BlackSheep Adventure Sports’ Skiers Christmas Gift Guide 2020
Instead of the usual format, with separate stocking stuffer and under-the-tree gifts guides, the Skiers Christmas Gift Guide 2020 will be an all-in-one special. The further down the list, the more expensive and significant the gift. So, if you’re in need of some ideas for the backcountry skier in your life, look no further!
1. First Aid Kit
Whenever heading out into the backcountry it’s great to have a solid but compact and lightweight first aid kit on hand, just in case. Anything can happen and there’s nothing worse than not being able to help a friend when they need it most. So give the gift of mountain medicine. It’s relatively inexpensive and thoughtful!
- Ditch the book, if in doubt download one onto your phone to avoid the extra weight and have something that’s searchable.
- Put the band aids and gauze in zip-lock bags
- Add a few ski straps if you don’t have them elsewhere
- Possibly add a real facemask and a splint to really take it to the next level
We did a comparison review of different first aid kit options a couple of years ago if you want a bit more information on the various options: https://blacksheepadventuresports.com/2019/01/27/whats-in-your-backcountry-first-aid-kit/.
2. Gaia GPS Membership
Like a first aid kit, some means of navigation is a critical part of any backcountry trip. This used to involve a map and compass but has been evolving with technology. Now-a-days most people use a smartphone with some kind of mapping app. My personal favourite app is Gaia GPS.
Gaia offers a huge map catalogue including a variety of topographic maps, backcountry road maps, satellite imagery and much, much more. There’s also an assortment of activity-specific overlays such as mountain biking, mountaineering & snowmobiling trails and tracks, cell phone coverage areas, etc. Of course it also has all the functionality needed for trip planning, tracking and track following.
- Free: Basic maps, online only
- Membership: Basic maps, offline access & can print maps ($20/yr)
- Premium: Tons of maps, satellite imagery, weather, etc. for all over the world, allows the user to stack various maps on top of one another, offline access, etc. ($40/yr)
Even better, this is a gift that you can give over the internet. A great feature in this new Covid reality we live in. If you want to give the gift of navigation visit the Gaia website at: https://www.gaiagps.com/membership/.
3. Beaver Wax / Waxing Kit
These kits can also save the skier in your life a ton of dough: The BeaverWax Tune kit costs about $170, about the cost of 2 tunes or 4 waxes at the shop, but has the materials for at least twice that. And then all they need to do is pick up some replacement wax for $10 or $20 CAD and they’re back at it.
The only thing the kit doesn’t seem to come with is some base cleaner which can be great for cleaning any glue or gunk off the bases before waxing. But no worries, it’s easy to add to a stocking!
If you’re psyched on this gift idea the BeaverWax website has a retailer search function on their website at: https://www.beaverwax.com/pages/dealers-dev
4. G3 Via Carbon Poles
The original G3 Via Carbon Poles have been a long-time favourite of mine. They’re light, functional and quite obviously designed for the backcountry by people that ski in the backcountry. The brand new Via Carbon poles, just released this year, have taken the old design up a notch!
G3 added a new side-hill grip that extends down to the extension lock, updated the powder baskets, finessed the handles a bit and made the poles even lighter! If you know someone that’s limping by on some old bent up Franken-poles a new pair of G3 Carbon VIA poles are sure to be a winner! And if the carbon version’s not in the budget, the aluminum VIA poles have all the same amazing backcountry features in a less expensive package. For more info checkout G3’s website at: https://ca-store.genuineguidegear.com/products/via-carbon-poles.
5. Sweet Protection Ascender Helmet
A big name in head protection, Sweet Protection makes some fantastic helmets for a variety of sports, including skiing, and they even have a backcountry touring-specific helmet! Called the Ascender, it comes in a MIPS and non-MIPS version. And while it’s not the lightest ski helmet on the market, it is very functional, durable and offers a lot of protection!
The Ascender doesn’t come with a bunch padding and foam on the inside and over the ears which allows a toque or beanie to be worn underneath. A big pro in my books as I like to leave my hat on! It also has lots of venting, headlamp clips, a simple but secure harness system and is quite durable with a solid polycarbonate shell over an EPS foam interior.
One very unique design element is the goggle system. The straps are on the sides, not the rear. Great for holding the goggles in place when they’re on the helmet but not over the eyes. However, as I typically take my helmet off for the trek up, I didn’t find that they were overly useful.
Like this idea but want to take it up a notch? Well Sweet Protection also makes some absolutely amazing ski goggles which of course fit great on their helmets.
More information on the Ascender can be found here: https://www.sweetprotection.com/en-us/helmets/ski-snowboard/touring/
6. Dragon Alliance Goggles
Cracking into a new pair of goggles is always such a treat, especially if the old pair were getting a bit ratty. And it’s amazing how many skiers seem to nurse their old pair well past the best before date. With scratched lenses, patchy foam, a bagged out strap, etc. they can really suck the fun out of an epic pow day. But with so many options out there it can be hard to choose a new pair to get that lucky someone! So here’s what I look for:
- More than 1 lens included so I’ve got bright and flat light options
- Easy system to exchange lenses without getting them covered in finger prints
- A nice wide field of view so there’s still decent peripheral vision
- Solid optics (of course)
- A nice soft case and a compact hard case to help keep them in like-new shape
Dragon Alliance has a great line of snow goggles that tick all these boxes and are a BlackSheep fav. Most recently we’ve been testing a pair of the Dragon Alliance PXV2 goggles and absolutely love them. Even better, they look great in photos!
If the skier on your list has some ratty old goggle this is the ideal gift. Check them out at: https://www.dragonalliance.com/snow-goggles
7. Mammut Airbag 3.0
Backcountry airbag systems are, of course, designed to keep the wearer on the surface during an avalanche. And they work exceptionally well! This results in fewer people getting buried, which drastically increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. A no-brainer really! Airbag packs didn’t take the market by storm when they first came out as they were a bit heavy and very expensive. However, as that’s no longer the case, they’re rapidly becoming the norm, much like ski helmets. The gift of backcountry safety!
Now there are a lot of different options for airbag packs using a wide range of different technologies from batteries and supercapacitors to compressed air cylinders and they’re all attached to packs of differing qualities. We’ve tested a bunch of these different packs over the years are huge fans of Mammut’s line of avalanche airbags.
Mammut uses a very proven and reliable technology (compressed air) and most of the airbags are removable for those days they’re not needed. The packs themselves are well thought-out and comfortable. Even better, the Mammut avalanche packs are not overly expensive… not cheap mind you, just a middle of the pack price tag for a top of the line system. There’s nothing worse than buying a $1000 airbag to find that the company didn’t put any thought into the actual backpack!
My personal go-to is the Pro X Removable Airbag 3.0 in a 35L pack. As a professional guide I spend a lot of days in the backcountry and so don’t mind adding a little weight for a bunch of extra durability. However, if you do want to shave off the extra grams, there’s a Light version and, if you’re in Europe, even an Ultralight version with a sexy carbon canister. Check out Mammut’s site for more info https://www.mammut.com/int/en/cat/3041/avalanche-airbags/
8. G3 ZED Bindings
Binding technology has really been taking off over the last few years, so if you’re shopping for someone with some old and/or clunky bindings then this is the gift that’s sure to please! The G3 ZED binding falls into what I consider the backcountry goldilocks zone of tech bindings: light-weight, but still full-featured. Not a stripped down, uber-light rando binding that walks great but sucks to ski. Not an overly complex and burly resort binding that also has a walk mode. The ZED’s are in the middle, ideal for the backcountry skier that wants a lighter-weight set-up but won’t sacrifice downhill performance.
The ZED Bindings come in two models, a 12 and a 9, which of course refers to the release value, similar to a DIN. Smaller or less aggressive skiers will appreciate the 9 while bigger skiers that love to charge will want the 12. The bindings feature G3’s consistent toe retention/release mechanism that doesn’t require skiers to lock into walk mode on hardpack or in the steeps. The rotating heel pins have 10mm of forward pressure for a consistent heel release. And of course there’s 2 heel lift heights for when the track gets steep.
If you want to learn more about these bindings or find a shop near you that carries them head on over to https://www.genuineguidegear.com/
9. Custom Skis from ROMP
Imagine getting a pair of skis built specifically for you… or in this case, for that special someone. Skis that are crafted from the ground up to be your perfect companion on the snow. That’s exactly what a pair of custom skis from ROMP are! Talk about the ultimate gift for the skier on your list.
The process starts with a questionnaire to give the ROMP team a feel for what you’re looking for. That’s then followed up with a phone interview with a ski designer to really flush out what your specific pair of skis will look and feel like. You’ll pick a shape, top-sheet graphic, length, flex pattern, materials (carbon or fiberglass), etc. Then, the ROMP crew will hand craft a pair of skis that perfectly match your needs and individual skiing style. Skis that feel like an extension of your body!
For more information head on over to ROMP’s website: https://rompskis.com/custom-skis/
10: Give the Gift of Adventure!
We’re going to round out this year’s gift guide with an adventure! BlackSheep isn’t just a gear review website, we’re also an ACMG/IFMGA certified guiding operator that offers trips all over the world (when it’s not locked down due to Covid, that is). So here’s a few really cool trips and adventures that might be just what that special someone is looking for this Christmas. Maybe book a couple of spots and come along as well!
A quick helicopter flight from the Squamish Airport drops us off at the picturesque Jim Haberl Hut in the heart of the Tantalus Range. It’s the perfect base camp for exploring some of the best ski touring and mountaineering on the coast! Better yet, we will be the only people there.
No long approaches or multi-day traverses to get into some of the most amazing and remote areas of the Coast Mountains. A day of heli-assisted touring starts with a helicopter lift first thing in the morning for a quick ride up to the summit of a local mountain. Then, after a nice long decent, we start touring. Nothing like starting the day at the top instead of way down at the bottom!
You’ve seen it in the movies, in friends’ FB videos and photos: Japan’s legendary cold smoke powder! Home to the finest steep and deep powder skiing in the world all wrapped up in a truly unique cultural experience. So grab the fattest touring skis or the widest split-board you can find and join us for an Epic Japow Ski Safari!
In the SW corner of the Yukon Territory, near the Alaska border, this 5959m (19,551′) monster of a mountain lurks. Surrounded by the rugged peaks of the St. Elias range in the heart of the Kluane National Park, Logan is Canada’s highest point and the 2nd highest peak in North America, just behind the much more famous Denali. But, unlike Denali, there are no crowds on Logan. Just vast icefields and rugged peaks.
Merry Christmas from the BlackSheep flock.