The pipe dream of skis built to fit your style and body has long been the realm of pro racers and big mountain free skiers. Decidedly unsponsored skiers like us have always had to make do with off-the-rack solutions — until now. One small Telluride, Colorado boutique manufacturer, Wagner Custom Skis, has a secret formula for designing and building the best personalized skis in the world at prices that are accessible to most serious skiers. Together with Wagner’s engineers we designed a pair of ultimate ski mountaineering boards; then we put them to the test among the famous 13,000 foot peaks of Telluride Mountain Resort.
Don't lose your head
These days, seeing someone without a helmet on the slopes is a rarity; more than 70 percent of all mountain-goers are donning them, and countless brands are releasing offerings onto the market. With hundreds of brain buckets to choose from, though, the task of finding the right one can be daunting — but, with your IQ and major bodily functions on the line, we beg you to persevere. To help, we’ve rounded up our five favorite snow sports helmets covering the spectrum from high-tech to lightweight.
Heads-Up on the Hill
In 2012, Oakley partnered with Recon Instruments, maker of groundbreaking Heads-up Display (HUD) technology, to create the Airwave goggle and bring data and entertainment right into the wearer’s field of view, a la Minority Report. The second generation Oakley Airwave 1.5 ($649) launched at the end of 2013 with improvements across the board. We got our hands on a pair to test while shredding pow in Revelstoke, BC.
Deep powder is a religious experience, and it takes just one perfect day of blue skies and bottomless snow to become a pious worshiper. From Alyeska to Taos, powderhounds feverishly monitor weather reports for the next big storm, and after spending a weekend skiing 12,000-foot ridges in Telluride, we know exactly why: powder skiing is as close as man can get to flying in the mountains. The best way to enjoy the fluffy stuff is with the right gear. Here’s what we pack on Powder Day.
Weatherproof Jackets for the slopes and otherwise
There’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad gear. And in the age of industrial manufacturing and waterproof fabrics, there’s no good excuse for bad gear. Modern hardshell jackets are designed to provide a first layer of defense between you and the elements, whether “the elements” are an alpine whiteout or an afternoon thunderstorm. They’re the crown jewel of any outdoor kit: they’ll keep you warm, they’ll keep you dry, and most of them weigh less than a pair of blue jeans.
Bound for Success
Bindings often go overlooked in favor of the flashiness of a new pair of skis or boots. But as your only contact point for control and power transfer along the 170-180cm boards you’re strapping on, and your final line of safety in a major crash, they’re the most important piece of gear for a successful and safe season. Read on for a breakdown of the best ski bindings for this season.
Two Boards Good
A new pair of skis is more than just a new piece of expensive gear: it’s an investment in winter stoke. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stone cold powder hound or a retired gate-crashing racer, we’ve got five pairs of skis to cover your needs this season.
Sculpting the Mountain
Now in its seventh season, the Salomon Freeski TV channel has covered the sport exhaustively. In “The Architect”, Vice President of Resort Design at Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, Ryley Thiessen, explains how resort development has changed from the 1960s to today, bringing us from mom-and-pop mountains (now all but extinct) to four-season resorts in China.
The Sky's the Limit
Last week, London architecture firms proposed a plan to build the SkyCycle, a 137-mile bike superhighway that runs over existing rail lines. We break it down.
Crash into me, baby
Bouldering is a relatively new evolution in rock climbing, and lacking ropes or other protection makes it one of the more dangerous. With steep overhangs and extremely technical moves, you’re going to spend a significant portion of the day falling on your butt, making a good crash pad absolutely essential. We recently had an opportunity to practice bouldering in the limestone caves of American Fork Canyon and the sandstone crags of Moab, where our well-worn Evolv Iceman Crash Pad ($135) was a constant source of support.
No parks? No problem
Our trip with Gerard is an audible. A group of journalists organized by mountain bike tour operator Sacred Rides, we came for a taste of the company’s newest offering: a tour of the Southwest’s outdoor adventure gems, from singletrack bike trails to world-famous slot canyons. But with Zion National Park closed by the federal government shutdown, we’ve changed tack and hired him to help us navigate nearby Yankee Doodle Canyon — a technical descent that promises to mimic Zion’s architecture. The road to Yankee Doodle, usually deserted, is littered with dawdling sightseers who walk the road in place of a trail. The shoulder has become a makeshift parking lot full of cars with out-of-state plates.
Inside cycling's hottest discipline
Sometimes you sprint at the end of a cyclocross race. But you always sprint at the beginning. As I straddle my top tube on the starting grid waiting for the whistle to send off my category at the Coyote Point Bay Area Super Prestige, I know this sprint start will hurt more than most.
An Object in Motion Stays in Motion...
Founded in 1996 to develop footwear technologies for Nike, Adidas and Saucony, Boulder-based Newton Running now (according to its CEO, Jerry Lee) supplies shoes for one in every four triathletes. Though Newton currently makes two designated trail shoes, they’ll soon drop the Terra Momentum and offer only one: the sturdy, lightweight BOCO AT ($129). We took a pair out for a spin on a snowy day in Manhattan, which is nearly as rough as any beaten trail.
Cyclocross racing pits riders on bikes with drop bars and knobby tires against each other on multi-lap courses over a mix of grass, dirt, pavement, sand, mud and sections that force riders to carry their bikes over barriers and up stairs and hills. Racers attack from the line, and the intensity doesn’t diminish for the duration of the 30- to 60-minute events — it’s a redline-all-the-time, full-contact affair. With participation doubling over the past five years, it’s also the fastest growing segment of competitive cycling in America. Some attribute this growth to the more laid-back, beer-primed environment at cyclocross races, but cool bikes certainly don’t hurt. We’ve got three rigs that make the grade from the starter’s gun well past the finish line.
Be faster than the freeze
‘Tis the season of calorie intake, so keeping one’s running regimen going strong should be a priority. Thing is, winter weather — the snow, slush and cold — is prohibitive at best. Fortunately, gentlemen, we have options. These are the best winter running shoes for facing the cold on pavement, trails and mountains.
Two Toms, Three Sports
From the Pebble to the Toq, multi-tasking sports watches have recently gained popularity among the techie set. Among athletes, they’ve been used for over a decade. At their most basic functionality, athletic smart watches measure pace and distance, though most also have an optional heart rate monitor and offer enough technological bells and whistles to make Siri swoon. We got our hands on the TomTom Multisport GPS, an intuitive little offering that provides metrics for running, cycling and swimming.
Comfort and sturdiness, put to the test
Over the years we’ve owned a number of different hiking boots in a continuous search for just the right balance of sufficient support, stability, and grip without being so rigid and heavy that they feel like Tony Soprano concrete specials. Recently we had the opportunity to try the BIOM Terrain Plus ($230) from ECCO, a brand we knew only as the maker of grandpa’s “most comfortable shoes you’ll ever wear!” Of course we were skeptical about where they would rate on that scale of comfort and stability — and, equally as important, whether we’d want to be seen wearing them on the trail.
Because it's too cold to go out alone
Whether it’s a morning stroll through the local park or a multi-day trek down the Pacific Crest Trail, there are plenty of adventures that we want to share with our four-legged buddies. Winter weather presents challenges, but the right gear makes all the difference. We’re not talking about the latest matching sweater set your great aunt and her little Yorkie were sporting at Thanksgiving dinner. No, cold weather gear for your canine buddy is as high-tech as anything you might find for yourself. We round up the best products to keep your furry friend on the trail all winter long.
It's never too cold
It’s not like getting up for that pre-work run was easy during the summer or fall. Now it’s pitch black, relentlessly cold and the streets are covered with ice, snow and salt. But a brisk jog before sunrise is a one-way ticket to a fulfilling day, not to mention a long winter of staying fit despite a dining regimen of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. The right gear will keep you warm, dry and, most importantly, stable when the ground beneath you isn’t.
SOS for Less
If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we offer two very different ways to save your skin.
See How it All Ends
Nearly a year after his training began, Dirk Shaw called from Costa Rica, where he had just completed the final mission in The Road to La Ruta: the race itself. He explained how he’d learned to enjoy the process as much as the culminating event. Process over product. Wise words, Mr. Shaw.
But we also know that race day happens to be both process and product, when reason and reflection give way to adrenaline and ecstasy — or despair. Deep, raw despair that people in the industry call “injury”, “mechanical failure”, or simply “Did Not Finish”. Luckily, as Dirk’s grueling journey from coast to coast and peak to peak unfolded, we had someone on hand to document the dramatic highs and lows. Now we present the final chapter in the Road to La Ruta series, our film of the epic race.
Conquering La Ruta
Suffering is a universal language. October 24-26 were the hardest three days I have ever spent on a bike, but they were also the most connected I have ever felt with the people and the world around me. The power of a shared experience, through joy and pain, transcends almost everything. It crushes barriers of language and culture. Now I know why everyone becomes so emotionally bonded to the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: words are unnecessary when you have shared the suffering of a ride that is practically straight up for nearly two hours in the blazing heat.
Putting a Solar-Powered Purifier through its paces
Our attitude about drinking water is better safe than sorry, particularly when traveling outside the United States in places where water is known to be contaminated. We sent our correspondent to Costa Rica for the final installment of The Road to La Ruta armed with the SteriPEN Freedom Solar ($105). While the water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink, the CDC warns of hepatitis A and typhoid — and we didn’t want that coming back to HQ.
Lifelong surf legend
If you’re looking for a lesson in the good life, look no further than Robert August. At 18 he starred in The Endless Summer, the first great surfing film, taking him on a seven-month world tour of uncharted breaks. The rest, as they say, is history. August went on to launch an eponymous line of surfboards, which he still shapes today. We caught up with him at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, to talk about parenting, lamb chops and the difference between monkeys and people.
Light, fast, local
There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.
Hiking Hut to Hut in the White Mountains
For thru-hikers of the AT, the White Mountains are a cruel joke, coming near the end of a months-long journey that begins in the gentle hills of Georgia. With nary a flat mile the trail follows the spine of the Presidential Range before exiting into Maine and the final miles to Katahdin. But while the Whites can be cruel, they are also kind. Among the rocky steeps is a series of huts where a weary hiker can find a soft bed, warm smiles and hot meals.
I came to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with too much confidence and they kicked my ass. With the trail’s highest point barely above tree line and only one thousand feet higher than the starting point of my June ascent of Mount Rainier, I figured hiking here would be easy. I was wrong.
Gear for the Granite State
Even when you’re sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire’s notoriously unpredictable weather, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here’s what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.
Tested by sheep
We’ve been wearing Icebreaker’s Sierra Long Sleeve Zip jacket ($180) all summer and fall for mountain hiking — and though merino sheep have a few more centuries of wear-testing on their coats than we ever will, we’ve managed to form some opinions of our own.
Own Your Wilderness Overnight
It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.
Part II of III in The Mountain Series
For alpinists everywhere, including those confined to armchairs, the name, “Eiger” conjures up excitement, fear and dread. Considered the most daunting climb in the Alps, the mountain’s north face, the “Nordwand”, is a 6,000-foot sheer wall of crumbling, often ice-coated, rock that is continually scoured by rockfalls and avalanches. First climbed in 1938, it has been the scene of countless adventures, tragedies and one Clint Eastwood movie. The name and the image of the Eiger were etched in my brain for years, and I read everything I could about the mountain. So to see it there, across the valley from the sundeck of the Berggasthaus First, seemed like a dream; I could hardly take my eyes off it.