On December 21, 2016

Splurging for some upgrades in my ski attire

Aside from a total bitch of a cold that has settled into my lungs for a long winter nap, this has been a kickass week. Great skiing, great snow, great skiing, and more great snow. I’ve been super impressed with the skiing and the snow, did I mention that?
I have some new equipment too, totally fun! I am still rocking my big fat Line Sir Francis Bacons, my Scarpa TX Pro NTN boots, and my Outlaw NTN bindings. I have also been running the same old busted-out set of four interchangeable used Leki adjustable poles, which I have had since about 2001. (I have even bought cheap kits to repair the innards so that they would continue to work, replaced the tips, the baskets, and the friction pieces from the inside.)
In the course of my recent financial success regarding solar sales, I have also purchased a few much needed pieces of equipment, new skins (haven’t cut them yet), a helmet and goggles (haven’t received them yet), a new shell (I’ll get to that in a minute), and new Atonic adjustable poles. Age of my previous used poles aside, I haven’t had new ski poles since about 1994, and so the purchase was exciting!
The shell is perhaps the most fun thing to talk about. Likewise, I have not had a new shell or jacket that I have purchased since high school. After college I picked up a super technical Lands End shell/fleece combo from a friend for whom it was too large, and I wore that for more than 10 years, until I started touring the U.S. performing music and stand-up comedy. I arranged my tours to get me into the Rockies for February and March, and used the tours as an excuse to ski my brains out.
The same guy from whom I bought the Lands End shell was at that point an outdoor sports journalist in Boulder, Colo., and I would raid his closet of prototype coats that he had reviewed for magazines. Each year I would walk away with a new coat, Marmot, Columbia, L.L. Bean, all great stuff, which I used interchangeably until the year before last when they finally gave up and all but one of them quit being water repellent, and the one that was left tore open on a tree branch that I caught on my jacket.
At that point I was a fresh struggling Realtor, and a friend of mine bought me a pretty sweet but non-breathable shell from EMS. It was light and durable, and stood me well until my Long Trail adventure, when the extended pressure under my overloaded unpadded pack straps made a few small cuts in it. It was time for a new breathable shell, anyhow, so I headed out to pick up one of last year’s Mammut shells to go with my Mammut Alpha mid-layer, which I absolutely love.
On my way through Base Camp Outtfitter in Killington, a very pretty shell caught my eye, a Strafe Temerity shell, with the new NeoShell, which is apparently 30 percent more breathable than Goretex, and 100 percent more breathable than a shell that is not breathable (my previous one). It was a bit more than I wanted to spend (being new, and not from the bargain basement), but after trying it on, the fit was exquisite (a medium with nice long arms, and gauntlets in the wrists) and after a few days of hemming and hawing I decided to make the leap to a brand new shell. I decided to splurge.
The shell is a good fit, it rides well, it is eminently breathable, and it is very light. The sleeves (almost too narrow, but really a perfect fit as long as I don’t bulk up too much from lifting) have a flare at the wrist for the Velcro closure, the zip-out powder skirt has multiple adjustment points, and the front zipper rises to the right side instead of the front center, which is very nice for the user with a beard, and pleasant for the chin when the jacket is closed without a gaiter.
The only weaknesses of this shell (and they are barely weaknesses—I knew of them before I bought the shell) are that the side/front zip can be occasionally difficult to finish because of the way the shell folds at the collar, and that the two pockets (which are quite large and deep) are a little bit inconvenient to get to the bottom of with one’s hands. Hardly a fatal flaw.
The passthrough to the pocket of a mid-layer is fantastic … I have never had one before, and I love it. Fit and form aside, the best part about this shell is the hood, which is fully helmet integrated. Normally I prefer a zip off, or at least collar-stowed hood, and consider a non-detathable/non-stowable hood a weakness in a shell. When it is not in use, the hood cinches down well so that it does not interfere with speed, and it can be pulled up over the helmet without unzipping the top of the front zipper.  It cinches around the helmet well and does not create a great deal of wind resistance.
Finally, the shell works well with both my Marmot down puffy, and my Mammut Alpha mid-layers. I am extremely happy with it, and would buy it again. No regrets!

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