Winter Backcountry Snow Gear

Equipment and apparel to keep you warm and safe this season

With early snowstorms hitting the east coast in the USA, it’s clear that winter has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, and people all over are enjoying the ever-growing sport of backcountry skiing. But backcountry conditions are variable, and sometimes dangerous, so dressing for the terrain is crucial. Further, well-designed pieces that function easily in various circumstances make a backcountry trip that much more enjoyable. From longjohns to backpacks, here are some of our favorite winter sport items at the moment.

Kari Traa Wool Sweater

Norwegian free-skier Kari Traa’s line of wool sweaters are perfect for long days in the backcountry. Unlike your memories of grandma’s itchy cardigans, Kari Traa’s super-fine merino tops are ridiculously soft. But her grandmother did serve as some influence for Traa—she used her grandma’s wallpaper in Norway as design inspiration for this season’s collection.

Ortovox Rock’n’Wool Onesie

For decades Ortovox has been pioneering backcountry safety with their avalanche emergency equipment. In more recent years, Ortovox has maintained their excellence with soft goods strictly using Swiss wool, even for outerwear. Their Rock’N’Wool Overall onesie is especially comfortable and (of course) it has a back-flap.

Mammut Eisfeld Guide SO Pants

Backcountry touring is one of the best low-impact exercises available in winter, but while you certainly work up a sweat, the ride down can be chilly. Mammut has released their Eisfeld Guide SO Pants, which are the most durable and breathable softshell pants we’ve tested. Part of Mammut’s new Eiger Extreme (named for the notorious mountain in Switzerland) series, the Eisfeld pants are made for mountaineering at a superior level, but also for ski touring—their hybrid nature means that they are ultimately versatile.

Salewa Ortles 2 Durastretch Pants

On warmer days, when touring can feel more like a summer sport, the Salewa Ortles 2 Durastretch pants will be our go-to. The Ortles feature a brilliant cut for mobility, and a high back perfect for harnesses for glacier skiing and ski mountaineering. They also feature a durable cuff that opens to fit ski boots nicely. Made with bamboo fibers, the pants are super breathable and water-resistant.

Patagonia Descensionist Pack

Patagonia products come with a lifetime guarantee, but they’re now also making products designed to be easily repaired. The Descensionist is one of the first pieces in this program. Based on of the Ascensionist alpine climbing pack, the Descensionist keeps weight down but functionality high. The pack does not favor skiers or split borders and is super-handy for carrying either, it also features a snow-tool sleeve for avalanche gear (it’s the perfect size for various shovels and probes).

Arc’teryx Airah Jacket

For much colder days when objectives are lofty and the snow is dumping, Arc’teryx’s new Airah Jacket is the ideal outerwear item. Made with smooth-faced Gore-Tex, synthetic insulation and Polartec, the Airah is a warm, tough, waterproof, single layer jacket for chilly tours. The Airah is so lightweight that is feels less bulky than most shells. It is breathable and offers plenty of movability when touring. The handy pit-zips keep warmth in or out, depending on when you need it.

Rab Sharp Edge Jacket

British brand Rab is known for their insulation and simple, yet sophisticated designs. Their Sharp Edge kit is no exception: using Pertex Shield AP 3I waterproof stretch fabric, the Sharp Edge Jacket is waterproof, featherweight and supple. The jacket is well-designed with functional low-key features like full-length armpit zips for ventilation, a removable snow skirt, arm pockets, dual inside pockets and external vertical chest pockets. But in classic Rab form, you would never know there was so much going on just looking at the jacket.

DPS Alchemist Zeldas

Women-specific skies are oftentimes inferior to those made especially for men—and not designed for hard chargers. But there are a few brands who believe that manufacturing something “women-specific” still results in their best product. That is essentially what DPS (Drake Powder Works) did with their Alchemist Zelda skis. Handcrafted in the United States, the Zeldas are a carbon all-mountain ski with a 106 width designed for any various conditions, making them one of the most versatile skis of the season.

Images by AV Wakefield