Backcountry Skier’s Christmas Gift Idea List

Post by blogger | December 8, 2010      

Ah yes, snowhopper, the eternal dilemma: What to buy that backcountry skiing fanatic on your list. Forewith:

Grandma doesn’t understand what the word “shralp,” means, and thinks a pipe is something from the 1960s? Set her straight with a subscription to The Ski Journal. Works for all other ages as well.

Every backcountry skier should have a decent pozi-drive screw driver lurking in their junk drawer or glove compartment. Sure, they might have a pozi bit for the power driver, or a pozi in the repair kit. But having just a regular old screw driver with a pozi on the end is nice. Take my word for it. Slidewright has a a good one that’s made in Sweden by women with blue eyes, blonde hair, and an interest in male backcountry skiers. Make sure you explain that on the gift card, that is unless the giftee is a female backcountry skier, or your spouse. In either case, you might want to consider a much snazzier gift. So keep reading.

How about the perfect stocking stuffer? Get that backwoods slider a pile of lithium AA and AAA batteries. Just remember to remind her that liths work great in headlamps and FRS radios, but are not compatible with most avalanche beacons. I usually pick my lithiums up at Walmart, but sometimes catch them online if the price is right and shipping doesn’t stack up. Amazon can be a good bet.

6-Volt Lithium batteries here for those light headlamps like the Black Diamond Ion. Better yet, give them a light but bright headlamp that takes AAA’s, like BD’s Gizmo or Cosmo.

If your giftee gets lost in the wood, you might think satellites and a GPS will save him or her. But what if the batteries run out? At WildSnow we are proponents of always carrying a magnetic compass. If it’s somewhat likely it’ll get used, the Brunton 8040G is a good compromise between price, size and complexity. For something slimmer that’ll slip easier into the emergency kit, perhaps grab him or her a Kasper, and if that backcountry zealot is also a weight weenie, stick a Brunton Classic in the little tiny stocking and be done with it.

Can’t leave out the foodie part of the equation. What do you do for holiday backcountry trail treats? Answer: chocolate. Get a dozen of any one tasty chocolate treat. If you’re backcountry skiing with your sweetheart around Christmas, slip the chocolate out of your rucksack during that special moment, and it will become even more special!

You can’t have too many socks. But we just can’t bear up to sticking socks on a Christmas list. So considering the fact that backcountry skiers also can’t have too many gloves, may we suggest the lightweight OR Omni for those warm days — or really any day as a liner glove or for backcountry skiers whose hands tend to not need big beefy gloves. I actually wore these things to the summit of Denali, at 20 below zero F, and only put my overgloves on at the summit. But then, I’m blessed with super human blood flow in my digits due to early experiments with winter alpinism (as opposed to my feet, which are damaged goods).

Every stripe of alpinist (including backcountry skiers) should have the book “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills” on his or her shelf — especially when starting out in the alpine arts. The book isn’t specific to backcountry skiing, but covers just about everything else related to safe alpine recreation. Truly an excellent gift, and even if a person has a copy, a new edition upgrade can be wise, as early editions become dated due to developments in gear and technique. Shop for “Freedom of the Hills”

Better check who else is gifting this one to your target recipient, or she might end up with three. But the book of the year is of course Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America. It’s $59.95 and you can shop for it here. Yes, pricey for a book but the fact that whoever reads it might quit her job and become a ski bum makes that okay. Why? Because the ski descents — are there.

Chances are your backcountry giftology subject has an avalanche transceiver. But you can always upgrade them, and if he doesn’t like the one you pick he can keep it around for their friends to borrow. But if you get him a shiny new avalanche beacon, he’ll be giving his friends his old beacon and proudly wearing the one you gave him ever so lovingly. The BCA Tracker is an affordable option, but beautifully functional and the Jackson Hole ski patrol’s beacon of choice. The Pieps adds features such as an altimeter, and has some mighty amazing functions for finding groups of buried avalanche victims. Of course, finding a bunch of people buried under the snow, as opposed to digging them out alive, are two very different concepts. But we’ll leave that debate for another day.

Want to spend some bucks? Any serious backcountry slider who uses AT gear can always rock another pair of Dynafit Bindings. The FTZ12/110 ($579.00) has the stronger toe spring, goes to RV 12 (including 11, thank you very much), and the wide 110 mm brake can be swapped for a narrower one if the wide option is unnecessary.

Since we’re working our way up to really pricey, I’ll confess to what to me is the ultimate gift for the backcountry skiing devotee. Forget PLB’s and Spot Messengers, just cut to the chase and get that maniac a satellite phone. My fave and the one I’m still using after getting it for our Denali trip last spring: The Iridium 9555. Durable, small and lightweight. Call from anywhere on the planet with a view of the sky (doesn’t work for caving, but what does?). You’re gonna spend about $1,200 on this guy, plus you’ve got to pop for around $500/year of airtime to keep it working (or go to a pricey per-minute plan that still has a monthly charge). But did I say this was cheap? It takes some coin to keep 66 active satellites (and a few spares) flitting around up there. They work pretty well, though during deep valley and canyon use you’ll find you get your talk time limited to chunks of three to six minutes (in my experience, anyway.)

Well, that’s it boys and girls! Be good.


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15 Responses to “Backcountry Skier’s Christmas Gift Idea List”

  1. Jay December 8th, 2010 10:54 am

    A great alternative to the lithium battery stocking stuffers are NiMH rechargeables, specifically Eneloops (or any other brand marketed as ‘pre-charged rechargeables’). Unlike other rechargeable they don’t loose a charge while sitting unused in your emergency headlamp. Well worth the extra they cost vs regular NiMH rechargeables (which go to dead if sitting on a shelf for a month or two). I’ve been using them for quite some time in most of my backcountry electronics and they’re awesome. Save some money in the long run and send less to a landfill, I consider them a win win.

  2. Brian S December 8th, 2010 11:01 am

    I would add in Brunton Solaris solar panels… they were crucial in my mountaineering endeavors this year!

  3. Mark December 8th, 2010 12:05 pm

    That blue and black Pozi #3 is the best tool in the ski shop. I’ve got one and ordered another. Don’t loan them out. They disapperar.

  4. Lou December 8th, 2010 2:54 pm

    Jay, excellent suggestion. Brian, ditto!

  5. Ann December 15th, 2010 11:16 am

    Hi Lou,
    I’d like to get a ski vise for my guy for Christmas. We have pretty wide skis (at least 102mm waist), so I think I have to get either the Toko Ski Vise World Cup Wide or the Swix World Cup Ski Vise (costs $100 less). Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  6. Greg Louie December 15th, 2010 11:36 am

    Hey, I just looked at the handle of my Bahco Pozi # 3 and it says “Spain” not Sweden !!!

  7. Lou December 15th, 2010 3:37 pm

    Greg, that’s really sad.

  8. mc December 15th, 2010 3:40 pm

    Tracker 2 or Ortovox 3+? What do you think Lou?

  9. Lou December 15th, 2010 4:32 pm

    Tough call mc, but my take is that if you have much of a chance of multiple burial the Ortovox has an edge, but the BCA still does multiples with correct use, and costs less. I like that Ortovox runs on one AA cell, as I find it a hassle to keep needing alkaline AAA cells, since beacons are the only thing we use them in. I use a Tracker, I’ve always liked them for their simplicity, but that’s just me and I don’t really get into beacons the way folks such as Jonathan S. do. If I lost my Tracker and someone handed me an Ortovox, I’d still be a happy camper.

  10. Mark W December 15th, 2010 4:43 pm

    You don’t have headlamps with AAA batteries?

  11. Lou December 15th, 2010 4:48 pm

    Mark, I do, but we use lithiums for those, and the beacons don’t want lithium, so just one more niggling hassle I’m happy to eliminate.

  12. Jonathan Shefftz December 15th, 2010 5:48 pm

    re Toko Ski Vise World Cup Wide, I’d also be curious to hear any feedback. My Toko vise is an older model that is wide enough for my Dynafit Manaslu and Movement Logic-X (yes, blog coming up soon on that…), but it just doesn’t grip the sidewalls that well, so I’ve been thinking about alternatives.

  13. Lou December 15th, 2010 6:46 pm

    Ann, I’m a big fan of any sort of cinch vise since they work with any size/shape skis. I forgot which brand we have but it came from

  14. Louise October 28th, 2014 9:00 pm

    This is an old thread, but still caught my eye- I’m actually considering breaking down and buying a satellite phone bc we take our very little kids out on hut trips- and have rented sat phones each time. Would your recommendation on that sat phone still stand or is there a different one you’d recommend now?

  15. Lou Dawson 2 October 29th, 2014 5:42 am

    Louise, I’d recommend Globalstar/Spot if it’ll work in your location. I’ve been testing both Iridium and Globalstar for quite some time now and consistently get better results from Globalstar if I’m in a covered region. Globalstar also costs less. Another option that has two-way communication is the Delorme inReach, only texting but useful.

    Check out our comparo between the two:

    Also, we have tons of satphone content here, check out site search results:

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