Spencer shreds pow at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Black Diamond's first lineup of dedicated ski outerwear. Ryan Dunfee photo.
When you think of Black Diamond, you think of top quality hardgoods for climbing and backcountry skiing. More recently, you think of soft goods for climbing, hiking and backcountry skiing and you think fitted and athletic. When I was asked to try their new line of freeride/resort oriented ski wear I was sure that the technical features would be there but was worried that the all important “steeze” factor might be missing. I needn’t have worried; the brand's debut into resort and sidecountry-oriented outerwear has produced some solid gear, and I was very impressed with the Mission Pro shell jacket and Recon shell pant, which TGR first covered back at the SIA tradeshow in January.
The MISSION PRO SHELL Jacket
The Mission Pro jacket is the most expensive torso protector in Black Diamond's new lineup of ski outerwear. Ryan Dunfee photo.
The Mission Pro is Black Diamond’s top of the line jacket in their new ski line. It has all the bells and whistles- GORE-TEX Pro 3L, waterproof zippers, helmet compatible hood, nice rubberized velcro cuff tabs, and pockets that are (mostly) well thought out. It is comparable to similar offering from Arc'Teryx, The North Face, Burton AK, etc., and with a nearly $700 price point that matches similarly outrageously priced options from Patagonia (the Pow Slayer) and Arc'Teryx (the Alpha SV), it needed to kick some serious ass to match its asking price.
Nonetheless, right off the bat, the Mission Pro proved that it was the sort of jacket that would work in the most difficult of conditions–howling winds coming off the top of the Jackson Hole tram, top to bottom runs off the tram, and side country hike accessed from the tram.
In case you are wondering, I like the tram.
The Mission Pro has all the things I look for in an everyday jacket: bomber construction, great wind and waterproofness, pockets that can hold a couple of tall boys, and room for a mini puffy underneath on the colder days. The fit is surprisingly roomy for what I thought Black Diamond would be–mind you, not tall-tee jibber baggy–but more in line with what Arc'Teryx or Scott put out: classic, but roomy.
The construction is very impressive, very stiff, with a slightly coarse 150 dernier weave exterior. Fully taped seams, and cool integrated hood pull system that was very intuitive. I skied about 30 days in the jacket, and it still looked brand new. Not one thing failed on it and it was very waterproof in some of the rain/snow mix we got in the spring.
Spencer in Black Diamond's new Mission Pro jacket and Recon pant. Ryan Dunfee photo.
Regarding fit, I am about 5’9” and 165 lbs. I was worried the medium I tried would be too small, but the fit for the most part was spot on. The sleeve length and opening was perfect; long enough to cover glove or mitten cuffs easily while still allowing a great range of motion. The body was also well-suited to my torso, with the jacket easily long enough to cover my butt when sitting on chairlifts.
A minor quibble was that the fit through the chest was just bit tight, which might have been due to the super long and stiff waterproof pit zips.
One curious detail that I grew to love was how low and short the powder skirt is. It reaches almost even with the bottom of the jacket and feels a bit weird at first. It actually sits below your butt, keeping everything in place and definitely keeping snow out on a powder day. A more conventional feature is the high collar/hood combo–a must if you ski every day in the Tetons. The collar has a microsuede lining that always fully covered the zipper and never felt uncomfortable. Chin chafe is probably one of the most annoying things in the history of skiing.
A huge collar with a microsuede lining keeps snow out and chin abrasion minimal. Ryan Dunfee photo.
Additionally the collar is HUGE! I could touch my goggles to it if I really turtled down. The hood is helmet compatible, and also fits over my biggest pop pom hat if it was really nasty out.
Regarding pockets: as mentioned above, the hand warmer pockets fit two tallboys each, the interior stash pockets can fit a pair of skins no problem, or buffs, mittens, headbands etc. The shoulder sleeve pocket is perfect for today’s RFID passes, and the “Napolean style” chest pockets are functional for goggle wipes and sunglasses. It should be mentioned that there is no internal pocket for phone or music–a curiosity at this point, but not a deal breaker for me.
The RECON PANTS
Black Diamond's new Recon pant is built to go back and forth between days ripping laps off the lift and skinning to earn your turns. Ryan Dunfee photo.
The Recon pant is Black Diamond's most touring-oriented offering in the new ski line, and retails for $399. Very lightweight, and constructed with strategically placed WINDSTOPPER and Schoeller panels. They are cut like a typical free ride pant, but are much lighter–think almost wind pant light. Surprisingly, they were up to the elements on powder days (or day, in the case of this year’s sample size) though I think that extended snowy chair rides would see some wetting through.
First things first, THE PIEPS POCKET IS THE BOMB! I have skied with my transceiver in my pants pocket for the last 10 years, since a little skin track slide thing left my transceiver dangling from its last plastic harness clip and NOT SENDING because it was packed with snow from the slide. It's padded, with a tether and a snap that you can operate with gloves on (mittens not so good, but then they are mittens). It was like Black Diamond knew how I rolled and made a whole production to accommodate my needs–thanks!
Spencer arcs one down the side of Four Pines in BD's new ski outerwear. Ryan Dunfee photo.
Where these excel is in the hike-to terrain, and I managed to get them out to Four Pines and Jensen Canyon quite a bit. They were incredibly breathable, with biggish vents to boot. They did great on the ridge top walks out to Jensen as well, feeling thicker and more weatherproof than I would have imagined.
Spencer was not as down with the zippered belt buckle gaiters as he was with the Pieps pocket. Ryan Dunfee photo.
As much as love the Pieps pocket, I dislike the gaiter setup on these pants. Sort of like the jacket, they are sewn low and short. This does keep your pants down and snow free. However, as someone who unbuckles their race boots on every lift, accessing the cuff buckles through a zipper was a pain. On the upside, after 30 days of skiing, there was not one edge cut on the pants–apparently this Keprotec stuff really works!
As an aside, while cleaning out the pockets of the Recon jacket in late July, I found four expertly-crushed empty beer cans, a corn dog stick and a Goldschlager cap in the right hand warmer pocket. Also, a JHMR spanky and a neon green Dig Me headband in the left chest pocket and my pass still in the shoulder pocket!
Check out Black Diamond's entire 15/16 outerwear lineup over at evo.com, and our entire Teton Tested gear review lineup while stocking up for winter.
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