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On more than one occasion, I’ve heard a number of people compare SkiMo racers to cyclists. They wear spandex, love carbon in their hardgoods, and get really excited about skinny equipment. Meanwhile, everyone else who skis (or rides a bike) recreationally enjoys wider, heavier, and more universally usable products. As my training and racing project has gone on, however, I find myself getting excited about carbon-infused boots and superlight minimalistic tech bindings. Doing uphill/downhill laps on groomers with 65mm-waisted skis can be a little boring, but taking the same skis on icy mogul fields is a challenging adventure (and even, in a certain sense, fun). As I gain respect for the racers I can’t keep up with as I train for the Power of Four, I’m also gaining respect for much of the equipment I have been using. Here are some of the products I have been testing that have uses beyond SkiMo, and every skier can learn to love.
SCARPA Alien RS Boot
These ski boots are objectively odd. They don’t have buckles, but instead they have a Boa tightening system for the lower shell and a Dyneema cord-system that remains loose when the boot is in walk-mode. Flip the lever in the back, and the cuff tightens effectively for the downhill. The boot’s shell is made out of carbon-infused Grilamid, meaning these boots are lightweight but ski phenomenally well. I have taken them up and down fresh groomers, icy mogul fields, and glades with fresh powder, and I have to admit I’m always surprised they ski so well on the descent. Not exactly a beginner price-point, but definitely a great boot for strong skiers who want strong performance in every aspect of their SkiMo training and racing. [$870, scarpa.com]
Ultimate Direction SkiMo 28 Pack
Ultimate Direction, a brand known for making ultra-running vests for super-athletes, makes a line of packs catered to SkiMo racers that incorporate a number of features well-designed for general backcountry missions in addition to being effective race packs. Every aspect of the SkiMo 28’s fit can be customized for more body shapes than I could test. Exterior straps can carry two pairs of skis (just in case your partner can’t carry his or her own), the shoulder straps have a number of pockets for water bottles, snacks, and essentials, plus a dedicated crampon pocket keeps crampons (or extra layers) easily accessible without having to take off the pack. I got the Ultimate Direction SkiMo 28 to test for racing, but I like the features so much it will be my go-to pack for spring backcountry missions as well. [$200, ultimatedirection.com]
SnowShed Topsheet Wax
No matter how lightweight your skis are, they can and will get covered in sticky, heavy snow while touring uphill, which drastically reduces efficiency. Luckily, there is a environmentally friendly spray for ski top sheets that reduces snow’s ability to accumulate on your skis. SnowShed is a lubricant that you put on your topsheets every time you wax (once every 5-10 uses), and it will make touring uphill a breeze, especially when there is recent snowfall or a skintrack through deep snow. It does make your skis feel a little slippery when you carry them by hand, but it mitigates snow so well that it’s worth it. I use SnowShed on my SkiMo race skis, but also on any ski that I tour uphill on, because hauling snow uphill is no fun. [$14, snowshedwax.com]
CW-X Insulator StabilyX 3/4 Tights
I haven’t jumped into a SkiMo spandex speedsuit yet, but I have been wearing these insulated compression tights during training and in races. The key for these tights is their Exo-Web Compression Technology, which mimics the same technology at KT Tape, but you only need to put them on to get the same compression benefits without getting “taped up.” With moderate insulation, I did recently wear these tights in a SkiMo race and felt improved performance both during and after the race, but, as they are ¾ tights, they aren’t quite long enough to prevent snow getting in my boots. I will keep wearing them for training underneath softshell pants, however, as I genuinely feel like they have helped my SkiMo performance and recovery overall. [$110, cw-x.com]
ONE Protein Bars
A key part of my training has been going to Eldora Ski Area, near Boulder, Colo., for the “AM Cardio Sessions.” It’s a great way to get some uphill time in, watch the sunrise, and still make it back to SKI Magazine’s office in Boulder for a full day of work. As I sometimes cut it close arriving to work on time, I snack on these handy, protein-packed bars after getting off snow for breakfast and to help my body recover. While the 20 grams of protein per bar is healthy for anyone, what I really like about these bars is that they taste great with only one gram of sugar. Plus, with breakfast-oriented flavors like “Cinnamon Roll” and “Maple Glazed Donut,” they sometimes taste like a cheat meal despite being healthier than many other protein bars on the market. [$2.50-$2.80, one1brands.com]
Modern Movement M-Pad
Despite my best efforts, it can be really difficult to make it up to Eldora for the AM Cardio Sessions more than a few times a week (that 5 A.M. alarm clock is just begging to get snoozed). When I don’t make it up to the mountain, I’ll spend at least 10 minutes on the Modern Movement M-Pad to work on my balance, core, and leg strength. The board utilizes a smartphone app with built-in balance games that keep these quick workouts entertaining and engaging. Plus, with three different levels of balance challenge, I have yet to not find a way to challenge myself on the board and feel the burn in my quads to reduce some of the effects of missing an on-snow workout. [$119, nautilusinternational.com]