You know those European clothing styles? Trim fitting, colorful, not so much about arctic insulation but about athletic spirit? La Sportiva invokes that more than just about anyone. When I’m feeling fit and fast, I like their stuff. When I’m not feeling strong, I wear it to fool myself. Either way, it works. Same for my friend Bill, who has embraced European ski touring clothing style and for whom the following fractured song was written.
Sing karaoke to the tune of “Gone Country” by Alan Jackson:
He’s been playing on the park snow for ten long years in Aspen
Every night he looks in the mirror and thinks he’s a has-been
He’s been readin’ bout skimo and all the gear people buyin’
Says, I can do that myself, grew up bike ridin’
He’s gone skimo, look at them boots
He’s gone Euro, back to his roots
He’s gone skimo, a new kind of suit
He’s gone Euro, here he comes!
Yes, Bill has gone Euro and he’s loving every minute of it. He says he’s faster, and even his social life has picked up. What’s he sporting? Check it out.
First up, Stratosphere Hoody. Honestly, not a whole lot different than similar items made by just about any technical clothing company, but a few things make the Stratosphere nice. Reflective patch on right shoulder is something all layers might be good with in these days of dawn patrols and night skiing. Backpack shoulder strap might cover this on occasion, making me wonder why it’s not on the upper sleeve, but it’s located to the outside of the shoulder so a normal width pack strap secured by your chest strap lets the light shine forth. Best feature, surprisingly stretchy fabric is 40% wool mixed with 60% synthetic, resulting in a moisture friendly garment boasting natural odor control. Shop for Stratosphere at Backcountry.com.
Next up in my layer testing kit, Sportiva Ionosphere. This non hooded item is somewhat similar to the Stratosphere — can be used as a next-to-skin layer or for stacking, though you’ll end up with a zipper pile of you use this over the Stratosphere. For those who run hot, it would work as a second layer over a super thin baselayer. It’s made of wool mix fabrics, and is said to have body mapped “fleece” panels though these are so thin as to be more of a psychological warmth increase than anything significant. The turtle neck collar was too big for my pencil neck, leaving a nicely configured snow funnel I’d swear was designed to direct icy rivulets down my spine. Your mileage will vary on that one; thick neck, better fit. Moosejaw has Ionosphere, be sure you’re a thick necked bruser if you opt for it. On top (or under lightweight hard shell if you’re in a weather battle), consider Sportiva Hyperspace. This highly technical insulating layer boasts Primaloft Silver, resulting in more warmth than its low bulk would indicate (though this isn’t a belay jacket by any measure). Fit is good for me, size medium sleeves match my gangly arms, the collar zips up comfortably snug, hood has a clever elastic forehead band that obviates the need for drawstrings (I hate hood drawstrings, so good).
Note the Hyperspace hood is not “helmet compatible” as it doesn’t fit over _over_ your hardhat, but instead is low bulk enough to function underneath, while you use your hardshell hood to go over if severe weather requires. Large waist pockets are appreciated — if you’re going to have pockets, roomy is better. Lack of exterior chest pocket bothered me, I’m used to those and would rather have one large vest pouch instead of waist pockets that don’t function with a pack belt. Hyperspace hem is reasonably low and drops at the rear, with a band of high friction material around the inside to stabilize from the dreaded “jacket ride up syndrome’ ruining ski photos worldwide. Best feature? Large drop-in pockets at interior waist. We love drop-in pockets. Overall, Hyperspace is well appointed and will be a go-to piece for me this winter. Shop for Hyperspace at Moosejaw.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.