Here’s a quick anecdote: It was November, the resort had just opened, and there I was frantically digging through the gear closet to grab the gear I needed for the first day on the hill. It was all there, but I quickly realized might have been time for some updates.
That little tear in my mitten I forgot about from last season? It developed into a full-blown hole that I could now stick two fingers through. That helmet that saved me from a concussion when I didn't quite clear the pond skim on closing day? It still had a huge dent in it.
Seeing these things gets you thinking: maybe it’s time to say goodbye to that five-year-old stuff leftover from the time you worked in that ski shop in college. It was cool back then, but after a few years of ski bumming and abusing gear, it’s time to treat yourself to some new stuff! Besides, a few of these could legitimately make you a better skier and make for a safer, more enjoyable time out on the hill.
Here are seven perfect ideas to upgrade that ever-growing gear closet: I use all this stuff nearly every day on skis, and think it would make a great gift for your significant other, or hell, even yourself.
Gloves: Black Diamond Spark Pro M/W $130
Of course, good gloves can make or break a day out on the hill, so why not invest in some quality ones? Black Diamond’s Spark Pro, available in both a men’s and women’s version, are a go-to for any day on the slopes. The leather outer is durable enough to take some serious abuse from ski edges and other errant sharp objects, and the GORE-TEX liner keeps my hands dry and warm all day long. I even wore these for 16 hours straight on a recent ascent of a Mexican volcano; they were so comfortable and dexterous that I forgot I was wearing them until I woke up in the van on the ride home.
Helmet: Pret Cynic X MIPS helmet $140
Remember, your most important tool in the backcountry is your brain. Upgrade that old brain bucket, and protect it properly with Pret’s Cynic X helmet. Not only is it one the lightest helmets on the market, it features a full-fledged MIPS liner that will protect you next time you violently tomahawk down you favorite line.
Beacon: BCA Tracker 3 $335
Avalanche beacons have come a long way in recent years, and BCA’s Tracker 3 is no exception to that rule. The small Boulder, CO-based brand has always been known for making products that are incredibly simple and easy to use. The Tracker 3, their newest 3-antenna beacon is smaller than a smartphone and can fit into a secure pocket in your bibs, but most of all is INSANELY easy to use. Unlike other beacons with more complicated functions, the Tracker 3 is intuitive and does exactly what you need it to when you need it most.
Bindings: Fritschi Tecton $650
“Tech” bindings are a hot topic these days, and rightfully so. The pin-style toe has been around for several decades, and has experienced updates and revisions from many different brands along the way. They all tour well. However, almost every tech binding has fallen short in one category: hard-charging skiing. Black Diamond/Fritschi’s newest Tecton binding addresses this issue with not only an innovative alpine-style heelpiece, but also by adding true elastic travel in the toe. What does that mean? The bindings don’t feel rigid or chattery like most tech bindings, saving your knees on long descents, and they won’t prerelease when you land sideways off that windlip you aired a little bit too big.
Boots: Scarpa Maestrale RS 2.0 $795
Well, with those fancy new tech bindings, you need a solid touring boot. Scarpa’s Maestrale RS has been around for several years and changed the game for touring boots, but the updated Maestrale RS 2.0 is another leap forward in boot technology. It features the same Intuition liner and a similar fit as the old version (which was insanely comfortable both skiing and walking), but the shell is now made of carbon, shaving significant weight and making it slightly stiffer. Ok, enough on the technology. This is the best-skiing touring boot I have ever worn, and its versatility continues to amaze me in the backcountry. The boot has taken me up big ski mountaineering objectives in Canada, served me on endless pow laps in Colorado, Utah, and on Teton Pass, and is even stiff enough for the occasional day in the resort.
Accessory: Dakine Deluxe Tune Tuning Kit $60
The most annoying thing about skiing, in my opinion? Having to shell out money on waxes and ski tunes several times a season to keep your gear in working order. While I certainly endorse supporting your local ski shop, being able to do the easy work yourself goes a long way. Dakine’s Deluxe Tune kit features everything you need for a full ski tune, short of a base grind. It comes fully stocked with wax, scrapers, an edger and base repair materials. No iron? Go to K-Mart and buy one for $10 and use it on the lowest heat setting.
The Cheap One: Nikwax Tech Wash $10
All that fancy GORE-TEX outerwear you already own can and will last for years, given you wash it periodically. But wait!! You’re not supposed to wash GORE-TEX, right? Wrong! You can, and totally should, but wash it carefully and with a mild detergent like Nikwax’s Tech Wash. This will revitalize your jacket and pants, extending their life for many seasons to come.
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