Got a snowsports fanatic on your holiday list? Here are five winter-oriented gift ideas we put to the test that won’t break your wallet. Bonus: Much of the gear below is made by small companies right here in the USA. —Sean McCoy
Ski Bumpers — A car is a pretty handy place to lean skis — until a buddy knocks them down, scratching edges and paint alike. After learning this lesson the hard way, the founder of Sport Bumper created a simple solution with 26-inch-long strips of textured polyurethane. They have a magnet back. Stick them to a car and lean your skis or boards on them at will, the rubbery strip greatly reducing the chance that a jostled ski will fall and beat up the finish on your fly whip. Made in Colorado and available for $15 at www.sportbumper.com.
Snap-On Goggle Sleeve — The Gheek Goggle Protector is a clever microfiber sheath for ski goggles. They slip on and off goggles in an instant all while protecting the inside and outside of the lens. If you’re like me and never really take your goggles off your helmet, this product makes great sense to keep lenses clean and scratch-free. The Gheek covers cost $19.95 at www.thegheek.com.
Phunkshun Facemasks — Straight out of Summit County, Colo., Phunkshun is a new company that makes cozy, warm and tech facemasks and head coverings. My favorite design for alpine use is the brand’s 2L Pullover. Like all its masks, the 2L is made with a DWR-treated stretch polyester outer and a moisture-wicking, antimicrobial mesh inner fabric.
The two fabric layers create a “neutral air zone between the fabrics,” the company explains, keeping the temperature inside your mask more stable. In my use, the masks have been warm, soft, and comfortable. Made in the heart of ski country USA (Summit County). $24 at www.phunkshunwear.com.
‘Natural’ Hydration Powder — Dehydration is a threat even in the cold. Made from all-natural ingredients in Boulder, Colo., Skratch Labs’ hydration mixes have less sugar and more sodium than most other sport drinks. We find this a good thing and a nice change from overly sweet hydration powders. Skratch has 140 milligrams of sodium but just 40 calories in a serving. A 40-serving package of Skratch mix costs $19.95 at www.skratchlabs.com.
Boot Spikes! — They may look like serious mountaineering implements, and they can be used as such. But the K-10 Hiking Crampons from Kahtoola strap on to regular snow boots or even trail-running shoes to give serious grip on winter trails or more vertical terrain. They have a flexible build for more natural walking.
The Kahtoola strap system works with boots or shoes not necessarily designed to take crampons. (A GearJunkie editor climbed Mount Rainier with Kahtoola crampons and waterproof shoes a few years back.) Made of steel, the crampons weigh about 21 ounces per pair, a reasonable weight penalty considering their superior snow- and ice-gripping ability. The K10 Crampons, made in Flagstaff, Ariz., cost $99.95 at www.kahtoola.com.
—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor based in Denver.