7 Winter Gear Picks From an Avalanche-Fighting Ski Patroller
Serious cold requires serious equipment. Choose smartly.
Functional and hardy winter gear is essential for Jen Calder, assistant ski patrol director at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, whose typical workday includes treating injured skiers and snowboarders and conducting snow-stability tests to gauge avalanche risks on the slopes of this Wyoming winter wonderland.
Rescuing skiers from mountain peaks with the Jackson Hole Ski Patrol may not be your calling, but you may find yourself enduring subzero temperatures, wading through hip-deep snow, and bracing yourself against driving winds during your wintertime travels. Here is the gear Calder recommends to protect yourself against the elements.
1. The Base Layer
“I have gotten into wool base layers—they are breathable and with no odor. It insulates remarkable, and you don’t need multiple layers. It is so soft, not like the army wool blankets.”
Choose: The$90 ➊ Voormi Long Sleeve Merino Tech Tee is made of the company’s breathable and antimicrobial Rocky Mountain Highcountry Merino wool.
2. The Pants
“We have had our uniforms issued by Marmot for at least a decade. The ski pants are durable, comfortable, conforming, but not tight. When we bend over to help patients, the snow-down-your-pants-gap doesn’t happen,” says Calder. “The pockets are really significant: what size they are and where they are located. When you are skiing or on the move, you have to be able to find energy bars, Chapstick, and other necessities.”
Choose: The $230 ➋ Obermeyer Kron Pant is waterproof, breathable, and stretchable and features convenient zipper pockets on the front and side.
3. The Parka
“In the winter environment, there are two key jackets: a puffy-type jacket (down or synthetic fibers) and a shell. I have a puffy with a hood, so when wind and snow are pounding you from the side, the hood protects your neck and cheeks. Moisture protection Gore-Tex shell should be worn over the puffy, which is the insulator and the shell is the protector.”
Choose: The $298 ➌ Timberland Goose Eye Down Parka has snap pockets, a hidden zip internal pocket, and a 100-percent water-repellent nylon outer shell.
4. The Gloves
“Gloves are tricky: I always have a pair of warm-weather and cold-weather gloves: a spring pair that are lighter and a heavier pair for cold days (30 below),” says Calder. “Glove liners are a great tool; you can shove them into your pocket if you don’t need them. Take the outer gloves off and leave the glove liner on if necessary. The warmer gloves have cuffs, and you can put the cuff halfway up your jacket. I like the warmth of the cuff when I free-ski.”
Choose: The $65 ➍ Truck M2 Gloves have big cuffs with Schoeller four-way stretch nylon, Hipora waterproof membrane, 200-gram Polartec fleece, and 170-gram Primaloft Gold insulation.
5. The Boots
“I see a lot of Muck boots around the Jackson town lately, which has a hardy sole during icy conditions, with a good, rubber tread and neoprene upper. They are a hardy, but less stylish-looking boot.”
Choose: The$200 ➎ Arctic Outpost Lace Midi Muck Boots are waterproof, with a soft fleece lining that keeps feet warm in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. The Flask
“I can make a cup of tea and it will be hot and drinkable for hours with a Hydroflask thermos. I am getting ready for a 12-hour flight from Seattle to Beijing to train ski patrollers in China; I will be packing my Hydroflask.”
Choose: The $25 ➏ 16-ounce Coffee Hydroflask keeps hot liquids hot for up to six hours.
7. The Lifesaver
“The Jackson Hole Ski Patrol is outfitted by Mammut airbags, which the wearer deploys if caught in an avalanche, the idea being that the airbag portion of these type backpacks inflates to keep the user floating on the surface of an avalanche rather than being dug under the snow. You can customize it to who you are.”
Choose: The $800 ➐ Mammut Airbag System 3.0 is essential for trekking or skiing through avalanche terrain. The system weighs the same as a full 1.5-liter water bottle and has an ice ax holder and lateral compression straps.