The idea of skiing pristine backcountry snow has slowly grown from a small community of Rock Mountain extreme skiers and climbers to a powerful group of professional riders, weekend warriors, and vacationers. Contrary to the last couple of seasons that have hammered much of the East, the Rockies and Pacific Northwest have had a few lean years of snow. This combination of warm temperatures and the growing number of powder hounds has led to the advent of new ways to reach the snow in the never ending quest for backcountry skiers who have to climb up to get down. The fat bike revolution opens up more terrain not only to skiers and boarders, but winter adventurers in general (Just ask Polar Explorer Eric Larsen, who attempted to ride across Antarctica in 2012). We decided to see what all the hype was about – and escape the balmy sixty degree temperatures of Salt Lake City – and packed our gear up to pedal to powder at 10,000 feet in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Read on for a look at the best snow biking gear this season.
KHS 4 Season 5000
Our trusty steed for our foray into deep snow biking was the KHS Bicycles 4 Season 5000. Featuring a high modulus carbon fiber frame, this burly ride is perfect for soft conditions like snow or sand due to its ultra grippy 4.8 inch tires. Top of the line SRAM and Hayes components kept us shifting and braking smoothly even when the trail got slushy and sloppy.
The redesigned Vantage Helmet from Smith Optics is all about lightweight comfort. The Aerocore construction is borrowed from their Overtake line of biking helmets, and contributes both to impact protection and venting. While not a true bike-specific helmet, the Vantage has all the protection of a solid ski helmet, while shaving off precious ounces, and let us carry less gear around the mountain.
Flylow Baker Bib
The Baker Bib is our go-to for all season performance in the winter. Our pair has climbed lines in the Tetons, bombed powder in Telluride, and logged long rides all over the west on our skis and bikes, while still looking brand new. They are rated at 20k/20k waterproof breathable, which, for those of us who don’t have PhDs in materials science, means that they’ll wick away sweat while you’re working hard, but keep you dry when the snow gods decide to dump on you. Articulated knees, cordura reinforcements, and a dedicated avalanche transceiver pocket round out these nearly flawless ski pants.
Osprey Kode 42
Osprey has been building serious mountain packs since 1974. Their Kode series are dedicated backcountry skiing gear haulers for any conditions, and the Kode 42 is the largest and most versatile of the bunch. Designed for big mountain skiers to carry climbing and avalanche safety gear, this pack is the perfect hauler for all your winter needs. It will carry skis or board as well as maintains space for helmets, rope, and has dual access from the top or back panel with gear organizers to keep your essentials dry and within reach. The harness sheds snow and features best in class comfort and customization. For those of us who are venturing into deep snow and dangerous terrain, there is an avalanche airbag compatible version as well.
Revo Straight Shot
Revo has long been known as the brand for extreme sports. Their lenses have graced more expeditions across the world than can be counted, and have even been on hand for serious first ascents in The Himalaya. The all new Straight Shot is no exception. The 8-base lenses block harmful UV rays as well as a select spectrum of visible light to enhance your vision. Combined with the stellar fit of the Straight Shot, you’ve got a pair of glasses that will help you crush everything from deep snow in the winter to long desert climbs in the summer.
Vasque Arrowhead Ultradry
We originally got to test these earlier this year at the Outdoor Retailer Show, and since then the Arrowhead Boots have been our constant winter adventure footwear ever since. Vasque’s ColdHold outsole grips snow, ice and rock (and our pedals) in extreme cold temperatures. The uppers are sealed from moisture and have 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation to lock in your body heat. You won’t find a more comfortable boot for cold weather hiking and biking.
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite
All new for 2015, the Quasar Lite from Mountain Hardwear is the perfect late winter shell for high output activities. The jacket’s 40-denier, 2.5 layer construction is extremely durable and breathable – especially nice when you’re hauling a heavy pack on your bike at altitude. The diagonal chest pockets are accessible even when you’re wearing a pack or climbing harness, and double as vents when you need to dump a little extra heat. This is definitely the best multisport shell we’ve worn in years.
Photo Courtesy of Green Goat Group/Austin Parker