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Guaranteed Gear: 8 Holiday Ideas That Don’t Suck

We’re passionate about sharing our stories and motivating you to get outside. It makes everything that we do here worthwhile when we run into one of you in the flesh and you tell us that our articles got you excited to plan trips of your own. It’s amazing, humbling, and drives us to work harder.

Still, we’re not rich, and running this site costs hundreds of dollars. To make up for it, we work in some advertising and we get a small cut when you use our links to buy gear. This week I’m doing something a little different and offering some gift ideas for your most beloved gearhead. Unlike what you find on, ahem, other sites, I make you a promise: these things DO NOT SUCK. These are pure wins that I or someone close to me have beaten to death out of love. They’re guaranteed to please.

So enjoy! Help support Mountain Lessons by clicking our links and shopping for some gear. We’ll be here next year either way, because we love you. But it helps.


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Arc’teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket: A seriously warm jacket made with high quality down that packs small enough for daily carry while out skiing. It uses synthetic insulation in the hood and cuffs to keep you warm when it’s wet outside. It’s spendy because it’s just better than the competition. Read on →

D.I.Y. Skimo Skin Tip Attachments

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Home-made race-style tip fix. Clean and simple.

There are a lot of skin options available these days with retailers like Skimo.co bringing more of the European variety to the USA. Unfortunately, tip attachments on pre-built skins are like cell-phone chargers; they’re unstandardized and are often poorly cross-compatible with other manufacturer’s platforms.

The recent availability of skins sold in bulk (from a roll) makes possible a solution to this problem. You can pick your skin, your width, your length, and put it all together by making your own tip attachment. This is easy, kinda fun in a dorky way, and produces an equal product that is both cheaper and lighter than commercial offerings.

The one caveat here is that we’re making race-style skins, which require a notch in the ski tip for fixation. This style of attachment also doesn’t use a tail-fix, so good skinning technique is required. The advantage of the “tip fix” is that it makes removing the skin from your ski while wearing the ski infinitely easier and faster than traditional fixation methods. The only downside to the system is that the lack of a tail-fix can lead to skin failures in certain conditions, such as breaking trail through steep, loose snow, which leads one to slide backwards slightly with each step.

Still, despite that downside, I’ve converted entirely to skins without a tail-fix. After a short learning curve, they’re just simpler and lighter. An added benefit of using race-style skins is that they are so thin and subsequently light that a backup pair can be carried without being a burden. Black Diamond nylon skins are Hummer H2s compared to these Porsches.

What follows is a step by step pictorial guide to making your own tip fix system at home. This is the second time that I’ve built skins at home, and the process took 25 minutes from start to finish. If this is your first time, allow yourself an hour and measure twice, cut once. Please comment with any questions that you might have. You will need the following equipment, or similar:

  • – Sharp knife
  • – Stout scissors
  • – Sharpie
  • – Scrap piece of paperboard
  • – Some virgin skins
  • – Lighter
  • – Two (2) soda bottle tops
  • – Three (3) feet of 1/4″ elastic cord
  • – Allen wrench or similar metal object
  • – A speedy-stitcher or riveter (see below)

Read on →

Choose Your Tools: Skiing light, fast, and far.

This is Part 5 of the Choose Your Tools series.  Also check out Part 4: Universal Gear Truths.

Going Light

The world's lightest ski boot, the Pierre Gignoux XP-444.  590g. You don't need these.

The world’s lightest ski boot, the Pierre Gignoux XP-444. 590g. You don’t need these.

Going fast and light is, among a small but growing crowd, all the rage these days.  This makes a lot of sense considering the currently plummeting gear weights and the growing popularity of backcountry touring. In small, speedy enclaves throughout the Mountain West, folks are experimenting with the low-end of the weight spectrum, stealing techniques and technology from mountain-racing disciplines to push the limits of minimalist weight and maximum vert.

Going Light is defined here as seeking to use the minimum gear possible to achieve the greatest amount of mountain travel.  Lightening you pack, clothing, boots and skis frees the energy that would be used to tow those pounds around, and that energy can be applied to traveling farther or faster in the hills.  Just as fast-packing and distance trail running are coming to dominate classic backpacking routes, so too is lightweight skiing turning previously multi-day traverses and enchainments into impressive day trips. Read on →