I’m not sure if you were aware of this, but IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS, Y’ALL. If you’re anything like me, and hopefully you’re not, you’ve put off gift buying for a couple of those really picky folks on your list. You know, the ones that demand a certain tactful consideration from any gift buyer. You certainly didn’t forget them during the, eh, “punctual” period of gift buying. You just saved the best for last. At least that’s how I like to think of it. Anyway, if these people happen to enjoy outdoor recreation, I may be able to help you out.
See, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time combing the web for gear over the last few months. Not because I’ve been doing my due diligence in picking the perfect gift for my loved ones. Quite the opposite. The truth is, I’m consumed by a gluttonous materialism when it comes to cool outdoor stuff. Skis? Crampons? New microdown jackets and shells? Yes, please! Not that I can actually afford any of these things for myself, but I like to scroll through product descriptions and imagine how much better my life would be were these shiny and expensive things a party to it.
An ancillary benefit of this is that I keep more or less abreast of all the new stuff out there, and today, I can actually put this otherwise useless knowledge to work! So, here are few gift ideas for the active person in your life. Or if you’re like me but with more money, here are a few ideas for treating yourself this winter.
Try saying that five times fast! Fimbulvetr is a Norwegian company, and as such, it has a funny name. But there’s no shame in this snowshoe powerhouse’s winter mobility game. Fimbulvetr is like the Ferrari of snowshoes, and their sleek designs and bomber construction have garnered a lot of praise from people who are versed in such things as snowshoes. The Rangr, developed for the Norwegian Armed Forces, sports a thermoplastic frame and only 12 components total, including nuts and bolts. It’s a minimalist machine designed for smooth operating in the snowy wilds of wherever. And did I mention it comes in red?
All right, boys and girls. I don’t want to sound like Mother Hen here, but you should be wearing a helmet when you ski and/or snowboard. Why, you ask? Because it’s dangerous, that untenanted skull of yours is fragile, and if you ski through my landing, you just might get sniped, bro. Just kidding, but seriously. Some people think helmets look stupid. Sometimes that’s true. But not in this case. POC’s classic helmet designs have made the brand ubiquitous on the mountain. Their Fornix Backcountry MIPS helmet is a sleek looking bucket, near minimalist, but with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a top-of-the-line helmet.
It’s coolest feature, in my opinion, is the MIPS, or multi-directional impact system, which allows the outer shell of the helmet to rotate in the event of an oblique impact, thus reducing rotational forces on the brain.
Aramid fiber bridges are bonded into the helmet, which, according to POC, help disperse impact energy while providing structural stability. This model is intended for backcountry use, and thus includes a Recco avalanche reflector, though you can definitely rock this at the resort. Add in goggle vents to prevent fogging, an adjustable sizing system and adjustable ventilation, and you’ve got a pretty solid piece of headgear.
I’ve wanted an MHM pack ever since I moved to Colorado. Why? Because they look SO DAMN COOL. I’m talking seriously sleek designs, here. Plus, they’re a Colorado company, so I have to show some love. Buying a backpack for someone else can be complicated. Seriously. Have you gone backpack shopping, lately? So many sizes, colors, bells and whistles – it’s enough to make you forget what the hell a backpack is even for. Carrying stuff, right? I think so? Anyway, MHM keeps it pretty simple. Elegant, even.
For the outdoorsy person in your life, MHM’s Slay 24 would make a pretty sweet gift. At 22 liters, it’s neither too big nor too small. Rather, it’s just right for a day outside. With a ski/snowboard haul system, hydration bladder pouch, ice axe loops and goggle pocket, it’s made for a hard-charging day in the side country. But its compact size and sleek design mean it will look badass pretty much anywhere you go.
If that person on your list happens to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, whether it be skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling or snowshoeing, then there’s a good chance that person will at some point encounter avalanche terrain. If you don’t really care about that person’s safety, then this gift idea will seem expensive and frivolous. On the off chance that you do harbor some modicum of concern for that person’s well-being, then this is a SWEET GIFT. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education has standardized avalanche safety education into a series of courses.
AIARE’s Level 1 course is a three-day, 24-hour course designed for pretty much anyone who plans on recreating in avalanche terrain. Students learn about identifying avalanche terrain, decision making in avalanche terrain and companion rescue, among other things. Here’s a list of providers.
I like midlayers. Do you like midlayers? Probably not as much as I do! They’re just so damn versatile. Outdoor Research makes some pretty sweet midlayers. Based on their incredibly popular Uberlayer, the Ascendant Hoodie is lighter and more breathable than its predecessor. It’s made with “Pertex Microlight movement-mirroring fabric” – very fancy stuff that I know little to nothing about – and Polartec Alpha insulation. Again, no clue. What I do know is together they make a warm and comfortable midlayer jacket, perfect as a standalone on blustery days or underneath a shell on the most frigid outings.
So, I’m going to start this one off by saying that skis are never really a “last minute gift,” and rightfully so. Buying a pair of skis is kind of like acceding to a second date. It’s contingent upon some outwardly apparent compatibility, based on the numbers, of course, and even then it’s a big investment and, in my opinion, a leap of faith. Buying skis for someone else is even more complicated. People like me buy skis that we hopefully will really enjoy skiing. Some people buy skis that will look nice on top of their car or in a rack at the slopeside bar. For me, these skis do both.
K2’s Marksman is an all-mountain freeride hoss. The 106 mm waist is a happy medium for those looking for a ski that can shred powder, float atop crud and still get from edge to edge on groomers. K2’s triaxial braid construction gives the ski added torsional rigidity, which equates to better edge integrity when carving. Carbon stringers woven into the ski give it a lively, playful character. On top of that, the asymmetrical twin tips and throwback K2 graphics make this ski sexy as all get out. So, maybe start by asking the person if they want a sick freeride stick for shredding the park, dropping cliffs and looking mighty steezy all day every day? Then go from there?
Last time it snowed here in Placerville, Colo., which was a long time ago, I went running. While running, I slipped and fell right on my ass. It was painful. Now, this happens A LOT in the wintertime. Why? Because I like to run. And I’m probably not going to change my ways. Once upon a time, I did wear traction devices when running on ice and snow. I decided they weren’t for me. But truth be told, my butt pain tolerance is pretty high. For people who like to run and don’t want to fall down, a traction device may be a good idea. If I were going to buy a traction device for one such person, I would probably grab some Kahtoola NANOSpikes. The tungsten carbide spikes on these bad boys are like little talons for the bottoms of your feet, allowing you to move with grace and much vigor across the slickest of surfaces. They’re designed not to affect your foot strike, so you can maintain your natural gait when bounding across the gelid tundra. Oh yea, and they look cool-ish?
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