Tag Archives | Gear Review

Gear Review: Chaval SuperNova Heated Gloves

You’ll have to forgive me. I know I posted my holiday gift guide a couple weeks ago, but that was before I had the chance to review the SuperNova heated glove from Chaval Outdoor. The upshot: I need to amend the list. Because if you’re looking for a gift that’ll warm the heart – and the hands – of any skier on your list, you need to consider the SuperNova.

Chaval isn’t the biggest glove company on the planet, but they’ve been making waves in the heated glove category since they first came on the scene six years ago. Located in the Seattle area, the company was founded by two high tech guys who are avid skiers and outdoorsmen. I first learned about them in 2013, when they sent me a pair of their XRT gloves to review. Right away I was a convert. You see, even though I love to ski, I hate being cold — and I get cold pretty easily. I suffer from Raynaud Syndrome, which means my hands and feet are profoundly affected by cold temperatures. It’s really unpleasant, so I do as much as I can to keep them warm. My usual solution had been really warm mittens, glove liners, and hand warmers. Effective, but pretty bulky. Let me put it this way: The XRT gloves were a godsend.

Fast forward to this year: Once again, I was contacted by Chaval. The company had a new heated glove, and would I be interested in giving it a try?

Lord, yes. And I’m glad I did.

Right out of the box

Right out of the box

The technology
Conventional heated gloves pretty much operate the same way. Think about the old electric blankets of the 70’s and 80’s, which were powered by a network of heating wires and controlled by a switch with three heat levels. Conventional heated gloves use this same principle. Chaval, however, decided to toss out the wires and replace them with a paper-thin nanotech polymer heating film. This polymer film has a proprietary molecular ‘programming’ that allows it to self-regulate heat output and maintain an even temperature in each finger and thumb. So instead of requiring you to regulate the heat levels by constantly adjusting them up or down, Chaval’s technology does it for you, automatically. Pretty slick. Extra bonus: the film is considerably less bulky and easier to flex. So you get better dexterity, too.

The glove
While the technology for the SuperNova and the XRT are pretty much the same – oh, there’ve been some refinements since the pair I received in 2013 – the biggest difference is the glove itself. First, the sizing. As much as I loved the XRT, the glove, even in the extra-small size, was simply too large for me. That’s because it was sized for men’s hands, and an XS men’s is not the same as an XS women’s. The extra-small in the SuperNova fits me perfectly. Second, the SuperNova is made entirely from goat skin — no synthetic materials on the shell at all — which amps it up from a lot of the other gloves on the market. It also makes it softer and more supple than the XRT (which is made with cowhide), which means it has a shorter break-in period and just feels great.

Some of the other features include:

The "C" lights up when the heat is on.

The “C” lights up when the heat is on.

• One touch technology: There’s only one button to deal with – an on-off switch. Hold it down for 3 seconds, and the glove comes on (the “C” on the outside of the glove lights up). Hold it down for three more seconds, and it goes off. This prevents you from turning it on or off accidentally and draining the battery.
• Wrist straps. You may think this seems like a trivial matter, but not to me.  I need straps on so I don’t drop my gloves if or when I take them off on the lift, something I’m in mortal terror of doing.
• No batteries. This is a biggie. Instead of bulky batteries, each glove features connectors that attach to an exterior power supply for charging. A full charge takes from 5-7 hours. When you’re ready to use them, simply disconnect from the charger, latch the connectors together, and you’re ready to go. Pretty idiot proof.
• Built in drying system: The charging system doesn’t just charge the glove; it also acts to dry the liner. This means the gloves are comfortable when they’re ready to use, and prevents bacteria from growing in the glove.
• Reinforced fingers: The gloves have extra padding that extends up each finger and thumb.  This makes them sturdier and improves wearability.
• Warm interior liner. Even with the heating element off, these are nice, soft warm gloves.

So cut to the chase. How long will the heat last? 
A good question. After all, the whole point of these gloves is to heat up and keep you warm. According to Chaval, the SuperNova lasts three times longer than other heated gloves on the market. Company co-founder and managing partner, Mark Boone, says that though other gloves promise 2 to 8 or 10 hours of run-time, this is misleading. “Only their highest heat level setting will produce an effective level of heat, and the run-time at that level is only about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. In the very coldest conditions, our gloves will produce an effective level of heat for a minimum of 4 hours. In warmer conditions, up to 6 hours of run-time.”

Is this true? I have to be honest: I can’t say for sure because I haven’t been out more than 4 hours at a time, and the temps haven’t been lower than the teens. That said, the gloves stayed on for as long as I was out, and generated a nice level of warmth. My hands were not cold. At all.

A couple things to consider
First, a word about care. The gloves are treated to be water-resistant and have a waterproof breathable lining beneath the leather to protect both the technology and your hands. But Chaval also includes a special waterproofing treatment along with your order, and provides very specific instructions on how to apply it.  I strongly suggest you use it to optimally protect the leather from moisture and abrasion, and preserve the overall condition of your gloves.

Second, cost. The SuperNova gloves are not cheap, but that’s pretty much the case with all heated gloves.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
I liked these gloves. A lot. They’re comfortable, fit well, and are extremely well made. I liked them even when the heat was off, and when it’s on, wow. Just wow. I wish I could fit my entire body in these gloves. But since I can’t, I’ll just have to settle for my hands.

Bottom line:

If you’re like me and cold hands can really hamper your enjoyment of the day and effect how long you stay out, these are definitely a worthwhile investment. 

Two ski poles up.

For more, go to ChavalUSA.com

UPDATE, JANUARY 4, 2018: We’ve been having an incredible cold snap here in Vermont, with temps below zero and wind chills you don’t even want to think about. I’ve been using the SuperNova, and I’m pleased to report that these gloves absolutely rock! My hands have stayed warm in the most severe conditions. I know I recommended them before, but I double recommend them now! They’re that amazing.

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Gear Review: Kulkea Micro Pack, a multi-activity daypack

Fall is a season that gives you plenty of options. One day you could be hiking to see the changing leaves, the next you could be skiing in an early season dump.

Which is why it’d be great to have a daypack that can seamlessly transition from one activity to another. So when Kulkea contacted me about taking a look at their new Micro Pack, a multi-sport day pack, I was intrigued.

I’ve been a fan of Kulkea’s since a few years ago, when I encountered them at the Boston Ski & Snowboard Show. They sent me their Powder Trekker boot bag to review, and I absolutely loved it. Not only was I impressed with the way it was made, but I was blown away by the variety of  features it had to offer (you can read my review here). I’ve been through a number of boot bags, and for me, this was by far the best.


Kulkea Micro Pack

Could the Micro Pack live up to the standards of the Powder Trekker? Let’s take a look.


Out of the box (technically, a plastic bag), the Micro Pack looks really nice: sturdy, well made, with lots of compartments to stow your stuff. At the  top, there’s a goggle/sunglass compartment; below that, a secure compartment for your wallet/phone/keys. Unlatch the clips, and you’ll find the main compartment, which is great for keeping an extra layer, or maybe even your lunch or snacks. You could also easily snug another layer between that compartment and the one for your wallet/keys; the straps would hold it in place (see the third picture below). The pack also has a drink caddy that can hold a couple of water bottles, and a number of loops and hooks for suspending whatever you like. There are padded, easy to adjust shoulder straps. And this is handy: the straps have a special pocket for lip balm, a clip for an emergency whistle, and a universal strap for gloves, hats or whatever item you want to hang.

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!


Lip balm pocket and clip for an emergency whistle.


But what makes this particularly useful for skiing is its ability to be clipped to a Powder Trekker boot bag. This allows you to carry both to the slopes as one unit, unclip the Micro Bag, and use it as a ski daypack. It’s also easy to unclip when you get on the lift. And there’s a hook on the back for your helmet, too.



Helmet attaches to the outside.

Helmet attaches to the outside.

The Micro Pack attaches easily to the Powder Trekker boot bag.

The Micro Pack attaches easily to the Powder Trekker boot bag.


So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

As a day pack for hiking, I give it a big thumbs up. I love how there are all these different compartments for my stuff, so I’m not rummaging around in one big area trying to locate this or that.

Sadly, I haven’t skied with it yet, but I like what I’m seeing. It seems easy to use, and a great way to keep an extra layer or pair of goggles handy throughout the day.

BTW, we’re giving away a  bag on TheSkiDiva forum right now. The contest is open to Ski Divas only, so if you’re a registered member, head here for a chance to enter. We’ll take entries until 5PM (Eastern Time) on October 29, and the winner will be randomly selected later that day.

For more information on Kulkea, go here. MSRP for the Powder Trekker is $119.95.

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Gear Review: Kulkea Tandem Ski Duffle

I’m often asked to do product reviews. Which is fine, except when there’s a product I really can’t use. Enter Kulkea Tandem Ski Boot Duffle, a bag especially designed to hold kids ski gear.

You see, I don’t have any little kids. So to do the job properly, I called upon Emily Bryk, a mother of two who has lots to carry to the ski hill. Emily agreed to put the bag to the test, and here’s what she had to say:

When you’re skiing with young children, a lot of the challenges have very little to do with what happens on the hill. There are the snacks. There are the bathroom breaks. Adjusting the boots. Adjusting the boots again. But for me, one of the hardest things is just managing all the gear. The most difficult part about a ski day is sometimes getting to the mountain in the first place.

My 5 year old son has been skiing for two years now. He’s excited about skiing and, in the manner of all kindergarteners, he’s very confident, but he’s still a little guy and he can’t yet be relied upon to pack or to haul his own equipment. My daughter is two and this winter was her first time trying out skis. She’s just going out on some little Lucky Bums toy skis, but she wants to keep up with her big brother. Between the two of them, I’m swamped before my husband and I even start to pack up our own things.

Enter Kulkea’s Tandem boot duffle bag. This bag makes everything easier. It’s a double duffle, large enough to hold two kids’ ski gear and with enough specialized storage to keep everyone organized all day long.

Kulkea (the company name comes from the Finnish verb “to go,” appropriately enough) has designed exactly the bag that every ski parent needs. When I started to open up the Tandem, I understood why: the cooler top means that the entire top of the bag opens, which allows access to every part of the bag. No more twisting and angling to fit boots or helmets and no more wondering exactly which wrinkle the chapstick fell into. With the entire bag opened up wide, it’s easy to load up fast and to check out your gear at a glance.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

And there’s a lot you’ll want to keep track of inside the Tandem. This bag is B-I-G. It holds a startling 64 liters – that’s 13” tall, 32” long, and 12” wide. It could be easy to lose things in that amount of space, but it’s not. The bag has four large interior compartments. Two are designed to hold helmets and boots (they’re ventilated, thank goodness!), and two more designed to hold snowpants, extra layers, and other clothing. On top of that, the lid has two mesh pockets, perfect for smaller items like hats, gloves, or (if you’re me) snacks.

As I was loading the Tandem, I worried that all the gear packed inside would make it too difficult to carry. Honestly, though, this isn’t a problem. The adjustable shoulder strap is padded enough to distribute the load nicely, and the messenger-style structure kept it easy to carry.

In fact, this bag is so big that I used it for my gear as well as my kids’! The Tandem is so adaptable that it got all three of us to the mountain. While the bag promises to fit only boots up to 22.5, I actually fit my 24s in there without a hitch. Want to know how much I could carry?

  • 1 pair of women’s boots in a size 24
  • 1 pair of kids’ boots in a size 19
  • Three (three!) helmets: two kids’ and one adult
  • Three pairs of goggles
  • Three pairs of mittens
  • One pair of toddler snowpants
  • Sandwiches, oranges, and bananas for one and all
  • Gaiters

On the way home from the mountain, things got even better. Those boot compartments? They have grommets for drainage, so damp boots don’t stay damp for long.

So do you need a Tandem? If you have small kids, absolutely. This bag’s size and features make it easy to pack, easy to carry, and easy to organize. I’m not going skiing without it.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.

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Gear Review: Female Specific Baselayers from Andie’s Outdoor Undies

I know: what the heck are female-specific baselayers? I had the same reaction when I first heard about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Bear with me for a moment, because I promise: I will fill you in.

But first, let me tell you about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Andie’s is a small company in western Colorado that was started in 2012 by Andra Byrnes. When Andra could no longer find her favorite baselayers, she decided to make them herself — only better. She sat down with a technical designer and thought about all the things she liked, and didn’t like, about the baselayers she used to buy. And then she incorporated her thoughts into something new.

Which brings me to the female specific part. I’ll start with the bottoms. To put it simply, Andie’s baselayers are made so you can go to the bathroom without taking them off. Instead, there’s a panel between your legs that parts when you squat, then closes up when you stand. Here are a couple views:

From the back

From the back

Between the legs, opened

Between the legs, opened

Why is this such a terrific idea? Say you’re in the backcountry hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, whatever, and you have to pee. For guys, this is simple: you just unzip and go. For girls, not so easy. We have to unzip, pull our pants down, and bare our butts before we can take a whiz, even if it’s ten below. With Andie’s, you just pull down your pants, squat, and pee; no butt baring required. Or say you’re skiing and you duck into the lodge to use the facilities. With conventional baselayers, you need to 1) untuck your top; 2) pull down your ski pants; 3) pull down your base layer; 3) pull down your undies (if you’re wearing them), and then go through the ordeal of getting yourself back together, when you’re done. With Andie’s, this isn’t the case. All you need to do is pull down your ski pants, squat, and go. Easy, peasy (or pee-zy).

I tried Andies Undies in an indoor environment, and I’ll be honest, at first I was a little wary. What if the opening wasn’t quite large enough? What if I missed and ended up with a wet base layer for the rest of the day?  I will say that yes, it took a few tries for me to feel comfortable. But then it was easy. And for convenience, you can’t beat ’em.

What else makes these female specific? According to Andra, they’re designed to not pull down in the back when you bend over, or bunch around the knees or ankles. And equally important, they’re designed to look nice.

Female Specific Tops

What makes a top female specific? According to Andra, for too long manufacturers have been simply shrinking men’s tops to fit women: a sort of “shrink it and pink it”  for baselayers. Andra told me she set out to re-imagine the top completely, creating one that’s not binding or snug and is more proportional to a woman’s body. She also gave it a turtleneck collar that can be pulled up to act as a neck warmer or to cover the lower portion of your face, like a Buff, and thumbholes so you can pull the sleeves over your hands. And she designed her tops to be attractive enough to wear alone without looking like you just stepped out in your base layer. I tried the Beyond-Your-Basic Turtleneck, and yeah, I was impressed. One of the things I particularly loved is the fabric. It’s 86% Polyester/14% Spandex with 4 way stretch, and it wicks. But it’s also incredibly soft on the inside and really nice and smooth on the outside. Truly, this is by far the most comfortable, most luxurious-feeling base layer I’ve ever tried. I think it’s my new favorite baselayer top.


BTW, all Andie’s Undies are made in Wray, Colorado through Rural Colorado Apparel Manufacturers, an organization whose mission is to create sustainable jobs for people in rural areas, which is a super great. The products are all sold direct from the company. You can visit her website here.


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Gear Review: Dragon X1S Transition Lenses

You can go dizzy from all goggle choices out there. Not only are there dozens of manufacturers to choose from, but there are a whole slew of variables to take into account: Do you want flat or spherical? What color lens? How do they fit on your face? With your helmet? Do they fog? What about optical clarity? Peripheral vision? And how do they look on you? (Because, as we all know, that’s what it’s all about. *kidding alert*)

For me, though, simpler is better. I don’t even want to think about my goggles, once they’re on my face. Heck, I don’t even want to think about them before I put them on. So I want a goggle that’s, as they say, grab-and-go. One that’s easy-peasy, fits well, and doesn’t cause me any grief.

For the past few years I’ve been a devoted Smith IO/S goggle wearer. I actually liked them quite a bit; they fit well with my Smith helmet, don’t fog, and have a cool strap that looks great with my helmet and jacket. And frankly, the lens swapping system is pretty simple. It’s head and shoulders above the old system where you had to line up the lens and insert it into a pretty unyielding frame. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to. But with some practice, it’s actually pretty easy to deal with.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

Then I got a new Giro helmet and suddenly, my goggles weren’t that great anymore. They just didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. Plus even the easy lens changing system was becoming a bit of a drag. I mean, sometimes a sunny day can turn into a flat light day in a matter of hours. And if you have the wrong lens in place, you’re stuck.

One of the members on TheSkiDiva community mentioned how she loved her Dragon X1S Transition goggles, so I was intrigued.  These are supposed to change to accommodate varying light conditions. That’s right: the company claims they automatically darken in bright sunlight and lighten in cloudy or snowy conditions. According to Dragon’s website, the darkness of the lens tint will vary between 76% and 16% Visible Light Transmission (VLT). A high percentage rate signifies a lighter lens tint, which allows more natural light into the lens in overcast, shaded or low-light conditions. A lower percent signifies a darker lens tint, and is typically best for glare control in sunny conditions.

Photochromatic lenses are nothing new. But in my experience, the lenses just didn’t seem to offer enough of a change to make them that effective. Would these do the trick?

Dragon X1S goggle

Dragon X1S goggle

I had the opportunity to try the Dragon X1S Transitions at the on-snow industry demo days at Stratton in February, and liked them a lot — so much so that I ended up buying a pair. And yes, I have to say that I agree with my fellow forum member: the goggles work as advertised. The first day was sunny and bright, the next day less so, and they really performed. What’s more, I found the clarity of the lens first rate. Peripheral vision was good, too, and I didn’t have any fogging problems. Even better: they work well with my Giro helmet, and they don’t pinch around my nose, which the IO/S always did. The silicone-backed strap is also heftier and more non-slip than the one on the IO/S. A downside: the strap isn’t as graphically pleasing as my old one. But then again, it can go with a lot of things quite easily. So maybe that’s a plus, after all.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I’ve used these now for a month or so, and I have to say I’m still quite pleased. They’re comfortable, easy to deal with, and I don’t even have to think about them at all. Which to me is a major plus. What’s more, they’re great with the flat light we have here in New England, as well as the bluebird days you’ll find out west. And I never, ever, ever have to think about which lens to choose for the day. Which is a pretty liberating experience.

Right now the X1S Transitions are available with a yellow lens, though I think next year they’ll be offering them in a rose lens, too, if that’s your preference. The rep told me the yellow one is better for flat light days, which we get plenty of here in New England.

For more information on the Dragon X1S Transition goggle, go here..

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Gear Review: Kulkea Powder Trekker Ski Boot Bag

We skiers are a hardy bunch. We have to be just to get to the hill, schlepping our skis, poles, boots, helmets, layers, goggles, gloves, and so on.

A good boot bag can make a huge difference. I’ve been on a quest for one for what seems like forever, and I think I actually may have reached the end of my search. Kulkea sent me their Powder Trekker bag to review, and I’m so glad they did.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.57.41 AM

First, let’s get this out of the way. Kulkea is pronounced “cool-kee-ah,” which means “to go” in Finnish —though the company isn’t Finnish at all. It’s located in suburban Boston, MA, and was founded by two brothers, Steven and David Abramowitz, who have a Finnish mother (they actually have dual US-Finnish citizenship). David is a former attorney for a public telecommunications company and Steven a former marketing exec. The company began in 2009 when David decided he needed a better way to haul his gear. After working with designers, skiers, and assorted people who provided loads of input, they launched the Kulkea line of bags. I met Steven at the Boston Ski Show a couple years ago, and was intrigued by the company’s products.

Which leads me to the Powder Trekker. The bag features what Steven calls Kulkea’s “Intuitive Packing System.” According to Steven, this means it’s designed to provide a place for everything, and truly, he isn’t kidding. The Powder Trekker is engineered to keep you from losing your stuff while keeping it readily accessible. For example, there’s a zippered compartment on top that’s half lined with fleece to protect your goggles, the other half unlined for keeping your gaiters or balaclava. There’s an insulated compartment in front for your lunch, water bottle, and other smallish items; this also contains a transparent zippered compartment for things like foot warmers, lip balm, sun block, etc. And there’s a wide-mouthed main compartment for your layers, ski pants, and bulky items. The other bags in the line (alas, not the Powder Trekker) even have a separate compartment for your right and left gloves, so you’ll always know where they are. This would’ve been nice for the Powder Trekker, but it’s a downsized version of their larger Boot Trekker bag, so I guess they had to sacrifice something to gain some space.


Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 12.59.40 PMNonetheless, the Powder Trekker still has plenty of room. One of the reasons is that it has a retractable sling that holds your helmet on the outside of the main compartment. This opens up a lot of the interior for your other stuff (it also keeps your helmet well ventilated). And unlike other bags that hold your boots in a triangular pattern that encroaches on the inside, Kulkea bags keep your boots at right angles in two side-zipped outer compartments that are easy to get to and don’t squish your other stuff.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.11.15 PM

The Powder Trekker is also extremely lightweight — it’s made of durable, water resistant nylon which is much lighter  than my previous bag, which was made of a heavier high-density polyester. And it’s extremely well made. All the seams are double reinforced, plus there’s generous amounts of high quality tarpaulin on the bottom, sides, front and back of the pack for water protection and durability.

Another plus: the straps are padded so they’re comfortable and don’t dig into your shoulders. There’s a quick release buckle that lets you unclip the straps rather than trying to remove the bag by lifting it off. It also keeps the straps from slipping down your arms when it’s on, which I find pretty annoying.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I’ve been through a number of bags and really, this is the best one yet. It’s well made, easy to pack, easy to haul, and I love all the compartments. The bottom line is that even though the Powder Trekker has less cubic volume than the bag I previously used (3200 cu.in. vs 3570 cu. in.), it holds stuff more intelligently and provides more room than I had in the past. Incidentally, I used my previous, larger bag as an airline carry-on without a problem, so I anticipate I won’t have any difficulty with this one, either — though it might require removing the helmet from its outer sling. The verdict: Two ski poles (way) up.


BTW, we’re giving away a Powder Trekker bag on TheSkiDiva forum right now. The contest is open to Ski Divas only, so if you’re a registered member, head here for a chance to enter. We’ll take entries until 5PM (Eastern Time) on December 15, and the winner will be randomly selected later that day.

For more information on Kulkea, go here. MSRP for the Powder Trekker is $119.95.



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2015 Mountain Top Picks: What The Divas Loved This Year

You’ll never find a lack of opinions on TheSkiDiva.com. We have views on just about everything ski related: gear, apparel, resorts, you name it. After all, we Divas aren’t ones to hold back. If there’s something we love, we make sure everyone knows it. And if something doesn’t make the grade, well, we let it all hang out, too.

That’s where our Mountain Top Picks come in. Each year, we vote on the best of the best from the past season. And though there’s no awards ceremony, no fancy statuette, not even a cheesy certificate, the winners get the honor of being named a Diva favorite (they can even use this neat little logo, if they like). And really, isn’t that enough?


So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkiDiva.com’s selections for this 2015’s Mountain Top Picks.

The winners are as follows:

[Drum roll here]

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for hard snow: Blizzard Viva 810 Ti
Favorite ski for powder: Rossignol Savory 7*
Favorite All Mountain Ski: Volkl Kenja
Favorite Ski Boot Brand: Dalbello Kryzma
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Variant

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Icebreaker*
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: Marmot
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Arc’teryx

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Okemo Mountain Resort
Favorite Western Resort: Big Sky
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Mont Tremblant
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb*
Favorite European Resort: Chamonix

*Second year in a row! For a list of our 2014 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!

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Gear Review: Partial Face Masks

Remember when you were little and you’d stick out your tongue and your mom would say, “Watch out or your face will freeze like that?”

It’s been so cold here in Vermont that this has almost felt like a real possibility. Temperatures have been in the single digits and below, and there’ve been times when it seemed like I could end up with a permanently affixed expression.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate. But below zero temps are not to be taken lightly. Leave your face unprotected, and you could end up with frost bite. I suffered a spot on my cheek a few years ago, and it left me with a small, permanent mark. I’d prefer not to have that happen again, so on really cold days you need a face mask. Yeah, I know — not the most flattering look, but really, it beats the alternative.

That said, face masks have their own set of problems. Conventional masks can cause warm air to back up and fog your goggles. What’s more, they’re just sort of icky. I hate the way your breath condenses on the fabric around your mouth. It’s wet, uncomfortable, and just plain gross.

Lately I’ve been using something that I think is a whole lot better: a partial face mask. This covers your cheeks, nose, and upper lip, leaving your mouth exposed so your breath can escape. No more condensate backing up into your goggles, no more wet fabric on your lower face.

So I have to give two ski poles up to the FaceSaver Mask.  I learned about the FaceSaver from a friend of mine who lives out west. It turns out that it hasn’t yet made it to stores outside of Utah, Idaho, and Colorado, but you can  order directly from the company’s web site — which is what I did. Made of fleece-lined neoprene, the FaceSaver comes in junior/extra small, small, medium, and large, and velcros  around the back of your head. It’s sturdy, comfortable, easy to use, and I can attest that it works perfectly. My face stays warm, and my goggles don’t fog up. I use this in combination with a neck gaiter to cover my face below my mouth, and I’m as warm as toast.

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver isn’t the only partial mask out there. I recently learned about another that’s now looking for funding on Kickstarter. It’s called the FaceGlove, and it comes with interchangeable straps that fasten either around your ears  or around your head. The FaceGlove is available in a heat moldable material or as a more conventional soft shell. You can find out about it here.

Do I recommend partial face masks? Yes. I’m a convert. A great way to stay warm, dry, and protect yourself from frostbite.

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Gear Review: Columbia’s Lay-D Down & Diamond TurboDown Jackets

One of the perks that come with being a member of Columbia Sportswear’s Omniten team is that they sometimes send me cool gear to try out. In the past year or so, I’ve received base layers, gloves, boots, hats, fleeces, and more — all the stuff you need to have fun in the snow.

Trust me, this is a nice team to belong to.

Two of the things I’ve liked best have been a couple of the jackets I’ve received: the Columbia Lay-D Down and the Diamond TurboDown. I wear these a lot, so I thought it was about time I gave them a review:

The Columbia Lay-D Down

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 6.17.47 AM

Winter can be tough here in Vermont. We’ve had some extremely cold temperatures this year — well below zero with wind chills as low as -30°F.  Clearly, if you want to ski, you have to be prepared for the worst. Which means wearing a really, really warm jacket.

I don't want to  look like this.

I don’t want to
look like this.

That doesn’t mean I want one that makes me look like the Michelin man. I mean, who would? Which is why I love the Lay-D Down. Wind proof and down filled, the Lay-D Down is toasty warm but stylish, too. See the picture above? Looks nice. That’s the actual color of my jacket, too.

So here are some of the features I really like:

• It’s very, very warm. The Lay-D Down has 550 g of down insulation (80% duck down, 20% feathers), plus the Omni-Heat™ lining. This is a layer of silver dots on the lining that Columbia says reflects your body heat. I can’t say if this is true or not, but the jacket is plenty warm. So that could be part of it.

There are five pockets — two slash pockets on the outside, and three on the inside. This gives me a lot of room to stash stuff, which trust me, I need.

Pit zips. Too crass? Okay, underarm venting. Whatever you want to call them, they’re great. If I get too warm, I can open up to cool off. A real plus, in my book.

A nice, high fleece-lined collar. I usually ski with a neck warmer, except when I don’t. And when I don’t, I can zip this up   for some extra warmth around my chinny-chin-chin.

Powder skirt. Snapping this closed helps keep the warmth in —  another good thing on a cold day.

Cuffs with thumb holes. Same as above. Keeps the cold air from traveling up your sleeves, for extra warmth.

Removable hood. When I get a jacket, this is the first thing to go. I don’t like hoods for skiing, but I like having the option to use it when I wear the jacket off the hill.

Any downsides? Yes. I wish it had a chest pocket on the outside. But really, that’s about it. I have four ski jackets, and this one is  the one I reach for on colder days.


Columbia Diamond TurboDown

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 6.33.02 AM

Columbia introduced its line of TurboDown jackets last fall, and they’ve been getting a lot of buzz ever since. The name refers to the insulating layer, which is sort of like down on steroids. It’s a combination of goose feathers and Columbia’s synthetic Omni-Heat insulation fill.  According to Columbia, the polyester-based insulation wicks sweat better than down, moving moisture away from the body when you’re involved in aerobic activity. And the layer of down on top of this traps body heat for extra warmth.

There are a few different TurboDowns available, depending on the amount of insulation involved. Columbia sent me the Diamond TurboDown shown above. Here’s what I like about it:

It’s extremely lightweight. Seriously, it’s hard to believe that something this light would be in any way warm. When you pick it up, you hardly even feel like you’re holding anything. You find yourself thinking how can this thing possibly work.

• It’s very warm.  Here’s why it does work. The jacket has a combination of 40 g Omni-Heat synthetic insulation and 850-fill goose down, plus the same Omni-Heat silver lining as the Lay-D Down. So even though it’s very light, you’re not sacrificing any warmth. It’s kind of hard to reconcile the two thoughts in your mind, but trust me, it’s warm.

Love the color combo. The pink zipper really pops against a beautiful blue. I get a lot of compliments when I wear it.

You can scrunch it up and fit it into its own pocket, so it doesn’t take up much room in your backpack or duffle or whatever, if you’re traveling. I love this.

The Turbodown can be packed in its own pocket! Cool!

The Diamond TurboDown can be packed in its own pocket! Cool!

• The down is treated to stay puffier even if gets wet, so you stay warmer in a wide range of conditions. Nice!

Any downsides? Just one: The hood isn’t removable and the jacket doesn’t come without one. As I said in my Lay-D down review, I’m not a hood person. But this is pretty small potatoes.

And that’s pretty much it. No, I haven’t worn it skiing. I use my Lay-D Down for that. But for being outside in the cold, this is a good option. You might want to check it out.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Bottom line: I’d recommend either one. Both are high quality, very warm jackets, and they look great, too. Two ski poles up!


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A Review: GetOutfitted.com, Ski Apparel Rental Made Easy

GObadgePicture this: you’re a family of five living in Florida who wants to go on a ski trip, and you don’t have any ski clothes or equipment. Or your kids have outgrown their jackets and you don’t what to shell out a fortune for your annual trip to Summit County. Or your friend wants to try skiing for the first time, but doesn’t have appropriate ski wear.

Until fairly recently, there were two choices: you could either forget the whole deal and stay home, or you could open your wallet and let the bloodletting begin.

Not good.

That’s where a new company called GetOutfitted comes in. GetOutfitted will rent you whatever you need for a ski trip for a short time and have it delivered to you free via FedEx to wherever you’re going.

That’s the key: have it delivered free to wherever you’re going. I know there are local ski shops that’ll rent out apparel or gear – sometimes one, sometimes the other. GetOutfitted does both online, so there’s no packing, no schlepping, no running around pulling things together. A true one-stop shopping experience.

When GetOutfitted contacted me and told me about their service, I thought, ‘Genius! This is something I’d like to find out more about.’

So I did. Here’s the story: GetOutfitted was started by Julian Flores, a former school administrator, in 2013. “I came up with the idea after my wife rented a designer dress online from Rent the Runway,” he said. “Outside of fashion and film, the web rental economy is strangely underdeveloped. I’ve lived in Colorado for a long time and never took full advantage of the all outdoors has to offer in this state. GetOutfitted lowers the barriers of entry to the outdoors so people like me can enjoy the outdoors and try new things.”

GetOutfitted offered me the opportunity to try their service free of charge. Here’s what I learned:

The online experience

If you’re like me, you want this to be simple. It is. Directions on the GetOutfitted site are clear and the graphics are good. It’s easy to navigate and figure out what you have to do to make your selection and pay your way.  There are loads of pictures of the items they rent. For clothing, you can dial in your selections by color, brand, size, or even by choosing “warm, warmer, and warmest.”  Or you can choose a pre-selected package.  Whatever works.

After that, you just choose how long you want to keep your items – 3 days, 5 days, or 10 days — enter your shipping and billing information, and bingo! Your shipment is on its way.

Shipping and receiving

GetOutfitted apparel arrives beautifully packaged.

GetOutfitted apparel arrives
beautifully packaged.

This is really nice. The company will ship your order free via FedEx to wherever you want it to go. If you’re renting a condo in Vail, no problem. Which means you don’t have to cram a lot of stuff in your suitcase. After you place your order online, you get a confirmation email that tells you that your shipment is on its way and when you can expect it to arrive. When you want to send it back, no problem. They provide you with a package that you just drop in the mail, pre-paid. Easy, peasy.


You can rent anything you need for a ski vacation: jackets, pants, midlayers, base layers, goggles, socks, even a camera. And yes, you can rent skis or snowboards, too. Product selection is good, and even better, it’s not junk. There are a lot of high-end brands. In clothing, there’s Patagonia, Obermeyer, Marmut, Dakine, Helly Hanson, Burton, and more. I ordered the Regatta jacket and the Malta pants, both from Obermeyer, and was very impressed. The cost: $36. for three days for the jacket, and $30. for the pants. Customers also have the option to purchase gear insurance for their items in case damage occurs, but the company says they’re pretty understanding about accidents. That said, thoroughly damaged items will be charged to the customer for their remaining value, so keep that in mind.

I loved the jacket & pants sent to me by GetOutfitted.

I loved the jacket & pants
sent to me by GetOutfitted.

For skis and snowboards, GetOutfitted partners with local ski shops to fulfill either a performance or premium package that includes boots, poles, and skis — helmets, too, if needed. The local shop will deliver the items to your door and fit you, as needed.  Right now this service is only limited to locations serviced by Black Tie rentals, so it’s only available in western locations. This may change in the future.

So here’s what we all want to know: is it gross to wear something that’s already been worn by someone else? No. According to the company, every item is professionally cleaned so that it looks, feels, and performs like a brand new item each time it’s used.  Be careful, though — you may fall in love with the items you rent. That’s okay, too. GetOutfitted offers its customers a buy option, in case you do. Pretty sweet.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?


This is a smooth, stress-free way to get ski apparel and gear for an occasional ski vacation. I was impressed with the entire experience. The clothing was top quality, it arrived quickly and beautifully packaged, and yes, I fell in love with the items I received. If I were in a situation where I needed either clothing or equipment for a limited period of time, this would definitely be the way to go. It’s one-stop shopping with minimal hassle. My cup of tea.


I’m stumped. Truly. The only thing I could think of, and this is because I’m pretty short, is that they could offer women’s ski pants in shorter lengths. A wider variety of colors might be nice, too, to go with some of the jackets. But really, that’s pretty minor stuff. For just a few days of wear, really, what’s the difference?

Would I recommend this service? Absolutely.

So two ski poles up to GetOutfitted. Good job, guys!

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