This fall Arc’Teryx will introduce down-insulated pieces into their line of high-quality apparel. And, as with everything this boutique brand does, they’re doing it in a new, interesting way. The down they’ll use in pieces like the 850-fill Cerium AR ($259, pictured right) and Cerium LT ($350, pictured left) jackets is “food-grade,” which means that the feathers are sourced from fully grown birds from Europe used in the production of foie gras. The feathers are consequently larger than those found in other brands. Other innovations in their new down line include a durable shell construction, with “core loft” synthetic insulation in high-compression areas like the shoulders and cuffs to eliminate cold spots. We also love the reconfigured hood design, which carries the down baffles vertically over your head/helmet, and lets the crown of the hood nestle comfortably over your head and ears. There will be a total of 11 products in this line, along with hybrid products that boast the new Gore Tex Pro Shell.
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There’s a lot of talk about timeless designs, but the Alpha Jacket blends state-of-the-art technology with a classic alpine ski profile. I’ve worn it for 25-plus days on Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor in weather down to -3 degrees and always felt like I was a warm island floating in the cold. The jacket packs a lot of warmth in a relatively light package. Nine circular down pouches in the back provide heat where you need it the most (on your shoulders and lower back) and eliminate the need for the excessive layers that not only restrict movement, but reduce overall insulative quality. Helly’s designers were inspired by backpacks that utilize mesh for venting—two long vertical hidden zippers from the shoulder blades to the hip let you vent on hot days—seal them off for ultimate warmth. There’s also mesh on the stretch cuff gaiters. Reinforced thumb holes are just right—big enough to slide you thumb in without restriction, but not so big that they bunch up when not engaged. Durable waterproof/breathable fabric has two-ways stretch with the feel and dynamic stretch of a soft shell coupled with the storm-thwarting weatherproofing that is Helly’s signature feature. This is a warm jacket—but the breathability, ergonomically-friendly design, and venting make it transcend super cold winter days to spring skiing. Primo features include discreet, dense foam patches on the shoulders for cushioning a pack, a tuck-away powder skirt, giant hand-warmer pockets with soft microfleece linings, and two inside zip chest pockets—one with a washable goggle cloth.
www.columbia.com, 24 ounces
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: versatility is key. Witness the following scenario: You’re flying from a temperate clime to a snow-chocked state with a 30-degree temperature difference between departure and arrival. Then, you head to your favorite resort and sign up for First Tracks, which means you’re up before the sun, staring at a thermometer that won’t budge above zero. By midday? Temperature inversion and the heat of the sun have bounced the temps up 20 degrees. There’s two ways to combat this. Pack a lot of layers, or go with an interchangeable setup like Columbia’s Ultrachange Parka. This two-in-one jacket gives you a warm liner jacket, plus a waterproof/breathable, wicking outer shell to keep you warm and dry in even the wettest blizzards. The insulated, ploy inner layer boasts Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat liner, which is scattered with small silver dots that reflect the body heat to create oven-like warmth (the spaces in between the dots allow the jacket to breathe). Two large zippered side pockets and a tall collar also make it a fashion-forward, insulated stand-alone. The outer shell, meanwhile, amplifies the weather-proofing, with an advanced waterproof/breathable laminate, vented hand pockets, an adjustable hood, waterproof zips, and a drop tail that you’ll really appreciate when you have to sit down on a snow-covered chair lift. The fit is on the baggy side—especially when you are wearing just the shell. Oh, and our tester’s application to the scenario listed above? He wore the inner lining to the airport and then to the resort. The next morning he started off with both layers to combat the pre-dawn cold, then stripped to just the inner for one bluebird day. And when the white stuff started to fall but the mercury held at around freezing, he wore the outer shell under a mid- and base layer. Four scenarios, one solution, and lots of extra space in his suitcase.
Learning to help your kids love winter is a snap when they’re wearing the right apparel. We love this jacket as it allows you to outfit your teen with a highly functional piece that survives the fashion crucible without costing a fortune. The Iconic Jacket is sized to fit girls up to the age of 18, with a slight shape (no slacker look here) and flattering, longer waist. The waterproof/breathable jacket held up to storm days on Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor, when winds reached 40 and temps plummeted to single digits. Our tester, a respected junior alpine racer, raved about the warmth, suppleness, and fit of the Iconic—the coat moved with her, whether she was running gates or hiking the Cone. Obermeyer, one of the most respected brands in ski apparel, was founded in 1947 in Aspen, Colorado, by Klaus Obermeyer, who at 93 is still leading the company. The brand specializes in high-end but fairly-priced mountain apparel—and is one of the few brands that serve youth and teens with equal seriousness as men and women. The Iconic really mimics its name with a classic, feminine shape that never goes out of style. Inside the jacket’s clean lines and longer silhouette you’ll find 140 grams of warm Permaloft insulation in the body and 100 grams in the sleeves to provide warmth without bulk. The exterior is a striped jacquard made of a polyester/CD polyester print with HydroBlock V (Obermeyer’s proprietary microporous waterproofing). Obermeyer’s CZV, a control zone ventilation system, maintains warmth, but breathes and wicks moisture, so there’s no wetness, even on crazy pow days. As with all youth and teen Obermeyer products, the Iconic jacket uses the company’s innovative EWS (extended wear system) to maximize wear time—meaning the jacket will last several seasons, not just several runs.
This may label us craft-obsessed hipsters, but we love it when old school sensibilities marry with the technical universe that dominates today’s outdoor gear industry. Nau—naturally based in “hipster-rich” Portland—shares this passion of merging the old world and new, a feat perhaps best exemplified by their Highline Blazer. The classic, two-layer wool flannel jacket has been treated with a poly laminate to provide waterproof protection while simultaneously taking full advantage of wool’s all-natural insulation, breathability, and odor resistance. Panels of waxed cotton along the forearms, back, and collar reinforce the weather-resistance on the places you need it most, and taped seams seal in other potential weak spots in the jacket. The lining boasts a subtle checked pattern, with a drop pocket ideally suited for one of the 1,001 smart phones of the world. On the front are two buttoned hand pockets and a button chest pocket. You can dial in the tailored fit by adjusting the waist tabs, button cuffs, and button-down collar. The back split flap also snaps at the bottom, but we confess that this seems more an affectation than technical design element. The five-button front closure rounds out the fashion-forward details. The result is a jacket that looks perfectly paradoxical, something of the past, present, and future (to really time-travel go for the light gray color, the most bold and fashion-forward of the three color ways). It fits snugly (though not as tight as the latest pair of hipster jeans); if you like bulky sweaters or sweatshirts you may feel cramped.