By MARK BEDENBENDER
With its renovated Harness Pant, Rossignol has developed a hybrid ski-mountaineering shell pant that, as the names alludes, hides a small climbing harness stitched into its seat. The convenience of the built-in harness, which adds mere ounces to the pant weight, makes these waterproof/breathable bottoms worth the money ($300) for backcountry types who need to rope up often in alpine environments.
As a volunteer ski patrol and a member of search and rescue, I tested the pants this winter on multiple outings in and around Whistler, B.C. During ski-touring trips, my routes are often glaciated with hidden crevasses. This means I either wear a harness over my clothing — which can be uncomfortable — or I put it on as required on the snow, which takes time and is a hassle.
Time spent transitioning in and out of a harness can be a killer to progress. It’s simple math: A few 10 or 15 minute harness transitions over a trip means I can spend a couple hours standing still.
The Harness Pant has been a nice solution. In my test this winter, convenience was the most obvious advantage. The pant makes the decision to use a harness and a rope quick and easy.
The harness’ design was good overall, including a single gear loop — no need for two loops as you’re not hauling a full rack of mountaineering protection — and a mostly comfortable fit. I didn’t feel like I was wearing a harness even after ten hours of continuous use.
The pants have a hook-and-eye closure in addition to the two snaps on the waistline. This is good, as there is no dreaded “popped snap” phenomenon on jump turns. Secondary zips and leg vents make pulling on the leg loops of the harness easier.
As for cons, the pant is missing an inside ski edge cuff for protection. It’s inevitable that you’ll run a freshly-sharpened ski edge over that spot and cut the pant cuff. Another design point: I wish the harness leg loop had some adjustment. The loops can get pretty snug if you wear expedition-weight fleece, and Rossignol does not give the option to open the fit. For me, the leg loops felt a tad tight when I was layered and dressed for the coldest days.
I was indifferent about the pants’ included Recco avalanche reflector. As a volunteer ski patroller, I find them almost useless. If you don’t agree ask your backcountry buddy or any ski patroller you meet for their Recco locator. (Hint: They may or may not have one.) I’ll stick with my trusted transceiver.
Overall, the Harness Pant is an admirable product. It made my rope time in the backcountry quicker. And while skiing, the pant functioned as a shell to protect against the snow and the elements on the slopes, backcountry or in bounds.
—Mark Bedenbender, a seasonal resident of Whistler, British Columbia, is a volunteer ski patrol with the Olympics and a member of search and rescue.