Thursday, December 5, 2013
By JOSH CHRISTIE
As this column goes to print, we have just over a week left until Christmas. Fear not, procrastinators! I've pulled together a list of the best gifts for the skiers and snowboarders on your list. I've also endeavored to include as many items made in New England as possible. That may have been a daunting task years ago, but in the past few years companies and craftsmen that make everything from apparel to skis have sprung up in the Northeast.
Volition skis, made in Bangor, come in two models – the hard-carving Knotty Wood and the all-mountain twin-tip Drift Wood, either of which could make a fine Christmas gift.
Flanon’s bandanas, from Lincolnville, made of cotton plaid flannel, are warm and colorful with a design that screams “Maine!”
For starters, you'll want something they can enjoy on Christmas morning -- even if there's no snow on the ground. "No Matter What" ($22.95, skitheeast.net), the 11th film from Vermont ski filmmakers Meathead Films, offers plenty of East Coast thrills. Despite last year's dismal winter, Dan Marion, Will Wesson and the rest of the Meatheads found powder for their annual flick.
When people in your life head out into the winter weather, you'll want to make sure you give them something that will keep them as warm and dry as possible. Darn Tough Socks ($22, DarnTough.com), made in Vermont by the Cabot family, are high-density knit wool socks with a ribbed ankle, sculpted heel and elastic support (not to mention darn comfy). In a move that may seem familiar to Mainers, they offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Similarly warm and comfortable are Rambler's Way long johns ($85, ramblersway.com), superfine wool bottoms from a Kennebunk farm that absorb odor and wick moisture.
On the outerwear side of things, there's something to be said for a bit of tradition. Over a century after the first pairs of L.L. Bean Boots ($89, llbean.com) debuted, they're still the best winter boots you can get in Maine. The technology has changed a bit -- new Bean boots can be purchased with Thinsulate insulation and Gore-Tex waterproofing -- but they've remained dry, comfortable, and grippy on snow and ice.
Lincolnville's Flanon, founded in 2009 by Patrick Thompson, takes the classic Maine flannel checker and puts a new spin on it. The company's bandanas ($12, flanon.com) and scarves, made of cotton plaid flannel, are warm and colorful with a design that just screams "Maine."
A growing number of Maine companies are building skis, a refreshing alternative to the behemoth corporations that produce most of the skis on the slopes. Bangor's Volition Ski Co. makes two models -- the hard-carving Knotty Wood and the all-mountain twin-tip Drift Wood ($525/$699, volitionskico.com). Lucid Skis of Avon makes three models out of ash and bass wood, each designed for a different purpose. The Trip is a backcountry ski, the Cannon an all-mountain charger and the Harvester a wide ski for powder or crud ($999/$1050/$1100, lucidskis.com).
Whether they're on locally made or traditional gear, skiers and snowboarders could definitely use a tuning kit in their bag. Dakine's Quick Tune tuning kit ($50, Dakine.com) is the best budget kit you can buy. The kit includes all-temperature wax, a scuff pad, an edge tool, a triangle scraper and a torque driver with 5 bits and a 8/10-mm wrench, along with a how-to tuning pamphlet. The deluxe kit, only $10 more, includes a file, Ptex and a few other goodies. All the gear in either is suitable for quick work on skis or snowboards.
Though they're a bit on the expensive side, skiers can get locally made boots. Strolz offers custom ski boots ($1,150, strolzboots.com), made in New Hampshire, completely customized (shell, footbed and liner) boots for the discerning skier. With all control of the skis transmitted through our boots, it's crucial that the boots fit the skier. Strolz builds each set of boots with the skier, a two-hour process that allows the buyer to leave with boots in hand.
Gift certificates and coupons, always popular stocking stuffers, are also easy to find in Maine. Nearly every mountain and ski shop offers gift certificates for food, equipment, lodging or lift tickets. Ski Maine's Maine Winter Activities Pass ($24.95, skimaine.com) is one of the best deals for skiers in Maine -- especially those that aren't devoted to a single resort. Each pass booklet contains a variety of discounts, including $10 discounts to mountains like Sugarloaf and Saddleback, 2-for-1 and 50-percent-off Nordic coupons, Maine Huts and Trails trail pass vouchers, and discounts at participating retail shops.
For a truly unique experience for someone on your list, I highly recommend a night or two in Shawnee Peak's Pleasant Mountain Cabins ($165 for the first night, $125 for additional nights (shawneepeak.com). The cabins are pack-in, pack-out with ski-in, ski-out lodging located near Shawnee's summit. Accessible by hiking or by lift, the cabins offer a chance to stay near the top of one of Maine's mountains in the middle of winter and to easily bag first tracks. Skiing the night of check-in is complimentary and skiing on following days is discounted so that all guests ski for the price of a junior.
Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be reached at: