One of the great things about our sport is the sheer amount of fantastic kit available for us to drool over, especially just before the season gets into full swing.
I’ve picked some key items that we have tried and tested out through the year and are now firmly in my kit bag for winter 17-18.
Skis, Volkl V-Werks Katana – as head ski tester for Snow Magazine and Snow.Guide, I get to try out lots of new skis ahead of launch and after trying over 100 pairs last winter, my pick of the bunch for this winter is the Volkl Katana V-Werks. Okay, it’s not cheap (£870, without bindings) and it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea – it’s a freeride-ski-touring full-on blaster of a ski that requires good solid technique and plenty of power to get the best out of it. But, oh it’s so much fun – my colleague and fellow ski tester, Scott Hammond, summed them up perfectly: “The V-Werks, regardless of the snow, just do what they are made to do, which is slice right through everything in their way. The flex pattern and the torsional stiffness produce a performance that’s worthy of the highest praise – an Oscar winning soundtrack that’s pitch perfect”.
Ski Poles, Black Diamond Razor Carbon Ski Poles – if you’re into ski touring then you need a decent set of poles that are light, strong and easily adjustable in length. The Razor Carbon from Black Diamond tick all of those boxes. They come with a neat lower grip that really holds the glove well and the main handle is solid and sturdy. The quick FlickLock system allows fast changes of length which is crucial when changing from uphill to down, no one wants to faff about. Large 100mm powder baskets come as standard too. Serious ski poles for serious tourers – definitely up for major multi day tours and expeditions you need a lot of kit.
Backpack, Evoc Line 28L – German backpack brand Evoc seems to be going from strength to strength and their attention to detail is second to none. The Line 28L is a freeride, ski touring pack that comes with a separate avalanche equipment compartment, attachment options for skis or a snowboard, their Neutralite System that makes it super comfy to wear and a decent hip belt for support. Plus they look great and the brand seems to be everywhere right now, they are doing something right. I also have FR Guide 30L which is a slightly larger pack and great for longer tours when you need a lot of kit.
Water carrier, Hydro Flask 18oz food flask – spending a lot of time up on the mountain, ski touring, in huts, during the winter? This Hydro flask will keep your food warm for up to 12 hours. Whether that’s soup or spag bol, throw it in and keep in your backpack for later on. Features include, TempShield™ insulation that keeps cold foods cold and hot foods hot, durable 18/8 Pro-Grade Stainless Steel construction, BPA-Free and Phthalate-Free materials, secure lid for easy grab and go refuelling and a Lifetime Warranty.
Mid layer, Sherpa Karma Fleece – Sherpa make adventure gear and some of their profits go to help fund projects in Nepal that help children and young people in the region. That’s great, but actually their products are worth a look not just because of that, but because they look and feel great too. The Karma Fleece Jacket is a pretty standard mid-layer fleece garment, yet it clearly stands up against other similar products in style, qualify and feel. It’s just nice to wear – in fact, I’m wearing mine now. That kind of versatility is what you want in a fleece, you can wear it indoors all day, and it will keep you warm out on the slopes the next. Technical features include seams that are placed away from shoulder tops to avoid chafing under pack straps, zippered chest pocket and two hand warmer pockets that zip shut to secure necessities as well as a low profile media system with a media port and earbud guides. Nice.
Mid layer, Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody – a really lightweight, versatile mid-layer (our outer when it’s dry and cold) jacket that has simple, but good looking lines and is far warmer that you expect it to be. At £300 it’s not a cheap option, but it’s the kind of jacket you can have just one of and use it in a multitude of situations. Ski touring (resting jacket), outside après ski fun, keep in your backpack to whip out when chilly, Alpine skiing mid-layer on cold days, Christmas shopping..you get the picture. It will certainly get a lot of use from me this winter, the warmth level is intense, you can feel the heat when you’re wearing this jacket and it’s seriously comfortable. The fit is perfect too, snug but tailored to look good. It doesn’t try to be something it isn’t either – it’s a high functioning winter sports jacket for the serious skier who spends time in the mountains.
Socks, Bridgedale Merino Fusion Ski – it’s really important to have decent ski socks when you’re skiing. Don’t compromise and there’s a few good brands out there and the right sock can make all the difference. The Merino Fusion Ski from Bridgedale is a solid, comfortable, warm and really nice quality sock. It combines Merino wool with other fabrics such as ‘Endurofil’ (basically polypropylene) and nylon to help the fit and to make them last longer. Sizing is good and I’ve tested a men’s medium (UK foot size 6-8.5) and it fits my size 7 feet perfectly. I would never go for a ski sock that doesn’t have a close fit to my size – avoid tube socks or anything that has a broad size range. They are a little thicker than some of the high-performance socks in my drawer, so great on colder days whilst still retaining enough performance to satisfy most recreational and advanced skiers.