On Test: Ski and Snowboard Gear 2019 - 2020

What's ON TEST with our crew for winter 2019 - 2020

The Style Altitude editors and contributors are out in the mountains riding all winter, testing any new gear from ski jackets to skis to ski wax to ski goggles. This is an on-going feature running throughout the ski season so check back here for regular updates on reviews and new gear...


DPS Phantom Wax

As Backcountry Editor of Style Altitude, I was sent a packet of Phantom Glide waxless base to evaluate over this season.

Phantom’s patent-pending polymer technology aims to offer ultimate convenience combined with great glide performance that never wanes across all snow temperatures and for the life of your skis' or snowboard’s use.

It's basically a wax replacement which soaks into the pores of the P-tex base material and can be serviced/gound with no detriment.

The claim is that it lasts for the life of the ski and you'll never need to wax again. The cost is €100, but that's only 10 or so waxes, so if the claims are true, then it's a no-brainer.

Also, there are always those times when you wished you'd waxed your skis, or got the wrong wax on, which should never happen with Phantom Glide. Plus normal waxing only lasts a few days, so normally it would need doing twice weekly.

The Phantom Glide comes as a 2-part mix, which has to be applied then cured by UV, either in the sun like I did in August, or in a special sun-bed type gismo.

It's easy enough to apply but I had to wait four months to try it out.

So far I've skied around 15 days on the PG, applied to my DPS Wailer 112's (what else? and, yes I'm very happy) and I have found the treatment to work as good as waxed skis in temps varying from -5C to +4C. It works the same on all types of snow and is as fast as anybody else's skis out there.

One thing I've noticed is when you're standing in a lift queue, normally with freshly waxed skis, they slide back and forth all the time, with PG they're kind of stuck a little, which is no bad thing, but within a metre or two of skiing, it's business as usual.

So far, very positive impressions for the treatment, my remit is to see if the longevity is indeed as claimed by DPS.

Watch this space.

Applying The Phantom Glide

Having received my Wailer 112F direct from DPS at the end of last winter it was time to apply the game-changing DPS Phantom 2.0 waxless base treatment. And it happened to be 30C and the middle of last summer, here in Serre Chevalier.

The reason why midsummer is the right time?

Unless you own a DPS cure station (used by Authorised Phantom Installers) the 2-part curing process has to take place in strong natural sunlight and needs several hours all in, so winter's not ideal! However, here in sunny Serre Chevalier, we're fortunate to benefit from 300+ days of sunshine, so mid-summer was the perfect.

First step is to thoroughly clean the bases, I chose a stiff brass base structure brush and base cleaner, a light stone grind in your favourite ski shop also works. Then apply part A and work it in to the base, wipe off any excess after 15 minutes and leave to bake in the sun for a couple of hours. Repeat the brushing and wipe with a damp cloth to remove any residue from the structure in the base in order for part B to fully penetrate and bond with part A to give a life-long impregnation of the Phantom 2.0. Apply part B, wipe off excess once more as before and bake again. Then (tiring all this brushing in 30 degrees heat!) brush out the excess, wipe down again with a damp cloth and done.

The end result looks like a freshly-waxed ski and from all reports this finish should remain, rather than going grey and dry as a waxed ski would after a few days, with the added benefit of never having to wax my skis again!


Snow Vision Optical Prescription Goggles

Over the past three or four years, my eyesight has slowly faded, first it was classic short-sightedness and the subsequent need for reading glasses, but that did not affect my skiing, though I did have some issues when trying to read navigation apps when ski touring, so I always had to carry some reading glasses, so a bit of a faff.

Finally about a year ago I suspected my normal sight was not what it should be, and I ended up with prescription glasses. Because I'm very active and do rely on reading gadgets both on the bike and skiing, a vari-focal lens was always paramount, and my Bolle sunnies perform superbly, but the thought at the back of my mind was what to do when conditions dictate the use of goggles?

After lots of googling, searching for prescription ski goggles, optical ski goggles, ski goggles with glasses it became apparent that there were numerous Heath Robinson solutions out there but none that I had too much faith in, as I suspected every goggle users nightmare of misting/fogging up would be even more of an issue if wearing optical inserts in the goggles.

Then I came across SnowVision, a Belgian company, set-up by three visionary dudes with a passion for the mountains. They have developed their own patented system, which basically has the 'glasses' in a sealed unit, so no issue with fogging/misting up.

There are numerous other USP's that sets them apart from other prescription ski goggles, optical ski goggle manufacturers, not least the price which is so good, and their whole customer service in dealing with your initial enquiry and prescription needs.

I've now had the chance to wear them in some pretty atrocious conditions (photo above was in Val Thorens when all the lifts were closed), and whilst other friends were exchanging their goggles for their sunnies out of desperation to see what worked the best, I was more than happy with the SnowVision goggle  as it's designed for any condition, and I must say that its photochromic lens adjusts very quickly to the light intensity or lack of in my case.

The goggles retail for €249,95 with a fast turnaround of 3 - 10 days from ordering depending on the complexity of your prescription, in my case varifocal lens and they work to perfection. 

I've yet to use them in a diabolical white-out or face plant in powder in the forest, which will be the ultimate test for any goggle.


Oakley Flight Deck Snow Cam Goggles

It started to snow the day the Messy Weekend goggles arrived at Style Altitude HQ. As I'm renowned for only wearing goggles to keep my beanie in place while ski touring it's a good test to see if they are user-friendly enough for me to actually put into visual action. The reason I was anti-goggles for so long was because of the limited visual range that old-fashion framed goggles used to give. But now panoramic frameless goggles have broadened my outlook, literally, and, with additional yellow lenses for overcast days included, I'm going to enjoy testing these Messy Weekend goggles here in the French Alps. In Japan, the land of the falling pow where there's little option but to wear goggles or go blind, these Float Black goggles from Messy Weekend will definitely be coming with me in February.

These goggles cost €115 (check for Black Friday deals) and, nice bonus for all eco-warriors, thanks to a deal that Messy Weekend have made with NGO PROARTSO, you are cleaning 2KG of plastic in the Pacific Ocean by buying this product.


Scott Patrol Alpride E1 airbag

OK so first I want to say that I hope I never have to 'test' my new SCOTT Alpride E1 bag in action as in sliding down in an avalanche. Let's all assume that I'd pull the trigger and it would inflate perfectly. Fortunately I've never been in an avalanche but I have carried an airbag for the past five years since going seriously off piste and backcountry even though the cost of these bags is comparable to a designer handbag. But dinky quilt bag on my arm for style points or a chunky pack on my back that could save my life? No contest. Except for the weight. I've long grumbled about lugging a heavy airbag around and not having enough room inside to stuff more than one light layer and a pair of gloves.

Hence, my main purchase for this winter is one of today's lighter avy bags with more room thanks to re-engineering of the inflation mechanism. So here I am, above, with the SCOTT Patrol Alpride E1 airbag that uses the latest supercapacitor technology without cartridges carrying the 30L version while ski touring up in Serre Chevalier in early November to score the fresh pow. At that moment in the photo, the bag contained not only the usual shovel and probe but also hooded waterproof jacket, spare gloves, sandwich and a water bottle.

There is just the mindset to remember to turn it on before heading out (and off when back home) otherwise it won't work and the batteries will go flat. But it's the same as switching your transceiver on. Just something you do automatically when going into the pow.