Skiers have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to what we wear. Making the right choice matters; we want it to look good, it needs to fit, and, most importantly, it has to work.
At Thread the Needle, the foundational event for this Apparel Guide, the 16 skiers from across the country--who make up the Powder Order of Sartorial Splendor and Excellence (POSSE)--spent a combined 300-plus hours reviewing more than 100 jackets and pants at Solitude Mountain, Utah, to sift through the year's newest products. These 15 men’s jackets received top ratings and the Skier’s Choice badge.
(Click on pant or bib to skip down to review):
Dakine Brentwood Bib
Flylow Foxy Bib
Helly Hansen Powderqueen Bib Pant
Outdoor Research Hemispheres Pant (W)
Patagonia Powslayer Pant
Picture Ticket Bib
The North Face Shredromper Bib
The first thing the POSSE noticed about this bib was the feel of the material. Made with a two-layer brushed twill lined with brushed tricot and mesh, the Brentwood Bib is extremely soft to the touch inside and out.
Thanks to the warmth of a fleece lining, they can be comfortably worn next to skin-you'll be way too warm with much else on. Fully taped seams and a 15k/15k waterproof-breathability rating push this bib into the resort category, especially on cold days. The long, tailored fit is ideal for tall women looking for a trim-fitting bib with major style.
With plenty of stretch in the chest panel and leg vents, the Foxy Bib is the perfect pant for lapping your favorite chair all day long. Applauded by the POSSE for its lightweight feel and flexible fit, the Foxy is made with Intuitive fabric, which is extra waterproof and breathable. T
hese bibs can stand up to wet conditions but are a bit thin when the temperature drops below zero. For warmer days, inner and outer thigh vents allow you to quickly dump heat. They also boast an easy-release system--a long zipper in the left leg that helps make things much easier (and faster)--when nature calls.
The Powderqueen Bib from Helly Hansen passed the first test: the barn door on the backside makes it easy for women to pee while wearing them. Brushed fleece also means they're comfortable on the tush--though they do add a bit of bulk in that area. The light insulation also puts them in the resort skiing category--but whether you're skiing powder or groomers, the Powderqueen bibs are going to be comfortable and stretchy. The bibs sit low, so they don't cover your chest too much. Powder POSSE skiers recommend sizing up.
Editor’s note: The Hemispheres Jacket and Hemispheres Bib, for both men and women, scored highest across the board for their superior technical performance and comfortable fit, earning the nod for our first-ever Apparel of the Year.
The Hemispheres kit features a new material, called Gore-Tex Fabric with Stretch Technology, in strategic locations. The black material is a rippling, supple fabric you'd expect to see in a yoga studio that stretches smooth with little effort. Unlike the first pair of sensuous stretch pants introduced to the world by Willy Bogner in 1952, the stretch Gore-Tex in the Hemispheres Bib is found around the lower back, at the waist, and in the crotch. On the jacket, a narrow stretch panel spans from under the arms, across the back and shoulders, and extends around the middle of the hood.
Combined, this kit offered the POSSE an increased range of motion through hikes up Honeycomb Ridge, 3 o'clock bump-offs, and midnight ski tours, without sacrificing the durable waterproofing and breathability Gore-Tex is known for.
"It passed the spread eagle test," said Caitlin Kelly, one of the four women ranging from 5-foot-6 to 6 feet tall who fit comfortably in a medium bib. "It's flattering and very flexible and easy to move in. This is great material--I feel like they're barely there when I'm skiing."
The jacket's pocket placement--designed to accommodate a harness or pack belt--had universal appeal, as did the helmet-compatible hood with a wire brim halo to keep the field of vision open when storm skiing. On warmer days, skiers can dump heat through the jacket's unique venting zips that run vertically from the drawcord hem to the pits (something that took a few skiers a bit to get used to).
Outer thigh vents on the bibs, which Utah photographer John Howland called his favorite piece of the week, also help to regulate body temps when touring. The women on the POSSE were ecstatic over the bib's extra long side zip combined with stretch paneling that made going to the bathroom the easiest we've ever had it.
The four-way stretch in both the jacket and bib allow for even more temperature control, thanks to comfortable layering under a tailored fit. Details like reinforced cuff guards, a beacon pocket, and a minimal weight--just over a pound each for the jacket and bib--make the Hemispheres kit fully equipped for skiing all terrain in any weather.
Tired of bibs? New this year, Patagonia is making their top-of-the-line Powslayer in pants, adding a bit of variety to their usual lineup that was well received by the Powder Union. In one word: "Awesome!!!" says Matt Hansen, and yes, he did use three exclamation marks. Durable, waterproof, and windproof, the Powslayer are made with 100 percent recycled Gore-Tex Pro. Pockets could potentially a beacon, though they are not made specifically for that purpose. The fit is clean and classic, suitable for the backcountry or the resort--exactly what we have all come to expect from Patagonia.
Made with 50 percent recycled materials, the Ticket Bib features a narrow cut and an insulated liner, making it more ideal for resort laps than an afternoon tour.
Constructed with Picture's Dry Play material, the only 100-percent eco-friendly textile membrane in the world, the bib can be recycled down the line just like plastic bottles. An added bonus: Zip off the upper panel and the Ticket Bib can also be worn as pants. The POSSE recommends sizing up.
A new freeride-inspired piece, the Shredromper Bib was a favorite among women on the POSSE for the slim, elongated cut through the leg and bold (but not obnoxious) toucan print. Made with two layers of DryVent, this bib is fully taped, waterproof, and breathable. Moisture from snow (and a few beers) beaded on the material, while venting on the inner thighs allows for adequate breathability. Though the side-entry zip wasn't the easiest to use for going to the bathroom, the Shredromper received major POSSE approval for coming in a size run from extra small to XL and in three different lengths, including short, regular, and long.