My 2015-2016 ski season kicked off in Ushuaia, Argentina the first week of September at Interski 2015, and finished eight months later with two epic weeks of late April powder in Breckenridge, Colorado. In between, I skied Austria, Colorado, New Mexico, ran the Gear Institute Ski Test at Snowbird, Utah, and thanks to the fine folks at Columbia Sportswear, finally got to track the epic powder of Niseko, Japan.
Peter Kray with Guide Shizuto Nakazawa
I also read four excellent books along the way—Barbarian Days by William Finnegan, Inside the Dream Palace by Sherill Tippins, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, and 60 Meters to Anywhere by Brendan Leonard—drank plenty of High West Double Rye, ate about a hundred slices of pizza, and skied in everything from whiteout powder to bluebird sunshine to nose frosting cold.
Along the way, I came to totally rely on six pieces of truly bomber gear, with one major disappointment in the mix. Here are six products that went with me every time I drove to the airport or local hill, as well as the one product I’m still trying to replace.
Dynafit Chugach Ski
I was blessed with plenty of powder, and an equal dose of hardpack, moguls and crud in my travels. Even with a 108-millimeter waist, the Chugach handled it all. The secret is the ski’s double rockered tip and tail, which make it incredibly easy to initiate and schmear, along with a flat base—meaning there’s no camber to pressure and load—which make the Chugach even easier to put on edge. I expected this ski to crush powder, but was consistently amazed by how well it held on the groomed. It’s definitely a little heavy for all-time touring, but with incredible downhill performance. I mounted them with Atomic Tracker 16 bindings to make the setup that much more versatile.
Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody
Simply put, Nano-Air Hoody is the greatest softshell jacket I have ever worn. It’s equally adept at providing warmth as a mid-layer on the lifts, and features the best breathability I have ever experienced while climbing for turns. It’s so well built I wore it like a second skin over my baselayer, and even in May am looking for an excuse to put it back on. I paired the Hoody with matching color Patagonia Powder Bowl pants with Gore-Tex protection outside, and a perfectly cut breathable liner that makes them easy to wear.
L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Down Sweater
I still haven’t found a go-to storm shell, whether that’s because of fit or style. But I get away with a lot of puffy days since I don’t typically ski the wetter snow of Whistler or Squaw. For most New Mexico days—whether it was on the chair or walking in frosty arroyos—I relied on the L.L. Bean Ultralight 50 Down Sweater, built with 850-fill DownTek, which provides great insulation at a super light weight (10 ounces!), and more water repellency than I needed at any time.
Hestra Fall Line Glove
I’m a sucker for good leather gloves. Even sacrificing the warmth of a mitten, I prefer the dexterity and fit of Hestra’s Fall Line Glove. I’m on my second pair of Fall Lines. The first pair, which I wore for two seasons, are still in my pack as a backup on multi-day trips. A water-repellent cowhide, synthetic insulation, and incredible mobility make these gloves easy to grab. There’s a 3-Finger option if you want to increase the warmth.
Columbia Flannel Shirts
In the interest of style and day-to-day comfort, I’ve upgraded my ski kit in the past couple years, replacing zip-up tech layers with the new generation of high-end flannel shirts. Columbia’s recent Royce Peak Stretch is one of my all-time favorites (look for updates on the brand’s newest generation of mountain flannel in an upcoming article), and still looks as bright and fresh today as it did 14 months ago, when I first started wearing it from the plane to the pub to the slope.
Kaenon Burnet XL
It’s amazing how many great sunglasses are on the market, both in terms of style and in the level of tech. Kaenon is my personal favorite. The quality of lens and sport-focused aesthetic of design is hard to match. Already a fan of the brand’s Burnet line, the addition of a Burnet XL, with a bigger profile in terms of field of vision, fit, and eye protection (especially with the brand’s proprietary SR-91 lens for improved impact protection and increased clarity at a lighter weight) have made this a new go-to favorite. Future ski days look bright.
The one bummer? I dropped a lot of money on a pair of Soul Poles in anticipation of my first trip to Japan. By the time I got them on the chairlift, they already had significant cracks along the shaft. Not sure why, or how, but I’m glad I brought a backup. And am looking forward to seeing how well the brand’s warranty policy works.
Thanks for reading. Let us know about the gear that rocked for you–or didn’t–at [email protected]