Each year, skiers and snowboarders trudge through the spring, summer and fall waiting for that first beautiful crystal to flutter down from the gray sky. While there're other pursuits to get us through--hiking, mountain biking, camping, etc., the year doesn't really begin until the skies open up.
Now that December has rolled around and snow has started to drop, it's time to begin thinking about the gear cache (or lack thereof). While the items featured here are a more luxury than necessity and may not look quite right being grasped by duct-taped Gore Tex, one can't deny that they would look awfully purty sitting in a neatly wrapped box under the tree. Here's a few ideas for the skier or snowboarder on your holiday shopping list.
Klymit NobleTek Double Diamond Vest
Klymit begs you to drop the puffy jacket and insulate with the lightest substance around--gas. No, not the post-chimichanga surprise warming your cheeks on the lift, this gas is argon and it's used to heat your upper body. Klymit has developed NobleTek, an insulation system in which traditional insulators are replaced with hollow air chambers. Skiers and riders can fill the chambers up with the help of the Klymitizer and argon tank, creating a warm barrier that blocks the elements.
The advantages of the system are that it is easily adjustable on the go and it is supposedly lighter, thinner and warmer than other forms of insulation. It also packs down easier than a traditional jacket. This past July, Klymit packaged the insulation technology into a line of vests, and the Double Diamond is the form-fitting snow sports version. Get on this trend and say you were one of the firsts. Vests are available for preorder at Klymit's store and cost $225.
Mountain Hardwear/Ardica Refugium and Radiance Jackets
Mountain Hardwear recently launched two heated jackets that double as USB charging stations. The Mountain Hardwear liners are wired and ready to begin providing a serving of electric heat to the user. Three settings help dial in one's comfort level and a charger in the pocket keeps your MP3 player or GPS doin' its thang. The catch? The Ardica battery pack that makes the magic happen is sold separately. So you'll spend $230 on the liner, another $149 on the Ardica Moshi Power System, and still be short a shell after burying yourself nearly $400 in. No one said ski tech was cheap, however.
The Refugium is the men's version and the Radiance the women's.
VholdR ContourHD 1080p
Wearable cams have long made a coveted gift atop any skier or snowboarder's list, but only quite recently has HD shown up to the party. In fact, since the fading months of last ski season, the world's first 720p helmet cam was released and subsequently overshadowed by the first and second 1080p cams. GoPro and VholdR are the companies behind the game of hardware tag, but VholdR's 1080p ContourHD wins out due to its sleek, helmet-friendly design (GoPro's looks a little more like gluing a Coolpix to your head). The ContourHD shoots 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps. It also includes dual-laser leveling to keep your shot focused and tight no matter what type of flips or spins you're in the midst of. At $330,it's one of the most affordable pieces of equipment with a "1080p" label attached.
POV ski footage from 2010 should be more incredible than ever.
Brooks Range Rocket Tent
Outside of relying solely on natural provisions and building a snow shelter, it's difficult to find a four-season tent that is anywhere near as light as the Brook Range Rocket. Designed for multi-day backcountry assaults, the Rocket weighs just 1 lb. 6 oz. This little miracle was made possible by dual-function design that makes use of ski poles and an avalanche probe instead of tent poles. The Rocket Tent also uses ultra-lightweight, reflective CT3 fabric. Its shape and guy-out design allow it to hold up to harsh, winter winds. Limit the weight on your back and spend an extra day or two cutting lines in the backcountry. The two-person tent runs $600.
Ever come back from an open-to-close powder day and feel like your flaming legs were going to slide off your body and onto the floor of the apres ski bar? You, old dog, could benefit from Ski Mojos. The hardware straps to each leg and provides shock absorption for your thighs and knees, creating "an extra pair of thigh muscles". Ski Mojo claims to reduce up to a third of strain off the thighs and knees, absorb bumps and impacts, and offer up to a 50 percent increase in power, making for a more comfortable, productive day on and off the slopes. Of course, for $589 you could probably pay a young, blonde bombshell to ski the day for you and recite the tale in the comfort of the lodge hot tub.
Snow at Home Snowmaking Systems
The aforementioned gadgets aren't particularly useful without a slope blanketed in heavenly whiteness, and the way things were looking at the outset of this season (at least in some places), we may need a little help. Instead of waiting around, jump start the season with a Snow at Home snowmaking system. Just like the guns that are always blaring at your favorite Poconos resort, these systems will turn cold, clear weather into certified snow days. Tap into a pressure washer and air compressor, cover your backyard in snow and mold it however you want to ride it--it may not be Wasatch backcountry, but it's better than staring longingly/angrily at the blue skies of early winter. Snowmakers start at $448 and full systems (with pressure washer and air compressor) start at $1248.
Nothing here meeting your fancy? Check out last year's ski gadget guide for some more ideas.