The coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 may adversely impact alpine ski resorts and skiing travel this winter, but the same crisis is widely expected to fuel big increases in Nordic skiing (cross-country), alpine touring (aka uphill skiing, AT or skinning), split-boarding and snowshoeing. In the past week, the New York Times alone did three stories on this dramatic growth, covering the alpine touring boom, citing increased snowshoeing, and once again noting alpine touring’s newfound pandemic popularity. The Snowsports Industries America (SIA), winter sports’ trade group, projected increases of 48-65% across snowshoeing and backcountry, uphill, and cross-country skiing. So, whatever your reason for getting out on the snow this winter, you’ll want to stay as warm, dry, safe and comfy as possible.
I have been covering ski and winter gear for two-plus decades, and personally put a lot of it to the test each year, in bounds, out of bounds, and around the world, in terrible weather and bluebird days, from sea level to high elevation. I can say with experience and certainty that the materials, designs and features for high-tech snowsports outerwear are the best they have ever been, and a handful of top specialty manufacturers are harnessing these advances to roll out an incredible crop of feature laden, cutting edge, cold weather apparel.
Mountaineering and skiing were both sports invented in Europe, and not surprisingly, European gear companies have been the leaders in pushing the innovations envelope since the 19th century and continue to do so today. What’s “new,” at least to us, is that some of these brands were once unknown and almost impossible to find here, but have ridden the wave of globalization into better ski shops, their own boutiques, and of course, through e-tail. So, while you will find few of the widely recognizable American and Canadian brand names below, you will find names that are synonymous with alpinism and have long venerable histories of world class products. At the opposite end of the gear spectrum are a handful of niche newcomers who typically arrived on the scene after detecting some failing or missed opportunities in the outdoor pursuits their founders were passionate about, and have stepped up to fill the gap. So while I saw little of interest that was new this year from the biggest, most ubiquitous outdoor gear brands, I found plenty of impressive innovations here and abroad that can help you more thoroughly – and safely – enjoy everything this unpredictable winter throws your way.
It’s worth noting that you do not have spend a fortune to equip yourself for winter, and there are plenty of worthy bargain and value products out there, many of which