It was partly sunny when we left Valdez, Alaska on our way up Thompson Pass. Wispy high clouds dampened our expectations for the day so we opted for ‘low-hanging fruit’ near the pass summit. I had never skied Valdez before and was excited to get out on a tour, up high to get a sense for the landscape. The eastern Chugach lives up to its reputation — huge.
More on that in a minute…
The tour also offered another chance for me to field test two layers from Black Diamond that I have been quickly wearing out (that way BD can’t ask for them back, though they are gear test loaners…): The Coefficient Hoody and First Light Jacket. I recently wrote a run-down of the BD Helio Collection, and the redesigned Coefficient and First Light compliment those offerings well. I have had a chance to ski with both layers for the last couple of months and they rock.
The coefficient hoody is a solid lightweight fleece mid-layer.
It has been around for a while but new material and slimmer fit make it a bit lighter and feel a bit more streamlined (plus they added thumb loops!). It is full zip, comfy, and light at only 300 grams. The low profile hood fits under a helmet well (though could be cut a bit higher on the neck). The ‘Polartec Power Dry’ fleece it a breathable weight for mountain travel that is not so warm that you sweat on the up, but still insulating enough to be useful on the down.
Many skiers have a drawer of mid-layers that offer different weights, collar designs, fits, and so on. The Coefficient is a stretchy, motion-minded offering, with a simple cut, and nice degree of insulation—it fits in the drawer quite well.
Coefficient Hoody specs
First Light Hoody
The First Light Hoody jacket is a packable, lightweight, synthetic jacket for ski touring and mountain travel that makes me smile. BD found the sweet spot for a minimal insulation layer here -– excellent on the skin track when its cold first thing in the morning, breathable but still warm on the descent, light and small in the pack, and cozy in the car on the way to the trailhead.
At 510 grams, the warmth-to-weight ratio of the First Light easily justifies its space in a pack. The cut is fairly slim, which makes it easy to fit under a shell, but hard to fit over too many layers. The design is ideal for on-the-move days, but is not your loose fitting barn jacket.
First Light Hoody
Our tour on Thompson pass was cut short by flat light and wind effected snow, but was an introduction to a skiers’ paradise: endless peaks, spines, chutes, and faces abound in every direction. Fields of mellow pow blanket the lower stretches of the mountains, and then each peak in the range seems to pop up for an impressive final push into the horizon.
We took a mellow slope up to a ridge about 1800 ft above the road. The wispy clouds gave way to overcast fuzz. Wind took aim at the snow and turned it punchy and variable, but the ski down was still unreal — the toothed horizon in the distance showcasing endless possibilities. Guess I’ll have to head back soon (our quick one-run pass tour was enough to convince us to book an airbnb on the car ride back to town, all set for a proper trip next month).
I accidentally went ice climbing instead of skiing most of the weekend (the Valdez Ice Fest was our excuse to head that way – it was a lot of fun!) and both the Coefficient and First Light did well as climbing layers too. I know the rest of the ski season these will be heavily used, and when I head back to Valdez they will be with me.
(WildSnow blogger Dr. Alex Lee lives in Anchorage, Alaska. He is a professor at Alaska Pacific University, or, at least he’s that when he’s not skiing. He recently attended a press trip hosted by Black Diamond, this post covers gear BD provided for review.)