Northern Michigan Skiing Gear and Style

Admit it: as soon as the days get a little cooler, the nights a little longer, somewhere in the back of your brain the itch for winter starts. The scales tip from pining for more summer to getting psyched for ski season. Fresh powder. Corduroy grooves. Rails, boxes, kickers. Those rare backcountry mornings when you lay down the only tracks in a grove of hushed ash, hemlock, and birch trees. Whatever your ideal white­washed daydream is, we’re on board.

Consider this our ode to all the hills we’ve yet to conquer this year: a run-down of the latest and greatest in Northern Michigan skiing gear and style, originally published in the November 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Slope Style

Josh Baker, the Outfitter in Harbor Springs

You won’t find many local experts as skilled at staying warm outdoors as Josh and Molly Baker, owners of the Outfitter in Harbor Springs. The pair spent a dozen years taking students on serious winter adventures as co-directors of Colgate University’s Outdoor Education program, so they know what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to keeping toasty on even the coldest days. And the good news for us snowsports lovers? Trends this year keep tipping toward function (even the super baggy slope-style stuff teenagers are rocking is made with insulation in mind).

Here’s what Josh had to say:

The free­ride style is very popular—looser fit pieces that are super­functional with venting, technical fabrics and trending colors, and two classics—down and wool—are still going strong. Down is still about the best insulator around for its weight and is being wrapped in waterproof fabrics for some really warm, really functional parkas. Several companies have made serious efforts to “clean­ up” their sourcing for down, which has been pretty interesting to follow. Patagonia, for example, has “traceable” down now, and refuses to accept down feathers that have been “live­plucked,” a common practice. Wool, too, is picking up steam as a great insulating layer. It has been around for a long, long time in outdoor clothing, and, though more expensive, is really taking off as a wonderful base layer. Merino wool is so soft and warm and cozy, and brands like SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex are producing some really nice pieces. Wool lasts a long time and doesn’t get smelly like some synthetic layers!

Gear Guru

Scott (Scooter) Stillings, Bahnhof Sport, Petoskey

When it comes to ski gear, Scott Stillings is like the Yoda of Northern Michigan. He’s been in the biz a long (long) time, and gets the science as much as the style of the latest trends. Here’s what Stillings recommends for gear this season:

Technology and shape are at long last merging. For years now, skis have been getting wider and shorter, but 2015/2016 models are adding a key ingredient to the mix: they’re super light. K2’s Pinnacle 95s and Ikonic 85s have won a ton of awards. These skis are designed to be light in their very center and seriously ski like the wind. Rossignol Soul series skis are lighter up front and also gaining tons of attention. It’s big news for Midwesterners, because we ski on hard snow, and this new technology—which is not just lighter on the chairlift, but a lighter swing weight (when turning)—holds up in every condition with less effort.

Salomon is still reigning king when it comes to the boot game. They offer a great midpoint price, are really foot friendly, and have easy-to-mold linings. Just toss ’em in the oven, then form ’em to your foot. No joke.

We all look like dorks in helmets, but everybody (with a brain) wears them, so it makes it okay. Now that head protection is the on­slope norm, prices are coming down, and fits continue to improve. It’s pretty easy to find a good helmet with all the technology (yes, you can indeed be wired to your phone or iPad, even on the hill) for under $100. Insider secret: goggle/helmet integration is getting better every season, and buying the same brands can make it seamless.


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