by Sasha Barkans
Nothing can spoil a great snow day like bad gear. Puffy jackets in wet conditions will shut your days down early, uncomfortable and heavy backcountry equipment will slow you down on the up-track, and that poorly shaped split board is going to sink you when the mountain is hit with that epic powder dump. To help you get sorted for the 2017 season, we headed up to Sol Mountain Lodge in the Monashee Mountains to test out some of the best backcountry and park gear.
If you’re after those white-out days, you’re going to need some performance-oriented equipment. Functionality takes priority in the deep stuff, but it doesn’t mean you’ve got to settle on your style. Patagonia’s Powslayer bib and Powslayer jacket do exactly what they promise. Three-layer GORE-TEX, two-way slider vents, belt loops, watertight Vision zippers, RECCO reflector, and rear yokes to attach your pants to your jacket. Look good and seal out snow so you can lap all day.
Jones Snowboards make some of the best split boards on the planet. In fact, during our experience we considered the women’s Solution split board to be one of the best we had ever ridden. Magna-traction edges keeps things stable in big mountain crust, while the directional shape and reinforced tips kept their boards steady when the going got tough. Finally, the eco-plastic top sheet made from castor-bean ensures you’re doing your part to ensure there is snow on the mountain for years. As for staying attached to the board, the Women’s Arc binding from Spark R&D provided a fast-acting, comfortable, and snug binding with quickly adjustable high-backs—all in a lightweight package.
Much to the delight of snowboarders everywhere, brands have been paying a lot more attention to powder specific shapes. One such example at the forefront of the powder shift is Spring Break Snowboards. Originally conceived in a garage by former pro snowboarder, Corey Smith, many of his most trustworthy shapes are now being produced by legendary snowboard brand, Capita Snowboards. Incredibly fun and totally lofty shapes ensure the true surf on snow feel that inspired so many to pick up snowboarding in the first place.
Our team was most impressed with the Travis Rice Pro Model binding from Union Binding Company. Obviously the best snowboarder in the world would require a high-end binding, and Union Binding Co came through this incredibly light and comfortable forged carbon binding that’s loaded with tech.
The G3 FINDr 102 skis with G3 Ion 12 touring binding was the winning combination for our backcountry testers. The low weight skis managed to perform extremely good edge control during the up track and through ice conditions while still having heaps of float in the powder. No small feat.
Avalanche Safety Gear
G3 is a mainstay in the backcountry scene for good reason. Their durable and versatile AviTECH shovel was incredibly light and easy to use for snow study. Similarly, the G3 Scala Skins provided amazing grip that didn’t quit. The Backcountry Access Tracker 3 transceiver is one of the smallest and lightest beacons on the market. The device was extremely intuitive and the display and buttons allowed for easy operation even with gloves on.
Finally, the Ride Protection Airbag from Mammut may have been our favorite piece of gear of the entire test. In the unfortunate event of an avalanche, the airbag is easily deployed to drastically increase your chance at survival. The backpack itself is light, comfortable, and has all of the stashes in the pockets in the right place for quick and convenient access.
Images by Sasha Barkans