I recently partook in the pre-winter ski town ritual of sorting through your gear and seeing what you need to pick up in the fall sales and swaps before the snow flies.
And, after five ski seasons here, I can report I’ve reached something like gear nirvana (gearvana?). Looking at my stuff, I found there was nothing I actually needed for this season. Obviously, there’s stuff on my if-I-win-the-lottery wish list, but I’m not missing anything that’ll keep me from going up and down the hill, or staying safe and warm while I do it.
That’s quite a ways from when I moved here, from the Deep South, without so much as a winter hat or gloves.
Every piece of gear in my little pile has a story — the Burton Sherlock board I bought second-hand from a friend, the leather snowshoes handed down from my brother, the Kahtoola spikes from last year’s Summit for Life, etc. The best story, perhaps, and the best example of a piece of gear I once needed is my Turtle Fur balaclava.
I picked it up in Aspen Sports, at the base of Ajax, two winters ago, on one of those bitter sub-zero December mornings. I had done one run from the top to the Ajax Express, when the liftie pointed at me and shook his head in panic.
“Yo. Dude. Your nose. It’s all ... white. You should do ... something ...”
Panicked, I rode up covering my face with my gloved hands, went into the bathroom and splashed hot water to my dead white nose, and hoped it wouldn’t fall off. Then I bombed down and got me a balaclava.
The polyester material of it is smooth over your head, face, and neck —fitting nicely under your helmet, protecting your face, and letting you keep your nose (even on the brutal-est of winter mornings). It’s loose enough that, if you don’t need the face cover, you can pull it down beneath your chin. And its compact enough that you can ball it up in your pocket.
There are fancier head- and face-coverings out there — ones with more cutting edge material, ones with cool designs on them, ones with mesh eye holes and even fake beards attached. But this one has kept my nose intact since I picked it up and, for now, made my gear collection complete.