It could be said that the tone of recent Guardian-bashing posts has been a tad negative, so to celebrate the end of this summer’s job, the start of holidays (HOLIDAYS! WOOHOO!!) and impending once in a lifetime trip to Canada, I seize the opportunity to get involved with the upbeat pre-Christmas lust for shiny new things.
I know ‘best of’ lists are a bit of a tired old device, but since that deters neither the national press nor the glossy ski magazines, I don’t see why it should stop me either. Besides, I’ve never done one before. So here are my nominations for the best buys out there, all of them things I have bought, might buy or would quite like to buy but probably won’t because I can’t justify the expense. The latter list being by far the longest, as ever.
Like the Guardian, I kick off with a helmet, though definitely not one designed to make you look like an extra on the death star. Sweet Protection’s Trooper is easily the most comfortable helmet I’ve owned, and it’s also light, low profile and clearly very well made. I particularly like the inclusion of a set of foam fit-pads designed to allow you to customise the lid to the shape of your own individual noggin if required. What’s more, thanks to the nice people at flash sales site Sport Pursuit, it didn’t cost me the usual arm and a leg either.
Sweet Protection Trooper HC, £199. www.sweetprotection.com
The thorny question of how to deliver on-snow tunes to your shell-likes now raises its head, since it’s difficult to squeeze headphones in underneath your new helmet. (And don’t start in with all the ‘ooh that’s so dangerous and irresponsible’ rubbish – there’s no actual obligation to crank it up so loud that your eardrums fall off.) Fortunately the nice people at Sweet have thought of this and offer a set of earflaps with built in speakers should you wish. I can’t as yet vouch for the quality of these as they are languishing at a friend’s house waiting for me to pick them up, but I live in hope that the Nazi Nannies haven’t insisted that the volume be limited to such a level that you can’t actually hear the music, as was the case with K2’s risible in-head sound system. They claim to be iPhone compatible as well, obviating the need to faff around in your pockets when someone rings you up. Perfect.
Sweet Protection Trooper Soundpads, £79,99. www.sweetprotection.com
Still vaguely following the Guardian’s lead, we come to thermal underwear, or ‘base layers’ as the manly sporting goods websites like to call it. Presumably they wouldn’t sell nearly as many if they used words like ‘vest’ or (much worse) ‘tights’. Having bought a merino wool neckwarming thingy last year (largely because it was bright yellow), I am impressed with the quality of merino over artificial fibre. Warmer, lighter, dries in an instant. So I may very well treat myself to spangly leggings from New Zealanders Mons Royale, thereby ensuring that should I be mown down by a piste basher my undies will be more than respectable. Gutted by the lack of acid yellow in this year’s range though.
Mons Royale merino leggings for men or women, 54,95€. www.blue-tomato.com
It’s a symptom of male arrogance anyway, calling vests ‘base layers’, since over half the population wears further garments under its vests. Come on boys, don’t try to tell me loftily that you hadn’t even noticed that women have breasts, because I know for a fact that you all think about them all of the time. My sports bra crop top thingies finally gave up the ghost this summer (not surprising after 20 years of use though, full marks to Calvin Klein), leaving me wth the utterly unexciting prospect of bra shopping. It was a close run thing between Nike and Under Armour, but Under Armour’s Gotta Have It compression top won the day by virtue of being a tenner cheaper.
Under Armour Gotta Have It sports bra, £16. www.underarmour.com
Moving up through the multiple layers required for getting out and about in arctic temperatures, we get to Decathlon’s ubiquitous fleecy jumpers. Warm, snug, decent quality and under a tenner a pop. What’s not to like? I don’t think I know a seasonnaire who hasn’t got at least two of these.
Quechua Forclaz 50 fleece for men or women, £6,99. http://www.decathlon.co.uk
When it comes to outerwear on the slopes, it’s my considered opinion that high vis is good, and it doesn’t come more visible than 686’s limited edition Snaggleface jacket. I bought this last season as a birthday present to myself and it’s up there amongst my top five favourite possessions along with the bike and the log splitter. As well as looking cool and fabulous (oh yes it does, and in no way do I look like a very silly person so ner) it boasts the only powder skirt I’ve ever had which actually works. Bit lacking in pockets though, I have to say, especially a sleeve pocket for your lift pass. I ask you, what’s the point in not putting a pass pocket on a boarding jacket?
686 Snaggleface jacket, £200. www.686.com
If you’re going to wear an eye-watering jacket, you might as well go the whole hog and get alarming trousers as well, no easy task at the moment for those of us of the female persuasion. Really, what sort of a world is it where the boys get all the best colours? I was after bright green or amazing orange, both of which would have been widely available were I a bloke, but most of the girly gear was limited to sickly looking off-pastels or various shades of pink. Rubbish. The only colour worth having was acid yellow, which is fine except that I already had one pair like that and fancied a change. So two pairs in acid yellow it is then.
Burton Bovary women’s snowboard pant, 89,97$. www.jibtopia.comsno
Next up ……. a mobile phone case! Yes, I know it’s silly, but the Guardian did one, so I’m going to as well. The main difference between two being that this one looks as though it might actually be useful. US company Lifeproof’s iPhone case promises to be shockproof, waterproof and tested to military standards. Whatever that means – I didn’t know the MoD had standards for mobile phone cases but you live and learn. Fifty quid for a mobile phone case may seem a tad pricey to many of you, but when you consider how much it would cost you to replace your iToy after dropping it on a rock, it starts to look quite reasonable.
Lifeproof case for iPhone 4/4S/5, £49,99. http://www.lifeproof.com
After that foray into frivolity, it’s back to the serious stuff with a snowboard. K2’s Fling, to be precise, which strictly speaking is last season’s gear, but I’m not about to buy a new board just so I can witter about it on here. Besides, if you hunt about a bit you can probably pick one up in a sale somewhere, which will be an absolute bargain. The Fling is a true twin with a seriously fast base, which means it turns on a sixpence and goes like shit off a shovel. It makes the run down to La Fee so much more fun when you sail past disgruntled skiers poling along the runout and wondering WTF is going on when everyone knows snowboarders need skiers to tow them along the flats.
K2 Fling, £190,72. www.snowboard1.co.uk
Finally, and just because unnecessarily techy widgets seem to be all the rage, a fancy watch. This definitely comes in under ‘things I won’t be buying because I can’t possibly justify the expense’. Suunto’s Core tells you all sorts of handy things like altitude, barometric pressure, how far under water you are and whether or not there’s a storm on its way. And probably whether you’re being tracked by bears as well. It even tells the time, should you wish to know anything so mundane. I fancy this for hiking in the summer rather than skiing, but short of a lottery win or a load of them falling off the back of a lorry, I’m not about to get my paws on one any time soon, so it’s largely irrelevant. Natty gizmo though.
Suunto Core, from £235. www.suunto.com
And there we have it. You’ve got to agree it’s better than the Guardian’s poor effort, even if you’d have to be paid to wear a jacket with a ridiculous toothy face on the back.