Ski Whisperer: Eight Great Gifts for Skiers
Any of these gift items can enhance any skier's experience; a few are all but life-changing!
ZipFit Custom Inner Boot
In our opinion, Zipfit is the best aftermarket custom inner boot on the market. Not only does it heat-mold itself both to the exact shape of your foot as well as interior contours of the shell, the molding process continues in use, constantly fine tuning fit precision under dynamic conditions. Fit, comfort and warmth are superb, but Zipfit’s strong suit is performance. Even the most subtle of movements are translated instantly to the ski. Power to the edge is increased and snow sensitivity is the best available.
$180 - $375 depending on model; leading boot-focused specialty ski shops.
Like Zipfit, DownUnder’s are built by legendary boot engineer Sven Coomer and, also like Zipfit, continuously self-mold with exposure to body heat. One competing orthotic manufacturer, who at his request shall remain anonymous and whose products range in price north of $150, told us that "if everyone knew about DownUnder, the rest of us would be out of business!”
The best part: DownUnders cost less than $40 in top specialty shops.
Hot Gear Bag
This is beginning to seem like Coomer’s marketing department--Sven designed the HGB, too--but the best is the best and there is nothing comparable to the Hot Gear Bag, although there is at least one knock-off.
The primary task of the HGB is to warm and dry boots overnight and it certainly does the job--donning boots that have been stored in an active HGB is a completely new experience for most and fully addictive. Not only are the boots toasty and thoroughly dry after an overnight “bake,” they are much, much easier to put on of if its a cold morning. Operating on both house current and 12v, the bag keeps boots warm all the way to the hill.
The HGB also provides storage for accessories and gear, including helmets, gloves, tools, socks, spare layers and so on. There are reasons why Bode Miller endorses the Hot Gear Bag without compensation!
$180 to $250, depending on model. At top specialty shops and direct from skigearbag.com.
POC Super Skull Comp Helmet
The way we heard the story, mainstream engineer and POC founder Stefan Ytterborn’s son suffered severe head trauma in a bicycle accident despite having worn a helmet. Ytterborn resolved to create a better helmet, imagining at first that the project would be “a piece of cake.” Hence the label POC.
Of course, even if the legend is factual, it turned out to be not all that simple and POC from the get-go has been relentlessly pursuing innovation in bicycle and ski helmets. The Super Skull Comp is the pinnacle of current POC snow offerings. Certified for and used on the World Cup, the carbon fibre SSC not only incorporates advanced technologies like managed progressive energy absorption (similar to that found in automobile bumpers and front ends), but is exceptionally light for a helmet offering this level of protection. Full technical details at pocsports.com.
The shock the SSC doesn’t handle well is sticker-shock; the helmet retails for $500. POC makes excellent helmets for less, but the Super Skull Comp defines the state of the art for lightweight World Cup-worthy race helmets and may be just right for comfort-seeking state-of-the-art heads
LL Bean boot socks
At the nether end of this year’s gift price range are what many consider the world’s best super-weight socks.
We discuss ski socks at length in context of boot fit on realskiers.com--think thin, think tight!--but Bean socks have little to do with actual skiing, save in the roundabout sense that wearing them over those skin tight ski socks will keep any feet warm. Paired with Sorel’s or Bean’s own “Snow Sneakers,” these socks maintain toasty toes even at Alaska-grade temperatures.
Direct, llbean.com, $19.95 pr.
The science of risk assessment identifies a spectrum of challenges that range from high exposure-low consequences to low probability-severe consequences.
Major on-hill binding, base or edge problems are relatively rare, but can be a major hassle. Neither a long walk down the side of a trail grappling with skis and poles nor an embarrassing and uncomfortable toboggan ride provide much fun.
I carry a Leatherman Wave (r) multi-tool equipped with everything from a folding blade for fixing base gouges, to a phillips screwdriver for on-the-spot binding adjustments to even a diamond surface file for serious edge problems. I call it my "ski shop in a pocket" and the flip phone-sized Wave has saved more than one day for me and my students.
Available in good hardware stores or direct from www.leatherman.com. Approximately $30 to $80.
Leki Camera Mount
Avid ski photographers know that point and shoot cameras provide reasonable quality vacation "souvenir" photos, but for spectacular action shots, it is most often necessary to use a fairly long zoom. The problem with zoom, of course, is image stabilization; if the camera is the least bit shaky, long shots may turn out to be unusable.
It is possible to haul a tripod around the hill, but not very convenient. We have found a solution to this challenge that should gladden any photog's heart.
Leki has developed a camera mount that integrates into their Aergon grip. The camera mount, which takes mere moments to install and has a standard mount screw that fits just about any camera, costs only $29.
The hitch is that it can be used only with select Leki poles that range in price from $130 to over $200. Nevertheless, this is the best solution we have found. We carry one Aergon fitted pole and one conventional ski pole on ad hoc shooting sessions. It is easy to stop, attach the camera and then use the pole as a monopod. It makes shooting quality images much, much easier.
Hotronic boot heaters
There are a number of boot heat solutions available; we feel the new Hotronic FootWarmer Power Plus models are the cream of the crop. Not only do they maintain optimal foot warmth for hours, they are also among the least obtrusive in-boot heaters. They do not interfere with even the most precise performance fit.
Sold in many specialty and large ski shops. List of retailers at hotronic.com
Until next time, Merry Christmas and ...
Have Fun, Don't Fall!
Follow the Ski Whisperer Peter Keelty at his subscription site: real skiers.com.