If anyone needs their gear to perform, it's a backcountry ski guide. Failure is not an option. So, if you're looking for top-of-the-line ski gear that will stand up to a beating day in and day out, look to someone like Jessica Baker, who is an Outdoor Research athlete, a guide for Exum Mountain Guides and founder of Ski Divas Women's Ski Camps. We asked her to dish on what makes the cut for her backcounry ski kit. Here's what she said.
OR women’s Echo Hoody, a lightweight, breathable layer with a hood, it's the perfect base layer for aerobic pursuits such as uphill ski travel. It’s essentially a silkweight base layer in the winter and a sun-shade hoody in the summer, so it's win-win.
Base Layer Lower
Merino wool micro bottom-—warm breathable, but most importantly, never ever stinks. Can you say ski expedition life-saver?
The OR women’s Deviator Hoody has extra insulation in the chest, where women need it especially. It's warm, yet highly breathable in the hot zones—like back, armpits, etc. I love this layer! I use it for my mid-layer, and sometimes outer layer for the uphill on a milder winter day.
The OR women’s Uberlayer Hooded Jacket is seriously my favorite. I do not leave home without it. I can run hot or cold, and this jacket regulates my temperature. You know that feeling at the trailhead when you don't want to peel off your warm layer to start hiking or skinning because you're too cold? With the Uberlayer, I can just keep it on and trust that I can reach a high exertion point while the jacket breathes and exchanges heat efficiently.
OR women’s Revelation Jacket for bigger ski mountaineering days or longer objectives where weight and versatility are key. It's waterproof, wind proof, rip-proof, burley, yet light enough to carry anywhere. For high pressure days with little to no chance of precip, I go for a softshell outerlayer, the OR Linchpin jacket.
The OR women’s Trailbreaker Pant can handle any kind of weather, keeps the snow out, and acts as both a breathable and water resistant pant.
OR Extravert Gloves are warm enough for most backcountry ski endeavors, especially heart-of-winter uphill travel. OR women’s Luminary Sensor Gloves for the way down and deeper days. And, finally, the Phosphor Mitts live in the pack for extra warmth on those really cold, clear days.
Osprey Mutant alpine pack 35L, for weight conscious ski endeavors with ice axe in tow. Bare bones, just what you need, really comfortable, 35L fits a lot of gear but, not too big or bulky.
Extra Layers And Gear In The Pack
OR Sonata Ultra Hooded Jacket or, the OR Diode Hooded Jacket for extra insulation. For cold hands: OR Transcendent Mitts—they're super light-weight, packable, and warm. Space blanket and guide tarp for emergency bivys or self-rescue scenarios. Two pairs of hand warmers, for quick warmth anywhere you need it. A relatively lightweight yet full first aid kit including trauma kit, splint capabilities, and CPR mask. A lightweight repair kit with an extra boot buckle, wire, steel-wool, rivets and screws, duct tape, zip ties, hose clamps, an extra pole basket, etc. Extra food (in addition to my delicious sandwich), Gu products for quick energy, a couple energy bars, and a chocolate bar. And, finally, maps and GPS capabilities for route finding.
Metal shovel. I use the K2/BCA. It's burly, compact, and can be used to make a rescue sled. A 300 cm aluminum probe, for avalanche rescue and snow pits. The Mammut Pulse Avalanche Transceiver, with fresh batteries. The Black Diamond Snow Saw, burly enough to cut through ice and tree branches. Ten feet of 3mm cord for cutting your ECT and PST snow tests. And a basic snow pit kit with digital thermometer, small waterproof notebook, pencil, compass with slope meter, metal crystal card, and a 10X magnifier hand lense.
Smith I/OS with chromapop lense, and two spare exchangeable lenses in my pack
Smith Wolcott with chromapop techlite blue polarized mirror, great for blocking out the sun’s harmful rays on a sunny day with highly reflective snow.
Dynastar Mythic 97, size 178, half carbon half wood core this ski performs in all conditions, is light weight, and is my go to backcountry ski. And the Dynastar Cham 107, for a bigger ski under foot on deeper powder days in the backcountry.
Look HM 12 D105 binding (same as the Dynafit Radical). I trust these bindings with my life, they are lightweight and sturdy.
Lange XT 130 Freetour, and the Dynafit Vulcan for lighter weight missions.
Black Diamond aluminum Traverse adjustable ski poles, and the Black diamond whippet ski pole for steeper endeavors.
Suunto Core, for monitoring elevational gain and loss, and to keep track of pacing throughout the day.
Top photo by Brenton Reagan.