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Total Gear Makeover

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Photos by Jon Marshall
Mountain towns wouldn’t function without dedicated locals.

These are the schoolteachers, waitresses, fundraisers, rescue workers and lift operators who quietly go about their business, logging overtime hours to support the communities they love.

Most of them live in ski towns, well, because they love to ski. However, they typically don’t get snazzy new equipment every year. We worked with four community members from our hometown of Big Sky, Montana, and decked them out with the most badass 2013/14 gear we could find.
“I was drawn to this project because of [Pete’s] raw nature and his passion for human-powered skiing,” said Dynafit Communications Manager Eric Henderson, who lined tester Pete Owens out with boots and bindings.

K2 Skis aims to lead in designing skis made for women and by women, said MJ Carroll of K2. This year’s new Remedy 102s are featured in tester Patty Hamblin’s kit.

For Mountain Outlaw, the goal was to shed light on our testers’ work, to say thanks, and hopefully, to rip a few turns with them this winter. – The Editors


Patty Hamblin

English teacher, Lone Peak High School
After 17 years in Big Sky, Patty Hamblin knows her favorite spot on the mountain: Bavarian Forest.

Originally from Preston, Idaho (think Napoleon Dynamite), the English teacher spends her free time taking care of her baby daughter and “generally having a great time in the outdoors.”

“I like the tight-knit feel of Big Sky – being able to drive down the road and wave at every other car because you know them is magical,” says Hamblin, 38. “I also love how active our community is.”

For Hamblin, being a teacher is a way to give back – from planning the Lone Peak High School Outdoor Expedition to serving as the Student Council Advisor, “there are so many great opportunities that go along with the job.”

K2 Remedy 102

These skis have received rave reviews. With camber underfoot, they’re stable on groomers; the rockered tip and 16-meter turn radius makes them maneuverable in all sorts of terrain, especially deep pow pow! You will definitely see me on the slopes taking the Remedies for a ride. $599.95

Marker Griffon bindings

At 67 ounces, the Griffons are lightweight: key for me this winter, as I’m nine months out of ACL surgery. Same goes for the lower DIN range, which is beneficial for lighter weight skiers, but not ideal for someone burlier. My knees are also happy with the Griffon’s easy entry and release. $295

K2 HighStyle poles

Sometimes, the simplest tasks, like putting pole straps around my wrist, frustrate me. Sizing them to different gloves is too hard. Those days are over with the K2 HighStyles. Lightweight, they have easily adjustable straps, plus retro ‘80s hot pink á la Better off Dead and a comfortable grip. $99.95

Patagonia Untracked Anorak and Pants

I was skeptical of the Anorak’s pullover style, but have been pleasantly surprised that the side-zip allows effortless entry/exit. Both items have the right amount of room for extra layers on cold winter days. If you’re warm hiking Big Sky’s A-Z chutes, the pit zips are easy to pull up and down with gloves on, and the leg vents are well placed.

To give the Gore-Tex an honest try, I sat in my chairlift swing through a crazy fall rainstorm. The jacket (with its helmet compatible hood) and pants kept the wet out, and the warm in.

One of my complaints with past iterations of Patagonia ski pants was length. This awesome company heard its customers and remedied the problem – these are just right. Anorak $550, pants $449

Salomon Xtend Goggle
The Xtends have a wonderful lens that dims the sun and comes in great colors. Available in several sizes.

Patagonia Women’s Capilene 4 Expedition Weight One Piece Suit

This incredibly cozy, comfy base layer receives an A+ in my book. And the first question most of you may ask: What about the bathroom? Phew – there is a drop-seat that zips down both sides. An extra-high neck and thumbholes to keep the sleeves in place round out a onesie you won’t regret slipping on. $199


Mitch Hamel

Firefighter and EMT, Big Sky Fire Department

Mitch Hamel moved to Big Sky planning to stay a winter, and after six years he’s still here.

Originally from Groton, New York, Hamel learned to snowboard while working as a ticket checker at Bromley Mountain, Vermont. He moved to Big Sky from Burlington, where he worked as a counselor at a juvenile detention center.

“Big Sky has felt like home since the day we moved here,” the 31-year-old says. “It has and continues to be a very welcoming community.”

An all-around fun-loving guy, Hamel also likes to hike, trail run, camp, bike and canoe.

Never Summer Raptor

This is an ideal Big Sky board: It’s a mid-stiff, directional board with a rockered tip and tail and camber underfoot. I love the setback stance, which allows better flotation in deep snow. The carbon and rubber stringers combined with the durasurf base and sintered p-tex sidewalls keep it nice and light, while also adding strength and durability – perfect for any rocks Lone Mountain throws at it! $589.99

Union Factory T Rice binding
This new binding from Union was designed by “the man,” Travis Rice! The binding is a bit stiffer than most, but offers great board control. With a 2mm lift in the front, the footbed has a slight gas pedal feel, allowing quick transition in and out of turns. Strap and highback adjustments are all done without a tool, which makes changing them on the fly super easy. $269.95

Smith Vice Goggles
Who knew goggles could be so techy? Spherical, Carbonic-X Lens, TLT Optics, Articulating Outrigger Positioning System, Patented Vaporator Lens Technology, Porex™ Filter, 5X Anti-Fog Inner Lens… umm, all you need to know is that the Vice’s minimal frame and oversized lens give you a huge field of vision, and the inner triple layer of foam makes them comfy. Both lenses have 5X anti-fog to keep them clear: the Blackout lens is best for sun, while the Red Sensor Mirror kills it in low light. $170

Dakine Force Jacket
The Force has tons of features: a chest pocket for your phone, hood drawcords, adjustable cuffs, doubled wrist gaiters, a zippered pass pocket, a mesh goggle pocket and thumb holes. More importantly, the zippers are stormproof, the pit zips are huge, the hood fits over your helmet, and the whole rig is insulated and waterproof. The fit on Dakine outerwear runs big, so make sure you try it on first or check their sizing guide. $300

Dakine Ace Pant
These are great pants from Dakine with stormproof/fully taped zippers and extra primaloft in the areas that contact the snow most – the knees and butt. Powder skirt loops allow easy hook-up with a jacket, and boot gaiters help keep snow out. Oversized leg vents accommodate even the rare warm day. $250

Dakine Excursion Glove

I run hot and don’t have an issue with cold hands, so these sleek gloves are just right – I especially like the dexterity, which makes getting in and out of bindings easier. Specs: 170 grams of Primaloft; water repellent leather/soft shell outers; breathable Gore Tex waterproof inner; wool lining. $85

Airblaster Ninja Suit
You won’t win any fashion contests in the Ninja Suit, but from a functional standpoint, this full-piece base layer system with hood has you covered. You’ll never deal with exposed skin or snow down your underpants again. $79.99 poly; $189.99 merino wool)


Jessie Wiese

Executive Director, Big Sky Community Corporation
A Bismarck, North Dakota, native and five-year Big Sky resident, Jessie Wiese, 32, puts her master’s in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences to use as director of Big Sky’s parks and trails organization, the Big Sky Community Corporation.

She frequents the Lone Mountain Ranch Nordic trails, clocking 8-10 miles a day, five days a week on her skate skis.

“It’s important to me not to live to work, but to live for my passions, enjoy my surroundings, and try to help people and communities reach their potential and goals,” she said.

Wiese is a Big Sky Rotary Club member, a board member on the local Mountain Bike Alliance, Natural Resource Council and park district, and has also helped coach the local Nordic team.

Salomon S-LAB Equipe 10 Skate SG

Not only are these skis light, they’re also responsive and highly stable. The Nomex honeycomb core is wrapped with a carbon fiberglass laminate and sandwiched between wood sidewalls – which means every bit of energy you put in becomes powerful forward momentum. The G5 Zeolit race base has an additive that increases glide and wax retention, and balanced pressure and camber make every snow condition – especially cold – feel fast. Incredible rebound energy makes me feel like I’m ready for a 50k. $649.99

Salomon S-Lab Skate Pro boot

Never has a top-of-the-line skate boot offered such comfort and warmth without compromising performance. The stiff sole and forward heel cup combined with a state-of-the-art micro-adjusting buckle system took my skiing from slightly sloppy to very tight. $399

Salomon S-Lab Carbon Pole

This incredibly light and super stiff carbon pole transfers more power through each pole plant. The new, perfectly fitting ergonomic strap gave me excellent control and the optional smaller, lighter baskets minimize drag. $299.99

Smartwool PhD Cortina Jacket
This is the jacket to own in the southwest Montana climate. The nylon outer and merino inner keep me toasty on a long downhill Nordic ski run, and I loved it for fall bike rides and climbing peaks mid-summer. The front pocket is perfect for storing music or a snack on longer Nordic treks. $160

Smartwool Cortina Hoody
This merino knit hoody offers sun protection up to UPF 25, and it pops with color and style. The performance-driven design includes flatlock seams to eliminate chafing, and thumbholes that increase coverage. The built-in flip mitts fold over my hands, keeping them covered when I need a little extra warmth. $110

Smartwool NTS Light 195 bottom

These windproof, reflective tights are my new best friend on cold, snowy days. Although form fitting, the merino wool material is not constricting, and the wide, women’s specific waistband is a comfortable addition. The secure rear pocket works well for storing gear or food. $85

Julbo Whoops sunglasses
Designed for smaller faces, the Whoops’ photochromatic lenses excel in many light conditions, and the scratch resistant, anti-fog coating keeps them performing despite changing temps. $90-$160


Pete Owens

Big Sky Search and Rescue
Pete Owens has been skiing for 29 years and living in Big Sky for nine. The former professional ski patroller loves touring up the low angle terrain on Tick Ridge with friends.

“I can put skins on at my house, climb as far as I want and never run into anyone,” he said. “The shot is southeast facing, and you ski everything – deep powder, crust and dirt and rock, sometimes all in one run.”

Classic Owens: positive attitude, hair-brained schemes.

A volunteer with the local search and rescue team, he is currently taking classes toward Occupational Therapy at Montana State University, and spends much of his free time bagging peaks near Big Sky.

Mammut/Barryvox Element avalanche beacon
The directions for the Element are only one page long (even I will read that). Without practice, I performed a multiple beacon search flawlessly. User friendly, this is a great beacon for beginners and is similar to the Mammut/Barryvox Pulse, but without the advanced options for professionals (which come with a larger user manual and price tag). The Element’s screen is not backlit, so you’ll need a headlamp on a dark night…  but you probably want one of those anyways. $489.95

G3 Spade Tech Shovel
Digging buried people out is the most time consuming part of avalanche recovery, and shovel design has come a long way the past five years. The Spade Tech looks like a tiny toy you’d pack to save weight, but with its straight shaft/blade, paddling softer snow like a canoe and carving blocks from firm debris won’t flex the shovel a hair. $59.95

G3 300 Carbon Speed Tech Probe
G3’s Speed Tech 300 locks into place with a pull cord. If you’re looking to volunteer or work for a rescue organization, you’ll need a 300 cm probe. This one comes in 43 cm segments and weighs 284 g, with cm’s marked for pit digging. $84.95

G3 Bone Saw
Since becoming commonplace, the extended column test has provided improved accuracy for avalanche decision-making. With that, the snow saw has gone from a geeky non-essential, to an every-outing-necessity. At 169 grams, G3 has answered the call of a simple, light, solid tool. $59.95

Black Diamond Anarchist Pack w/ Avalung
With 2,624 cubic inches of space and weighing 4.5 lbs. (including the Avalung avalanche safety breathing device), the Anarchist is a go-anywhere pack. With it, everything is at my fingertips: Snacks/light layers in the belt pocket, goggles in the top pocket, pit kit in the bigger top compartment, and avalanche gear in a dedicated front pouch. The hip strap still on, I can swing the pack around front and access the back zippered compartment. $299.95

Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS skins

These skins can put in a skin track so steep your partners’ hips will hurt just looking at it. They’ve stuck to my skis at -20 F, worked after I fell into a creek, and after walking a half-mile over rock, too tired to remove my skis. On that note: Always bring two of the rubber, belt-like ski straps – lifesavers if your skins do fail. $139.95

Julbo Orbiter goggles

The Orbiters’ photochromatic lens changes tint with changing light and their frame is so comfortable I sometimes forget to remove them on the skin up. $180-200

Ibex Indie Arm Warmer
An instant layer change, these arm warmers fit in my pack hip pocket. I grab them on the fly when cold, or stash them when sweaty. $40

Brooks Range pit kit:
This is a vast improvement for anyone still carrying a crammed stuff sac of snow crystal cards and waterproof paper. Brooks Range’s sleek bag lets you organize your stability rating tools with dedicated pockets for every item. $151.95

Black Diamond Justice skis

The BD Justice is the voice of reason in a fast evolving ski world that almost left us at the trailhead with two U-shaped snowboard-looking “skis” on our feet. With its “semi-rockered” tail, I feel solid in steep, firm couloirs; the moderate sidecut is great for getting an edge in on the skin track.

At 6’2” and 190 lbs., I was apprehensive about the capped sidewall (tricky to repair) and the max length of 185 cm. However, with 115 cm underfoot, a rockered tip, and enough useable edge, it was perfect for spring tours.

By incorporating paulownia wood with carbon fiber, the Justice has that “real ski” wooden feel, without the weight (8 lbs., 6 oz per pair/185 cm). I even found a rock to hit, and am happy to say both the rock and the ski survived just fine. The Justice is set to change in future seasons, so get them now while they’re hot. $437

Dynafit Mercury TF Alpine Touring Boot
Unbuckle the boot cuff with Dynafit’s new central buckle system, and the Mercurys have running shoe-like range of motion. Buckle the cuff down, and you have an aggressive ski boot. I’ll never again confuse ski and walk mode. If you call the back of your truck your second home, this boot is all the chairlift you need. $799.95

Dynafit TLT Radical ST binding
Dynafit has made believers out of us skiers who long assumed the small unsuspecting pin binding could never hold us or our huge egos. Turns out, they do the job quite well. The TLT Radical ST is for those looking for light bindings in and out of bounds, without having to wear leashes. Ultra-light geeks, be forewarned: The brakes cannot be removed. $499.95

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody

Water resistant and with great wicking capacity, this is one of the most versatile jackets I’ve ever worn. At 399 grams, it’s uber-light (I sometimes imagine ripping it off like Hulk Hogan entering a wrestling ring), but it’s tough and even survived a crash into a rock pile. $125

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pants
These lightweight, durable, water resistant pants have slim fit and a great range of motion, but aren’t so tight people look at you and think, “That guy’s a tool.” The right pocket is “beacon rated,” a new trend in the avalanche world where you clip your transceiver in your pocket for quick access. As with any avalanche skill, practice is the only thing that makes your search faster. $195


Hammer Perpetuem
If George Jetson were a skier, he would take Perpetuem on his big adventures. This large chewable pill is usable as your sole food source.

Read the label to figure out how much to take hourly (according to your body size), put the pills in your pocket, and set off on a multi-day ski tour around Yellowstone. Don’t forget to drink a lot of water with this space-age product.

Darn Tough Socks
With 1441 stitches of fine merino wool per square inch (the most in the industry), Darn Tough socks stay cushy all day. No seams = no blisters. Top it off with an unconditional lifetime warranty.

Testers Mitch and Patty tried DT’s Over-the-Calf Cushion Padded Shin Ski/Ride Socks for their on-mountain ripping this year; Jessie’s cruising the Lone Mountain Ranch trails with her Nordic Micro Crew Ultralights, and Pete is skinning up a backcountry ridge somewhere, reveling in his Padded Over-the-Calf Ultralight Ski/Ride Socks.

This story was first published in the winter 2013/2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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