Whether you are cruising on corduroy, lapping the park or shredding powder, a decent pair of gloves or mittens is essential for keeping warm as your hands are usually the first thing to get cold on the hill.
For many people, choosing between gloves or mittens is down to personal preference. Gloves will give you a bit more dexterity for picking up your poles or putting your goggles on, while mittens tend to be warmer than gloves as your fingers produce more body heat when next to each other. If you are unsure my advise would be to try both types on and if you are a skier hold a ski pole to see which feels more comfortable and gives you a nice grip.
The key things to consider before purchasing either models are the specifications. Do they fit well? How waterproof are they? Are they windproof and breathable?
To stop your fingers from freezing, it is important to get a pair which fits. If you go too small and your fingers are pressing on the end the cold will sooner seep into your finger tips and moisture is more likely to get inside the lining. If you go too big there will be a lot of space to fill with wasted body heat and you’ll lose some dexterity with the extra material. I would recommend trying a few on to get the best fitting pair.
One of the most important features to look at is the waterproof rating because no matter how insulated your gloves are, if your hands get wet there is no stopping them getting cold. (This is even more important for snowboarders who tend to have more frequent hand contact with the snow). Most waterproof ratings for snow wear will range between 5,000ml and 20,000ml. I would advise an absolute minimum of 5K which will give you only some resistance to water. 10K plus for general conditions would be better but 20K plus is essential to keep you dry in wetter conditions.
With warm temperature and low snowfalls it hasn’t been the powder full winter we dreamt of but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out on the hill and have a great time. As Jeremy Jones said “if you need to have powder on the mountain to have fun then you are in the wrong sport”. So with that in mind we have been embracing the spring conditions and have been taking advantage of the low avalanche risk and pushing further into the backcountry than would usually be possible in January.
Refuges are one of the great traditions of the Alps and provide great opportunities to explore the mountains in winter. Usually allocated with a guardian to host walkers in the summer months and provide them with a warm meal and comfy bed; the winter experience is a bit more DIY. Usually only one room will be open with a log store, fire, gas stove and some blankets to keep the worst of winter away.
This week we planned to visit the Refuge Gramusset it sits at the north east end of the Aravis Chain and is located under the dominating Pont Percee peak. We started our tour below the tree line in the small hamlet of Troncs. The climb up is 1000m of vertical and the first 450m is a steep pitch up through the forest avoiding a large exposed cliff line over the ravine below. The forest trail had limited amounts of snow and we spent a fair bit of time trying to dodge tree roots and fallen branches. Once out of the forest and into the high alpine the conditions began to improve. The final 550m is a testing 40 degree slope all the way to the refuge. One of the most enjoyable aspects of ski touring is the continual puzzle of choosing the safest route up. This particular face had a variety of challenges with the constant steep gradient and multiple exposed cliff bands it was both a demanding and rewarding climb.
Having reached the Refuge just before sunset we had time to start cutting logs and getting the fire going before nightfall. Once the fire is lit and the refuge is heating up you must start to melt snow for water. With three of you this becomes a full-time job due to the small quantities of water that snow holds. Refuges tend not to have electricity and make for long evenings with the sun going down at 5.30 in winter and not showing itself till 7 in the morning. However this simple existence is the most magical part of the experience, how many opportunities in modern life provide you with such a chance to be in the present. Even one night living like this reaffirms the amount of distractions society has built for itself. It may not be everyone’s idea of a break but the simplicity of being in the mountains and providing for yourself is an incredible experience and offers true escapism.
Around 11pm the wind started to really pick up and the metal roof was chattering by this time you are torn between staying under your blankets or getting another log on the fire. You dose in and out of sleep for what seems like an eternity waiting for first light to have a glimpse at the conditions.
Unfortunately we woke to strong winds and the couloirs above the refuge looked ominous. We made the decision to head back down before conditions worsened. The ski down covered some great terrain however the snow wasn’t great with lots of exposed rocks. Sometimes things change in the mountain but you are always inspired by something when you venture into them. You make mental notes of possible lines to ski in the future or wonder what terrain lies over the next peak. It truly is never-ending and that is the greatest aspect of ski touring you are opening up opportunities for discovery all the time.
As people back home have probably heard Europe has had a slow start to the season with unseasonably high temperatures throughout December. However when it has snowed this year it has been falling intensely with two 50 cm plus snow falls in 24 hour time periods. This has provided us with a wide variety of condition to test the Dakine Prospect Bib Snow Pants!
Dakine Prospect Bib Snow Pants
The first impression you get from the Prospects is how incredibly light they are compared to other winter pants. This lightness provides a fantastic feel when skiing and touring as you aren’t restricted by any heavy materials. They are built from 3 layer Gore-tex which provides the trousers with a formidable shell against all conditions. Despite being out on a few torrential ski days this year I am yet to see the trouser soak through even when sat on wet chairlifts. The bib design is a great feature for any powder lovers as it ensures protection of your base layers even on the deepest of days and the occasional tumble!
However it is not just in miserable conditions that the Prospect shines. I have been touring in them in +15 and there lightweight breathability means that they control your temperature very well. With multiple vents featured on the trouser you are able to make quick adjustments whilst on the route up as well as insulating your warmth at the top.
We have been skiing for eight weeks now and as stated the condition have been tricky with plenty of grass and rock on show. This has highlighted one of best features of the Prospect.The reinforced cuffs at the bottom of the legs have made them considerable more durable than other snow pants. Despite being scraped between rocks and ski boot on numerous occasion they are yet to show any sign of wear and the strong boot gators stay firmly attached to the boot.