Old Man Winter better make up for last year’s lousy snow season. After a good initial showing in late autumn 2011, most of the year was spent waiting for that big storm that never really came. Adding insult was the record-setting summer heat that broiled the landscape even over 10,000 feet. Only those hardy patches of gritty snow tucked away in dark mountainside corners gave hope that yes, winter will come again. And oh, it will be glorious and the people of Colorado shall rejoice!
So here’s to hoping 2012-13 makes us powder-crazy. May you call in sick to work and get busted the next day from your raccoon tan and goofy smile. May you snowshoe into the deep woods and get a taste of the sublime stillness. And may you partake in some of the sweet winter gear that has been waiting to be dusted off and get on the mountain.
1. Nikon Coolpix AW100
MSRP $349; www.nikonusa.com
Let us mourn for all the smartphones that are going to get lost, broken or frozen to death trying to do double duty as winter cameras. And then let us consider the awesome Nikon Coolpix AW100. The “AW” stands for all-weather, and Nikon means it. This compact point-and-shoot is waterproof, shockproof to five feet and made to perform in sub-freezing temps down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Full HD 1080 pixel videos and a 16-megapixel hires sensor produces fantastic images, even in low light. For good measure, a built-in GPS (with background maps) is ideal for backcountry outings and allows you to geotag your photos.
2. Zeal ION HD Camera Goggle
MSRP $399; www.zealoptics.com
Zeal Optics has a knack for integrating gadgets into their eyewear. The new ION HD camera plays upon the success of GoPro cameras, but rather than sporting a quasi-fashionable stump from the top of your helmet, all the hardware is built into the goggles. The 8 megapixel, 170-degree camera is operated by easy-to-manipulate buttons and can record up to three hours of footage. There’s even a handy viewfinder in the goggles so you aren’t shooting blind while you dash down the slopes. Besides the electronics, the goggles themselves are 100 UV A/B protective and mountain ready.
3. Atlas Run Snowshoe
MSRP $209; www.atlassnowshoe.com
Snowshoe racing and running is growing in popularity every year. New shoes, like the Atlas Run, are compact, lightweight and flexible, making them perfect for jogging on established trails. They perform fairly well in any packed snow as well, so rest assured you don’t need to use them exclusively for running. While not designed to float in deeper powder, they are still versatile enough for everything from winter 5Ks to exploring snow-covered forest roads. And if you’re serious about racing, the upgraded Race model ($100 more) uses wicked light hardware for a highperformance winter running snowshoe.
4. Lowa Comp IP GTX
MSRP $675; www.lowaboots.com
All it takes is one trip down to Ouray’s free ice park to get bitten by the ice climbing bug. Lowa’s Comp IP GTX boots are designed for vertical ice and competition climbing. Think of them as “sport climbing” boots as opposed to mountaineering footwear — insulated, stiff and cozy. Black Diamond bolt-on Raptor crampons are included with the boot, which accounts for the somewhat high price tag. It’s a solid investment for a lifetime of climbing, especially for the ice in Ouray, Lake City or the closer flows around Rocky Mountain National Park and Moffat Tunnel.
5. Mountainsmith K-9 Cube
MSRP $60; www.mountainsmith.com
Have dog, will travel. Winter wouldn’t be the same without our canine pals, though just like us, they have more gear to lug in colder months. The K-9 Cube is perfect for organizing all your pup’s goodies, from basics like food and water to winter coats, booties, leashes and extra bedding. It also comes with collapsible food and water bowls that easily stow away in your backpack. Your dog’s needs will be squared away and easily organized for long car rides or relaxing in the condo. Don’t forget the included soft Frisbee for a little exercise along the way.
6. Gregory Z40
MSRP $159; www.gregorypacks.com
It’s hard to find a pack that excels year round in Colorado, but the Gregory Z40 comes pretty darn close. At 2600 cubic inches, it’s big enough to pack up for a day of skiing or climbing, yet slim enough for summer 14ers. A lightweight and sturdy frame cleanly transfers weight to the hips, a big plus when carrying unwieldy objects like skis or ropes. Well-designed compression straps can transform the Z40 to a lean, contoured pack when you want to go low profile, making it equally versatile for weekend backpacking trips or backcountry powder days. Available in men’s or women’s specific fits.
8. Hestra Wool Terry Lobster Mitt
MSRP $89; www.hestragloves.com
Lobster gloves are goofy-looking things, but many a cold weather commuter and mountain biker will swear by them. Even in moderately cold weather, knuckles and fingers pay a chilly price as the vanguard appendages of your body. Windproof gloves work well to a point, but when you want to pedal in sub-freezing temps, these Hestra mitts are bomber. Grouping bony fingers together allows them to share heat, and while they are not as dextrous as normal gloves, the additional warmth is well worth it. For those with extra-frosty fingers, hand warmers fit snugly into the palm of the mitt.
9. ProBar Superfood Slam
MSRP $3; www.theprobar.com
Isn’t it time to say no to $9 slices of soggy, uninspired pizza? Don’t you want something that gives you legit power in the backcountry without having to fire up a stove? ProBar’s line of healthy, all-natural snack bars are really portable meals. As a snack bar skeptic, I am impressed with the Superfood Slam’s ability to immunize against the potent aroma of overpriced french fries while giving a nice kick of energy. Keep a couple of bars warm in your jacket and munch away before hunger and fatigue lure you into the lodge.
7. Outdoor Research Incandescent Hoody
MSRP $325; www.outdoorresearch.com
Puffy jackets have gotten considerably less puffy over the last few years. Some have sacrificed performance in the name of fashion, but OR’s Incandescent Hoody is bringing puffy back. While still quite stylish, this smartly engineered jacket isolates the lofty 800 fill down to areas of the body where you need it most. Super light (under 18 oz.) and highly water resistant, you’re going to stay warm in the Rocky Mountain winter, though you may long for the days when you resembled an overinflated marshmallow.
10. iOttie Dashboard Mount
MSRP $19; www.iottie.com
Reality check: There’s a good chance you’ll spend as much time locked in ski traffic as you will on the slopes. With smartphones becoming the near-ubiquitous standard, plan ahead and invest in a decent dashboard mount for all those listless hours when conversation among your ski partners has run dry. After you’ve checked road and weather conditions and nearly tapped the bumper in front of you while trying to ace Angry Birds, your passengers, at least, can enjoy streamed NFL games or a movie while you plod along at 2 mph. Fits most smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5.