Living the Dream: Summer-Skiing Jacket Review

The skier on the left showing the importance of reading these reviews: your goal in life is to not be “that guy”. (All photos: FBD)


The Setup

A few weeks ago, I provided cosmic enlightenment on where you should be right now and hopefully you were able to heed this very sage advice and have since logged copious k’s. Since unlike the rest of you losers, I work for a living, so I couldn’t just sit around Bend skiing, eating pancakes and riding sick mountain bike trails, oh no, even before I left Bend, I was back “on the clock,” tirelessly slaving away for you, the loyal reader. Well, sort of.

Since no one loves you like we do at FasterSkier, we are committed to not only giving you the latest and greatest beta on where you should be, but I’m now about to drop some wisdom on your lean, wirey, nordic asses on what you should be wearing, rocking, rubbing, and rolling on these big adventures.

Since I regularly drive my editors and senior management here at FS crazy with my disparaging comments on goods and services that I find to be inferior even if they are advertisers (in all fairness, my comments still get printed, but it drives everyone nuts), the “powers that be” retaliate by sending every possible wacko, crackpot product my way. I am therefore forced to interact with these half-baked, nut-job ideas on a far-too-regular basis.

While the scope of coverage of this latest review may seem a little staid and commonplace, I can assure you that I have waded through terabits of emails from start-ups hawking foldable shoes, mittens with built in lights, lights with built in mittens, kittens with mittens, smell-proof underwear, miracle vitamins, and all sorts of other really strange products for guys who may be having a little trouble “gettin’ the old Evinrude crankin’,” if you know what I mean. So don’t think for one second that we’re not looking at all kinds of crazy stuff, we are, we just have the common sense and good judgment to pick products that you’re actually going to use, even if a jacket review isn’t nearly as titillating as reviewing “male enhancement” products.

With that out of the way, let’s dive right in. For starters, it may sound crazy making jacket recommendations in June, but remember, this is a skiing publication, so it is our fervent hope that you have been able to get out skiing. And before everyone out there in the sweltering Midwest gets all huffy, not only did I recently give you the ins and outs of how to find snow in Bend in excruciating detail, but if you somehow manage to goof this up, have no fear, as the “snow window” is still open. If you really want to go big, venture up the the “Last Frontier” and mix it up with the big boys (and girls) at APU’s awesome Masters’ camp July 6-9. If your mom won’t let you fly all the way up to AK, my good buddy Matt Liebsch (or “Leaper,” as he likes to be called) also has an epic masters’ camp on Haig Glacier in August, so no excuses, snow is out there, you just need to go get it. How this is relevant in this context is that you’re not just going to want one of the jackets we tested, you’re going to NEED one of these jackets, hopefully sooner as opposed to later, as what better way to train for skiing than, uh, skiing?

The Reviews

Since the unpredictable conditions at our test site at Mount Bachelor have been well documented, we’re going to present the results from coldest to warmest, as nothing makes you ponder the purchase of a new jacket like a ripping, 60 mph wind and whiteout conditions.

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket (men’s)

For pre-, post- or even intra-ski, the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket was the clear favorite of the entire test team for very wet, cold, nasty conditions. It offers the most warmth, wind protection and probably the largest comfort range of any of the jackets tested.

Dave Cieslowski wearing the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket

In my previous three-week stay in Bend in May, and believe it or not, even in this trip that I am just finishing, we experienced conditions ranging from 20 degrees, blower snow and a howling 50-70 mph wind at Mt. Bachelor to fairly regular 35-55 degree afternoons down in town-ish. I say “ish,” as we were staying a few miles outside of town up toward Mt. Bachelor, (where all of the cool kids stay)…

Now where was I? Oh yes, jackets….. The Arc’teryx was my garment of choice on several backcountry outings, cold runs and apres-paddling/surfing (yes, they have surfing in Bend). This jacket came through with flying colors in every test and in every sport. To add a little firepower and diversity to this review, I recruited some of the young bucks on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for some additional perspective, and this was the top pick of all of the testers on the nasty days.

Said one tester, “If I could only have one jacket, this would be it, for sure.” Most agreed that it is usually too warm for nordic skiing in most conditions, but it is exceptional in every other regard. I wore it into town on a few rainy nights as well and it does a great job of being cool and stylish without crossing the line into looking like you could be departing for an Everest summit bid at any moment. The only slight dings I’m going to give it is that it is the most spendy of any coat in the test (at $399). It also doesn’t pack nearly as compactly as the others, in particular the Patagonia, but more on that in a bit. If you’re venturing out in very bad weather though, this is your jam, hands down.

Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket

Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket (men’s)

One step up the temperature scale is the Salomon Bonatti Pro WP Jacket.

Definitely lighter and more packable than the Arc’teryx, this piece is marketed as a trail runner, but we all found its performance to be quite good on the skis and mountain bike as well. Yes, yes, it’s a big no-no to ride the trail in the rain and no one is a bigger supporter of that rule than the FBD, but since the weather in Bend changes faster than a Kardashian’s train of thought (and trust me, I am using the word ‘thought’ VERY loosely), you are crazy if you venture out for a ride longer than an hour without backup. Since this isn’t my first day on the radio, I had said jacket with me on an afternoon cruiser to Phil’s and she proved to be worth her weight in gold, as naturally, the 45-degree cloudy day turned to 38 and rainy at the farthest possible point from our condo. You’ll only need to get caught in one of these storms and you’d be willing to pay some dude on the side of the road a thousand bucks for one of these jackets for the ride home.

One of my particularly favorite features is the hood. This design is one of the best that I’ve ever seen, as it fits snugly, but not too tight. You can move your head around and it moves with you without feeling constrictive. The importance of this cannot be underrated.

The overall fit is a bit more snug than the other coats, partially due to the cut and I’m guessing partially due to the traditional difference in European sizing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, in particular for cycling, as nothing is worse than donning a jacket and then being forced to do your best kitesurfer imitation as you battle your way home in a storm.

As you might expect, it folds down to a size slightly smaller than the Arc’teryx, yet slightly bigger than the Patagonia.




Don’t let the size fool you though, as it is still quite waterproof, as clearly illustrated here:

Patagonia Airshed Pullover

Patagonia Airshed Pullover (women’s)

Last, but most certainly not least, in a wonderful offering from Patagonia, the Airshed Pullover. If you are in the minimalist camp, or simply are not buying in to my “never summer” philosophy, this jacket is for you. The lightest and most compressible of the group, yet this bad boy still offers amazingly good wind protection for both running and riding, in particular for a garment that will fold smaller than an apple.

What makes this jacket a real winner is it is what I’m calling my “Beckham Jacket.” A few years back, David Beckham was caught having an affair with his young, attractive, sultry assistant. In the court testimony, she disclosed that she always wore very sexy underwear to work, “Just in case,” (a strategy that eventually paid off, both literally and figuratively). The point here is that this is your “Just in case,” jacket. It folds down the smallest of any garment tested, while still offering a lot of protection from Mother Nature’s scorn (she’s particularly upset at us Americans right now, for obvious reasons).

Photo: FBD

Matt Briggs wearing the Patagonia Airshed Pullover jacket.

This is also the jacket that is going to give you the most bang for the buck (insert your own David Beckham joke here) in the late spring/early summer months, as the test team found the others too warm for temps over 60 degrees, but this coat kept my entire crew comfortable in conditions ranging from 55 to 70 degrees. Throw this sucker in your jersey pocket, hydration pack or drink belt, and you’ll be covered (see what I did there?) for just about any contingency. It doesn’t have a hood, which is both a plus and a minus, depending on whether or not you want a hood. As you have come to expect from a perfectionist like me, this baby also got the “hose test,” because if you ski with me, you just need to accept the fact that you are going to be sprayed by a hose. Possibly several times. I have issues.

Bonus Round

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid (women’s)

Changing gears a bit (though not as much as you might think), the fine folks in Venture, Calif., also sent their latest iteration of the very popular Nano series for testing, the Nano-Air Light Hybrid. One big reason this jacket even made this review is that it shares the same outer layer at the Airshed, so I thought it would be interesting to add this coat to the mix, even though it is obviously a very different type of garment. The second reason it made the cut is I tested its big brother on Eagle Glacier in Alaska last year, and one of the “OG” pieces in our base-layer test two years ago, and since this entire line has always tested well, I thought it’d be interesting to throw this latest offering into the mix. Yes, this is light insulation, as opposed to wind-and-water protection, but I wanted to cover all of the light to mid-weight outwear bases. If you are confused by any of this, there is nothing more I can do for you: please stop reading immediately go monitor your Great Dane’s “Thousand Yard Stare” before he eats another box of light bulbs.

Pat Flores wearing the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid jacket.

So, with all of those disclaimers duly noted, I love this jacket. There was simply no better option than this coat after a ski. While the trails at Mt. Bachelor are amazing, the parking lot can be windy as hell, so having this waiting for me in the car was a godsend. Unless you chill very easily, I probably wouldn’t nordic ski in it, but this is a perfect insulation layer for an alpine rip, after a cold surf sesh or just looking good at the dog park. This is particularly important, as the conduct of your aforementioned Great Dane has probably earned you a lot of enemies, so looking good is the least you can do.

Speaking of surfing, since I’m overworked and underpaid, or is it overpaid and underworked (I always get these two mixed up), I had to take a break from all of this skiing and hit Mexico for a little surfing. I realize that this is a bit of a non sequitur, as this is a ski publication, not a surfing one, but since I know at least two other very good skiers who are also good surfers (Andy Newell and Josh Smullin, though it pains me greatly to admit the latter) and by my calculations since I have approximately 5 readers, this represents a solid 40% of my audience, so I’m going to throw in a surfing clothing recommendation — a rash guard, the Patagonia Men’s RØ Long-Sleeved Top. As you might guess, I’ve paddled and surfed in every conceivable size, shape and color rash guard and this is one is my favorites. Unlike Smullin, who has little, skinny, bird arms, the FBD is a big, powerful man, so the flexibility and movement offered in this top allowed me to drop in on more people than usual in my top secret surf spot. Sorry people, I have waves to catch and “Dropsie” (as Smullin insists on calling me) is a bad, bad man.

Fast Big Dropsie wearing the Patagonia RØ Long-Sleeved Top in Cabo.

A few other cool pieces of gear that are heavy in the FBD rotation these days: Petzl offered up their latest-and-greatest headlamp a few months ago, the Petzl REACTIK+ and I’ve been super impressed. If you’re a fan of dawn patrol (or Dong Patrol, as it is known in Steamboat, for reasons that I’d rather not go into), you know that a good headlamp is mandatory. Since I lost my mind years ago, the thought of getting up at 5 a.m. to get the freshest waves or powder seems like not just a good idea, but in fact a great idea. However, in order to do this and not lose all of your gear in the parking lot, you need to have your act together, as even the normally patient FBD gets a little antsy when some rookie can’t find his skins at sunrise while everyone else is standing at the trailhead ready to roll. So organize you gear the night before, get your lazy ass out of bed on time, and bring a headlamp — a good one. And this latest Petzl one is one of the best. It has all kinds of crazy customizable features that are super easy to use thanks to an app you can install on your phone or you can go “old skool” and just turn it on and off like a normal person. Since I am a lonely, lonely man, I have no qualms about spending 30 minutes customizing my headlamp power settings, but that’s me — your mileage may vary.

Whew. We covered a lot of ground on this one. You’re welcome.


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.


Bliz Cycling and Nordic Sunglasses

Q: What is the difference between Bliz Cycling and Nordic sunglasses?

A: The key Bliz cycling glass are the Velo XT and Velo XT small face. Cycling is considered by Bliz a High speed sport where you want most to all wind going around the lens and face. So the Velo XT wraps the face completely and tightly and also the top brow of the frame sits high on the face so you do not see it when you are deep in the drops.

The Force (for larger faces) and Rapid (for smaller faces) are the key Nordic sunglasses. Cross country skiing and (running) are considered by Bliz to be medium speed sports where you want a bit of ventilation between the lens and the eyes to eliminate fogging and reduce face heat. So these frames are positioned slightly farther off the face than the Velo XT with lens shapes that allow a bit of face ventilation.

All of the Bliz Glasses have adjustable nose pieces and temple arms so you can micro adjust the position for your ideal fit and ventilation. You can wear the Velo in Nordic, they will just not be as fog free at the Rapid and Force even when positioned close to the face. You can wear the Rapid and Force for cycling, they might not be as wind free even when positioned closer to the face.

Check out more at


Longer vs. Regular Length Classic Poles and Double Poling

Q: I’ve seen that classic seems to be going to poling entire races. I wonder if it’s worth using longer poles in classic races where poling may not be the best approach (hills at 8000 feet…)

A: It is typical to use longer poles (about skate-pole height) for courses where double-poling is primary. On courses where striding is more prevalent, it is best to stay with regular length classic poles. Note that in races that are being scored for points, there is a height restriction for classic poles to be 83% of body height, but if you are not participating in races that are regulated-this requirement would be a non-issue.

Here is an article talking about pole height that you may be interested in:

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach

Study Looks At Different Pole Lengths For Double Poling

Norwegian Professor Thomas Losnegard recently published a study comparing different pole lengths for double poling.

Nine athletes were subjected to two 1000 m tests at a 2.5% incline on a roller ski treadmill, one with poles that were 84% of body height, the other with poles that were 88% of body height. With the longer poles, the subjects consumed less oxygen, however the difference translated to only about 1%, which, according to Losnegard, one could not see or feel.

In comparing this study with two other studies which looked at different length poles on varying terrain (as opposed to just a gradual uphill, which was the case in Losnegard’s study), the general consensus is that slightly longer poles are best for double poling at low to medium speeds (i.e. on uphills and slower flats), while the shorter poles are better on faster flats and downhills.


Original post:

Sergey Ustyugov About Training


Sergey Ustyugov gave an extended interview to the “Ski Sport” magazine. is publishing the most interesting answers of Sergey about strength training, abnormal racing heartbeat levels, distance tactics, proper nutrition and selection of correct length of poles.

Is it necessary to control the heartbeat rate during training?

— Before I joined our regional team, I was training with my personal coach and we didn’t pay too much attention to the heartbeat rate, but we were still measuring it occasionally. When I finally joined the regional team, they gave us personal heart rate monitors and we were training, strictly controlling our heartbeat rate. We were severely criticized for any violation of heartbeat zones… Today main principles are pretty same, i.e. we pass an examination, which allow us to identify heartbeat zones, which we have to observe during training sessions in future. So, I think that it’s necessary to observe your heartbeat rate and use it as a reference point.

What is your opinion about training at high altitude?

— Each person has one great altitude value, which allows him or her to show amazing results and feel the pump after reaching it, but there is also altitude, which simply kills all your feelings when you reach it and you literally feel nothing. To tell the truth, I like to run after high altitude training camps and competitions, and all my best results were shown exactly after such high altitude mountain training camps. For example, before I won four out of four races during the World Junior Championship in Turkey, we were training in Bulgarian Belmeken. I was feeling great, even though Turkey had a pretty high altitude too. Another example, before winning the sprint race for the first time during the World Cup in the city of Nove Mesto, we were training at “Khmelevsky Lakes”, which is a mountain range located next to the “Laura” mountain ski complex in Sochi. It also has high altitude, which gives me great pump effect. I was also going down to Sochi from there and I felt great difference, even though the altitude change was somewhere around one hundred meters.

Which length of skis and poles do you use for classic races? Are these values different for long distance runs or sprints (or the same)?

— If we take just a classic ski race, without taking city sprint into account, poles have to be 157,5 cm in length and skis – 207 cm. And if we consider such things as sprints in Drammen or Stockholm, I can say that I use a little bit longer poles. This year during the Stockholm sprint race, Nikita Kryukov discovered that I was going to use longer poles, thus he asked me to give him my old ones, which were slightly longer than his own. I gave him my poles; he used them in race and even won that competition.

What is your normal heartbeat rate at standstill state (in the morning) and in the peak condition (before competitions)?

— I can’t measure my heartbeat rate every morning, but usually it’s around 38-40 beats per minute. Sometimes, my heart rate monitor is showing 42-43 beats per minute right before I start my training.

What is your average and maximum heartbeat rate during 10-15 km races?

— It always depends on my current state of health. Values during one race can reach 195-196 for the average heartbeat rate and 207-208 for maximum, like it was this year. But usually my average heartbeat rate is 185 and maximum one is 203-204 beats per minute.

Do you train on the bile during the off-season?

— I was using it last year, but this year my knee started to disturb me during such workouts, thus I switched to cross running.

One more question, what do you eat right before races start?

— We eat a lot of macaroni and pasta. We were eating it all summer and autumn. Probably, I will remember that forever. We were eating, eating and eating… Of course, there were different products, but the main part of our diet was taken with pasta (he’s smiling). If we are talking about special sport drinks, then I can say that during multiday races we use special carbloaders. We have no restrictions in our nutrition program. Isabel and Reto explained us that it’s much better to eat properly during our breakfast, lunch and dinner than come back to our rooms and eat something sweet or go to a café in the evening to have a cup of coffee with donuts. We have to be full before starting our training.

Isabel prepares a special drink for us during races. I can’t tell its name for sure, but I think it’s Vitargo Electrolyte. I was always telling her that I didn’t want to drink it, because it was making my mouth extremely dry, but she was telling that it was a normal reaction. During long distance races you have to drink a lot in order to avoid “drying” of your body and maintain maximum performance. And in 10 kilometers before the finish line we drink Coca-Cola. Many athletes are drinking Coca-Cola with activators during marathon races.

What do you mean “with activators”?

— Those are special substances, which we add to our drinks, e.g. guarana.

Sergey, what do you think is the secret of an overwhelming superiority of Norwegian skiers these days?

— Skiing is in their blood.



How can I tell if I am using too long of skate poles?

General rule of thumb that I use and I have seen others use as well. Take your height in cm and multiply it by .92

So I am right around 182 cm which means I ski a 167.5 pole. I tend to like a little taller pole so there is a little bit of personal preference to it but I would say if you are around 2-3 cm of the number you come up with you should be in a good position. I would start on the higher end of the range and see how they feel because you can always cut shorter.

Hope this helps and good luck with training going forward.

Andy Keller
CXC Team Head Coach

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Photo credit: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation©2016


Lighter Swing Poles = Faster Skiing

Why should skiers care about their ski pole selection?

Ski Poles are often the most overlook piece of a Nordic skier’s equipment. But ski poles are the only piece of your ski equipment that you actually hold, swing and lift the entire way. Racers average between 30-45 pole plants per minute. Over the course of a marathon like the 52 km American Birkebeiner the winner may have lifted his poles more than 5,000 times.  A skier completing the race in 3 hours could have poled 7,000 times and a 4 hour skier might have lifted her poles 10,000 times.

But how much difference can a few oz. make?

Extra weight is not fun! If you and a friend ski a 3-hour Birkie and the friend uses their new Start Race 1.0 and you use your old CT4’s, you are lifting an additional 3 oz. per stroke. If each stroke moves your pole 5 feet. This equates to lifting an additional 6,500 ft lbs during the race! Like curling 1 gallon of milk in each hand 375 times. Will you still beat your friend?


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Kyle Bratrud

The most important shaft properties are overall weight, swing weight, stiffness, and strength.

Swing weight refers to the pendulum motion of a pole plant and that more weight near the pole tip requires more energy from the skier. The stiffer the pole the more of your energy goes into forward movement and the less into bending the pole. Strength refers to the durability of the pole.

What is the Recommended Pole Height?

Start recommends skier’s body height in cm, less 20 cm for skate, and less 30 cm for classic as our Norm for most Recreational Racers. In most cases, this will, for adults, result in classic poles that reach the center of the shoulder bone.  For skate the pole will reach around your mouth.  This is measured with normal shoes on.

Do advanced skiers use taller poles than beginners?

For shorter races such as sprint; definitely yes. World Cup skiers can use 5-7.5 cm longer poles than recommended above.  We have also seen a trend that World Cup skiers in general have increased their pole lengths the last decade. The reason is most likely the much stronger upper bodies for professional skiers these days, and shorter (sprint) tracks with fewer long sustained climbs. There are of course individual differences, but in general World Cup skiers use 2.5 cm longer poles than determined by the Norm above. But if you are a weekend warrior classical skiing long sustained climbs like at the Birkie be careful about chasing what World Cup skiers use in length. The norm is good.

Does technical ability change this?

Not really, but skiing with longer poles than recommended requires good technique.

Why do classical skiers use shorter poles than skaters?
In skating, bigger movements, greater speed, and always using two poles simultaneously allows you to use longer poles.

How is a ski pole length measured?

For most pole brands the length is measured from the tip (spike) of the pole to the top of the grip (not including any building height of the locking cap/wedge).

What makes Start poles special?

Start’s pole deliver minimum swing weight and maximum durability at every price point. With 8mm at the basket Start delivers the lowest swing weight plus thicker sidewalls for best durability.