Each year I update and tweak a group of clothing pieces for use in Nordic ski training and racing. Typically, two sets, one for ‘typical’ sunny days (in the -12C/+10F to -0C/+32F range) and one for cold days (<-18C/0F) 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 (<-30C/-20F) 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 eight 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 and, 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.
Salomon Elite Jacket
The past year I have been using the Salomon Dynamics Jacket as a basic part of my Nordic skiing clothing group. As my review of this jacket indicates, the Dynamics Jacket is a very nice option for Nordic skiing as it is functional in a wide range of weather conditions as well as a wide range of training sessions (from L1-L2 ODs through intervals on cold days). Surprisingly, Salomon have added a new light weight jacket to their Nordic line-up this year- the Elite Jacket. It is a part of their ‘racing’ group; I took a look at the specifications and decided it was worth trying this jacket out and I am glad I did. The jacket comes in a number of colorways and I chose the ‘equipe’ version in basic black and white with grey, yellow, and, new for FW 13/14, flouro orange accents. A bit flashy but palatable.
Although there are many other minor differences, the major difference between the Elite Jacket and the Dynamics Jacket are the highly breathable sleeves and back of the Elite Jacket. Although I did not note this as a significant difference when comparing the jackets prior to use, it is a major functional difference and makes the Elite Jacket a nice compliment to the Dynamics Jacket. Specifically, the Elite Jacket allows for much higher intensity training sessions because of increased breathability. Whereas the Dynamics Jacket has ‘ClimaWind’ fabric front placket and sleeves, the Elite jacket has the superior ‘Windstopper’ fabric for the front placket and an interesting, and thin, knitted sleeve material on the fronts of the sleeves and through significant and strategic portions of the back (the white fabric areas in the images). This polyamide/elastane material is very thin and quite breathable. The interior sides of the sleeves and portions of the back have a more typical thicker knitted, interior brushed, polyamide/elastane fabric with reasonable breathability (the grey fabric areas in the images). The design of the Elite jacket gives a nice combination of warmth and breathability, ideal for higher intensity training.
Salomon have included many of the features found on the Dynamics Jacket in the Elite model: articulated sleeves, minimalist cinching mechanism at the waist, convenient vertical zipped rear pocket, a feedthrough for headphones from the upper breast pocket, a retaining clasp on the upper chest for ventilation, and a well proportioned snug fit. Also, and this is different from the Dynamics Jacket, the inside of the collar on the Elite Jacket is brushed polyamide/elastane (the grey material in the images)- very comfortable and soft against the skin and is a nice improvement.
I have had this jacket out on numerous runs of about 16km (10 miles), rollerskiing for up to about 35 km (20+ miles), and for one ski session of about 16 km (10 miles) in typical fall conditions of temperatures between 2C/35F to -11C/12F, mostly sunny with some periodic light precipitation, although not actively raining/snowing. I have also had the jacket out in a snow squall with significant precipitation and winds of about 15 km/h (10 mph). These conditions are typical of those during the ski season here in Sun Valley. The Elite Jacket has performed well in most of these conditions. The exception is in windy conditions on exposed terrain. In such conditions, a more windproof jacket might be a better choice for an extended ski/run. However, the Elite Jacket is more comfortable than the Dynamics Jacket in any training session beyond high L3. So, dependent upon one’s exact intended use for a jacket, the Elite model should be considered. Based on my typical training program, I can see that this jacket will be a mainstay in my Nordic ski training (and cold weather running) clothing group, particularly for interval sessions on colder days and on winter tempo runs.
I will be testing the Elite Jacket in truly cold conditions (-18c/0F) to determine the cold weather performance, but I expect that the Dynamics Jacket will be a better choice in such conditions. As I have noted in the past, at anything below -18C I switch to the Momentum II group, which provides additional thermal insulation.
Once again, I hereby request that Salomon produce a companion Elite 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 Elite 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. Salomon has not produced a vest version of the Dynamics Jacket either and I think that a light weight vest with a ‘Windstopper’ front placket is a very function piece of clothing for Nordic skiing and winter running in sunny climes.
$200. An expensive jacket but given the functionality, particularly in higher intensity training sessions, it should be a good addition to one’s Nordic skiing clothing group. You will also 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 particularly at higher intensity levels and on warmer days.