As a last push to find some measure of winter (defined by me as including skiable snow, not just being cold out), Jordan and I pushed out to the new Opus Hut tucked in the southern end of the San Juan Mountains. We had invited a number of other folks, but by the virtue that we scheduled our trip mid week, most of the working world wasn’t able to comply. So Jordan and I set out on this trip on our own. This was her first ski hut trip (though, she did get herself up to Gray Knob a few years ago) and she said it pushed her a bit more than she would have liked.
This is a technical jacket. The core specifications – Polartec’s new NeoShell fabric, taped seams, storm hood – are impressive. But most importantly it performs well. As with anything new, it’s a little stiff when you first put it on, but that concern quickly fades away as the totally bomber nature of the Zion is realized. While you’re still standing in the store trying it on, you are transported to icy crags and powder days.
This is a winter jacket. The insulative nature of the soft shell is such that during any sporty activity you will want to be in the near freezing/sub-freezing temperatures. The NeoShell fabric is totally windproof. I was impressed when bombing down ski slopes, dead into the wind, and though I felt the pressure of the wind against my body, the cold never seeped through.
The hood, with the jacket zipped all the way up, stayed on my head keeping my forehead warm – something I noticed as a concern earlier in the season before I had the Zion. Even in the wind, this jacket is quiet. While taking a phone call on my iPhone ear-buds, using the iPod port, the microphone tucked inside the jacket didn’t pick up any of the wind or rustling outside. The caller was impressed to know I was on a windy mountain slope and claimed it sounded as if I was inside somewhere.
After trying various Garmont and Scarpa tele boots I found Crispi, an Italian brand that fits my feet perfectly: wide and high volume. I ordered the XP’s as they were described to have the broadest versatility, especially for a relatively new telemark skier. Medium weight to help punch through any crud snow and plenty stiff for tight response. These boots have served me well in all conditions from crusey groomers to earning turns in the backcountry. Most importantly they are very comfortable and my feet are totally secure in them. My heel stays in place and I’ve never had any issues of rubbing, blistering or cramping. I skied on them for a full season before I baked the thermal liners. After molding the liners to my feet I found a whole new level of comfort and control. The boots are also plenty warm which is very important when on a backcountry lunch break between climbs and runs sitting around in the snow. I have yet to take these boots on a multi-day tour to see what it’s like to put them on after sitting out overnight in the cold, but hopefully that will come soon.
The Crispi XP’s soft rubber Skywalk sole grips the snow well when walking around on compact snow and the duckbill is strong and stiff enough to punch enough of a lip to step on when booting it up sections too steep to make it worth while to skin up.
My few concerns stem from how easily the tongue under each of the upper buckles sometimes mesh the wrong way. I usually catch this when it becomes ridiculously difficult to lock the buckle down and after catching this the first time I know to keep an eye out for this. Also, the power strap is way too long. It makes me wonder how fat of a leg it can accommodate. Maybe it’s that long to work as a shoulder strap when strapping the boots together to carry them, but I’m not sure as I have a boot bag for them. Another little annoyance is having to flip up the D-ring where the leash attaches. I don’t really have a well thought out solution in mind, but if the D-ring could somehow stick out some and not just rest right up against the boot, it would make it easier to attach the ski leash.
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