Mechanical Venting in Backcountry and Sidecountry Ski Jackets
Even the best waterproof/breathable fabrics in ski jackets need some venting when you’re alpine climbing or backcountry skiing. The body heat you create during these activities is enormous, and stopping to shed layers can eat up valuable time or even leave you vulnerable in dangerous avalanche terrain. But you also might simply need venting when the sun pops out from behind the clouds or you are busting to keep up with your posse at the resort. We’re not saying waterproof/breathable fabrics don’t work, or that you don’t need the best breathable protection from foul weather, but there are simply times when venting is mandatory.
“A big hole in your jacket vents better than any membrane ever will,” says International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) guide and famed ski mountaineer Martin Volken, who helped Outdoor Research design its mechanical venting systems. “It’s not difficult to overwhelm certain waterproof/breathable shells when you are working hard. Even when the temperature is down below zero, your body can generate an incredible amount of heat, especially if you are breaking trail.”
With that in mind, we have tackled the concept of venting with two different systems: CrossFlo™
and TorsoFlo™. CrossFlo™ venting is our answer to those passé pit zips. It’s a pit-to-chest vent with a two-way zipper that not only allows you to vent while on the go without removing a pack, but also gives you easy access to internal pockets within the shell. That means there’s no more messing around to get to your skins or energy bar.
“Pit zips are tough to reach,” says skiing legend and OR gear advisor Mike Hattrup. “It's a three-step process if you have to take off a pack, unzip and put it back on. With CrossFlo, you just pull and open the vent in one quick motion while you are moving.”
CrossFlo began in our Sidecountry ski jackets and pants. It’s crucial to a shell like the men’s and women’s insulated GORE-TEX® Axcess Jacket™, where its adjustable venting helps make the transition from huffing and puffing out-of-bounds to riding cold lifts far more comfortable and easy. You will also find it in light-and-fast shells such as the Backbowl Jacket™, which is built with light, waterproof/breathable Pertex® Shield and is ideal for rapid laps on powder days.
Our other proprietary venting system, TorsoFlo™ is designed for full, hardcore venting. TorsoFlo™ vents use two-way zippers that run from the pit to the hem of the shell. As Hattrup describes it, “It turns your shell into a poncho.” And we planned it that way—not only can you vent when working hard, you can also zip up in a hurry when the weather deteriorates. TorsoFlo™ is a mainstay for our serious alpine shells such as the burly GORE-TEX® Pro Shell Maximus Jacket™, as well as lighter alpine shells including the Furio Jacket™, a GORE-TEX® Pro Shell/GORE-TEX® Paclite® hybrid made for lighting-fast ascents and descents.
Hattrup considers both systems essential when he’s banging out backcountry laps at Jackson Hole Resort, Wyo., where stopping to mess with a pack and unzip can bump you back in line while someone else snags your freshies. “It's a frenzy. Stop and five people pass you. With these systems you can grab the zipper, get the vent open and keep moving.”