Much like their skis, Black Crows’ latest endeavor--an efficient, detail-oriented line of outerwear--is where high-performance, fun, and good design converge. Based in Chamonix, at the base of the Aiguille du Midi, the founders of Black Crows are true freeskiers and understand what’s needed for functional gear on big lines. Following the successful launch of their skis into the U.S. market, their outerwear, which debuts this fall, is lining up to follow suit.
The Ventus Light 3L jacket fits the bill for high-end, technical outerwear, bringing to the table everything you'd need for ski tours. Lightweight and soft to the touch, the 3-layer Gore-Tex with C-Knit backing was breathable while I sweated it out on the uphill and comfortable when I ended up stripping down to a wool baselayer under the shell. The jacket's streamlined cut finds the happy medium between fitting well and leaving enough room for a midlayer, with one giant exterior chest pocket, a phone-sized pocket on the bicep, and the absence of hip pockets altogether. In the event of wearing a pack with this jacket, you'll find the lack of hip pockets helps with comfort on the hip belt. The rest of the time, if you're like me, you'll miss them.
In place of the jacket's missing pockets, you'll find a giant underarm vent that extends to the place where you almost think a hip pocket might be--clutch for spring tours when the heat gets cranking--and two equally large interior mesh pockets. Design-wise, the Ventus is dialed. Sleek details (like monochromatic zippers and contrasting button-like Black Crows emblems) and a stylish, semi-fitted silhouette elevate what is otherwise a relatively simple design. In black, the Ventus crosses what is typically a very clearly defined line between technical outerwear and city style that I so often uncomfortably toe. For the first time, I feel like I could travel with one jacket that was legitimately acceptable for city life as much as mountain life.
At the end of the day, wearing the Ventus has taught me everything I need to know about the next generation of European outerwear. Namely, that Chamonix's adventure culture and France's well-known sense of style can align collectively in a very comfortable and functional set of outerwear.