I don’t normally post anything about skiing except occasional videos, but this year I sprang for some new ski apparel to replace my long in the tooth stuff. I am so used to the traditional setup of hard shell layers, especially for the jacket, that I was a bit skeptical about this stretchy soft shell gear.
Totally waterproof, super breathable, and incredibly lightweight, AscentShell™ technology is the surefire way to provide high-exertion alpine athletes with complete protection against ice, snow, wind, and however else the weather tries to thwart a perfectly planned ski tour. (from the OR website).
Of course, I’ve used the jacket and pants for lift skiing, but haven’t done any skinning yet. On my first day with the OR gear at Whistler, I got rather cold. I had a thermal layer and a thicker gridded fleece underneath, my usual setup under my other shell(s). Granted, it was chillier (20’s F) than my usual jaunts, but in subsequent days I added a Nano Puff and that fixed the problem. A balaclava under the helmet and mittens vice gloves took care of the rest when the temps dipped into the teens. This combo worked well and I found the jacket and pants moved nicely with the stretch and held up to snowfall or blowing snow and wind. Although I’m 6 feet and 170 pounds, I had to return the pants in size Large and exchange them for a Medium as I was swimming in the Large (Large works 99% of the time for me).
But skiing was not the real test for this jacket, it was shoveling snow for hours at a time over the course of 5 days (so far). I’m at the bottom of a shared, steep driveway….it’s big. Long. And my lower portion is a big square that requires carrying the load from the center to a few boundaries where I had to sling it in ever increasing piles, made easier to mound because of the high water content. And I had to get the snow off my truck every day. I live in the outskirts of Seattle, so snow days are rare events, but this just kept coming. My last foray outside had me shoveling wet snow and slush in the snow and rain for more than 2 hours. My point? I worked harder by far than any skinning excursion. Now I didn’t wear the pants, but I had the jacket on every time, and after coming in from the soaking rain I shook it off and took note of my dry shirt underneath. Somehow this AscentShell™ managed to keep me dry despite pumping out lots of internal heat (no breaks) and being pummeled by snow and rain at the same time. I was quite impressed by this performance of a stretchy soft shell material. Limitations of my experience…..will it hold up over the course of an entire day of rain? I don’t plan to find out.
It’s actually the experience of shoveling for hours on end, whilst at times being pummeled by snow and rain, that give me confidence in this soft shell technology. I won’t hesitate to pack this jacket and pants on any winter or spring hike, snowshoe, or ski tour from here on out; I’ll have confidence that it will perform. Oh, and I really like the pants, too.