I don't know about you, but considering the amount of snow that fell between January and March across the West, I'm planning on a very long season of spring backcountry skiing. The mountains are fat with a snowpack that's just now riping under high-pressure days and cold nights.
Touring in the spring is a different sport than touring in the middle of winter. The snowpack operates differently and temperatures demand a different strategy on layering and apparel. Hiking and skiing on a reflective white surface in the alpine when the sun is much higher in the sky can feel like walking in an oven. Sun protection is key. So are breathable fabrics that stand up to the wind. For those reasons, softshells are synonymous with springtime touring.
For the last few weeks of touring in the Sierra Nevada, I’ve been wearing the Dynafit Mercury softshell pants and jacket with the Mezzalama mid-layer. Combined, these items are excellent temperature regulators that are also wind and abrasion resistent. They are water repellent and designed to keep your body protected without overheating. They are also made in extremely bright colors—which I think is more for European styling than function. But if you can rock the orange, blue, and pink, everyone will be able to see you from far away.
Thigh vents in the Mercury pants (MSRP: $229.95) dumped heat and were welcomed with any breeze on heated ascents. The fabric is flexible and moves like stretch pants—they're also as tight and body conforming as stretch pants. A zipper and button enclosure on the cuff of the pants helps them fit over low-profile ski boots, aka elf slippers. (It would be more difficult to fit them over my resort boots.)
I stored the Mercury jacket (MSRP: $229.95) in my backpack for the ascent—it fit fine in my pack, though it's not as packable as a Gore-Tex shell can be. But as soon as I crested any ridge and the winds picked up, it was the first thing that came out. Though it's the same softshell material, the jacket feels a little heavier and more durable than the pants. It fits long and the hood is deep enough for a helmet.
Finally, the Dynafit Mezzalama (MSRP: $249.95) was one of the most breathable mid-layers I’ve worn that still protected from the wind and kept me warm. You'd think those qualities would work against each other, but I was impressed how the Mezzalama kept me cool, warm, and sheltered, all at once on hikes uphill. It’s a jack-of-all-trades. DWR-treated ripstop stretch material is in the sleeves, pits, and lower core, making it lightweight and breathable. A thin layer of Polartec Alpha insulation in the chest, back, and hood insulated me from the mountain elements. It fits long, and I appreciated the elastic cuffs and thumbholes. This was a piece I’ve been wearing inbounds, too. It could stand on its own as a jacket on super warm days, and for the rest, it fits well under any jacket.