviews.
FAYE YOUNG - Snowboard Contributor
The Smith Maze has been my helmet of choice for the last 5 years now. It is super lightweight and comfortable, sometimes I forget I'm even wearing a helmet. It suits most goggles styles too, including my favourite Oakley Flight Deck XM frame. Despite being so light it takes slams well and keeps your goggles nicely in place.
This jacket is great because it's lightweight yet still cosy. Perfect if you tend to get too hot on the mountain however there is room for a hoody underneath if you like to layer up. It's a nice a nice long fit and the high collar keeps your face warm on colder days too.
JONATHAN 'BING' BINGHAM - Ski Contributor
With the recent snow drought and difficult snow conditions in the North Western Alps over Christmas and New Year, the Elan Ripstick Carbon Limted Edition has come in handy on those hard pistes, the carbon layup adding noticeable stiffness and power to rip the frontside. They look pretty cool too. Almost James Bond like...
My Petzl ice axe (above right) also has come in very handy - ultra light and compact, invaluable on boot packs and ridge walks while trying to sniff out some soft snow.
And after recent issues with goggles I have reverted back to Oakley and super impressed with the Oakley Flight Deck XM with Prizm technology (above left) helping me to find my way whatever the light conditions. If they are good enough Lindsey Vonn then they are good enough for me.
ELAINE DEED - Editor
Anyone who knows me from skiing will tell you that I am always on a mission to find the best ski wear, moaning because the collar's not right, the pockets are too small or the colour's too darn boring. And when I find the perfect item, I'll wear it till it falls apart.
But, although an ex-fashion editor and stylist, I am absolutely not swayed by fashion. But good style? Absolutely. There's a world of difference between style and fashion. Which is why I have become a fan of Elevenate, a Swedish brand, created by competitive freeskier Sara Rönngren and UIAGM mountain guide Jimmy Odén. My latest ski pants are practical with patch pockets for a mobile, zipped vents, baggy enough for doing kickturns and in a grungy khaki, which I so prefer to girly pastels and pinks.
Apart from Elevenate ski pants, I've bought a SCOTT down hooded gilet for extra warmth, several bandanas from Claire's Accessories (perfect for backcountry touring) and mitts that convert to fingerless gloves from Decathlon (see Gavin's gear).
So guess I'm not exactly helping sales of skis and skiwear (for which I blame the brands for lack of innovation and style) but I am helping the planet by not polluting the earth with discarded PFC-coated ski gear.
KEN REEVE - Backcountry Editor
No new skiwear or skis, this winter, but I have picked up an app called Theodolite, which is a really easy and accurate way to measure slope angle and has a compass and GPS maps built in as well. Price is €6.99 on the App Store/Playstore.
After getting frostnip/frostbite in my fingers last winter, the circulation in my fingertips is greatly reduced, so I researched heated gloves and bought a pair of Ziener heated gloves from Sport Conrad. List is €199.99, but I picked them up for €99 online.
They're going to be a game-changer for me - they have three heat settings, the highest is clearly hot, but will use the battery faster, so the plan for the day is to use the high setting on the chairlifts and then switch to low for the ride down, as I'll be working out then. Used like this, the batteries should last most of the day. The gloves themselves are really well built and warm in their own right.
(The Crew's Favourite Goggles: See Faye Young AND Jonathan Bingham)
Up to date I've been using Smith I/O goggles with interchangeable lenses, I managed to end up with 3 x low-light and 1 x dark lens, all of which worked well in their respective conditions, but kept getting caught out on a sunny day with shadows in the trees.
I went looking for a more all-round goggle and plumped for the Oakley Flight Deck with green jade Prizm lens.
Absolutely over the moon with these, fantastic fit and quality, wide goggle strap with anti-slip silicone backing, they have the widest field of view I've yet used and the optical quality of the lens is first class. The Green Jade Prizm lens I chose is a great all-rounder, designed for sun and clouds with a 13 percent light transmission, they work great on a sunny day and yet give enough contrast through the trees without having to resort to a photochromic lens.
They won't replace the Smiths for a storm day, but will be my go-to goggle for the rest!
LOUISE HUDSON - USA AND CANADA EDITOR
Skiing longevity in Canada is all about warmth. Although not as glacial as last winter, I really appreciated new Smartwool socks and baselayers this Christmas. So warm, yet not bulky, the socks, coupled with my Therm-ic boot heaters, guarantee that I'm not the one taking my boots off in Sunshine Village daylodge. Smartwool's PhD Pro Freeski style (US $29.95) sports the 'odd sock' look whereby each sock coordinates but isn't the same (above), one way to beat the laundry sock thief! The Women's Merino Patterned 250 Baselayer top in black/charcoal heather (US $110) and matching leggings (US $100) are cosy, comfy and chic. Worn with Bos & Co's Graham boots (US $161) and a long-line down vest, they're smart enough for après antics at Whistler's Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub on the slopes at the Pan Pacific Mountainside Hotel. In case of Guinness spillages, the miraculous merino is washable and tumble dry-able and the Grahams are waterproof. I recently tested them – and myself – to the extreme, on a caving expedition with Canmore Cave Tours. After two hours of subterranean slithering, sliding, crawling and climbing, they were dusty but their amazing tread had saved me from injury to everything but my pride.
Due to an upcoming trip to Aspen staying at the nifty new Limelight Hotel Snowmass, I was in desperate need of a ritzy rig-out. Having gone the technicolour route last season with Alchemy of Ride's 'Colours of Assiniboine' jacket, I decided on a black-and-white sexy suit for a change. Designed by Aspen's signature skiwear manufacturer, it's Obermeyer's Hadley Jacket (CAD $479.50) in Honeysuckle print with flattering black side stripes to enhance the waistline. The matching Harlow pants (CAD $349.50) have the same plain black stripe down the side of the legs, hopefully narrowing my chunky ski thighs a tad. Will have to bring my Alchemy jacket on the trip, too, though as I love the attention its multi-coloured mountain motif gets me in the liftlines! And, anyway, who visits Aspen with only one ski suit? – PS Both these brands are highly technical, weatherproof and warm too.