REI Winter Ridge Nordic Jacket

It’s 10 AM on a Saturday morning in early December. My skis are on the snow, and it’s time to get serious. The Birkebeiner, a 51-kilometer ski race held annually each February in northern Wisconsin, is looming on my calendar.

Exhaustive training days like this one demand specialized ski apparel. Gore-Tex won’t cut it. Wool is out for sure.

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REI’s new Winter Ridge Nordic Jacket is a lightweight top made for the rigors of a sweaty cross-country ski session. It breathes, it stretches, it fits well, and it deters the elements as much as need be for the sport.

To block cold breezes and moisture from the front, the jacket has wind-proof, water-resistant panels on the torso and shoulders. But on back, thinner, Polartec Power Stretch material is used to provide maximum ventilation.

The Polartec material does not block wind, and water runs right through it. Its primary purpose is to move perspiration to the surface of the jacket where it can evaporate — not to keep you warm or protect from wind, sleet and snow.

Other skier-specific touches include a snug collar, big inside pockets for stashing gloves and a hat, and thumb-hole-equipped cuffs that let you pull them up over half your hand.

During my ski training, as well as on a few wintertime runs, I’ve been very happy with the jacket’s performance.

That said, this $120 jacket is very much a specialty item. I will not use it downhill skiing, ice climbing, or winter camping, as it does not have a hood or pit zips, and it won’t keep me dry and warm in bad weather.

But for cold-weather aerobic activities, I don’t think you’ll see me in another coat this winter.

Price: $120.
Contact: REI, 1-800-426-4840, http://www.rei.com.

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