Spring's Sprung

Spring skiing, Backcountry Skiing, Montana

Spring's Sprung

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David Tucker

Warmer-weather touring gear. 

March 20 marked the first day of spring, but with every drainage in southwest Montana reporting deeper-than-average snowpacks, ski season is far from over. Once the lifts stop spinning, you'll be walking uphill for your turns, and you'll need the gear to keep you going. Here are a few items to consider.


Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak

After a brief hiatus from the ski-pack game, Bozeman's own is back with a new line of touring packs. The Saddle Peak hits the sweet spot when it comes to versatility. It's low-profile enough to use in-bounds at Bridger, but big enough for a day's worth of gear on a backcountry tour. True to Mystery Ranch's heritage, the pack is rife with features, but that doesn't mean it's bulky or overwrought.

It's as if Mystery Ranch took my old daypack and changed everything that was bad about it and kept everything that was good. There's a separate pocket to keep safety gear organized and away from layers, skins, and snacks. There's a fleece-lined pocket to keep goggles scratch-free and close at hand. There's a simple loop system for diagonal ski carry. And there's a smartly positioned zipper on the side of the pack for easy access to the main compartment. On my last pack, this easy-access compartment was blocked by buckles and straps. Mystery Ranch left their zipper unencumbered, which makes a huge difference when stashing items in a stiff wind. The hip-belt has stash pockets on either side, and Mystery Ranch reversed the traditional zipper direction, meaning you open the pockets by pulling away from you, which is easier and less awkward, especially with gloves on. Also, the waist straps adjust easily in either direction.

At 21 liters, the pack sounds small, but surprisingly, it holds all the gear my much bigger bag used to. The suspension system makes for a comfortable fit, and it isn't noticeable climbing or descending, which is a good thing. Fully loaded, it doesn't change my movement in either direction. Available at Schnee's in downtown Bozeman. $230; mysteryranch.com.

Outdoor Research Stormtracker Sensor GloveStormtrackers—OUTDOOR RESEARCH
When touring, my hands tend to overheat on even the coldest days, so a thinner, lighter-weight glove is essential come spring. The Stormtrackers from Outdoor Research get the job done and then some. The gloves' small features make all the difference, like cuff loops that make them easy to pull on, smart-phone-compatible finger tips, and short zippers at the wrist that let hot hands breathe. The soft-shell Windstopper fabric keeps the elements at bay, because even though it's spring, snow is still cold. The dexterity is fantastic, so much so that these might become my everyday glove. They're so much more functional than bulkier models, so the price tag doesn't discourage me—I can see myself wearing these on spring or fall bike rides, around camp come summer, and doing outdoor chores all winter long. $75; outdoorresearch.com.

Pearl Izumi Versa HoodieVersa—PEARL IZUMI
Pearl Izumi is a primarily a cycling company, but I save on gear by repurposing items for multiple activities. An insulated coat is an insulated coat; it doesn't really matter if a cycling company designed it. The Versa hoodie is such an item. I wear it on fall, winter, and spring bike rides, but I also wear it running, hiking, and, now, on spring ski tours. It works great as an outer layer, so long as there isn't much precipitation. The body consists of Primaloft insulation, but the sleeves are weather-deflecting soft-shell. It's lightweight and super breathable, so even during the highest-output activities, you won't get drenched. The sleeves are a bit long, and the gusseted cuffs are definitely overkill. As with all Pearl Izumi apparel, the fit is a bit tight; I am 5'8", 165 and wear a large, which could be why the sleeves are long. There's a roomy hood, so it can fit over a helmet if needed. The pockets snap closed, which is a bit annoying; zippers would be better. Like the Stormtracker gloves, this coat is extremely versatile and can be worn in any season. $220; pearlizumi.com.

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