Every year for Memorial Day a few die-hard friends and I skip the barbecues and family get-togethers to indulge our powder habit one last time. Summer skiing is our way of throwing a middle finger to the sun before our precious snow melts for another year. The festivities begin with early morning hikes above the treeline and finish with goggle-tanned, smiling faces telling stories of epic wipeouts and slushy runs around the campfire. This year we had the added bonus of spending the weekend at Snowbird Ski Resort as they threw their bacchanalian end-of-season party, one final tribute to the Snow Gods. Here’s the gear we used to tackle the last runs of the year.
Surface Skis SRFC x SKDY Limited Edition Live Lifes
I picked these skis up at a ski movie screening at the beginning of last season as a perfect addition to my growing quiver of park and powder skis. After spending most of the season on them — and selling a few pairs that weren’t getting used anymore — these have become the workhorses of my collection. With a set of touring bindings, they climb ridiculously fast, and they’re beefy enough to throw more than a few steep powder lines when the mood strikes me. You can’t get this limited edition artwork anymore, but the Live Lifes are easily my favorite ski.
Black Diamond Quadrant Alpine Touring Boot
Equal parts lightweight touring boot and burly downhill charger, these are the most versatile pair of boots I’ve ever owned. (Granted, I spent too many years cramming my feet into heavy, tight racing boots so I may be a little biased.) They aren’t the absolute lightest boot, but I’m willing to sacrifice weight for comfort — and downhill performance.
Westcomb Focus Hoody
I spent a good deal of time trying to destroy the Focus Hoody this spring (read my full review here), and it stood up to the beating. After weeks of ski tours, days climbing and more than a few shifts as a dog blanket, the Focus remains my go-to when the weather gets rough.
Osprey Kode 30
The Kode was another impulse buy for me early this season. (It’s also the reason my wife no longer allows me to go to the Black Diamond store or REI alone anymore… something about always coming home with gear I “don’t need”.) As ski packs go, it’s everything I want, and more importantly, nothing I don’t. An outer waterproof pocket stashes wet gear and avalanche safety equipment conveniently, and the main compartment is large enough to carry everything I need for a day busting trail up to the snowline when the resorts have closed for the season.
Nemo Equipment Obi 3P Tent
I was surprised how easily we fit two people, two dogs and our gear comfortably inside Nemo’s packable home for the whole weekend. The Paw Print ($65) was also a welcome addition: after muddy boots and paws destroyed it, we just unsnapped this removable liner and threw it in the washing machine when we got home. Look for an in-depth review soon.
Dragon Rogue SkullCandy Goggle
I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with new goggles, especially goggles that are limited edition or hard to come by. These were on my radar for quite a while last season, but I couldn’t ever find them in stock. Once I finally snagged a pair, they’ve been firmly plastered to my face on nearly every gnarly descent this year.
Kuhl Liberator Convertible Pants
When the temperature climbs into summer territory, your ski pants turn into a portable furnace all too fast. I’ve found that the Liberator Convertible Pants are perfect for both the climb and the descent. A water repellent treatment is bonded directly to the individual threads so it won’t wear out, and a convenient side zipper helps the bottom section slide easily over hiking or ski boots.
When I’m not working on my goggle tan — if you’ve made fun of the guys with the reverse raccoon look, you’re probably just jealous we spend enough time on the hill to get it — I’ve always got something else on to protect my eyes; glare off the snow can be downright painful. A pair of polarized glasses goes a long way in preserving your eyesight on the uphill climb or down days. I’m a huge fan of Sunskis — and for only $48, I’ll be picking up another pair or two since I tend to lose/break sunglasses too quickly, just like everybody else.
K2 Diversion Helmet
I’ve been knocking this helmet around for a couple of seasons now, and it’s broken in quite nicely. The front and top vents keep me cool enough during spring and summer runs to make it my year-round dome protector. Good luck finding it in stock right now, though: apparently K2 doesn’t continue their ski helmets through the summer. We can’t all be die-hards, I guess.
Nike Lightweight Running Glove
For some reason it just feels weird gripping a ski pole with bare hands. Summer time is much too warm to break out my Gore-Tex Hestra gloves, so my running gloves fill in. They’re not waterproof, but the Dry-Fit technology keeps my hands warm, and they dry out pretty quickly while I’m bombing down the slushy snow that remains up above 9,000 ft.
CAMP Neve Ice Axe
We try to keep clear of any technical climbing when the snow is so soft, but having a lifeline to stop me should I take a nasty fall on a steep snowfield remains a must. It also doubles as a great rudder to steer when we decide to slide down the snow on our butts instead of our skis.
Backcountry Access B-1 EXT Shovel
Most summer skiing days don’t call for a full complement of avalanche gear. I do carry my shovel on every tour though — mostly just to build a few good jumps. I like the B1-EXT because it packs down to 16 inches, fitting into just about any decent day pack. When you find that perfect step-up or spine that calls for some big air, it makes short work of digging out a good kicker.
Joystick Sauce Poles
Unless you’re a speed freak looking for the tiniest aerodynamic or weight bonus, you don’t need to splurge for those carbon fiber ski poles. Joystick is a local brand for me, and I really like the artwork on their poles. The aluminum construction is super durable. Trust me, if you wreck while jumping as much as I do, you’ll appreciate a pole that doesn’t snap in half after a few yard sales.
Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Pro Bindings
Sure, there are bindings that weigh a lot less, but some of the offerings from Dynafit and Plum are a little shy on materials. I will always enjoy myself a little more when I have the added comfort of a good toe-piece locking my boots to my skis. Crank that DIN up and throw your best trick — you won’t be popping out of these bindings.
METHODOLOGY We took our favorite ski gear up into the hills for a few days of humping heavy loads up the mountain and skiing slushy runs. Maybe we’re in denial that winter is over, but dammit, if we have to put the skis away for another few months, we better go out with a huge end-of-season party.