Skiing and snowboarding are not uncomplicated sports, and despite a laid-back vibe emulative of surf culture and all the quaintness that goes with sipping hot cocoa in the lodge, there’s a lot that goes into a day on the slopes. To put it plainly, there’s a ton of gear required to make it happen. It’s easy to think that one might be able to skip out on some of the necessities, but any sacrifice will always come at the expense of comfort in the cold. No, white crew socks won’t cut it, and blue jeans aren’t a substitute for snow pants. Baselayers and ski socks, jackets and snow pants, goggles and a helmet, boots, not to mention skis or a board, are requisite.
But it’s not just what’s worn on the hill that deserves consideration — the before and, more importantly, the après, are just as consequential. Sturdy, water-resistant boots (preferably made of leather) are a must-have, and it can’t hurt to bring along an extra hat for when the helmet comes off. Beyond that, attire donned during any post-mountain activities, whether they take place at a local watering hole or a secluded cabin, is entirely a consequence of personal taste. (But it can’t hurt to put a little thought into it.)
Mons Royale was founded in 2009, which, in the world of baselayers, is relatively young. The company’s guiding force is merino wool, which its factories process with an ethical and sustainable approach. Merino gives Mons Royale baselayers a naturally technical edge, and the brand combines that with a tastefully lighthearted style that’s wholly suited to mountain life. Its baselayers also pack function well-suited to winter: the Yotei is equipped with a facemask style hood, while the Shaun-off bottoms are cut to boot-length to avoid uncomfortable bunching.
There’s something to the union suit, (otherwise known as a onesie). If cowboys were comfortable sleeping under the stars for nights on end in nothing but, chances are one would be appropriately worn on the mountain too. Airblaster went a step further and made its version of the union suit with technical fabric and threw in an integrated hood, thumb loops and a zip waist for bathroom access.
Icebreaker was an early adopter of merino wool. Founded in the mid-nineties during the heyday of synthetic fabrics, the New Zealand-based company’s founder realized the potential of one of his country’s most plentiful natural resources after a conversation with a sheep farmer. Twenty years later and Icebreaker has continued its commitment to top-notch merino garments with a clean and classic look.
Despite Dakine’s sheer breadth — the Hawaii-founded, Oregon-located brand makes products for snow, surfing, mountain biking, skateboarding and wind sports — it produces quality, athlete-approved gear year over year. Dakine understands that style and function go hand in hand on the mountain, as evidenced in the Stoker Bib and Vapor Jacket. Both pieces provide plenty of weatherproofing, courtesy of Gore-Tex, as well as practical features such as a built-in microfiber goggle wipe and articulating knees. Another thing neither piece skimps out on — pockets. The Stoker’s full-chest design allows for tons of them, and whether you’re at the resort or in the backcountry, that’s a good thing.
When TREW decided to buck the outdoor industry’s traditional business model it was the gear and the people who wear it that benefitted. Like Casper and Warby Parker, TREW operates with a direct-to-consumer business model that allows it to invest more in design and materials without impacting its bottom line. That means that it can harness the cranked-up capabilities of Derzimax NX fabric, which offer a breathability rating of 40,000-millimeters (compared to the 25,000-millimeter rating of Gore-Tex Pro Shell) without breaking the bank.
Burton has changed a lot in its years-long transition from a garage-based snowboard company to the biggest name in the snowboard industry. One thing it never left behind: a youthful sense of fun — even when it packs as much tech as it can into its premium [ak] line of outerwear. The Hover and Freebird represent the top of that line; both are made with Gore-Tex Pro three-layer fabric for superior waterproofing and breathability and are fully seam-taped while allowing for extra airflow through zippered vents. Also featured: plenty of pockets for everything else you need.
While most European ski outerwear trends toward tailored and technical, Picture has managed to inject a sense of lighthearted style into its line of recycled and responsibly sourced outerwear. The Naikoon Pant wears slightly baggy — this can be adjusted using Picture’s unique inner waistband — but is storm-ready with taped seams as well as 20k waterproofing and 15k breathability. The forthcoming Zephir Jacket also handles itself on the tech side of things while small design hits like the notched hem at the front of the zipper and top access hand pockets make for an exceptionally stylish profile and set it apart from other coats. The Zephir also features a curved upper zipper that creates a comfier chin space and has a handy pass pocket on the left shoulder to accommodate the growing prevalence of automated ticket scanners at ski resorts.
Jackson Hole-based Stio outfitted its top-of-the-line Environ pieces for capability both at the resort and in the backcountry. The Environ’s foundation is a Derizmax three-layer shell with a 20,000/10,000-millimeter waterproof breathability rating. Despite some decent functional chops (taped seams, an adjustable and removable hood, full-length pant vent zips) both the Environ Jacket and Bib feature a loose and progressive fit that’s not overly technical.
Aspen-based Strafe has committed itself to producing functional outerwear, and in doing so, it has designed notable pieces that integrate some of the same materials commonly found in mountaineering and climbing apparel. Both the Ozone Jacket and Capitol pants harness Polartec Neoshell, which is a highly waterproof and breathable fabric that has a softer hand feel and provides more stretch than other comparable shell technologies. The Ozone also utilizes Polartec’s Alpha Direct insulation — which has traditionally been used as a superlight insulating layer — as a jacket liner to build in extra breathable warmth.
Code MIPS Helmet by Smith $180
Fall Line Prizm Goggle by Oakley $143
MTN Utility Mitt by Mountain Standard $69
Range MIPS Helmet by Giro $113+
Axis Goggle by Giro $135
Fall Line Mitten by Hestra $105+
Redwood by Kaenon $209
Off-piste style can be just as important as what’s worn on the hill, but for different reasons. In a sense, spending a day at the mountain is a well-earned pretext for showing up at the local pub in bibs and baselayers. But the potential for embracing a setting both rustic and refined with appropriate garments shouldn’t be ignored.
It doesn’t necessarily matter how you get to the mountain, as long as you get there. The beater minivan that has been passed down through the branches of a family tree could work — there will undoubtedly be one of these parked in any resort lot — but why not drive something that’ll provide a little more assurance of actually making it up to the hill?
Chevy’s 2018 Colorado ZR2 is equipped for exactly that task. With a crew cab, the mid-size truck is more than capable of shuttling a group and all the gear outlined above from chalet/cabin/motel to the slopes. The ZR2 is built to handle trails and dirt roads with four-wheel drive and front- and rear-locking differentials, (if you know a back way that skips pow day traffic, take it), but provides a remarkably smooth ride on the highway too. Its interior isn’t spartan either — the ZR2 offers compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as 4G LTE wifi. Oh, and the seats are heated, too.