Editor’s note: This year, we opted for a spin on the holiday gift guide. Rest assured, we tasked the right guy — our gear-review guru — with the job of compiling a 12-day list of gift ideas (in various price ranges) for all the nordies in your life.
Day 10: More Clothing
On Day 8 you learned the rule, “If some is good, more is better,” so now that this has been established, Learn It, Know It, Live It. Good news, too, as we now have more clothing suggestions. And remember, more is ALWAYS better, whether we’re talking about training, sex, sleeping or gear. No exceptions. Ever.
Under $30: L.L. Bean Pathfinder Lighted Beanie, $29.95
Occam’s Razor states that oftentimes the simplest explanation is the best. The FBD gear corollary is that sometimes the simplest gear is the best: case in point, this slick L.L. Bean hat. While there is most certainly nothing ground-breaking about incorporating an LED light into a hat, I find myself grabbing this baby all of the time, whether it is for a late-night, dog-bathroom emergency, a quick jaunt to the mailbox after dark or any one of the other thousand activities that seem to rear their ugly head now that it gets dark around 2:00 p.m. Light, warm, useful and inexpensive, this hats checks all of those boxes and then some. Available at L.L. Bean.
$30 – $100: Salomon Trail Runner Short Sleeve Tee, $45
Over the course of this very riveting series we have been getting you kitted out with the latest in greatest in summer hard goods, but what about soft goods? There’s never a bad time to give summer gear, even if you are someplace with single-digit temps currently. As you may recall from my detergent-torture testing, I put this summer training top through its paces, and then some, this past summer. Not only is it cool (as in, ‘not hot’,), but it’s also cool, as in “Fonzie cool” (look it up). On top of that, it’s ‘colorway’ is a FBD favorite, “Please Don’t Hit Me” neon green. Here it is in action, after not having been washed for 12 workouts. Certain sizes & colors on sale for $20 (+$7.95 shipping) at Amazon.
$100 – $250: Filson Alaskan Guide Shirt, $125
While we’ve talked a lot in this series about looking good on the tracks, we haven’t talked a whole lot about looking good off the tracks. I’m all about helping all of my disciples in all aspects of their lives, so I am very pleased to recommend one of my favorite flannel shirts for not just Apres, but “All-pres.” Before any of you mini-Gloria Steinem’s out there get all worked up, this is a unisex suggestion. The one night at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival I was able to sneak away from the ever-watchful eye of Coach Smullin for an adult beverage (in reality, it wasn’t all that hard to sneak away, as he joined me), we hit the one and only hot spot in West, the Holiday Inn (I am willing to bet big money that this is the first time in which this sentence was ever written) for the Buffs/Utes football game. Since these are also both big skiing schools, there was an assortment of very cute uber-frauleins (UFs) athletes, coaches and alumni from CU, UU, APU and a few other places with initials. Several of the ladies were rocking some variation of the “fakerjack” outfit and they all looked good. Quite good. So much so that every 30 seconds, some greasy wax tech was asking me to be introduced to someone that we were kicking it with in the mighty HI (again, who says that? Can you imagine intentionally going to a Holiday Inn? I was there and I still can’t believe it). The point here being that these are not just men’s shirts. And there is ONE Holiday Inn where cool people actually hang out, let’s not forget that part, as I still find this remarkable.
As a quick aside, in case you were wondering about Smullin and I going out “on a school night,” not only was it a Saturday night with no official team training the next morning, but for the record, Josh and each only had 2.5 beers. That’s right faithful readers, Josh Smullin and I split a beer. #NewLevelNordicNerd
If by some stroke of fate you’ve made it this far into this shirt review that has yet to mention the shirt itself, thanks for hanging in there with me on the metaphorical victory lap. Lots of people make flannel shirts, but Filson are some of my favorite: this review is literally being typed in a tried and true old soldier that has seen its fair share of action, well, in as much as you can consider sitting at a keyboard typing, “action.” To make sure that their quality hasn’t gone to hell, I checked out two new models and every indication is that the current crop is a good as those from yesteryear. I like these shirts so much in fact that I’m going to recommend two different models. The Alaskan Guide shirt is a great all-around offering, with the thicker one better for athletes who chill easily and the Lightweight model preferable for those who hate being too warm (like me).
FBD Pro Tip: These shirts are listed as having “Alaska sizing,” whatever the hell that means. Since you are undoubtedly asking yourself, “What the hell does that mean?”, here is my theory on this: Poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago, “The City of Broad Shoulders,” but the last time I was in Chicago, I had a steak and four martinis in the restaurant of my luxury hotel. The last time I was in Alaska, I skied 6 -8 hours/day in 0.1° C weather, slept on a glacier for a week, then spent another week in a cabin in Talkeetna that had no running water.
And this is nothing special for AK — you get laughed out of the room if you brought this up at a party up there thinking it was something rugged — everyone I know from AK is tough as hell and would consider this an “easy week”. When I reported on Eagle Glacier last year, I unearthed several hysterical stories about what has transpired in The Last Frontier, my favorite of which being Andy Newell’s story about Rob Whitney’s midnight sleep screams: apparently Rob would wake up in the middle of the night yelling at the top of his lungs, “We need to get off the glacier, we’re all going to die!!!!” I had dinner with Rob and his lovely, also tough-as-nails wife Holly Brooks this past summer and when the story came up, Rob calmly said, “Well, that wasn’t as bad as the time I started sleepwalking and held a knife to one of my (male) teammate’s throats.” That’s right, only in Alaska (and maybe Philly) can you wake up with one of your friends holding a knife at your throat while sleeping on a glacier and training 50 hours/week. You’ve just gotta be tough to survive that. I’m not quite sure on all of the underlying physiology at work here, but it stands to reason that if you have to regularly wrestle a giant, naked, Rob Whitney off you (yes, he was naked during this whole sordid incident) while he’s brandishing a knife, if you don’t die, you’re going to develop some pretty big shoulders.
Where am I going with all of this? The shirts run big. So order one up now, do those push-ups (or call up Rob to inquire about his availability for some naked, midnight knife wresting) get it broken in just the right amount to not have that loser, “fresh out da box” look and who knows, maybe even you will have some rap with the hot UF’s next year at the Holiday Inn. Doubtful, but maybe. Available at Filson.com.
Finally, here’s another FBD pro tip: don’t let anyone see you splitting a beer, anywhere, ever. Smullin and I might as well been wearing burkas at a Trump rally after that little misstep. Sharing a beer with another dude in a bar in Montana goes over like a fart in church.
FBD Bonus Pick: L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Hooded Down Sweater, $209
Being the high-performance director for USA Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping, I am fortune enough to be issued all of the team gear and this piece is a team favorite: light, warm and extremely packable, this versatile piece can be stuffed into your backpack or briefcase and deployed as need as a pillow, blanket, sensory depravation tank, bad-ass fort (think killing time on long layovers in European airports) and here’s a crazy one, even as a jacket. Available at L.L. Bean.
Over $250: Arc’teryx Ceres SV Parka, $849
Let’s face it, skiing can be cold. But watching skiing (in person, not on TV) can be crazy cold. If you are a good person, parent, teammate or coach, chances are you’ll find yourself out standing in the middle of some field somewhere cold (not to be confused with being outstanding in your field). When you’re on one of those bone-chilling skis, you can simply ramp up the intensity to warm yourself up, but spectating, well, you’re essentially on a gradual descent into hell (well, a frozen version of hell). The solution, which is easier said than done, is to not get cold in the first place. This jacket is the single best way to achieve temperature nirvana, as noted in our gear review last year (Please note my Labradoresque ‘head out the window’ testing). This beast won our Puffy Coat Review last season for good reason. By one now and never worry about being cold again. Available at Arcteryx.com.
Finally, here is an important public service message: the left lane of an expressway is a passing line people, not a driving lane, a PASSING lane. For anyone who may have questions on this ridiculously simple concept (and in most states, law), here is an excellent tutorial.
Jon "Fast Big Dog" Schafer
Fast Big Dog is a paradoxically gregarious yet reclusive, self-absorbed mystic and world traveler. In addition to his calling to right the wrongs in the ski fashion and gear world, he also brings his style, wit and devilish charm to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as the Nordic High Performance Director and Worldwide Director of Morale and Awesomeness. Savor these articles while you can, as his Great Dane puppy may burn down his house at any moment, possibly making this his last transmission.