We’ve overcomplicated the mountains. We’ve walled them off with luxury condos and expensive (yet often mediocre) restaurants. We’ve covered them in webcams and lodges that call to mind the lairs of James Bond supervillains. We’ve installed speed traps on trails, complete with radar gun-wielding would-be ski cops. Worst of all, we’ve allowed lift tickets to ascend near the upper reaches of $200 per day.
But then there’s the chilled wind in the face, the gliding over a smooth crystalline surface, the plunge into deep fresh fluff, (the baptism-by-snow that follows), the momentary lapses of gravity, the conversations that can happen nowhere else but on a seat suspended precariously over frozen trees and crags. It makes the planning, the flights and the crowds all worth it.
Remove the logistics from skiing and snowboarding and what’s left isn’t dissimilar to taking off on a jog or going on a bike ride. As with those activities, the act requires a specific set of items. Three-layer jackets, insulated mittens or gloves, a warm and protective helmet, goggles and everything that’s underneath it all: baselayers, mid-layers, a balaclava, not to mention a snowboard or a pair of skis.
It’s all highly specialized to immersion and movement in the cold. Downhill skiing and, while younger, snowboarding too, are sports with decades-long histories that collectively have pushed equipment past imaginable zeniths over and again. This year’s gear is the best, until next winter rolls around. It might seem stress-inducing, but it shouldn’t be — take comfort knowing that whenever something new is needed, the best is available now and a better rendition is a season away.
In the end, the crowds might thicken to a density that makes getting uphill a much longer process than descending, the clouds might roll in and block the sun while refusing to dispense a single snowflake, the wind might howl and grind to a halt the chairlifts that reach upper elevations. None of this matters. Not as long as you’re comfortable, and in good company.
Editor’s Note: Many of the items featured in this story won’t be available until Fall 2019. We’re already at work testing it so that, come that time, we can let you know what’s worth it and what doesn’t work. All photos were shot on location in Breckenridge, Colorado.
TDS Infrared Gore-Tex Jacket by Volcom Coming Fall 2019
Stretch Gore-Tex Pant by Volcom Coming Fall 2019
Mine Over Helmet by Mine77 $140
M3 Snapback Goggle by Mine77 $300
Freeride CZone Mitten by Hestra Coming Fall 2019
Snowdrifter Backpack by Patagonia $169
Malavita EST Binding by Burton $320
B.O.D. Snowboard by Endeavor $450
DRT Jacket by The North Face Coming Fall 2019
DRT Pant by The North Face Coming Fall 2019
Level Helmet by Smith Coming Fall 2019
4D Mag Goggle by Smith Coming Fall 2019
The Pep Trigger Mitt by Oyuki ~$160
Signature Poacher 32L Pack by Dakine Coming Fall 2019
Sonic R1 Ski Pole by Swix Coming Fall 2019
Sakana Ski by Line $750
Ninjasuit Pro by Airblaster Coming Fall 2019
Jussi Oksannan Pro by Stance Coming Fall 2019
Capilene Air Hoodie by Patagonia $149
Capilene Air Bottoms by Patagonia $129
Le Send by Le Bent Coming Fall 2019
Stryka Hoody by Arc’teryx Coming Fall 2019
Better Sweater Henley by Patagonia Coming Fall 2019
Telluride Sherpa Shirtjac by Toad & Co. Coming Fall 2019
Leather Deck boots by Xtratuf Coming Fall 2019
Standard Snow Boot by Vans $160
The Bridger Cap by Coal Coming Fall 2019
Beanie by Mine77 (Available with helmet)