The first day of winter arrives this week, on Friday December 21. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year with the fewest daylight hours, as the Earth's North Pole points away from the sun. For skiers, it's a joyous event, signifying the arrival of dark and stormy powder days. However, sometimes it can be downright arctic—just ask anyone who lives in Wyoming or Montana. The below pieces of gear will help you avoid frostbite and stay toasty warm while shredding the cold smoke.
The Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie is the first jacket that contains Powerfill from Polartec, and won an ISPO award (Europe's version of the SIA Snow Show) last season. Powerfill is constructed of 100 percent post-consumer recycled material, and doesn't just trap heat like a traditional lofted puffy. Instead, the pliable polyester fibers are constructed in a shape that creates thousands of air pockets to contain your body heat while shielding the cold outside. The fabric also resists moisture, keeping you dry as well as warm.
I recently took an avalanche pro exam, i.e. lots of digging in the snow and standing around, and I was impressed with how much warmer it was compared to my other mid-layer puffies. I've used it as a mid-layer underneath a shell when the wind chills were well below zero, and as an outer puffy jacket during a windy and cold storm. It's super light despite its warmth, weighing in at 390 grams–easily the warmest and most functional insulation I've tested to date.
This new puffy from Eddie Bauer includes a potentially revolutionary insulation called Thindown. Instead of traditional high-loft down clusters, the BC Evertherm uses thin sheets of down throughout the jacket. This not only gives it a lean, low-profile look, it eliminates the need for baffles or quilting, so there are no cold spots typical with many down jackets. It also has 20k/20k waterproof-breathability, so you stay dry when the flakes get big and wet. Its breathability means that you can throw it on at the summit after a sweaty ascent without turning into a soggy, wet bag. Bottom line, the BC Evertherm is a highly versatile jacket for any occasion.
If you have perpetually cold hands, and can't deal with the bulkiness of mittens, then the Hestra Heli Gloves are for you, in men’s or women’s (pictured above). My wife has had a pair for several seasons, and loves the dexterity and warmth. Constructed of a Triton three-layer shell with synthetic insulation and a leather palm, it combines all the dexterity needs of a skier while not letting your fingers freeze. No wonder it’s the go-to choice for so many heli guides and snow professionals.
The Patagonia Knit Balaclava isn't your normal under-a-beanie layer. This thing is meant for super cold days where you're riding lifts, using a snowmobile to access the goods, for winter camping, or walking down the street in Big Sky. Constructed of recycled wool and nylon with a next-to-skin fleece lining, this cuddly face sock will keep you warm when dealing with arctic temps and blistering winds.