Looking to upgrade your kit? How about spending some bucks at home? Manufacturers in Western Canada have you covered from head to toe with some of the finest products on the market. I’d love to say I crossed Canada looking for this stuff, but there was so much to choose from right here in my B.C. backyard between Vancouver and Whistler.
Story and photos by Marty McLennan in Fall 2013 issue
Made to measure
Set at the base of Whistler, Prior has been handcrafting custom-made, high-performance snowboards and skis since 1990. This year’s newest creation is the playful, backcountry-loving CBC ($849, fibreglass; $1,049, XTC Carbon). With a centred core and a 140.5/118/138mm sidecut at 188 cm, the big-mountain powder twin makes for a great daily driver if you’re landing tricks in the deeps and steeps. Its graphics come powered by local artist Justin Ormiston. With customization a specialty, you can also get Prior to handcraft a pair of skis—from the base through the core to the graphics—suited exactly to your needs. priorsnow.com
Designed, tested and made in Vancouver, Westcomb knows how to handle Canada’s raw winter elements. Its ultra-light, ultra-warm Cayoosh LT Hoody ($300) for women offers the pristine, world-wide standard for loft, warmth and durability—900-fill Alberta-raised hypoallergenic Hutterite down—in a form-fitting and windproof Polartec Powerstretch Pro shell. Designed as a mid-layer or to use on its own, the stylish hoody will keep you toasty in all conditions when paired with Westcomb’s premium shells. shopwestcomb.com
And the winner is…
Prior takes its art seriously. Each year it holds a contest (hosted at Scotia Creek Gallery in Whistler from September 23 through October) for the year’s topsheets. Sales and Marketing Manager Emilie de Crombrugghe shows a couple of this season’s top draws.
Warm and woolly
Vermont-based Ibex designs merino wool outdoor clothing, coupling this natural renewable resource with technical innovation. Its Wool Aire line deconstructs the age-old concept of a wool sweater ($295) by encapsulating 70g/m2 (the hoody beefs up the warmth to the core areas to 100g/m2) of wool fibre throughout a 100-per-cent recycled ripstop nylon shell with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. Merino’s warmth-to-weight ratio compares to down and synthetics; however, it offers superior loft integrity due to its integral structure, maintaining warmth when wet (no surprise Ibex chose rain city experts in Vancouver for manufacturing). The Wool Aire sells as a hoody, sweater and vest and comes with adjustable hems, elastic cuffs and an interior mesh pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. shop.ibex.com
Located downslope from Vancouver’s North Shore peaks, Genuine Guide Gear, or G3, has long found solutions to whatever the mountains fire our way. When it’s not gear testing in the Tantalus and beyond, G3 is hands-on manufacturing hard goods in situ, like the Onyx alpine touring binding ($449) and High Traction Climbing Skins ($205)—the production of these is so coveted, I wasn’t allowed to photograph it. But I’ve walked up walls (and glaciers) and tore down ’em on G3; the twosome combine as a formidable setup for serious backcountry skiers. genuineguidegear.com
Custom-made in Cochrane
And looking past my own backyard and beyond the B.C. border, Cochrane, Alberta’s Snoday produces custom-ordered, hand-built, Rocky Mountain-tested skis ($695-$1,095). Snoday does all the handiwork, so the toughest part is choosing between graphics and one-of-a-kind custom veneer designs done in-house. The company stands behind its work, offering a limited two-year warranty on all boards. snoday.ca
Lifelong skier and coach Blake Andreassen handcrafts bamboo poles ($79) in a North Vancouver studio. More than hearkening back to simpler times, Blake’s retro-looking bad-boys offer something more futuristic than aluminum or carbon fibre; they’re the only sustainable, biodegradable alternative out there. Besides being light, they’re kick-ass tough. Check out his flex test video (and custom order them) online. bambooskipoles.com
Tags: alpine ski gear, Blake Andreassen, G3, gear, Gear & Gadgets, Genuine Guide Gear, High Traction climbing skins, Ibex, Onyx, Prior, Snoday, Westcomb, Wool Aire