After a hot and smoky summer out West, winter is finally approaching. Most ski resorts have had their first snowfall, the leaves have changed and are quickly falling, and the days are getting shorter and shorter. This means that now is the time to start researching what touring gear will improve your quiver and overall effectiveness in the backcountry for the upcoming winter. At Outdoor Project, we take winter recreation and backcountry safety seriously. Below are eight suggestions on bomber, safe backcountry touring gear for the winter of 2018-19.
Shopping for skis can be a daunting task. Now more than ever, there are tons of skis that will all do the job from a plethora of different companies. When shopping for skis, it ultimately comes down to price and width. For a do-it-all resort ski that can shred the groomers, powder, and everything in between, look no farther than the Blizzard Cochise. This ski is stiff and powerful and requires a strong skier to get the most out of it. At 108mm underfoot, this ski is the perfect size to do everything. Looking to ski bumps? No problem. Looking to do some backcountry hiking out of the resort? No problem. The Blizzard Cochise is a great choice for your do-it-all, hard charging ski.
Choosing an AT ski can be difficult. Everyone has their own thoughts on size, weight, and how much they want to sacrifice in order to be able to go uphill comfortably. Some people tour on ultra-light, skinny skis in order to be able to ascend fast and comfortably. Others go for fatter, slightly heavier skis in order to enjoy the downhill aspect of touring. There is no right or wrong when deciding what type of ski to buy, as long as you are aware of what each ski does best. The DPS Wailer Tour provides the absolute best of both worlds in this scenario. The Wailer Tour is the touring version of the popular DPS Wailer. The tour version is extremely light while still maintaining its fat waist width of 112. The Wailer Tour lets you go uphill with ease, and then shred powder with a smile on your face.
The Salomon S-Lab MTN AT boot is a serious backcountry touring boot that can be worn on all sorts of missions, from multi-day big mountain trips to skiing your local sidecountry. The S-Lab boot has a 120 flex, which is very stiff for a touring boot like this. The walk mode is extremely flexible and feels good on the uphill, while the tread on the bottom is aggressive like a hiking boot. As a pair, the S-Lab weighs 6 pounds 15 ounces. The S-Lab boots are compatible with all pin-style bindings and frame touring bindings.
The Black Diamond Jet Force is a unique backcountry skiing airbag backpack that is battery powered. This pack does not need the compressed air canister that most airbag packs require, meaning that you can test pull this backpack as much as you like. This is a significant advantage over canister backpacks, which are typically only tested once a season due to the time consuming and costly nature of refilling the air canister. The significant con with the JetForce pack is the reliability of the battery in cold conditions.
The Black Diamond Ascension skins are a very popular, versatile set of skins that are made to have good grip and glide for a reasonable price. While the glue on some skins will rot over time, the Ascensions have durable glue that should last several seasons if stored properly. The Ascensions will come with a skin cutting tool, so you can trim the skins to fit your skis.
The Whippet Ski Pole is something of a backcountry skier's dream. The Whippet Pole is incredibly unique and handy to have in certain situations. The whippet is a standard ski pole, with a mini ice axe coming out of the handle. Not only does the whippet help with security on the way up, but having an ice axe in the handle of your pole helps with descending technical terrain when falling is not recommended. The Whippet Pole is designed for ski-mountaineers who want the sturdiness of an ice axe without the weight and hassle of a full-sized axe.
While goggles are great for the downhill and for extremely stormy days, the vast majority of backcountry skiers tour up and ski down in sunglasses. On sunny days, sunglasses vent extremely well on the uphill and cover enough of your eyes to be adequate on the downhill. The Julbo Vermont Classic glacier goggles are perfect for sunny days at high altitudes. The Vermont Classic has ventilation holes on the sides, allowing them to be worn on the uphill without them fogging up during periods of aerobic exercise. The Vermont Classic wraps around the eyes nicely, making them suitable for all sorts of downhill conditions.
During several seasons spent touring in the backcountry, it has become clear, at least to me, that a Buff is indispensable in the backcountry. A classic buff, can be used for so many things and is lightweight, making it a must have in your pack item. A buff is often used as a goggle carrier, so that your goggles don’t get scratched by the interior of your pack. A buff can also be used as a skull cap to insulate your head under your helmet on especially cold days.