Each year I update and tweak a group of clothing pieces for use in Nordic ski training and racing. Typically, two sets are sufficient to handle the spectrum of weather conditions we see here in the central Idaho mountains.
Sun Valley, as you might expect, is a very sunny place year round and particularly so in the winter, at least compared to most places that have a 5 month ski season. As such, clothing for extreme cold (-30+C/-20+F) is of limited use because, although the air mass may be very cold, the heat gain to clothing via absorption of energy from the sun can significantly alter the effect of the cold. Also, extreme cold conditions have become less and less frequent in the past 10 years, perhaps indicating a warming climate in the US Rocky Mountains. For instance we have not had a -32C/-25F temperature for over seven years. If you speak to some of the long time locals here, they will tell you that such low temperatures were common just 15 years ago. In any case, preparing for temperature minimums around about -26C/-15F is appropriate.
The extreme cold may occur for perhaps 3-5 days total so, in a ski season with 150 days the vast majority of skiing here in Sun Valley will be taking place in the -12C/+10F to 0C/+32F range. It will also typically be sunny and dry. So when I look for a group of clothing pieces for Nordic ski training in this temperature range, ventilation and breathability are critical.
The Dynamics Jacket
The past two years I have been using the Salomon XT Softshell jacket from the Salomon running collection as a basic part of my Nordic skiing clothing group.
I always wondered why Salomon did not include this jacket in their Nordic skiing collection as it is ideally suited to training for Nordic skiing. In previous years most of Salomon’s designated Nordic skiing jackets have been way too warm for training here in Sun Valley and I have only used the jacket and pants from the Momentum II ski collection for the extreme cold weather described above. Well, it appears that Salomon have gotten the message as they have a new Nordic jacket for F/W 2012-2013 that builds on the XT Softshell design with some refinements for Nordic- it is called the Dynamics Jacket and it is a great addition.
As you can see the fit of the Dynamics Jacket is bit more snug than the XT Softshell Jacket and has two vertical seams and one horizontal seam on the “ClimaWind” softshell windproof front. Also included is a nicely placed and sized pocket high up on the left side of the jacket. The pocket is perfect for a phone/music device, lip balm, or even a small (148 ml/ 5 oz) softflask fluid/fuel bottle. The pocket has a feed through for headphones.
The back is highly articulated with a unique “halter” shaped softshell panel in the center with highly breathable stretch woven fabric surrounding it. A large side entry vertical zip pocket is also included and is sufficiently large to carry enough fluid and fuel for at least 50 km/ 31 miles. The side-entry pocket is a thoughtful addition as horizontal pockets are difficult manage when reaching around.
The sleeves are half softshell and half highly breathable stretch woven fabric. The sleeves also have an elastic band around half of the sleeve end which is different from the XT Softshell Jacket which has an elastic “ring” around the entire sleeve end. This is half-elastic band is very functional for Nordic skiing because one can pull the sleeves over gloves and attain a relatively tight seal thereby preventing wind from going up your sleeves. One can also put gloves over the sleeve ends which was difficult with the XT Softshell Jacket.
The sleeves are nicely articulated and allow for full body motion without fabric stretching.
Salomon also added a retaining clasp in the upper portion of the jacket. This was found on the XT Softshell Vest last year. I found it to be very useful as it allows one to unzip the jacket (or vest) to allow for additional ventilation without having the jacket flapping around.
A simple cinching mechanism is provided at the bottom hem and is an improvement over past cinching systems in that this one uses very minimalist parts that are essentially invisible to the user. The larger, spring-loaded systems are somewhat intrusive and bulky. This simple mechanism seems better suited to such lighter weight training jackets.
I have had this jacket out on numerous runs from 16km (10 miles) to 35 km (20+ miles) (and rollerskiing for up to about 35 km (20+ miles)) in typical fall conditions of temperatures between 2C/35F to -8C/18F, mostly sunny with some periodic light precipitation, although not actively raining. I have also had the jacket out in a snowstorm with significant precipitation and relatively high winds of about 32 km/h (20 mph). These conditions represent the majority of what will be present during the ski season. In all cases this jacket has performed outstandingly. From great ventilation to good wind protection, I can see that this jacket will be the mainstay in my Nordic ski training (and cold weather running) clothing group. The fit and articulation is well thought out and the various other details outlined above are much appreciated, particularly the restraining clasp.
I still need to test the Dynamics Jacket in truly cold conditions (-18c/0F) to determine the cold weather performance. If this jacket performs in cold conditions similarly to the XT Softshell Jacket, it will be fine right down to -18C provided one beefs up base layers. Anything below -18C and I switch to the Momentum II group, which provides additional thermal insulation.
One final note: I hereby request that Salomon produce a companion Dynamics Vest. I tend to use softshell vests in any sunny weather above -7C/20F and currently use the XT Softshell Vest for these conditions. Given the slightly “snugger” fit and articulation of the Dynamics Jacket, I think that a vest would be a nice addition to the Nordic clothing line. I find the Salomon Momentum II Vest to be way too warm for these conditions.
$185. A relatively expensive jacket but you will likely get multiple years of use out of it and it can be used for running as well.
A great jacket for Nordic ski training with some nice details that increase functionality.