If you’re reading these sentences, you’re already behind the eight ball when it comes to your winter – haven’t you been reading the reports? It’s nuking all over ski and snowboard country, and you’re still shopping for your winter kit. Good lord, man, get on with it! Herewith, you’ll find everything you need to tackle the mountains, whether you’re heading for some mellow groomer cruising or the top of the biggest peak in the range. The fact that you’re woefully out of shape is not, however, something we can help you with.
Burton Mystery Snowboard ($1500)
Look, we’re not going to sit here and tell you that $1,500 isn’t a ridiculous amount of money for a snowboard – it is. In fact, it’s the most expensive snowboard Burton makes. But you’re paying for superlatives, like this one: it’s the lightest board Burton has ever made. That’s thanks to “the combination of a precision milled Ultrafly Core and proprietary carbon-fiber matrix.”
Look, we’re not going to sit here and tell you that we know what a proprietary carbon-fiber matrix is, but we do know that the Mystery also features a directional shape with a Methlon base and “stainless frostbit edges.” And if that all sounds like more techno-hypno gibberish, then all we can say is this:
Burton’s been making boards for 40 years and they claim this is the best they can do. We believe them.
Sure, Nike’s Lunarendor QS snowboard boots feature 3-D molded uppers, three levels of flex and Nike’s patented Lunarion cushioning, but the real reason you want these boots is because they feature a 30 light LED illuminated Swoosh on the sides of each boot. The Nike logo is half the reason most people buy the footwear giant’s products, but a Swoosh that lights up on it’s own, embedded lithium-ion battery? That’s logo flossing we can get behind.
This is where we should probably mention Nike’s proprietary Flywire construction, which creates unprecedented support while keeping the overall weight of the boot surprisingly low, but we’re totally distracted by the fact that these things glow. And when they’re not supposed to glow, the Lunarendor’s feature an on/off switch right on the cuff. But seriously, who is going to turn them off?
Bataleon Omni ($600)
Bataleon boards stand out from the rest of the pack for one simple reason: Triple Base Technology. Rather than simply being flat on the bottom, TBT boards feature three flat surfaces that come together to form a sort of oblique u shape. It’s a subtle design feature, but it drastically reduces your chances of catching an edge, which makes the board feel ridiculously free and fun to ride. Other manufacturers do similar stuff on their boards, but imitators just don’t ride the same way a legit TBT Bataleon board does. We highly recommend them for both newbies and seasoned shredders.
2014 Atomic Theory skis ($470)
Atomic’s latest set of Theory skis has been getting rave reviews ever since they were released, and for good reason. They’re a strong, agile all-mountain ski that sails through variable conditions with ease. The widened tip and tail provides great float on powder, and the sub-100 mm waist makes for a ripping good time on groomers. They also feature a bigger radius at the tip and a smaller radius at the tail for easy turn initiation and optimum grip out of turns. All in all, you’d be hard-pressed to find terrain that these things can’t handle.
Armada JJ ($475)
The JJ was one of the first skis that refused to compromise between the huge width and rockered camber of modern powder skis and the shaped sidecuts that transformed the entire sport 15 years ago. The result is a ski that really can carve turns on hard pack, float through deep snow, power through crusty snow, and generally kick ass in any conceivable conditions.
The ski isn’t significantly changed for 2014, but when a design is this well-proven, what would you want to change? It still features fiberglass laminate matrix that ensures consistent flex and torsional rigidity, a combined cap/sidewall construction that provides strength where you need it while saving weight, and Armada’s Ultralight core. And it still looks flat out bizarre on hard pack snow, with tips and tails peeling up and flapping around, but trust us when we tell you that anyone who wants to make fun of your JJs is not going to be able to keep up long enough to do it.
K2 Pinnacle 130 ($700)
2014 is K2’s inaugural foray into ski boots, but the company’s been paying pretty close attention for a few years, ever since they acquired Full Tilt. Their top-of-the-line freeride boot is the Pinnacle 130 and, just like the bindings it’s designed to interface with, the boot is as comfortable climbing mountains as it is ripping down them.
The boot’s Synchro Interlock system allows the upper cuff to be released from the lower in a touring situation where ease of movement and comfort are more important than performance. But once you’re ready to drop in, the system engages with what’s called a Powerfuse Spyne to lock the boot down and maximize flex efficiency and lateral stiffness. Similarly, the three-buckle setup is augmented by a combination buckle/power strap that can be quickly released for more range of motion and locked down for more support.
The wee lads and lasses probably don’t remember the old days, when touring above the resort required a whole different set of gear. That’s because boots like the Pinnacle 130 have made that old gear a distant memory.
POC Receptor Backcountry MIPS Helmet ($250 – $270)
If you ride long enough, you’re eventually going to bang your head; don’t wait for it to happen to get some protection like the POC MIPS helmet. MIPS stands for multi-directional impact protection system, and it’s designed to account for research that shows brain injuries sometime occur when people hit their heads at an angle, which creates a dangerous rotational force on their brains. The helmet features a low-friction layer between the outer shell of the helmet and an inner liner that can absorb much of that rotational energy so it doesn’t reach the brain.
The POC Receptor Backcountry rolls this MIPS technology right into a stylish helmet with all the coolest features, including the Recco avalanche system and POC’s “Communication Neck Roll,” which contains speakers from Beats By Dre and a microphone that connects through the earphone jack of your phone.
Oakley Airwave Goggles ($650)
Oakley’s newest version of their heads up display goggles, The Airwave 1.5s puts data on the inside of the lens in a way that’s equivalent to a 14-inch monitor. The goggles (which run on the Recon HUD platform) feature GPS, Wi-Fi, thermometer, and MFi Bluetooth built in allowing the goggles to display speed, give location details, tell the temperature and even measure height, distance, and hang time off jumps. Put this together with Oakley’s Airwave app for IOS and Android and you have the perfect way to keep track of your stats and your friends, and of share it all with the world (or at least the Facebooks). Think of it as Google Glass without the dork factor.
It’s a First World problem, but few things are more annoying while riding the lift or skiing through a forest blanketed in fresh snow than having to stop, take off a glove, and dig through three layers of warm clothing to answer the phone. BearTek Snowsport Gloves make this a thing of the past thanks to Bluetooth. By touching a thumb to one of several activated stripes on the inside edge of the index and middle fingers, it is possible to answer or ignore a phone call, and start, stop, advance or reverse through a playlist. With an additional camera module installed, the gloves can even control a GoPro camera. Hands free takes on a whole new meaning with the BearTek.
Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket ($700) and Bibs ($600)
There comes a time in every skier’s or snowboarder’s life when they realize that function comes first. Thankfully, with the Patagonia PowSlayer’s three-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric, there won’t have to be any concessions in the fashion department either. With a helmet compatible hood and a low profile internal powder skirt, the wet is just not getting into this jacket. And when coupled with Patagonia’s PowSlayer Bibs and a good first layer, you’ve got the kind of kit that can transform frightful weather into something approaching comfortable, and that means more powder turns on the kinds of days that send other people running for the lodge.
Mountain Hardware Artisan Jacket ($290 – $325) and Returnia Pants ($170)
Forget about GoreTex. Mountain Hardware has developed this new material called Dry Q that puts it to shame. In addition to being completely waterproof, this stuff is extremely breathable, and will stay waterproof even after hundreds of washes. The Artisan jacket boasts a Dry Q exterior to keep you dry as a bone, as well as a bit of synthetic down insulation for extra warmth. Same story with the Returnia pants – Dry Q on the outside, cozy insulation on the inside, so if you rock this getup, you’ll stay warm and dry no matter how nasty the conditions get.
First, the obvious caveat: Don’t even think about buying the Pulse Barryvox (or any avalanche transceiver for that matter) unless you know how to use it or plan to put in the appropriate effort to learn. Otherwise, you may as well just ride the resort with a loaded gun in your pocket with the safety off. It’s that safe.
But if you’re a backcountry enthusiast and you haven’t upped your beacon game for a few seasons, now is the time and the Pulse Barrvox deserves consideration. This thing is packed with technology that can save your life or the life of a companion. It sends and receives digital and analog signals from three antennas, plus has an easy-to-interpret graphic interface with Basic and Advanced modes that cater information to the user’s experience level during a search situation. It can even transmit movement from a buried victim to searchers if they’re also using a Pulse Barryvox, so they know the victim is alive.
No one goes into the backcountry looking for an avalanche, but if you’re going than be prepared. Mammut’s latest beacon is part of that preparation.
Speaking of things you shouldn’t be traveling in the backcountry without, an ABS system – the inflatable “wings” that deploy when you’re caught in a slide and help keep you on the snow’s surface rather than buried underneath – has been proven to improve your chances in a worst case scenario.
The Dakine ABS Signal 25L pack is the nicest ABS integrated pack we’ve seen. It has everything you’d expect from a top-of-the-line Dakine pack, including special pockets for a shovel and probe, carrying systems for skis or a snowboard, and lined pockets to hold your goggles so you don’t sweat through them while hiking.
But the real reason we’d recommend this pack – and why it’s nearly 1200 bucks – is because it comes with an ABS system built right in. Lots of packs are ABS compatible, and some packs feature a built-in system, but Dakine was setting the standard in packs long before they added potentially life-saving technology to the mix.
Jones Ultracraft Splitboard ($1200)
Unless you have a helicopter or a snowcat parked behind your vacation rental, there are two ways for snowboarders to get deep into the backcountry: a snowmobile or a splitboard. The former are expensive and environmentally dubious. The latter are how backcountry legend and Jones Snowboards founder Jeremy Jones gets out there.
What is a splitboard exactly? It is a snowboard that separates into two ski-shaped boards that allow snowboarders to walk uphill through deep snow as easily as backcountry skiers do. Then, at the top of the climb the two “skis” are put back together to make a snowboard that’s way more fun to ride than the aforementioned skiers’ skis.
The Ultracraft is a more high tech version of the legendary Jones Hovercraft splitboard, featuring a carbon fiber top sheet and core inserts that make it 25 percent lighter, along with “traction edges” that cut into the hillside like a serrated knife.
No trip into the snowy woods would be complete without the Hail + Style PS multitool from legendary folding tool maker Leatherman. The Hail + Style PS features 13 different tool actions to ensure all your gear is working, even if it’s broken. Features include a pair of spring-action needle nose pliers and scissors, a flat and phillips head screwdriver, a scraper, and a 10 mm wrench, but that’s not even half of it.
Airhole Face Mask ($35)
These things are a godsend. Other face masks go over your head, or use an array of small holes for ventilation, but those designs are a pain. The over-the-head type make wearing a hat feel uncomfortable, and the small-hole type always seem to collect condensation from your breath and freeze up. But these Airhole masks? No such problems. They fit snugly around the lower half of your face, and are made from neoprene so they wont get moist and freeze up. All things considered, these masks are probably the most comfortable/effective way to protect your mug from chilly wind.
IceDot crash sensor ($150)
Think of IceDot as a little guardian angel you can wear. It’s a tiny little impact sensor that you attach to your helmet, and if it detects that you bonked your melon a bit too hard and stop moving, it’ll automatically use your smartphone to call for help. It even provides extremely precise location data, so even if you smack your dome deep in the wilderness, first responders will be able to use GPS data to track you down quickly.
Even if you’ve got a solid pair of gloves, these things are awesome to have around. Each pack contains a mixture of natural ingredients (iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal, and vermiculite) that, when exposed to air, react together to produce heat. once opened, air slowly enters the pack through tiny holes in the exterior, The mixture of air, water, and salt cause the iron powder to oxidize rapidly and put off heat, whereas the vermiculite serves as an insulator to keep the pack warm for an extended period of time.