The Cool Craze?Goodbye, global warming. Hello, global weirding! That's pro skier turned green guru Alison Gannett's name for the kooky effects climate change is having on the world's cold spots.
?The Russians planted their flag at the true North Pole (under 2.5 miles of water); the Northwest Passage was ice free for the first time anyone can remember (take that, Lewis and Clark); and Dutchman Wim Hoff, the self-named Iceman, attempted to climb Mount Everest in nothing but a pair of shorts (he didn't make it).
?On the slopes the phenomenon of twin-tip skis gained momentum--boarders found you could get more air on two sticks than one.
?Twenty-eight ski areas offset their entire carbon footprint, while Aspen and Jackson Hole became the first to receive international accreditation for environmental business practices. That assumes the Big Melt won't drive the ski biz permanently downhill.
?Rosie Stancer had to abandon her solo North Pole expedition because of deteriorating ice; beleaguered, and potentially endangered, polar bears struggled to cope with life in a gigantic Slurpee; and in a massive rounding error, Arctic sea ice shrank about a million square miles (that's six Californias) more than expected.
?Future powder buffs might have to adopt Chris Davenport's strategy of striking fast: The Aspenite became the first--and maybe last?--to ski all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in a calendar year.
GearThe Down Jacket
In a market flooded with ultra-light down jackets, it's hard to find one that stands out. Enter The North Face Catalyst. Stuffed with 800-fill down and loaded with convenient features--insulated hood, multiple pockets, cinchable hem to keep out the snow--the jacket packs to nearly nothing and comes in at a barely there 16.3 ounces ($250; thenorthface.com).
Goggle technology is so universally good these days, the deciding factor is normally style. That considered, the Scott Limited Edition Alibi Sakura is the pair for 2008. 'Course, should you care about the tech, it's helmet-compatible, spherically shaped, and treated with anti-fog ($119; scottusa.com).
The Avalanche Transceiver
Think of the Ortovox S1 avalanche transceiver as an insurance policy. With a crisp LED screen that displays both burial site and depth, it can help you locate avalanche victims faster than any other unit. What's more, the digital, three-antennaed S1 is particularly adept at finding multiple skiers--something no other transceiver can boast ($500; ortovox.com).
Freestyle snowboards aren't known for their grip--terrain parks usually reward flex instead--but the Gnu Altered Genetics uses a serrated steel edge underfoot to provide amazing control. Called Magne Traction, it gives the board a versatility that can take you from a rail slide to the iciest couloir ($600; gnu.com).
Go GreenThe Mid-layer
Smooth on the outside, fuzzy on the inside, the women's Nau Indulgent midlayer is like a sheepskin turned inside out. But PETA can chill, because this fitted piece is knit entirely from recycled polyester derived from soda bottles ($160; nau.com).
In a crowded field of skis, each year one rises above the rest. This season it's the K2 Apache Coomba, named for late, legendary guide Doug Coombs. With a fat 135-mm tip and beefy 102-mm waist, the ski is unparalleled at floating through the light, the wet, the deep and the crud ($650; k2skis.com).