While not quite as furious as the Lion, Tiger, and Bear, Mid Layers, Shells, and Pants can definitely take a huge bite out of your budget and hurt your budget. As stated in our first session Stay Warm! – Retro Respect, the hand me downs and items found at the thrift shop or craigslist may have lost some of their glory and, more importantly, their waterproofing throughout the years. These can work in a pinch, but before too long you will find yourself wishing you had some better and drier gear. If these items got you out there and you are now back to improve your wardrobe, that’s great news. Let’s get you outfitted, so you look as good as you feel. If you followed our last post, Stay Warm! – Base Layering, you’re on your way to having a good and comfortable day on the mountain. Our focus today will get your mid-layer, jacket or shell layer, and the ski pants. The best news, you won’t have to lay out all the cash upfront!
The mid layer is a thermal protection layer that’s sole purpose is to keep the warm you have generated and further vent moisture from the base layer on out. For practical purposes, this might actually be something you have on hand. However, I’ve found that it’s nice to keep what you own for lounging in your condo and have something a little more purpose driven for the slopes. Midlayers can be of personal preference… you can select a slightly thicker material like an insulated pullover hoodie, a natural fiber like a wool sweater, fleece, or “puffy coat.” A lot of your selection here is based on personal preference, style, and outside temperature. I have used a thick hoodie or even just a long sleeve T-shirt on a warmer day and been just fine. If you prefer thinner materials, products made with Polartec fleece work really well. A third, and warmest option is the “puffy” coat. These coats are filled with synthetic fibers and work in a similar way to your house insulation slowing down heat radiating from your body. The best part of these style coats is their packability. So If you feel like its going to be a mixed weather day, these are great to put on in the chill of the morning and then pack into a coat in the warm afternoon.
The outer most layer of your jacket is commonly referred to as your shell layer. It is designed for wind block, and water protection, warmth retention for your insulating layer, and a concept called moisture vapor transfer. This third function allows excess vapor from your sweat escape, so it does condense back to water and get you wet. Just we reviewed in our last session Stay Warm! – Base Layering, any product that gets wet and stays wet will start a cooling process for your core. To get more specific about breathability, take a look at this video produced by ProLite. Bottomline, if your goggles start to fog for an unexplained reason, it probably as a result of moist heat rising through your neck and face and then condensing on the cold surface of the goggles. When this occurs, its time to head into the lodge, open air vents up and figure out what else is going wrong.
Ski Pants are similar in nature to your shell in that they should have breathability to keep vapor build up. I also like having a pant with vent over top of the thigh to provide additional regulation of heat. Many pairs of pants have these in the crotch, and it just doesn’t make as much sense to me…heat rises! The best part of the pants is they often provide deeper pockets to keep your wallet, keys, and cell phone, etc. I generally carry these items there I’m not risking crushing them when I take a larger spill. For my comfort, I generally don’t add a separate mid layer for my legs. I just beef up the thickness of my base layer.
Shopping for these 3 products in your gear set up can be downright intimidating, and you can easily get lost in all of the technical jargon and overwhelmed with the price point these features can command. Before you get entirely frustrated with the process and stop before you even start or worse yet find yourself broke after walking into a slope side store like Gorsuch ($$$$), remember….you’re still getting to know the sport. A full set up with the coat, mid layer, shell, hat, and goggles can get upwards to hundreds of dollars. The good news is renting ski gear is now available! While relatively new concept in the United States, the concept has been flourishing in Europe for the past decade or so. There are a few progressive companies in the US that provide this. What we really like about this concept is these companies have taken the guesswork and research out of picking your ski gear, you just have to show up, get fit, and put them on. This also gives you the ability to try before you buy and, as we will show in one case, provide you with access to latest fashions at the click of a button.
If you have never ever skied and just looking for the complete package of experience, lesson, and clothing, grab your baselayer, some quality socks, and borrow a pair of goggles and head up to Echo Mountain. In addition to the standard ski and boot rental, they have complete ski kits for Mens, Ladies, Juniors, and Kids. On any given day, Fred Klaas, the general manager for Echo, told me there will be a few people showing up with little to no exposure, hoping to check out the sport and have no idea what to wear. This story strikes a chord with me personally as my dad, who never skied, just took us kids up to the slopes in street clothes!… Looking back at those old photos, I really wish my dad had this option when he took us back in the day. How did we do it?!? What’s great about the Echo Mountain is it’s by far the most friendly environment to be a beginner, and you can feel free to ask any questions on your mind. Fred told me, “A lot of resorts and online forums make fun of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. It’s really not fair… they don’t honestly know better. While the situation brings a smile to my face, I just walk over and kindly help them out.” If you do want to take advantage of the gear, be sure to arrive early as demand has been high and they sell out regularly.
If your plans are later in the day or heading to other resorts in Colorado for a day trip or a few days….consider reaching out to Julie Petty’s company at Mountain Threads. Julie started the company in 2009 and this year represents their ninth season in business. While they do offer online reservation and delivery options, their focus is on an in-person process to help you get the most comfortable set up that will look and feel good. Their location is extremely convenient for all mountains approached by I-70 with their shop on the US-40 frontage road just off the Lookout Mountain exit in Genesee.
When you arrive at their mountain cabin, her team will check you in and for $39 make sure you have all the necessary components including Shell, Pants, Goggles, and Gloves as well as additional accessories like snow boots. For an extra $8, you can add a fleece to your package. If you are missing other items like socks, baselayers, sunscreen, or just want to grab a snack to go, you can also pick up these things. The best part…..these items are priced just like you would find at a big box store.
Their rental product line is Columbia which has proven to be very resistant to any concerns from damage and they conveniently give you a solid L.L.Bean bag to carry everything with you. When you come back at the end of the day, their lock box allows you to conveniently drop and go. If your flight is impacted by Ullr, don’t fret! Julie explained they have been known to open the shop at 2 AM to get your pick up. How’s that for service?!? If you STILL don’t have time to stop in the store, they will gladly coordinate delivery and pick up for $30 or just 1 way for $15.
I was able to have a behind the scenes tour of their return, wash, disinfect, and stage process. After every rental, they clean and hang to dry all the clothing that was out from the prior weekend. One item that was particularly neat was their ozone disinfecting machine that all googles go through. While it doesn’t look like much more than a bag inside of a box, this little magic box makes sure there is no transfer of the daycare or airplane crud from one person to the next. Once the wash process is complete, all items are brought to their “hot” shed in the back where everything is brought up to disinfecting temperature and through drying level as well. All items are then brought back in and staged to make sure the next person has the same great looking gear as you. At the end of the season, Mountain Threads has an impressive end of the year gear reduction sale.
Julie told me about one family from Arkansas was regular subscribers to their product, bought the gear at the end of the year clear out. Unfortunately the next season, their gear was LOST by the airlines.. so back to Mountain Threads they came. Julie worked the details of payment with the airline and just sent this family on the way. Thankfully the gear was eventually found, but this family still stops by each trip to say hi and grab their snacks for next year. Its that kind of one on one family vibe that makes this a Colorado Gem.
If this sounds appealing, but you’d really like to have more brand options and a little more fun with the fashion side of the gear. Head over to our friends at the company KitLender.com*. Forrest Shinners started Kit Lender out of Stowe Vermont in 2012 with their first season of shipments beginning with the 2013/14 season. Forrest, a native of Stowe and a resident of Vail Valley for 17 years, has undoubtedly enough Winter seasons under his belt to know what it takes to stay comfortable and warm. Over the past 3 seasons, they worked out many logistics and shipping processes and have expanded their catalog of brands significantly. This season their offerings include Burton, Obermeyer, North Face, Patagonia, Skea, and Spyder. Much like you would find from “Rent the Runway,” they have put together a stylish package of ski gear that is both functional and attractive. They have the process down to as simple as select, receive, rock for three or more exciting days, and return.
On the desktop and mobile, I found their site easy to navigate. Start with rent now, go to the next step, filter to your warmth requirement, and pick the type of person that best describes you. To make sure the gear you buy has the best compatibility, Forrest recommends going with the complete kit. The reason for this is simple, each manufacturer has incorporated their own integration of their gear between their coats, mid layers, and pants. Keeping jacket and pant in the same family ensures the clips for the snow skirt connect appropriately with the pants and is prevented from riding up. The KIT you select may also add a mid layer depending on the chosen package. This combo mid layer and shell packages are nice as many of these mid-layers zip right into the coat. The mid layer in stand-alone mode can also be convenient for around town aprés ski or soak activities.
As for fit, Ski Gear, in general, has an athletic fit and so it does tend to run a bit smaller than your street clothes. So you will want to take extra time to look at the size charts while making your selection. If you find yourself struggling at all, grab your favorite fitting clothes from your name brand stores like gap, old navy, and reach out for help. KitLender have a growing knowledge base on how the manufacturers make their clothes compared to street clothing and will guide you to the best kit set up for you. You can call them directly, or they have chat bot running on the side with team members ready to help. You might even get to chat with Forrest himself… that’s how we got connected. Once you’re Kitted up, its a few quick clicks to confirm the order, select an optional damage insurance and check out.
When you receive your product at your home or final destination via FedEx, you will find your package in a nicely organized box perfect for putting in the car or bringing on into your condo/hotel. Much of the product we got was brand new with the original tags on them. Also included was our return label and instructions that made it a breeze to get the pickup scheduled for FedEx. Are you thinking this sounds too easy? You’re right, it is. Forrest shared with me some testimonials… there was one in particular that stood out. There was a family of 12 (yes 12!!!) from Texas that had never checked out skiing before. The family was obviously a bit nervous about shelling out nearly $10,000 in clothing to just “check out” the sport and the hassle factor to find thrift store/used would have been exhausting. This group, however, had heard amazing things about the quality time that a family would experience skiing and decided to push forward once they found KitLender. Shortly after their trip, the best news came back… after having the time of their lives, the family bought the entire set up and are now shopping for a vacation home up in the mountains. How amazing is that!
Bottom-line, all three options are great and definitely get you on the slopes without breaking the budget. Looking back on my experience….enduring the research which product to buy, laying out a ton of cash, and dealing with not knowing the benefits of integration, I find myself jealous that you have this option today! I remember having to face the choice of staying warm, buying my lift tickets, and eating…. I’m really excited that you can take advantage, get out, and enjoy! So check out these options and go!
Look forward to our next session… we will talk about the accessories like gloves, socks, and baklavas. It’s these that can really make or break your day.
Until then, Pray for Snow and Celebrate when Ullr Provides!
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* Promotional consideration has been provided by KitLender.com