What a season. I’ve been using the same gear for just about three months, more than enough time to form some opinions. Here are the standouts from this winter.

Ride Yukon 164
Retails Around: $550
I paid: $300
Bought At: Some board shop in Northern Cali


I love this board. It feels like riding a Cadillac down the steeps. Smooth and perfect for big mountain riding. It loses a full letter grade though for not making it through two seasons. The damn letters on the bottom are popping out. WTF? They also lose another half grade for not responding at all to my Keystone Light inspired message on why Ride should sponsor 100 Days of Winter. Dear RIDE, there’s still time to get this sorted out before 100 Days of Winter 2011.
Grade: B-

Descente Passport Jacket
Retails Around: $270
I Paid: $220
Bought At: Peter Glen Sports

The Descente brand makes me think of neon colors, Europeans, and the eighties, but this modestly colored coat ended up being my go-to jacket. It’s light and warm, waterproof, and durable enough to not tear after multiple scrape ups with trees. At a price tag of $220, it’s about half the price of your trendy outerwear. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…it came with 40 free lift tickets. No gimmicks, no joke. $3500 bucks worth of free lift tickets.
Grade: A

Burton AK Pants
Retails Around: $350
I Paid: $0
Bought At: My friend’s closet

My buddy who works at Burton gave these to me because they were too big for him. I put them on three years ago and never took them off. This season, they finally showed a sign of weakness when one of the lower zippers tore open, but after 250+ days, I’m willing to cut them them a break.
Grade: A-

Camelbak Snow Pack
Retails Around: $120
I Paid: $0
Bought At: EMS

Gear companies take note: This is how you make gear for outdoor people. Durable. Strong. Able to last through multiple seasons. I got this Camelbak for a promotion I worked back in 2002. Since then, this pack has been my backcountry buddy. Sure, the trend now is for packs with way less straps, but I’m not willing to take the chance. I’ve beaten this thing to death and there’s only a little wear and tear to show for it.
Grade: A+

Salomon Pledge Boots
Retails Around: $300
I Paid: $120
Bought At: EvoGear

I’ve been wearing Salomon boots for five seasons now. It must be the skier in me, but I like my boots tight enough to cut off circulation. I bought these at a huge online sale. The only downside — they’re white with a paint splatter design. Lucky for me, the snowpants cover up most of it.
Grade: A-