Do you have a technically perfect Hero jacket? Will green (as in eco) be the new orange? Is retro and print revival a backward style step? Do you need bib ski pants? Here's what's new for ski and snowboard wear with views from the UK's top threads-heads representing ski and snowboard retailers, Absolute Snow, Snowtrax and Ellis Brigham
You know what it's like when you're snowboarding down a perfect gradient and then hit a long flat stretch that means you have to scoot, jump or step out of your bindings because there is absolutely no forward momentum? Or, if skiing, start poling manically. Well that is what's happened to ski and snowboard wear. We've plateaued.
So we should probably thank the ski and snowboard wear designers for not tempting us to buy new must-have mountain clothing because this way we won't be adding our old ski clothes saturated with PFC chemicals to the planet's pollution.
But, you're right, of course we're not all going to stop buying ski and snowboard wear. For one reason, gear wears out. For another, there's always that one thing that you see online or in a ski store that is missing from your ski or snowboard kit that you convince yourself you can't go riding without.
Take the HERO JACKET, for instance. In fact, yes, take the Hero jacket if you're going to any of the ever more remote mountains that are being added to the far flung ski destination map, for those extreme backcountry missions and baltic temperatures.
It's not technically new, but it's technically pretty darned perfect, the epitome of warmth and protection such as the new RAGNARÖK, above, from Jottnar, £849. It's described by former Royal Marine commando, Tommy Kelly of Jottnar, as 'a beast of a jacket' built without compromise with 900 DOWNTEK Fill Power hydrophobic goose down wrapped inside a new proprietary waterproof breathable, fully taped shell fabric, SKJOLDR™ and further zoned with THERMOLITE® synthetic insulation in potential wet-out areas also features a RECCO® Rescue System reflector for improved safety.
Meanwhile, there's a Bavarian beer fest of new BIB-FRONT PANTS for this winter. The return of bibbed ski and snowboard pants is great news for men, eliminating the potential powder down your waist scenario off piste, but not so great for women in so far as they create the strip-naked and freezing cold scenario when you need to pee.
Among the younger brands, RETRO is definitely returning along with multi-coloured and patterned fabrics. All we can say is for gawd's sake (and only if you're under 30).
But if you are going to buy new perhaps because your ski pants are wearing thin from years of backcountry sliding over rocks and ice, then make sure they're GREEN, khaki green if we're talking cool colourways replacing burnt orange from past seasons - and environmentally green if we're thinking about the future of the planet.
On that note, we congratulate O'Neill (above and main image) for their new RE-ISSUE line using recycled plastic bottles. Big ski brands can talk the talk about the environment but how many walk the walk when it comes to protecting it? Where such a commercial label as O'Neill goes featuring recycled fabrics as well as style and performance, hopefully others will follow. And, yes okay, we bow to Patagonia and Picture who are already streaks ahead of the sustainability game.
But don't just take our word for what's new in ski and snowboard wear. Check out what the key ski and snowboard retailers are saying about this winter's shred threads - Dave Whitlow, Clothing Buyer and Creative Director for the UK's major snowsports retail store, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports; Mikie Kitaruth for the online snowsports retailer, Absolute Snow; and Robert Doubleday, Retail Operatons Manager and Snowboard buyer for the largest independent UK retailer, Snowtrax.
What's new technically?
Absolute Snow: 'In outerwear there’s not much new technology, many brands just updating colours and patterns but the tech remains the same.
'Only real news technically is the 686 HYDRASTASH RESERVOIR jacket, £329.95 (below). It does exactly what it says in the name. It’s the first of its kind for feature a built in hydration system. You know those days when you head out with your camelback filled to the top strapped to your back? Well, that’s a thing of the past.
'The other features include anti-microbial 75L reservoir which can also hold hot fluids as well as cold which is great for those colder days on the mountain. Let’s also not forget that this jacket is 20k rated, so not only will you be kept hydrated on the mountain, but you’ll be warm and comfortable when the weather takes a turn. It’s pretty much the ultimate jacket.'
Ellis Brigham: The big news is that GORE-TEX is making a new reach into front side skiwear. Kings of backcountry clothing, GORE have now partnered up with Spyder to bring high performance stretch waterproof breathability to dedicated piste and side-country skiers.'
Snowtrax: Technical advancements I would say are to be found in insulators. Hybrid insulators to be more specific. We are seeing more choice in PRIMALOFT layers blended with fleece that offer increased mobility that will also keep your temperature controlled much better than bulky insulators of the past. While not huge technical breakthroughs, this does represent a key part of the layering process.'
What's new style wise?
Ellis Brigham: 'This season is about evolution rather than revolution. Piste skiwear is taking some styling cues from backcountry brands with cleaner shapes and tech detailing such as exposed waterproof zips. Top-end luxury is big news with prestige brands serving-up a heady cocktail of couture style and high performance to the rich set.'
Absolute Snow; 'One style has noticeably become mainstream this winter is the PULLOVER (anorak) style jacket. What started off as a lightweight, fun jacket for spring riding has now developed into a warm, technical jacket. Due to the missing front zip, the cold has less areas to creep in and therefore offers more warmth and protection with all the same tech as a normal traditional jackets, the same waterproof rating and underarms vents. A lot of riders have found the large front kangaroo style front pocket more practical than side pockets.'
Snowtrax: 'Not really new but definitely making more of an impact would be the humble ANORAK (as above). We have options across multiple brands including Burton, Volcom, Planks and Amundsen.'
Is there one brand that's bossing it this winter 2019?
Snowtrax: 'For us it is not just one brand but definitely a few that are pulling their weight. Poivre Blanc have added a few new “panel” styles that will continue their success. Picture have yet another strong range for winter 2019. We are also proud to extend our range and stock brands such as Amundsen, Goldbergh and Black Crows clothing, above.'
Ellis Brigham: 'There's not just one brand. Arc’teryx and Norrøna rule the backcountry segment. Nobody does top-end luxury better than Spyder and Henri Duvillard, and all mountain skiwear is really owned by The North Face and Salomon.'
Absolute Snow: 'There’s a big push in sustainability and awareness for the environment. A lot of brands are now trying to do their bit but its Picture that are really standing out. Environmentally friendly outerwear, Picture use recovered fabrics in the lining of all their jackets, keeping waste down but the style is still super cool (see their ISPO winner, the Iceland ProKnit jacket, below, with patented knit recycled polyester construction, Greenplus & Bluesign certified).
'Picture’s idea is pretty simple; To make the best products with an environmentally friendly impact. Unique designs that stand out with their fresh colours and valued for their good quality. Cost prices are controlled to make sure that the products are a true alternative to conventional industrial production.'
So are environmental issues having an effect?
Absolute Snow: 'This last year we have noticed a push from both brands and customers addressing the environmental issues raised from the industry and production. Brands like Planks, Patagonia and The North Face, to name just a few, have really focused on using recycled fabrics and the response from the public has been fantastic.
'By 2020 we will see a lot more brands being more sustainable. To do our bit, we have been in talks about customers being able to come back to us with their old jackets/pants that we can recycle and offer a kind of trade-in deal on new items. Fingers crossed this takes off in the not too distant future.'
Snowtrax: 'As mountain users we appreciate the environment that has become our playground. I think skiers and snowboarders are a bit more switched on when it comes to their impact on the environment, and the industry has naturally been pushing this way for years now to become more “Green”. Brands investing above and beyond in the environment such as Patagonia (backcountry ski touring gear, below) are obviously doing very well but this is also backed up with good durable quality and design.'
Ellis Brigham: 'The whole green thing is becoming increasingly important, especially among a younger consumer demographic. All of our key partners work closely with their supply chain to make sure such environmental and workers' rights issues are at the heart of their process. Some brands are more vocal about this side of their business than others. So working with market-leading brands gives us confidence that environmental issues are being addressed and the overall position is rapidly improving.
'Patagonia and Picture wear their ethics on their sleeve. They are pragmatic about making meaningful and sustainable change to the way they manufacture products as well as generally campaigning for a cleaner planet. Brands like Norrøna, below, also look at the whole impact their company has on the planet right down to how they commute to their workplace.'
What's the hottest (soft wear) accessory for winter 2019?
Snowtrax: 'It’s still all about the face layer. The choice is huge which makes this such a personal accessory / necessity.'
Absolute Snow: 'The new Bro items are just on point. This brand keeps pushing the limits each season, not just with those super comfy Chill N Shred hoodies, but their mitts are getting a lot of attention at the moment. A brand that’s not afraid to think outside of the box and throw colour at things, the guys at Bro have added a crew neck version of those chill n shred hoodies, perfect for those days when a hoodie is just too much. Their simple but effective logo is popping up in almost every European mountain town and there’s a reason for this. They make great heavy duty items designed to keep you warm while looking awesome.'
Ellis Brigham: 'Oakley’s new electronic goggle lenses can be adjusted between three light transmissions at the touch of a button to quickly react to changing weather conditions, which is pretty special.'
One new item of ski or snowboard clothing? Guys? Girls?
Absolute Snow: For both guys and girls, it has to be a PULLOVER style jacket. For girls the Wearcolour Homage anorak (below left), £175.95 has been developed by equal parts retro, technical and stylish. The construction means that you now have even more freedom of movement than your previous jacket. It’s 10K waterproof and breathability rating means that not only does it look good, but, it will hold up to any condition on the mountain.
'For the guys, the DC Rampart pullover jacket, £149.95 has that old-skool vibe about it. The classic Blue/Orange colourway gives it that 90s inspired styling, but don’t worry if that isn’t your thing as it also comes in a softer white/grey or the always-in-fashion camo (above right). Similar to the Wearcolour jacket above, the DC Rampart also features 10k waterproof rating and with that oversized kangaroo style pocket on the front, you won’t be losing anything.'
Ellis Brigham: 'I guess versatility is key to an item becoming The One. Something that becomes your winter best friend. This could mean the slope to street wearabiliy of something like the men’s The North Face Chakal jacket, £299.99 or the women’s Eider Squaw Valley jacket, £279.99. Or maybe a soft, warm, compressible insulator is even easier to fall in love with. Norrøna’s Lyngen Down Hood jacket ticks all the boxes for men and for women.'
Snowtrax: 'If it’s about who is wearing what then the Volcom Brighton Pullover in Mix. This colour was chosen by Marcus Kleveland in the Olympics and is definitely a statement piece. Apparently Pixie Lott is wearing Goldbergh, below, so for the girls this would be our recommendation.'