I may be alone on this one, but Winter is my favorite season to be outdoors. Good snow and pine trees are critical ingredients though! I’m getting ready to counter the freezing winter chill with a weekend Nordic skiing in Door County on the shores of Lake Michigan. [Reviews after the break.]
1/ Fischer Outbacks are ideal for skiers who explore diverse terrain. I live in the Midwest, and I spend as much time in winter as possible with my family in Vermont and Colorado. The versatile steel edge lets you tackle any type of trail, groomed or not. I’m almost exclusively an alpine skier — I’m just getting started with this cross-country thing now that I live in the flatlands. These are not hardcore backcountry skis. They’re categorized as “offtrack cruisers,” perfect for snowy generalists like me, and they can manage light carving when necessary. And that exposed wood styling!
2/ I love finding technical activewear that doesn’t look like it’s technical activewear. Ibex nails it. Their new-ish scoop neck cut will be just as nice under my work cardigan as it will be on the ski trail. There’s just nothing better than Merino next to your skin when you’re exercising in colder climes. I’ve found Ibex to be much more durable than similar wool base layers from Patagonia.
3/ My beloved “Good Luck” pom-pom hat is sadly no longer available from JAQK Apparel (a little line founded by some Bates alums), but the American Apparel Pom Pom Beanie has a similar look. The seventies were really the best moment in ski apparel. True ski steeze is always brightly colored, so my city-dwelling self likes to go for it in the accessories if nowhere else.
4/ The Patagonia Down Shirt sounds incongruous, but it is a gem. This is a thin layer of (cruelty-free) authentic goose down, so it’s warmer and more resilient than synthetic versions. I layer an uninsulated soft shell over this if I’m going to be in deep snag-prone woods or prolonged precipitation, but normally I love the weightlessness of a light puffy on its own. I’ve been borrowing my brother‘s for years and I’m glad I finally got a women’s version- the fit is surprisingly flattering even for down.
5/ The one thing that my mom, aunt, and I got out of bed for last Black Friday were Darn Tough Socks. They’re made in Vermont by Vermonters. Ever worn a hole in your sock? Then you should probably switch sock brands now, because all Darn Tough socks an unconditional lifetime guarantee. I am not sure how that business strategy could possibly be fruitful if they weren’t really, really confident in their superbly durable products. I am a former fan of ski socks from SmartWool, Patagonia, Eurosocks, WigWam, and Thorlo…they are all toasty at first, but just not long term relationship material. I am still using Darn Tough socks I bought 9 years ago and they look and perform like they’re brand new. Like many women, my feet are always freezing in winter. I’m obsessed with these.
6/ I actually can’t verify any of the claims of the waterproof legging yet, as I’m currently still shopping for the right bottoms that will work with active winter sports like cross-country skiing as well as cycling in shoulder seasons during inclement weather. After about 6 weeks of internet forum mining, I’m deciding between the Sugoi SubZero, the Pearl Azumi AmFib, and the Salomon S-LAB Motion Fit. I’m leaning towards the Japanese Sugoi for its more versatile styling. I guessed that ski apparel brands would have the best options for waterproof items, but other than Salomon, I’ve found that bike companies seem to have many more water repellent products available in a skinny/legging fit.
7/ Leave it to the Norwegians to take something that is usually pretty dull looking and make it into the one piece of sporting equipment I like to leave on display in my bedroom. Designed and constructed in Lillehammer, Swix Nordic poles are flawless.
8/ I’m in the process of conducting a very scientific non-cotton underwear study right now, and UnderArmour’s Pure Stretch Hipster is currently the frontrunner. I have not enjoyed an UnderArmour product this much since I played middle school field hockey. The brand is still clearly out of touch on the whole for having a one-size-fits-all product for a bodypart as widely varied in size as the female butt, but hey, I’m normally a size medium and this fits. It’s VPL-free even with leggings. I also ordered their Cheeky cut, though, which is also sold as one-size-fits-all, and found it to be a full size smaller than the Hipster. I’m typically a supporter of going with leggings alone, especially for my usual studio-based workouts, but two factors persuade me otherwise: when the pants in question seriously decline in performance with additional washings, and when I’m going to be wearing the pants non-stop for multiple days in a row. For extended skiing and cycling touring, wicking underwear that doesn’t suck is hard to find but essential.
9/ One of my favorite discoveries this year, the Stio Sweetwater Fleece is a classic look from a young mountain brand based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I love that the style is similar to a thick heritage wool sweater, but it’s not itchy. Plus it’s machine washable. Pieces that work this well from slopes to tavern are rare. I’m confident I’ll have this for years to come.