We are stoked that you have returned for this session of the Stay Warm series. If you have read this far, it’s pretty exciting for us as it means you have been out on the slopes a hand full of times are now starting to get hooked on the sport. To recap our last 4 sessions, we have covered the following:
- Respect and survival of the 80s,
- Base layering – getting fitted snugly and comfortably while keeping you dry.
- You have rented some modern ski gear from Echo, Mountain Threads, or KitLender.com*
Now, after trying out the sport and surely you are getting why we love it, you are here considering owning the gear! That’s awesome! I hope you are as excited as we are! Good job with your progression!
When it comes to buying your gear, the first logical step is the jacket. While some specialty products that are filled with all sorts of polymer products to keep you warm, dry, and ventilated correctly. Top brands like Arc’teryx, Bogner, and Kjus but these coats go for over $500 and some top $1500!! But don’t despair, some companies have brought the costs down to more reasonable price points…
some have the same type of polymers, and others employ various waterproofing and the traditional zipper vents. Either way, the spectrum of pricing is vast, so spend your money wisely.
Through the years I’ve bounced around between 686, Northface, and Columbia for my shell. I’ve enjoyed each but am still on the search for the perfect jacket. Beyond the water, warmth, and vapor release that was recapped in our Stay Warm! – Mid Layers and Shells and Pants… Oh, My! Session. If you missed that overview, take a moment and read those. For the rest of the function here are the things I’m looking for:
- Pockets, Pockets, Pockets!
- Quality and configurable ski skirt
- 2-way zipper
- Easily managed vents
- Hooks for gloves
- Warentee and repair
Pockets may seem to be a funny thing to comment about, but this is way more than just having options… certain pockets are critical to have. If you’re reading this on your mobile, the first reason is probably stating the obvious. We all need a place to carry your cell phone to stay in touch with loved ones and make sure you can take some of the fantastic views that will be presented. You will be pulling that phone out a lot… just be careful not to drop it off the chairlift. Some coats have tethers that attach to your phone to prevent this, which is a really nice to have! You’d be surprised how many phones, watches, wallets, etc. are found each spring under the chairlift. We usually to do an early summer hike and just be amazed a the items lost over the season… I’ll update this post next year with a pic!
Since I’m taking most of my own photos here on this blog with iPhone X or a GoPro Hero6, I also like to carry an auxiliary battery with me to recharge. While there are quite a few of us on the slopes, not everyone is trying moving so much equipment. However, you may also want to consider an auxiliary battery if you chose to listen to music. This is particularly true if you plan to stream or connecting to a Bluetooth headset. That said, make sure that phone pocket has room or you’ll need yet another pocket. My battery pictured here is quite big, you’ll probably be able to get away with a smaller one.
Next, consider you will need to carry a Radio Frequency (RF) card instead of a traditional paper lift ticket that was scanned. It is crucial that you have a pocket for these that is separate from your cell phone to avoid interference and safely away from your credit cards to prevent impacting those items. A lot of modern jackets have a place to specifically hold your pass. While we are on the topic of RFID, another pocket to think about is your wallet, ID, and credit cards. Knowing the slopes are now using Radio Frequency (RF), I like to keep my cards in a protective sleeve. While I have faith in the resorts, keep in mind you never know who else is out there might take advantage of you being disarmed from being scanned.
Vents can be really nice, especially in the summertime when even the best of the best coats cant keep up with the heat and vapor you are generating. Many of these are just under the armpits, and I cannot tell you how many times I am frustrated by these vents not being easy to open and close. One of my last jackets made by 686 provided vents just above the chest and near the waist, which was particularly handy. Not only is it the proper placement to allow heat to rise, but it was also way simpler to open and close as condition change throughout the day.
So that we can power through from early morning to Aprés Ski down in town vs. eating on the mountain, we like to carry a granola bar or gorp with us for a quick snack either slopeside or on the chair. If you don’t have a favorite, we really like Jen’s Cafe Bars to get us through the day. Their size is perfect for the pockets and provides all natural energy with honey instead of sugars and corn syrups. With 31 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein, its perfect to get you the perk up you need while exercising and has the slow burn goods to stick with you through those last few hours in the afternoon.
Finally, don’t forget the ever essential keys to your car. A clip inside this pocket is convenient to make sure they don’t fall out if the pocket is accidentally left open. It happens way more than you can imagine! I almost lost my keys once at the resort. Luckily for me, they fell out right in front of the chairlift, and a good Samaritan ran me down to give them back. I would have been an expensive locksmith if I had not had such luck.
Do I have you convinced about pockets?!?
One of the best things about modern ski gear, in my opinion, is the almost standard issue powder skirt. This simple little piece of fabric that keeps snow from riding up your back after you fall is a godsend for keeping you dry and warm. If you happen to buy a coat that has a fleece that zips into the shell, look for one that still allows you to have the items zipped together and maintain the ability to connect the snow skirt. I had a jacket where the snow skirt was defeated by the fleece.. it was a real bummer.
The next thing I look for is the ability to open the bottom of the coat up just a tad with a 2-way zipper. I hate to admit it, but I’m still a little overweight from many years at a desk job, so I tend to have to get an XL or 2X jacket. However, at 5′ 9” I’m not the tallest kid on the block. That said my coats hang a little lower below my waist, which makes driving, sitting, and getting on the chair sometimes tug on the rest of my shell. Having the zip up from bottom option is useful when sitting down both in the lodge as well as on the chairlift.
As you are doing your product research, make a note of warranty and repair processes that might help you get extra miles out of your clothing. One story in particular that absolutely put a smile on my face was Patagonia. Patagonia’s has a repair facility and worn gear program that is based just outside of Reno that sole purpose is to get more value out of the clothes they already produced and keep them out of the landfill. If you send any garment, even if you were NOT the original owner, to their facility, they will repair or, if not repairable, give you credit for the item.
Every season, they repair or replace hundreds of thousands of garments and return to the current owner for the season after season use. Their viewpoint is it is cheaper to make these repairs than go through the expense of manufacturing new and is way more environmentally responsible. As proof of their resistance to wear and quality of repair process, Patagonia tells the story of how they have outfitted the Crested Butte ski team for the last 10 years. Trust me, they use their gear harder than anyone else on the slope! I was so stoked by this policy, I chatted with customer service just to make sure I understood. I mentioned we had inherited clothing and had gotten a slash in my coat. The agent assured me that, as of the time of publication, their policy has ALL repairs being done for free regardless of who originally bought the items. If you have personal experience, please make a comment below! I’d love to hear how this works first hand.
The dilemma with Patagonia is it can be a little pricey. If you’re not ready to jump into that capital investment or you cant find anything at your local gear consignment shop. This is where Patagonia’s Worn Gear program comes in super handy. This program resales gear that is traded in at the Patagonia store, mostly due to people either outgrowing them, they updated their styling, or sadly their activities change. Any given day, there are new items posted that have been traded and run through Patagonia’s repair shop and made available to you at a steep discount.
Based on this warranty and trade in options, I decided to do some sizing tests to see if the fit will work for me. If so, I may be sold… while I could have just gone to my local Patagonia store, nothing beats an on-mountain trial of the product. For this reason, I booked a rental from KitLender.com* and had my set up shipped to me to test it in action! The other great benefit is they have already taken the time to sort out some of this consideration for me. Less shopping time for me, more time rocking the style on the slopes. Yes! I’ll give you a full report after the holidays!
Ok, we have probably covered a ton of ground on the shell layer. I know it is a lot to take in and it may be hard to find the perfect jacket. Don’t take all these as must-haves, just a list of what I consider when buying. The last thing I want to happen is to get frustrated and quit OR find the perfect jacket that is WAY overpriced. Bottomline get something that works, meets a few of these consideration items up, fits your personal style, and get out there.
I’d like to take a moment to say Happy Holidays to each of you! I am so grateful for all the support that I’ve gotten from my friends both new and old since starting this. I am floored by all the feedback and excitement about this blog. Hopefully, you are on the nice list, and Santa helps you spread the cheer of the season and maybe some sweet gear.
As for snow, our new friends over at Open Snow are predicting a fantastic few days here in Colorado at the end of Christmas… keep your snow dances coming!
Pray for Snow!
Celebrate when Ullr Provides!
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