I can’t get away from it. Ever since I ran a Schoeller fabric softshell as my top layer, I’ve delighted in the way their high-tech fabrics protect me from the weather yet yield gusty breathability without fiddly venting. So every winter I make sure I’ve got some sort of soft shell on the rack. I grab the softie when backcountry skiing conditions dictate (dry Colorado cold or good spring weather, I leave it home when I need a full-on storm shell). This winter’s choice: Outdoor Research Enchainment.
But this isn’t your grandmother’s softshell. In days of yore, to make a softshell they just sticched up a jacket made of all the same fabric. If they used some variety of Schoeller they worked well, but why not improve on things? To that end, underarm areas and a panel on the shoulders of the Enchainment are body mapped with a Schoeller fabric they call NanoSphere. This stuff is super breathable but still repels water well due to some sort of unobtanium “nano” coating on the outside. (Schoeller also claims “substances as ketchup, honey, coffee or red wine” just “run off” NanoSphere, which is a useful quality when you’re at a mountain hut, though one has to wonder what happens when the wine runs off the NanoSphere onto the adjacent fabric.) Read more backcountry skiing
My hands stay warm. Mittens are to me as useful as ski boots on a golden retriever. Thick gloves? They live in my pack; only seeing light during cold events. Thus, 99.99% of my winter fun is enjoyed in thin gloves. That doesn’t mean junkers. Gloves I like need a friction palm, reasonable durability, and a modicum of warmth. Most importantly, without something like a Gore-Tex layer they get too wet while working with climbing skins or digging snow pits. My latest favorite has been the Mountain Equipment Cascade Xtrafit Glove. I’ve got some days on these now. Pitards leather palm is holding up, and they do keep my hands dryer than without Gore, though I’d be happier if they breathed slightly better (perhaps by limiting the area covered by the Gore-Tex). The gloves do have one odd feature: A stretch neoprene panel up by your wrist that can’t stretch much due to the way it is hemmed and shaped. This doesn’t cause any problems, it’s just kind of strange. So I just ignore and enjoy. They work well.
Sadly, I can’t find any etailers for the ME Cascade Extrafit. Readers, suggestions for these types of gloves? Feel free to leave shopping links, we’ll curate.
I’m thinking these BD gloves might be of similar utility.
Readers also suggest Outdoor Research Warrant, which look good. I’ll get some for testing.
I just tested a North Face Etip Apex glove, fail. It wet through to my fingers quickly in the faucet test, and the liner pulled up out of the fingers enough to make it tough putting the gloves back on. I bought these for the test, back to Sports Authority they go. Shucks, they looked promising.
Four days in the legendary Asulkan Cabin. It’s rustic, but to a ski mountaineer this is the Queen Mary, only with skiing. Asulkan is a simple cabin in a sublime location. Understated, nothing pretentious. Quite a contrast to some of the luxury diggs we’ve experienced in Europe. Having been to hundreds of “huts,” here is my take on Asulkan through the lens of planning our own mountain hut construction (one of my dreams).
Overall: As with many of the higher huts in Europe, Asulkan is provisioned by helicopter. This is obvious in how spartan everything is. More, it’s evident the place is well used if not over-used, making upkeep challenging. I like the “humanized” feel of a shelter that gets traffic, but it’s obvious Asulkan is a lot of work for the folks on maintenance. One has to admire how we’ll they’re doing.Read more backcountry skiing
Our time at the Asulkan Cabin was on a steady trend of improving snow conditions and quality skiing below timberline. On day four, with over 30 cm of fresh snow outside the cabin we were excited to get into long awaited early season powder turns. Read more backcountry skiing