Black Friday has passed, but if you’re like me, your holiday shopping isn’t finished. For some, it hasn’t even started.
If you’re here, you have friends and family that are backcountry skiers and so it makes sense to look for touring-related gifts. But, please, whatever you do, do not try to buy expensive hard goods such as boots or skis unless you know your stuff. Likewise, key apparel pieces such as jackets can be tough to get right and the wrong size or color creates a return/exchange headache for your recipient. (Unless they sent you a link to exactly what they want because they care more about getting what they want than surprises.)
Luckily, there is no shortage of peripheral nice-to-have gear associated with the sport that can make great gifts and stocking stuffers. Everyone is different, so I’ve shared some of my favorites in a range of backcountry ski-related gift categories that aren’t too difficult to shop for.
Skiers can be picky about their gloves and many are sized, so you’ll need at least a good guess of their glove size here. If you live with them and they have a pair they love, just sneak a peek at their existing pair and buy them a backup in the same size. Any glove will need replacing eventually.
If you’re shooting in the dark, don’t overspend. It’s hard to go wrong with a good pair of Kinco leather work gloves.
Kinco Premium Pigskin Leather Gloves
Another option that few skiers carry but could benefit from is an over-mitt. These shell-like gloves let you run a lighter glove for the uphill while keeping the overmitt stashed if things are colder than expected at the top. Hestra makes a great one and while it’s sized, the fit is looser so you have more wiggle room.
Hestra Unisex Pullover Mitt
Radios are one of those “nice-to-have” items that can make a big difference in the backcountry. When you split up for safety reasons, radios allow you to stay in touch even when you can’t maintain visual contact. Buy them two and they will always be able to communicate with at least one other member of their group. Rocky Talkies are easy-to-use radios that clip to your pack with an included carabiner and usually maintain a clear signal over normal distances for a ski touring group. You can read more about them in our full review.
Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio
Frequent tourers can burn through multiple pairs of socks in a season, so no one will be mad to get backups in their stocking or white elephant. We like Smartwool’s ultra-light ski socks and they are a good all-around option for backcountry that isn’t too pricey.
Sunglasses get lost, scratched, broken, and abused, so this is another accessory that won’t feel redundant to the ski tourer in your life. It’s easy to spend $200 on a pair of sunglasses, but you don’t need to. Tifosi’s Swick sport sunglasses are great for anything from ski touring to running to casual wear and retail for $25 for most styles.
If you know they want something more performance-oriented, Tifosi’s Rail sport specs use photochromic Fototec lenses to adjust to any light conditions and provide enough shield to descend in them. For less than $100.
This is a great passive-aggressive gift for that significant other who goes for ski tours and doesn’t bother to let you know where they’re skiing, with whom, or anything. The Garmin InReach Mini 2 lets them send and receive messages, even when they’re out of cell coverage, and there’s an SOS call option if they need emergency assistance.
This is a pricey one, so you better like them. GPS smartwatches all give you fitness and route tracking plus monitoring heart rate, distance, speeds, and more metrics than most people will know what to do with. They also pack offline maps which let you leave the phone at home or at least have to reference it less often for checking your progress and your route. Garmin’s Fenix 7x Sapphire Solar is the latest and greatest, but Suunto’s Race Watch comes close and retails for several hundred less–it mostly just lacks the solar charging capability of the Fenix 7x.
Not the sexiest gift, but always useful for the person that can’t seem to keep their hands warm no matter how much they spend on gloves. You can get any old brand at the grocery store in the winter, but the reusable ones from Ignik are a nice splurge and the packaging feels more like a thoughtful gift than mom giving you stick of lip balm.
Airpods are ubiquitous but they don’t always stay put when you’re really moving. They’re also not a great color for finding in the snow. JLab’s JBuds Mini are long-lasting, waterproof, ultra low-profile and come with three different size gel tips to ensure a secure fit. They’re also a quarter of the cost of Apple’s offering.
Most ski tours are not epic enough that all of YouTube needs the footage, but some deep days leave you saying, “Dang, I wish you could’ve seen it.” You’ve probably seen the wide-angle, first-person view footage from 360 cameras. The Insta360 X3 delivers smoothly stabilized 360 footage and is every bit as easy to use as a GoPro. It requires less skill for capturing the bangers since it captures a complete 360-degree view and you can adjust the perspective easily in the editing app later. You can also just hold it in your hand instead of mounting it on your helmet for the dreaded Teletubby look.
Don’t go high-end here unless you know what you’re doing. You’re essentially shopping for a backup pair for when they inevitably render their lenses unusable against a tree branch or their car keys. Marker’s Smooth Operators fill a helpful niche for backcountry skiing. They’re flexible enough to stash in a pocket but still have a large field of view and are leagues ahead of sport shades on a high-speed descent. And they’re about a third of the cost of most ski goggles from household names.
Fuel & Hydration
You can’t go wrong with calories if you’re shopping for cardio kings and queens. Giving sports nutrition is like giving candy but it’s “nutrition” sugar, right? Everyone has their preferences when it comes to food and drink on the skin track but almost everyone likes having a tasty carb boost handy. Here are some of our faves:
Avalanche education isn’t cheap, but everyone knows they should do more of it, so they’ll likely appreciate the gesture. If you’re shopping for a regular touring partner, book slots for both of you and go together–it’ll be more fun and provide a better opportunity for you to learn together and process the information jointly after the fact. Beginners often head straight for “Avy 1” but they can get a lot out of “Intro to Backcountry” type classes which are often just one day and more affordable. Experts and intermediates are great candidates for “refresher” courses that focus on practicing with your gear to refresh the skills you already have and knowledge from previous classes. AIARE and AAI are the best starting points to find something in your area.
Odds & Ends
Pole Clinometer: Handy for when you want to ballpark a slope since you already have it in hand.
MountainFLOW Eco Wax: Link goes to a full wax kit but you can also stocking-stuff with individual bars.
Black Diamond Glop Stopper Skin Wax: Don’t leave the trailhead without it.
North Waxing Iron by Swix: A welcome upgrade for those of us sneaking out with the house clothes iron.
Do you have better ideas? Share them in the comments and maybe someone will read your note and buy it for you.
Justin Park is the Editor of Wild Snow. In 2009 while living in Hawaii, he got invited on a hut trip in Colorado. He had no backcountry gear, found Wild Snow, read up on backcountry skiing and bought some frame bindings for a pair of G3 Reverends so he didn’t have to buy touring boots. He moved to Breckenridge, CO a year later and today he skis 100+ days a year, most of them backcountry.