It’s no secret Colorado is home to world-class ski and snowboard manufacturers. From Icelantic and Meier to Never Summer and Wagner, there are more than a dozen companies here that have helped earn the state a reputation as an epicenter for winter sports and innovation. But beyond what’s strapped to your feet, there are a few lesser-known local brands that can complete your kit with baselayers, poles, goggles, and more. Here are six of our favorites, all of which we tested in the field and a couple of which are environmentally friendly alternatives to the industrially manufactured, mass-produced options out there.
Phunkshun: Neck Tubes, Balaclavas, and Ski Scarves
Why We Love Them: This Denver-based brand offers a seemingly endless selection of fleece ski scarves, neck tubes (also known as neck gaiters), and ballerclavas—which are like a regular balaclavas, but have a better name and are more fun thanks to Phunkshun’s unique graphics. All products are manufactured in a warehouse bordering the Stapleton city limits, and on the off chance you can’t find something that suits your style, custom masks are available on request. Best of all, Phunkshun uses Repreve® fabric, which is manufactured from recycled plastic bottles—even fabric scraps are repurposed into usable material.
On the Slopes: Although it’s worth having variety in your quiver—a Thermal Ballerclava for those zero-degree days; a Fishmask for spring skiing at Arapaho Basin—the water and freeze resistant Double Tube is a great pick to carry you through a full season in Colorado. $20–$30; phunkshunwear.com
Grass Sticks: Ski Poles
Why We Love Them: Every pair of these ski poles is made to order in Steamboat Springs, using eco-friendly bamboo for the shaft, recycled polyester for the straps, and no-slip carbide on the tips. Plus, the grips and baskets are available in seven colors. Not only do these poles come with a lifetime warranty, but if you’re unhappy with the length, Grass Sticks will make adjustments within 30 days free of charge. Sure, they’re pricier than most ski poles, but they are built to last.
On the Slopes: While testing, the Grass Sticks were not only light, but they were also incredibly durable. Bamboo provides the perfect amount of rigidity and flexibility for skiing—no more warping your poles or having them snap completely. The natural bamboo look harkens back to the pioneering days of skiing, while the accent colors add some personality. $63–$133; grasssticks.com
Zeal Optics: Goggles
Why We Love Them: Based in Boulder, Zeal makes a full range of goggles and sunglasses, the latter of which forgo plastic in favor of completely plant-based materials. The goggles fall into three collections: Optimum, a good all-condition goggle and the cheapest option; Polarized, which offer increased clarity and protection by cutting glare and eye fatigue; and Auto+, a premium goggle that adjusts tint depending on conditions in a matter of seconds. All of the lenses are manufactured in Japan, while the frames are made in China. Currently, all of Zeal’s packaging utilizes soy-based inks, is recyclable, and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified—a nonprofit organization responsible for labeling products as “eco-friendly.” Even better, the company is working with manufacturers to implement more sustainable materials into the products themselves.
On the Slopes: I tested the the Hatchet model with an Optimum lens—which performed well in direct sun, flat light, and the few moments of gray that snuck through on an otherwise bluebird day at Winter Park. On a 14-inch powder day, I swapped in the Sky Blue Mirror lens (included) for improved visibility. The company’s first-ever cylindrical goggle, the Hatchet offered an improved field of vision without any glare. Thanks to upper and lower venting, fogging was never an issue. $130–$260; zealoptics.com
Voormi: Baselayers and Outerwear
Why We Love Them: Dan English established Voormi in 2010 in Pagosa Springs with a mission to ditch trends and synthetics in favor of natural fibers and cutting-edge technology. From socks to jackets, Voormi makes clothing that works for hiking, climbing, running, and skiing, all sewn stateside of their own patented fabrics. Quality, stylish pieces built for a rugged mountain lifestyle is what Voormi is rightfully known for.
On the Slopes: Made from Rocky Mountain High Country-sourced Merino wool, the women’s Thermal II Baselayer Top (also available in men’s) is incredibly warm and moisture-wicking, with absolutely no irritation on the skin. On a 20-degree, bluebird day I paired it with just a shell, while on a zero-degree day, I added a down layer and was thankful for the hidden thumbholes. The flattering, athletic fit makes for an easy transition to your favorite après-ski spot. $70 (tops) to $120 (bottoms); voormi.com
Why We Love Them: Based in Steamboat Springs, the wool Point6 uses for these socks is responsibly sourced via direct relationships with multi-generational family farms in New Zealand, who are committed to environmental stewardship and a high standard of animal welfare. Once stateside, the wool is woven at mills throughout the Appalachian Mountains, helping revive an industry in a region where the majority of clothing was once manufactured for the U.S. In addition to ski and snowboard socks, Point6 makes a variety of great options for hiking, running, and relaxing.
On the Slopes: Whether you’re rocking performance-fit boots and looking for a thinner sock, or prefer a bit of cushion around the shin, Point6 has an option for you. All socks come with the moisture-wicking benefits of Merino wool; mine kept my feet comfortable and warm throughout a full ski day. $22-$32; point6.com
Why We Love Them: This Fort Collins-based company takes pride in knitting its beanies by hand. Not only are they fashionable, made with retro colors and in various designs, but they’re also comfortable and, most important, warm.
On the Slopes: Although helmets are the only headwear we encourage on the slopes, we love Akinz hats for après-ski wear, when you’re hair is still messed up and you’re looking to relax slopeside.