I don’t use the word “best” lightly. In fact, it’s on a list of words I try hard to avoid since it’s so completely subjective, but the Countdown Windstopper® Active Shell by Gore is, hand’s down, the BEST cross-country ski jacket I’ve ever owned.
I’m always on the hunt for that one perfect jacket that does it all. Living in Vermont where the weather varies wildly from day-to-day, let alone season-to-season, makes that goal virtually impossible, especially when it comes to a day out on the xc ski trails. Long uphill treks invetably lead to shedding layers, while fast descents leave me freezing. But not with the Countdown! I swear, it’s a miracle. I’ve worn this jacket skate skiing and on long classic treks and have been neither too hot nor too cold (and I’m pretty much almost always too hot or too cold). Gore’s Windstopper® fabric claims “total windproofness and maximum breathability,” which is noticeably true even to a non-techy person like myself. Translation: I’m comfortable when working hard, but the wind doesn’t cut through on the way down. Hallelujah!
Ok, other things I love about this jacket.
- The color. I have it in waterfall/ice blue. It’s vibrant but not aggressively bright. And it just so happens that it matches my favorite Skida hat perfectly.
- Sleeve hem with thumb hold. In my humble opinion, these should be mandatory on all jackets.
- Great fit. Nothing irks me more than a jacket that’s too boxy and/or too short. The Countdown is neither, hitting mid-hip with with a nice slim fit.
- Removable liner. The jacket is a “2-in-1” with a removable, lightweight inner liner. I haven’t removed the liner yet (because it’s winter and we’ve been living in the the “polar vortex”), but I can foresee a day in the spring where the shell alone will be just right.
One of the reasons I felt compelled to write about this jackets is that it’s not actually designed to be a cross-country ski jacket, so you’re not likely to come across it in the usual places. It’s made by Gore Apparel, which is a relatively new brand to the U.S. (though if you have a good waterproof jacket, it’s probably made with Gore-Tex®). Gore Apparel is designed primarily for bikers and runners, and I’m guessing that the same qualities that make this jacket perform so beautifully on a wintery nordic ski day hold true for a long run or bike ride too.
Disclosure: This jacket was given to me by a friend who works for Gore Apparel. I was not asked to provide a review on this blog or anywhere else, and all opinions expressed are, as always, truthful and my own.