Gear and Accessories for 2019
In the ski retail biz, there are three major “buying seasons.” The obvious one is pre-Christmas, when new ski paraphernalia always makes the perfect gift, even for that person who is all but impossible to shop for. Then, at the end of the season, manufacturers and retailers are anxious to empty the shelves, resulting in season-ending clearance sales that are often too tempting to resist. The downside, of course, is that you’ve got to wait a good eight to nine months before you can actually put the gear to use.
Or you can take all those holiday gift cards and cash that Santa delivered, and invest them now. Right now, when you have the lion’s share of this winter to enjoy your purchases. And the 2018-19 gear collection is full of outstanding choices.
As in the past, we’re avoiding recommendations for skis, boots and clothing, since the choices are not only dizzying, but also very personal. Instead, we’ll take a close look at the “peripheral” gear that often makes a big difference on the hill.
I love highlighting helmets because there’s simply no reason not to wear one. As an avid cyclist, I can’t imagine getting on my bike without a “skid lid.” Same goes for clicking into my ski bindings. Today’s helmets are so light, and so comfortable, that it’s almost irresponsible not to wear one (though, as a native of “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, I have mixed feelings about “mandatory” helmet use). And, like bike helmets, ski helmets really ought to be replaced every five or six years, every without a serious impact, due to the natural degradation of the padding.
Smith Code Helmet
I’m an unabashed fan of Smith ski helmets, and the Code is another reason why. It features all of Smith’s latest technologies, including internal Koroyd inserts, which are lightweight, eco-friendly polymer extruded tubes thermally welded together to form a strong layer of protection that also permits good air flow. Smith’s BOA FS360 fit system – a 360-degree halo design – provides a great fit, and the Wayfinder strap system with Fidlock (a quick-release magnetic system that makes it easier to open and close the strap) is a cool feature.
Giro Range MIPS
Giro is another one of my favorite helmet manufacturers. Like the Smith Code, the Giro Jackson MIPS helmet features a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System where the shell and liner are separated by a low friction layer that allows the helmet to slide relative to the head. That inner liner rotates independently upon impact, redistributing energy throughout the helmet (reducing the amount relayed to your head). The Jackson MIPS Helmet also incorporates Giro’s In-Form 2 Fit System, and has a GoPro mount integrated right into the front of the helmet. However, if you have the camera on the front of your helmet, you can’t rest your goggles there.
POC Auric Communication
This Swedish company is making some of the best sports helmets anywhere. According to the POC, the Auric Communication “features an integrated communication headset, including speakers and mic, which allow for improved smartphone or two-way communication wherever you are on the mountain, whether it’s discussing snowpack conditions or setting up a meeting spot on the piste.” Of course, that means you can also enjoy high-quality sound and music while waiting in line or sitting on a lift.
Uvex HLMT Visor 500
The Uvex HLMT Visor 500, as the name suggests, is the company’s latest visor-style helmet, which is something of an acquired taste. But people who like them usually love them, so I’m not judging. The visor slides smoothly, so you can quickly move it away from your face, then slide it down when you need it. It’s also worth noting that visor resists fogging up, thanks to the open design and good ventilation (it’s a terrific option for people who wear glasses). On the flip side, blowing snow can get behind the visor, which can impede your vision.
OK, one more quick “get off my lawn” rant. I’m fine with skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of the sweet audio options now available. My only request is that you keep the volume to a reasonable level, so you can hear the other folks on the hill. The “Skier’s Responsibility Code” relies on the ability to communicate. If you can’t hear anyone calling “on your left” or “on your right,” the responsibility for a collision falls on you. So, with that caveat in mind, here are two favorites:
Outdoor Technology Chips 2.0 Wireless Bluetooth Helmet Audio
Outdoor Technology is one of the few companies that make Bluetooth headphones that slip inside your helmet (Skullcandy is another solid choice). Simply charge up the Chips, and slide them into the earflaps on your helmet. The Chips 2.0 also have a new walkie-talkie feature that allows you to communicate with friends who are also using the same headphones. The Chips 2.0 have a button on each earpiece, allowing you to answer a call or play music with a single touch. You can also access Siri without taking out your phone, using voice commands to make calls or launch a playlist. Outdoor Technology also sells a wired version that costs considerably less.
Jabra Elite Active 65t
The Jabra Elite Active 65t are a top-rated set of water-resistant true wireless earphones. The microphones are sensitive enough to allow wearers to take calls with them even if they’re covered by a helmet. Battery life provides about four hours of play, which may require a charging session at lunch.
Skiing blind is no fun. The right pair of goggles or glasses can make all the difference.
Smith I/O Mag Goggles
Smith’s best goggle right now is the I/O Mag with a lens change system that features magnets to easily swap out lenses. The goggle comes in several different ChromoPop lens colors, and you get two lenses with the goggle. It’s also a great choice for people who wear glasses.
Glade Challenger Goggles
Colorado-based Glade prides itself on making goggles that offer similar or better performance compared to other high-end models for considerably less. The new Challenger googles offers a Photochromatic Flux lens option that changes colors according to the lighting conditions.
Abom Antifog Goggles
The Abom One goggles are designed to eliminate fog, giving you a crystal-clear view of the mountain. Abom’s patented Klair Technology uses a transparent film that sits between a two-part polycarbonate lens to regulate the temperature in order to eliminate fog. These goggles have two different fog-busting modes – Active Mode, which can run constantly for up to six hours, and Boost Mode, which you can flip on at a moment’s notice when you notice your lenses getting foggy. And with just a 3-hour charge time, the goggles can be fully-charged during your après ski romp. The Carl Zeiss lens comes in several colors options for different weather conditions.
Wiley X Climate Control Series Sunglasses
Wiley X has a number of Climate Control models that include a removable Facial Cavity Seal to help keep the wind out of yours eyes when skiing at high speeds. They’re almost like mini goggles. And, like goggles, they can fog up if you heat up. However, you can always remove the Facial Cavity Seal.
Smith Wildcat Sunglasses
Another goggle-sunglass hybrid, the Wildcat is made with the same materials used in Smith goggles, providing commendable eye coverage and airflow but with the comfort of a lightweight pair of sunglasses. The Wildcat comes with a bright light ChromaPop lens and a secondary clear lens for flat light overcast days.
Hydra Pack Stow Bottles
Collapsible and reusable, Hydra Pack Stow bottles come in various sizes and colors. Made of abrasive-resistant TPU, they are BPA and PVC free, so your water always tastes fresh.
Seirus Magnemask Combo Clava
The fleece-lined Magnemask balaclava has magnetic seams so you can easily pull the mask off your face and slip it back on again when you need it. Be aware, the Combo Clava comes in multiple size options.
Anker PowerCore 13000
Let’s face it – having your phone die on the mountain is a pain. The answer? An external battery pack into this roundup. Anker’s PowerCore 13000, which is built around a monster 13,000mAh battery, can charge both tablets and phones. It’s not tiny, but it’s smaller than a lot of external batteries and provides enough juice for a quiver of phones.
Celestron Elements Hand Warmer and Charger
If you’re looking for an external battery to carry around to charge your phone, the Celestron Elements chargers can also warm up your hands. Available in three models, the ThermoCharge heats up quickly to reach a maximum of 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The larger model can deliver up to 10 hours of continuous heat.
Garmin Fenix 5 Series
Garmin’s Fenix 5 is one of the best ski watches on the marker, with features such as a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter. It tracks your individual runs along with your speed, distance and vertical drop data. Plus, it can be used year-round, with a variety of other sport profiles, including running, biking, swimming, hiking, climbing, rowing and paddle boarding.
Rossignol & PIQ Wearable Ski Tracker
This advanced ski tracker straps onto your boot and monitors how you’re skiing, delivering feedback and analysis via a companion iOS app (an Android app is scheduled to arrive in 2018). The “PIQ Robot shows you all your turns and tricks,” according to the company. “You will know how much angle you have put into your turns or how explosive your transition from one ski edge to the other was.”
Phoozy Thermal Case
Simple physics – phone and audio batteries drain faster when they’re cold. A simple insulated sleeve for smartphones, this Phoozy case has a Chromium Thermal Barrier Shell and SpaceTech Penetration Layer, as well as Velcro to keep it closed. That will help keep your phone warm on extra-cold days, and will also keep your phone from overheating.
MyCharge Adventure Series chargers
MyCharge’s rugged external battery chargers come in a few different capacities. With a water-resistant design, the line is pretty ideal for skiers, although you have to bring your own charging cables.
Now that you’ve got the gear, how are you going to get it all to the condo, or the hill?
Kulkea Micro Pack
On the hill, the Kulkea Micro Pack has a slimmer profile than most hydropacks, helping you to avoid an uncomfortable ride on the chairlift. With plenty of pockets (including a hydro pocket), helmet loops, and straps to tie down extra layers of clothing (or skins), the Micro Pack is versatile and lightweight. The waist belt makes sure it stays in place, no matter how rowdy a line you rip.
Kulkea Kantaja Double Roller
If your skiing adventures include flying the “friendly skies,” the padded, rugged Kulkea Kantaja Double Roller Ski bag is an exceptional ski bag that can withstand the brutality of airline travel while accommodating of all your gear. The wheeled bag is super easy to maneuver, with a large main compartment that can fit two pairs of skis and poles, as well as any additional gear you want to bring along.
A good day on the hill often requires a little TLC afterwards. While the hot tubs and whirlpools are still my go-to après ski oasis, there are other options to help your body bounce back from the rigors of skiing and boarding.
Opedix Dual Tec 2
So you’re not quite so pliable anymore? Get a pair of high-tech tights by Opedix to support for your muscles and knees while also keeping you warm. The top-end Dual-Tec 2.0 integrates the company’s “torque reform technology from the knee to the lower lumbar” or back. Not cheap ($225 retail), but these tights can make you feel like a million. The copper-infused Tommy Copper line is also a good choice, and will save you a few bucks.
The Hypershere is a supercharged massage ball – five inches in diameter – that vibrates at high speeds (there are three settings) and is designed to release tension in your muscles. For those who use a ball or foam roller during stretching sessions, the Hypersphere (and other Hyperice products below) add a high-tech element to trigger-point therapy.
The Hypervolt is “a cordless state-of-the-art vibration massage device that helps relax sore and stiff muscles to improve mobility.” With three different vibration speeds, it’s ideal for breaking down lactic acid and loosening up sore muscles (or for warming them up). The device comes with four head attachments, and provides up to three hours of battery life from the built-in rechargeable battery. Theragun is another portable massage option.
The final sports-therapy product from Hyperice worth mentioning is the Venom, a portable heat and vibration back device. Its noisy compared to its stable-mates, but has a variety of vibration types and speeds, as well as a strong heat element that can provide some welcomed lower-back relief.