Sunday, November 28, 2021

Christmas 2021 Ski Gift Guide

To Ski or Not to Ski this winter? That’s the burning question with resorts coping with COVID restrictions in North America and looming lockdowns across Europe. 

My first day of skiing at Sun Peaks Nov 27

After missing out last winter, I’m finally back at Sun Peaks, British Columbia, Canada where the skiing is open but the road routes to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland have all been disrupted and closed by the recent landslides and flooding during the “atmospheric river” weather system. This has meant restricted traffic movement and food and fuel shortages throughout the area, plus doubts about the usual influx of Christmas and New Year visitors to Sun Peaks

Of course, the torrential rain, which represented a whole month’s accumulation in just one 24-hour period, resulted in plenty of snow at upper elevations, bestowing ski resorts like Sun Peaks with early coverage. So, how to get there? The route in via Alberta from Calgary Airport is still open although you need to keep an eye on road closures – up to December 1 there have been diversions through Radium adding another two hours to the journey. Also, the town of Kamloops - just an hour away from Sun Peaks by shuttle or taxi - has its own airport with regular Westjet, Air Canada and Pacific Coastal flights from Calgary and Vancouver. 

Simon in Alchemy of Ride, me in Obermeyer

This is how I got here – first a flight to Calgary, next a 24-hour stay in Canmore to pick up ski gear and visit old friends, and then back to Calgary for the short hop to Kamloops. Finally up to Sun Peaks in a Tastefull Excursions shuttle. Now I’m figuring out how to get my sons here from Vancouver for the holidays – it’s been 20 months since we were last together. 

Whether you, your family and your friends will be able to ski this winter or not, ski-themed Xmas gifts will still be very welcome, especially those that cross over to colourful and cosy everyday use. Here’s my round-up of ideas based on some of this winter’s newest products. 

Heat Holders®

A UK company, Heat Holders® has cornered the market in soft, warm winter accessories. With Japanese designed thermal yarn and long loop cushion pile, think wearable Beanie Babies! The yarn provides performance insulation with superior moisture breathing abilities and softness and the thermal loops hold in more warm air, increasing the TOG Rating. TOG (Thermal Over Grade) is an independent laboratory tested standard - the higher the TOG rating, the better the product is at keeping you warm. Heat Holders also use a thermal brushing process which maximises the amount of warm air held in each sock for unbeatable warmth and all-day comfort. And the Heatweaver Insulation is a plush fur-like thermal lining. 

Heat Holders®
Re-usable Xmas Stockings:
Make your Xmas Stockings wearable this year - hang up one of Heat Holders’ brightly coloured socks and stuff it full of other gifts and goodies. As well as the Heat Holders’ Original socks, the brand now includes Lites and Ultra Lite, Reflective, Reinforced, Non-Slip (perfect if you have wooden floors), Merino, Mix & Match items for coordinated outfits, Turn Over Cuffs to add style to the top of boots, and Touch Screen technology for gloves. For Heat Holders Head-to-Toe, the latest collection includes thermal tops and leggings for men, women and kids, zippered fleeces, water-resistant and thermal puffer jackets-in-a-bag, hats, neckwarmers, gloves, slippers, deluxe spa robes, and soft blankets in a multitude of hues. 

If you want to hear more about Heat Holders History, check out their video on: Since 2006, when the socks were first invented and manufactured in the founder, David Doughty’s garage, the company has produced over 20 million pairs of Heat Holders®. More than two years of hard work and experimentation led to socks with the best thermal properties available and a TOG rating of 2.34. That’s far warmer than heavy walking socks, nearly three times as warm as standard thermal socks and seven times warmer than basic cotton socks. 

Heat Holders®

UK and Europe - 

Whether it’s for golf, skiing, tennis or any outdoor sport, wrap-around sunglasses are vital. My latest pair is SMITH’s Longfin - ultra glare-resistant, tried and tested! I’ve been playing outdoor padel tennis in Portugal’s Algarve since things opened up in April after last winter’s lockdown. Padel, BTW, is a tennis/squash hybrid, played as doubles on a smaller court, glass-backed for bouncing balls off like squash, using a stocky carbon fibre racket and a slightly slower-bounce ball – currently on a fast trending trajectory throughout Europe and the first padel centre for Canada was just opened in Calgary. 

Smith Longfins

My Longfins have been invaluable in the Algarve sun, cutting out punishing sunlight without restricting my vision. They were the first thing I packed in my ski luggage as I know they will be equally effective in the snow on bluebird days. The Longfins have a 6-base curve, giving a semi wrap-around design, and the extended side pieces stop peripheral light reaching the lenses. Retailing at around CAN$200, they are also very light weight. 

 WHEN ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL! All skiers will have seen Smith’s ski goggles which have been made with the same attention to detail as their sunnies. Continuing its legacy of disrupting design and innovation for the past 56 years, Smith recently launched the first 3D printed, custom crafted I/O MAG Imprint 3D goggle to address the vast range of face shapes and features while eliminating the one-size fits all approach to gear. 

Utilizing Smith’s Imprint 3D Technology, the bespoke experience includes a personalized facial scan through Smith’s custom app that automatically generates an individualized frame with a face flange tailored to the exact features and contours of the user’s face. The customized frame is 3D printed - using HP’s industrial Multi Jet Fusion platform - then hand assembled into the best-selling Smith I/O MAG goggle in the company’s USA-based production facility and delivered within 14 days. The I/O MAG Imprint 3D goggle is available now exclusively on within North America for US$450 (CAN$510) and delivered ahead of the holidays, making it a great gift. 

For online purchases, Smith has dedicated sites for US, Canada, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.  

Glade Goggles

The latest trend in lenses is magnetic and Glade has been finessing this for the past two seasons. “We developed them because as you might imagine, when you are changing lenses on a cold chairlift you want to be in and out as fast as possible,” says company founder, Curt Nichols. “Our magnetic system is really robust, meaning they won't pop off if/when you faceplant, but they are built in a way that makes them easy to swap in and out in seconds. It's really the best of both worlds.” 

The MagFlight Goggle Set by Glade

The MagFlight Goggle Set ($159) - the winner of Blister Gear Review's "Best Of" 2022 – has been flying off the shelves. Designed for those who want multiple, highly specialized lenses which take seconds to swap, demand is such that, even with a second re-order, Glade anticipates running out by mid-winter. “Our bombproof magnetic system locks the lens in place quickly and securely,” says Nichols. “When we say secure, we mean it. It’s yard sale-tested. Trust us.” 

Glade Snowbrains Goggles

Based from Breckenridge, CO, Glade  has been going from strength to strength for around four years, creating a brand with premium products at good value prices and in tune with the grassroots nature of skiing and snowboarding. “It was my belief that the major brands in this category had become more and more removed from their customer as they were acquired and moved overseas, and there wasn't a brand that was speaking to the ski experience that I was familiar with,” reflects Nichols. “In other words, less backflips and powder shots, more chairlift rides with friends and après beers.” 

Lucky guy lives and works within walking distance of the Quicksilver lift at Breckenridge: “So I am often sneaking out for lunch laps or taking the morning off on a powder day.” On busy weekends, he ventures into the backcountry, averaging around 30 days there on top of his 50 resort ski days. Brought up skiing Sugarbush Mountain, VT, he likes to explore Colorado occasionally, notching up tracks in places like Wolf Creek, Silverton, and Crested Butte - all for research, of course!

Glade Goggles

Customer feedback is another important aspect of Glade’s modus operandi: “Our customers are the main pipeline through which we gather information to inform product updates and new product development,” says Nichols. “One of the reasons we have been able to grow so quickly is that we are fanatical about talking to our customers and getting feedback from them. I have talked on the phone with literally hundreds of our customers, and we send out surveys regularly. I also get to ski with our customers all over Summit County.” 

Coming soon is a new helmet built from the ground up. “MIPS certified, a dual-vent system, and designed around the shape of our goggles,” Nichols explains. “We are super excited about this new helmet and we think it will change the game for our customers who are looking for a helmet that has all the bells and whistles. We are also releasing a huge new sunglasses line this spring. We'll have sunglasses built specifically for mountain biking, trail running, fishing, hiking, and more. 

Glade's MAGflight with silver lens

Top tips for longevity of goggles: “Keep them out of your ski bag and cover them with a lens cover or hard case,” Nichols advises. “Ski bags are hot, steamy, damp places that tend to ruin the anti-fog properties of goggles, and items like covers and cases are great for protecting your goggles while you are on the go. That said, it's important to remember that your goggles are tools, not jewels!” 

Heated ski gloves or mitts are a must, especially when cold weather starts to cut off the circulation in the extremities. “Our Avalanche X gloves were picked by SKI magazine last year as one of the best heated ski gloves, “ says Volt’s Chris Haffly. At $269.95, these leather-palmed gloves are an investment in winter warmth and you’ll find yourself wearing them for snow shoveling, taking the dog for a frosty frolic, or watching the hockey, too. “They are the flagship of our extreme line of heated gloves,” says Haffly.

Volt Heat Avalanche X gloves
Award-winning features include extra heat coverage, extra insulation, a built-in external controller and three power settings for variable heat output. Fingers and thumbs are heated on both sides with additional high retention insulation trapping heat in and keeping cold air out. The toggle cinch gauntlet also prevents snow leaking in on powder days. And a ski leash means you can keep them dangling from your wrist if you take them off to take a call or a photo.

Volt Heat
Heated Scarf

But Volt Heat doesn’t stop with the hands. They make heated scarves for cosy necks ($99.95), heated socks ($159.95), heated vests ($199.95), heated pants, heated baselayers, heated mid-layers ($149.95), and heated jackets ($399.95). I’ve never seen anyone skiing with all of these items on at once (although I would like to try!) but I have skied a lot in Canada wearing a heated Volt vest, Volt heated mitts, and their heated socks  – and you can be sure I am on the only one not complaining about the cold! If you don’t have heated boots, then Volt’s heated socks are a must. And, if you want to get your value out of a ski pass – and day ticket prices have reached an all-time high – then keeping warm is essential to maximize your onhill time. Other heated luxuries in the latest Volt range include a heated travel pillow, heated outdoor/indoor slippers and the new Lava Boots ($199.95) which keep warm for seven to 14 hours from one charge. 

To make things simpler – and techie – there’s the Volt Heated Clothing app which allows you to regulate your desired power level setting using your phone. You can remotely operate the Lava Boots’ heating system without even bending over. And another really useful heated product: the heated seat cushion ($89.95), ideal for COVID-safe outdoor socializing. If only there was some way of taking this on every chairlift!!  

Volt Heat Men's heated midlayer


Bos & Co

If you’ve read my ski blogs before, you’ll already know I’m a Bos & Co footwear fan. This year, yet again they have brought out fab new styles which combine the best of non-slip, insulated, and waterproof utility with sizzling style. My fave is the wintry white Gator Prima zip up ankle boot with black trim ($275) followed closely by the white/black Axel boot ($260) which pairs luxe leather and patent with tweed. Bonus this year is that this type of chunky combat boot is trending for street wear, too, and not just with trousers/pants – also paired with skirts and dresses. The men’s range also offers a fusion of functionality, fashion and flair with leather, wool, and trendy tweed. 

Bos & Co Gator Prima

What’s more, these boots are made in Portugal not too far from where I now live for two-thirds of the year! I first discovered this company when I was living in the US and it intrigued me even then to wear Portuguese footwear. Now I realize how important that background of manufacturing expertise is – this footwear is made so well you’ll wear yourself out before you wear out the boots! 

Asportuguesas from Bos & Co

Check out Bos & Co’s Asportuguesas range, too – for men and women. Funky and fashionable, these fuzzy felt slides and slip-ons are just what you need after a day in ski boots, cozy for indoor après ski and, with their chunky corrugated soles, also quite functional for short trips on packed snow. 

Photo by Dan Campbell - Lindsey Vonn and HEAD's new Legacy Line

Lindsey Vonn, the new face of HEAD 
When it comes to skiwear, who would you trust to guide you to the right gear? Lindsey Vonn knows a thing about the utility side of ski apparel having spent countless hours battling the cold, the snow, blizzards, damp, (the vagaries of weather) while training for her three Olympics and 82 World Cup wins (18 of which she won at Lake Louise). And, with her supermodel figure and face, she’s always had a flair for flamboyant fashion. 

Photo by Dan Campbell - Lindsey Vonn and HEAD's new Legacy Line

Every season HEAD Sportswear creates unique ski wear collections that harmoniously combine innovative materials and fashionable design. With various lines offering ski outfits ranging from classic to extroverted, the Austrian-based brand demonstrates its decades-old design expertise. The latest coup is the collaboration with the most successful ski athlete of all time, Lindsey Vonn. 

Photo by Dan Campbell - Lindsey Vonn and HEAD's new Legacy Line

Together with skiing’s golden girl, HEAD Sportswear is developing the Legacy Line, a collection that creates a completely new look in the history of the brand with a new, modern design language. Lindsey worked hand-in-hand with HEAD Sportswear for this exclusive line with flattering silhouettes, high-tech/eco fabrics, and just the right splash of colour and pizzazz. Now, anyone can embody Lindsey’s winning ethos and look good and feel good, both on and off the slopes. 

Photo by Dan Campbell - Lindsey Vonn and HEAD's new Legacy Line

Some of the collection’s eco choices: 
-All the clothes have water-repellent fabric that is durable but does not contain harmful polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). 
-HEAD Sportswear created their own “Fair Down Commitment” to only use goose down from food industry waste geese that were never force-fed or plucked alive (admittedly, hard details and images to conjure but so incredibly important). 
-Additionally, all the clothes have moisture wick away fabric to keep you cool as you heat up and Primaloft to warm you up as you cool down. 

Giving a gift of Lindsey’s Legacy Line this Christmas will hopefully get you a gold medal from the recipient! 

The collection’s lightest and most packable option, with loft and warmth level for more active pursuits. As with the other members of the Stretchdown family, the durable stretch woven fabric consists of 87% nylon and 13% elastane. A durable material blend comes together with the highest quality goose down insulation in an ultra-engineered construction to combine warmth and movement for the full range of winter activities. From trailhead to summit, over bases or under a waterproof shell: this layer is made to mobilize. MSRP $325 CAD.  

Warmer, but without the bulk, the Stretchdown Parka is designed to be worn on the road or while belaying. Constructed out of the same durable material blend, the Stretchdown Parka remains agile enough for a mix of outdoor activities while packing in 700-fill RDS-certified down insulation for greater loft and the most protective silhouette. The Stretchdown Parka weighs in at 23.5-25.6 ounces (665-744.5 grams), and has an MSRP of $420 CAD.  

Designed to be worn over base layers, under a waterproof shell and around the campsite, the Stretchdown Pant features the same bluesign® approved, 700-fill RDS-certified down insulation and weighs in at 12 oz (340 grams). An integrated webbed belt allows for a comfortable fit coupled with the single stretch fabric for full range of movement. MSRP: $325 CAD.  

The Powabunga 32 is all about comfort and versatility for in-and-out of bounds adventuring. Utilizing the patent-pending hoverbelt technology, this innovative design allows for increased mobility over traditional ski pack designs. Weight: 3 lbs 3.4 oz. MSRP $260 CAD. 

The Snoskiwoski 40 is a stripped down, lightweight pack for ski mountaineers or those in pursuit of a quick up and down effort. Drawing on the lightest and strongest materials to help withstand the rigour of high alpine action, combined with efficient organizational structure, this pack is built to carry all the essentials: climbing tools, avalanche safety equipment, etc. without adding unnecessary weight. Weight 2 lbs 8 oz. MSRP $ 290 CAD. 

Boundary Ridge Jacket and Bibs
Inspired by in- and out-of-bounds ski runs, the new Boundary Ridge Gore-Tex Jacket and Bib feature waterproof, breathable 3L Gore-Tex shell fabric for durability and wet weather protection. The kits are Mountain Hardwear’s toughest, fully featured snowsports shells that include all the features you need (and the ones you didn’t know you wanted), like: 
• Helmet-compatible hood with three-way drawcord adjustment 
• Underarm vents (Jacket) and stretch woven mesh panel across lower back (Bib) 
• Pockets galore - Great for gloves, skins, radios, or a mashed PB&J 
• Recco® reflectors and a lot more. MSRP is $650 CAD (Jacket) and $600 CAD (Bib), respectively.

Mountain Hardware