FOREWORD BY MICHELLE PARKER
The temps are dropping here in the mountains of California. As I sit here sipping my tea I am fantasizing about the powder days to come. It’s been a while since these mountains have been dressed in white, the way I prefer them. Being outside, amongst trees with heavy branches confined by the piles of snow weighing them down, in search of the perfect turn, is my happiest place. I find some of my most fruitful relationships have been created with the shared passion for time spent in the mountains. With skis on our feet, out the back door, we have a seemingly endless playground. The thought of perfect powder beckons the child within. Never have I been so excited than on a powder day.
The alarm rings and I shoot out of bed to peak out of the window to see if the silence of the night brought fresh snow. If there’s a few inches or more, without a wasted second, I change into my ski gear. Meticulously thought out layers and gear.
Not just any old cotton hoodie and spandex pants. Merino wool (sustainably harvested, of course), a goretex shell with a down puffy jacket, and goggles with a spare lens, everything has a purpose and everything is functional in the mountains. This gear keeps me warm, dry, and efficient so that my time is spent playing rather than dealing with failing equipment.
Having the right equipment is crucial and is not to be taken lightly. It might be the difference of a few powder turns, or a missed run, but those turns add up and with powder being a highly sought after source of fun times we just can’t let those moments slip away.
THE FOLLOWING GEAR HAS BEEN REVIEWED BY ALISTER & PAINE
Function, form, and fashion. That’s all we’re looking for in a great women’s ski jacket and pant. To stay safe and warm, and look après ready without needing an outfit change. Gone are the days of marshmallow man puff jackets and baggy diaper butt inducing pants. The world of women’s ski fashion is ever so chic—and thank goodness, usually waterproof.
For a really breathable insulated jacket, the Arc’teryx Airah is our go-to. A single-layer solution providing comprehensive backcountry protection with exceptional breathability, it combines waterproof performance with air-permeable insulation. The result is a warm jacket for rest and descent phases that also manages heat and humidity on ascents.
The Spyder Diabla Jacket with their Painted On Stirrup Pant is the ultimate après look that works equally well on and off mountain. The jacket is movement-friendly, with three-layer 360 degree stretch fabric making it heavenly for an active woman. It’s also stuffed with PrimaLoft insulation for warmth, and a raccoon fur trim for that Aspen vibe. No misleading names here, the painted on pant is a sheer, curve-hugging pant that looks great on those sexy toned skier legs. Perfect for the warmer Tahoe inspired days.
For a pant that really moves with you and gives you perfect midweight warmth, the Descente Gwen pant is super flattering and a comfortable choice for everyday wear on the hill. The Thinsulate 40G insulation offers the perfect mid-weight warmth for most conditions, or wear it over a base layer on especially cool days on the mountain. We like it with the Descente Layla jacket, the classic styling a throwback to ‘50s Swiss chalets and ski patrols, with enough modern features to keep you performing in the harshest conditions. This is definitely the outfit to keep on hand for intense, keep skiing no matter the weather, all day on mountain resort sort of adventures.
ALPINE TOURING & BACKCOUNTRY GEAR
Women who shred the backcountry deserve a pack equally as jaw-dropping. Dakine’s Women’s Poacher Removable Airbag System 26L has all the great features you’ll need for a hike out of bounds or a short tour, plus it features a women’s fit so it really molds around your shape for a lightweight ergonomic feel.
Drop in a Removable Airbag System and you’ll be armed with the latest, greatest in avalanche safety. Perfect for a day out touring, or even a minimalist overnight hut expedition.
In the backcountry, you have a few objectives. Lightweight, breathability and intense protection. It’s hard to find that perfect balance but Strafe’s Scarlett Bib pant and Boomerang Jacket manages to do it and is a fantastic set up for an AT day. Strafe is an Aspen brand inspired by a dedication to living life in the mountains and making versatile gear designed to perform across all conditions.
Their Boomerang Jacket was designed as a do-it-all women’s shell jacket for lightweight versatility, with serious breathability for touring. The full waterproof/breathable fabric with a brushed interior for added warmth provides dependability throughout full seasons of use in all conditions. We lined it up with the Strafe Scarlett Bib, designed with performance and freeskiing in mind—with enough body contouring so you don’t get that marshmallow effect. Supersoft elastic holds everything in place, and a thin breathable back panel gives you extra coverage and mobility so you can charge hard with ease.
The Scarlett bib is one of a kind. It’s a complementary style, free of any restrictions while shredding, and has the same waterproof/breathable fabric the Boomerang boasts. The Scarlett bib’s unique halter-top design allows for easy exposure when you need to take care of business in the backcountry.
BASELAYERS JUST FOR WOMEN
Let’s get down to the basics. Beneath all of those fancy, gore-texed out pants, fox fur hoods, and colorful helmets you’ve got to have the right base layers. Otherwise your bits will be frozen and you will be miserable. Guaranteed. Helly Hansen’s new Lifa Merino line features the warmest baselayers, perfect for those really frigid days of hiking/climbing/snowshoeing/hut touring/whatever crazy activity is in the list for epic adventuring. The Lifa fibers are a Helly Hansen patent, and when coupled with merino wool it gives you serious warmth with zero sweat.
Falke also makes a great long sleeve shirt that’s a silk-wool combo, giving an ultra luxe look that translates to apres drinks easily and is an all season piece. Made with all natural materials it works to keep you at that ideal feel-good temperature while neutralizing odors (because it’s hard to smell like daisies while getting your turns in). In the heat, the silk has a cooling effect – in the cold, the merino wool warms you up. The sophisticated material mix is ideal for both cold, snowy days and warm, sunny ones. Throw on a pair Darn Tough’s Taos sock, the go-to choice when you’re looking for all day cushioning and comfort, and you’re golden. No slipping, no bunching, no blisters.
WOMEN’S SPECIFIC SKI SET UP
Our women’s choice this year goes to the Völkl Auras, a fantastic pair of skis that combine a burly multi-layer woodcore with two layers of titanal to produce a ride that caters to ladies who like their skiing smooth and fast — and have the power to pull it off. Not a floaty, surfy ride that less aggressive skiers will easily take a liking to, the Aura is ready to reward those who have the strength and ability to take advantage of it. Völkl’s freeride reputation among hard-charging women skiers has been built and maintained over the years mostly by the Aura, and the tradition continues with the latest model.
We really enjoyed pairing the Auras with Marker’s Free Ten, a statement of efficiency with the usual Marker trademark release properties and the perfect mix of great design, lightness and excellent functionality. The reliable Compact 2 heel provides excellent release and comfortable step-in properties in the same way as the Triple Pivot Light Toe offers power transfer. Value-driven and coming in a royal design with a freeride brake designed for the application – this is how you enter park & pipe for the first time.
Lastly, the boot. Also known as miniature torture chambers for your feet, and often the biggest hurdle for a comfortable day skiing. No more. K2’s B.F.C. 90 Heated Boots for women offer a combination of temperature comfort and stiffness, with a warmth throughout the entire boot that improves comfort and decreases risk of injury by letting your muscles relax. It’s a great combo boot for all-around conditions and intermediate to expert skier levels. A button on the side of the liner allows you to choose between three different settings, with the lowest providing you 19 hours of heat. The batteries recharge via USB cord in about six hours, giving you more than enough time to recuperate even in the peak of ski season when you’re hitting the slopes from the first to last chair.
The last few accessories before you’re truly slope ready? Helmet and goggles. There was once a time when the mountains were ablaze with pompom hats and tassels galore, but we’ve all wised up a bit and realized just how important helmets can be, especially on the big mountains out West. Smith Optics Vantage MIPS snow helmet is super warm, eliminating the need for a hat. For demanding skiers and riders it offers additional impact protection, plenty of airflow and a comfortable 360° fit system for less distraction on the hill.
Pair it with matching (remember, we said never sacrifice style!) with the beautiful Smith Optics I/O Chroma Pop Goggles and you’ll never know what whiteout conditions mean again. With ChromaPop, each lens is adept in a huge range of conditions, so you can see into the shadows and discern the crud from the silky corduroy at 50 miles per hour. Another reason to love the I/O: better foam on the frame hugs your face.
With your tush to your toes heated and protected, get out there. Find the powder, chase the flakes, get your turns in. Shred it up, because winter comes but once a year.