Thinking about investing in a technical ski bib and shell? Consider Columbia’s new backcountry ski kit, launching this fall.
Columbia has long made downhill ski apparel in a broad range of prices. From entry-level like the ever-popular Bugaboo Ski Pant to pinnacle Summit Series kits, the brand has a reputation as a solid value for good products.
Now, Columbia is taking it up a notch in terms of performance. The brand will launch its first-ever technical backcountry ski shell and bib this fall. I tested the full kit during a short trip to Aspen Mountain.
Note: I tested the women’s shell and bib, but there is a men’s kit launching as well.
The Peak Pursuit 3L Shell
The Peak Pursuit collection includes a three-layer shell, a fleece midlayer, and a high-waisted bib. Aspen Mountain was a great location for testing, as there is a large percentage of technical terrain inbounds but also plenty of out-of-bounds skiing in the back bowls.
Just trying it on, I loved the look and feel of the shell. In terms of garment tech, Columbia definitely pulled out all the stops with its shell to rival others on the market.
The shell has Columbia’s in-house Omni-Tech technology, a waterproof, windproof, multilayer, breathable membrane. Both the shell and bib have RECCO, a passive reflector sewn into garments to help rescuers detect a buried skier in the event of an avalanche.
Compared to the brand’s other in-house fabrics, this one is best for light-to-medium snow and moderate activity — common backcountry skiing conditions. It will keep you dry but will also release heat when you’re working hard.
The shell is fully seam-sealed and has perks like a ski pass-specific pocket, snap powder skirt, underarm venting, and more. It even has a little zippered vent in the hood for cooling off and better periphery.
The Peak Pursuit Bib
The Peak Pursuit Bibs are non-insulated, waterproof-breathable shell pants. They have long zips down the side of the pant for venting and easy entry. The suspender bibs are also detachable. Coupled with the side zips, they make it easy to use the restroom.
The men’s kit uses a pant instead of a bib, but the materials and build are similar.
Most of the ski pants I own are midrise fit, which is standard for women’s ski pants. That being said, I found the Peak Pursuit bib to be comfortable (and maybe even flattering). The two-way stretch was comfortable in the hips, waist, and legs. I even skied with my cellphone in one of the thigh pockets, and neither the leg nor pocket fabric pulled or stretched against me while skiing.
As someone on the skinner side, I’ve worn a lot of suspender bibs in my life. I found these suspenders very easy to adjust, even with gloves on. It’s a small perk, but knowing that I could adjust quickly if needed was nice.
The waist pockets on this bib are fairly small (what I like to call chapstick pockets). There probably doesn’t need to be two of them, but it’s not really a downside.
The bib also has long leg zippers on the sides for drop-seat construction so that going in the backcountry is as easy as possible, a feature important to most women who frequent backcountry or side-country adventures.
The only fault I could find in the bib is in the gaiter cuffs and lower leg gusset: The fit was very slim, European style. It was fine for the riders in our group but was definitely tighter for those wearing ski boots. The exterior zippers wouldn’t zip down fully, although I was able to secure the snaps on the gaiter cuffs, which is arguably more important in powder.
I haven’t done much uphill in the kit beyond some boot-packing, but the bib venting is ample and seems solid, as well as the underarm venting in the shell. The zippers are sealed but slide smoothly. My favorite venting feature is the periphery venting in the hood — great for colder conditions when you need to adjust venting near the face.
The kit was everything I’d expect from a performance apparel brand. The fit was great (besides the tight cuffs), and both the shell and bib performed well in wind, cold, and powder.
Overall, the kit is a promising addition to Columbia’s growing collection of ski wear. The Peak Pursuit bib and three-layer shell will each retail for $400 and will be available in fall 2020.