Polartec Ambassador Alli Miles is an avid out-of-bounds skier living in Bend, Oregon. She gave us the guide on which gear and Polartec fabrics to pack for your next adventure on the slopes.
Having a great day in the mountains doesn’t always come down to finding the lightest, driest powder, farming a perfectly untracked slope, or hitting that pillow line you’ve been staring at all winter. Sure, those are the moments we rehash over beers, write about on social media, and sometimes talk about for years to come. But the true warriors on the best days are found in your ski pack: the pair of goggles that didn’t fog when it was nuking nonstop, the peanut butter pretzels that fueled one more lap, or the jacket that cut the chill when the winds were ripping on the summit. These unsung heroes of our ski packs quietly make the best days what they are because they keep us comfortable, or as comfortable as possible, in conditions that are often anything but the best.
Those of us who seek adventure in the mountains don’t like to admit it, but there are many days when we hesitate to emerge from the car into single-digit temps, to push above tree line into howling winds, or to do another lap when our gear is saturated. Small luxuries like hand warmers, an extra jacket, or leftover pie can make the difference between just putting another mark on the season tally and discussing the day, lap-by-lap, over pints and a plate of nachos. To help you end more days with a plate of nachos rather than a hot bath and a pile of blankets, I’ll share what’s in my ski pack on dawn patrols, storm days, full day tours, and bluebird powder days.
First, there are some items that I always keep in my pack no matter where or how long I’m touring:
Dawn patrols usually start around 5am for me. I pack everything the night before, so when the alarm goes off, I take 20 minutes to check the weather up at the mountain, make coffee, get dressed, and get my gear loaded into the car. If everything goes smoothly, my ski partners and I are touring around 6am and have two hours until we need to head down to town for work. Since these tours are usually short and fast, I carry a small pack (less than 30L) and keep the gear to a minimum, including:
On these days, I don’t skimp on snacks or layers. Having a variety of snacks during any kind of endurance activity ensures that I’ll eat frequently and won’t bonk. I’ve also learned that an extra pair of gloves, one more jacket, and a buff can keep me comfortable enough so that I don’t want to quit when there’s still some untracked powder out there. I usually carry a 30L pack filled with:
Storm days in the Pacific Northwest mean deep snow and wet conditions. They’re often accompanied by high winds, which means that hardshell layers are essential. The best hardshells are the ones that don’t feel like a hardshell — they move, breathe, and stretch while keeping the weather on the outside. I love touring in the Westcomb Fuse LT Hoody, made with Polartec® NeoShell®, because it’s soft, lightweight, waterproof and wind-blocking, yet I can comfortably break trail without overheating.
On storm days, I always carry:
Nothing beats a bluebird powder day in the high alpine. Despite the cold temps, the sun can be intense, especially during an ascent. On cold days, I prefer the Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody, made with Polartec® Alpha® insulation in the front to block wind and cold, and Polartec® Power Grid™ in the hood, sleeves and back panel to allow airflow where I need it most during high output. On warmer days, I’ll tour in the Mammut Klamath Half-Zip, made with Polartec® Power Wool™, which blends the breathability and odor-resistance of wool with the durability of synthetics.
Ready in my pack, I’ve got:
While every skier’s needs and touring styles vary, it usually comes down to having the right layers and plenty of snacks. I’m all for shaving ounces when it comes to skis and bindings, but don’t try to convince me to leave the block of Parmesan or my extra puffy behind.