Fast-paced skintracks are the perfect excuse to wear RAB's newest softshell ski mountaineering kit. | Eric Henderson photo.
Storm skiing is fun and all, but not a whole lot beats a big day moving fast through the mountains when the sun is shining. For most of the year, I’m a firm believer in hard shell ski kits and the superior protection from the elements they offer. Come spring and warmer temps, however, you’ll find me slowly switching over to more breathable and lighter-weight softshell fabrics, and even leaving a shell at home entirely. This year, that changed a bit for me after I got a chance to ski RAB’s new softshell Ascendor AS pants and Vapor Rise Summit jacket on a sunny mid-winter pow day in Colorado’s Cameron Pass backcountry while on a trip to the Colorado Mountain School's new Seven Utes Yurt. This high-tech combo was one of the most comfortable kits I’ve ever worn ski touring - it legitimately felt like I was wearing casual street clothes that also kept me dry and regulated my temperamental body temperature all day long. While they wouldn’t be my go-to choice for really cold stormy days or resort skiing, I’m excited to continue bringing the new RAB kit into the mountains for those big spring missions to come.
Ascendor AS Pants
RAB actually bills the Ascendor AS pants as alpine climbing pants, which gives some insight into why they are so comfortable and almost feel like wearing a pair of joggers. They are not insulated and the simple design features two hand pockets, a butt pocket, and a single thigh pocket. There are no zippered vents, but the fabric is breathable enough that I did not miss these.
The slim fit is designed to stay out of the way of crampons, ski edges, and any dangly bits you might have hanging from your harness, but they are stretchy and articulated enough to move very freely as you skin, boot, or rip down a steep line. The pants come with belt loops (crucial for skiing, in my opinion, as this gives you a proper anchor point for a beacon) but will also work with suspenders if that’s more your style. The cuffs are reinforced with kicker patches to protect against crampons or ski edges, and also feature an outside zipper and adjustable gusset to fit over all manner of footwear. Yes, the cuffs are big enough to work with large ski boots. Finally, the Ascendor AS pants follow RAB’s move towards more sustainable fabrics featuring fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment.
Vapour-Rise Summit Jacket
RAB’s brand-new Vapour-Rise Summit Jacket is a layer that defies categorization. It works effectively as both a midlayer and an outer shell layer, and is truly one of the most breathable insulated layers I have ever worn. Thanks to the truly remarkable breathability and weather protection, this is the kind of jacket I’ll put on in the morning and never take off. The fuzzy inside (RAB’s VR warm lining) works to quickly wick moisture to the outside of the windproof and water-resistant Pertex Quantum Air shell fabric, keeping you warm and dry even when you’re sprinting up a skintrack or frontpointing up a steep couloir on a sunny day.
The regular fit makes the jacket perfect as both a mid or an outer layer - wear it mid-winter under a hardshell, or rock it on its own. With simple hand pockets and one chest pocket, it’s got everything you need to stash snacks, sunglasses, or a cellphone. The cuffs feature hook-and-loop adjustments (these did tend to get caught on gloves or other layers - I would prefer simpler elastic cuffs).
The Bottom Line
After many years of being a hardshell hardo, I’m newly converted to team soft-shell when it comes to non-storm-day skiing, thanks to Rab’s newest softshell goodies. The Ascendor AS pants and Vapour-Rise Summit Jacket are the minimalist solution for high-output days in the mountains where it’s more about comfort and breathability than all-out weather protection.