STEVE: Hello and welcome to another edition of the Summit Sports Podcast for skis.com and snowboards.com. One of the most prolific apparel brands out there is the North Face. Each year, the North Face rolls out innovative and exciting new apparel to appeal to both skiers and snowboarders. I was able to sit down with Alex Brown, a Midwest representative of the North Face for 8 years, and we discussed what's new for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. My first question to Alex was regarding the North Face's approach to appealing to the entire snow sports industry as opposed to just singling out snowboarders or skiers.
ALEX: We approach it with nothing but love, right. Nothing but love for skiers and snowboarders, for men, women, kids. We don't discriminate against the skiers or snowboarders, right. So, whether you're two planks or one, we have product for ya.
We categorize it more by Alpine or Freeride is the way we look at it so Alpine, traditionally, would involve more of a ski-type customer, the looks of the product would be geared toward somebody who's a skier versus the Freeride where we've seen the most evolution over the past few years really is something that's just a broad audience. The Freeride customer is probably somebody who is a park or a pipe customer, maybe a sidecountry customer, maybe a backcountry customer. They probably ride anywhere but I think they're not just a skier or they're not just a snowboarder so we approach it more by Alpine or Freeride and that's how we split up our products.
S: The North Face created an alternative to down insulation, something called Thermoball…so, Alex, tell me about Thermoball.
A: So, Thermoball is a big over-arching technology story for the North Face. This started with us trying to find a solution for some of the shortcomings of down insulation. Down is fantastically light, super packable but it's not great if it gets wet so if you're spring skiing and maybe you got some changing conditions or it's a little bit warmer than you expect and you're getting a little sweaty on the inside, if you're using down as a layering piece, when it wets out, it loses all of its insulation properties. With Thermoball, really the challenge came from our athletic team to make something that's lightweight, extremely versatile and still maintains its warmth when wet so we partnered with Primaloft who's known for their synthetic insulation packages and created a synthetic cluster that mimics down so if you hold a Primaloft cluster next to a down cluster they look very, very similar, in fact, you can't usually tell the difference. But what the difference between the 2 is the Primaloft cluster, the Thermoball cluster, is synthetic. It handles moisture extremely well, maintains its warmth when wet and all of our Thermoball styles, we only offer 1 really level of insulation - it's not like there's different layers of Thermoball. So, we offer Thermoball in one weight and the weight is equivalent warmth to 600-650 fill down jacket. We use it in triclimate setups, we make jackets, hoodies, all kinds of different styles so…
S: As far as its breathability…
A: Yeah, I mean, it's as breathable as any synthetic or down insulation piece would be. The Thermoball configuration is in a 2x2 square, the men's we orient into a square shape, the women's has a little more of a diamond pattern to it. We do that to optimize the insulation properties of the Thermoball clusters. What that does is it gives some perforations for air permeability and for breathability.
S: Let's get into some of the North Face apparel. There's a tri-climate jacket out there called the Clooney. I asked Alex to give some information on the Clooney and wondered if it was named after George Clooney.
A: The men's Clooney Triclimate Jacket – not named after George, right, but this is a Alpine-inspired triclimate jacket. Very classic fit, it's not overly baggy, it's not overly tight. I wear a men's size large in just about everything and I would buy a large in this jacket – very true to size. The nice thing about all of our triclimate jackets is that they are a 3-to-1 setup so you have a waterproof, breathable HyVent shell and then you have a liner piece that can zip-in or zip-out. Specifically on the Clooney, the shell is a HyVent 2 layer that has a little bit of a texture to it so it comes off heathered. The colors are great, very friendly for street wear, lifestyle wear but also technical enough to wear on any ski hill. The liner piece inside the Clooney is a 400 gram sweater fleece, zip-in, zip-out setup, you can basically wear the shell by itself, the liner by itself or zip together for a really warm ski jacket. Great Apres jacket too so if you get done and it's a little bit chilly but the sun's out so it's kind of that mid-temperature where you can't tell if it's warm or it's hot, perfect for that.
S: Moving on to the Helata.
A: Yes, so this is a women's triclimte jacket. This is the women's Helata Triclimate. It also comes out of our Alpine line so it's a little bit more geared toward a ski customer. This is a similar style to the Clooney in that it has lifestyle street appeal in a ski functioning style. It has, starting with the shell, it has a 2.5 layer nylon twill fabric that has kind of a denim look to it so there's a little bit of texture to it. It's almost denimy, very soft not crunchy in any way. The nice thing about the twill denim look is it kind of mutes some of the colors so they almost come out looking like sanded colors. The liner piece on the inside of this is amazing. It's a silken Rochelle fleece so very fuzzy, very soft, and it kind of has that lofted kind of fuzzy fleece look to it. This is something where if a woman buys the Helata Triclimate Jacket they're going to wear the liner piece way more probably than they would wear it together as a complete unit. It would be a great liner jacket, the liner jacket would be great for a day like today, nice and warm.
S: Finally, you need a baselayer and the North Face has a great selection for you to choose from. They also utilize a technology called FlashDry. Can you tell us about the North Face baselayers?
A: Yeah, we offer baselayer in three different weights. We have a warm, a hybrid, excuse me, a warm, a light and an expedition weight. The expedition weight will be our warmest, it's kind of a fuzzy fleece backed weight. Our warm is just kind of a nice workhorse, do everything weight and then our light, for somebody like me who runs hot, is perfect. I don't need a very heavy dense baselayer piece. All three of those pieces feature our FlashDry technology which is a particle that is embedded into the fiber before it is knit or woven into fabrication form. The nice thing about that is its permanent treatment and what FlashDry does is it enhances the breathability, the moisture movement, by creaitng more surface area on the actual fiber of the garment. FlashDry works, it's a kind of a lifetime treatment to the product and extremely functional in terms of moisture management and movement.
S: So, you can wash it a lot and it still holds.
A: It still holds up, yeah. It's not a washout treatment. The other fantastic thing that I found using FlashDry pieces is that they're impossible to get wet. Like I mentioned I run a little bit warmer so the light for me, it's really tough for me to wet out that baselayer. It always seems like it's dry.
S: Definitely check out the North Face jackets and baselayers on skis.com and snowboards.com. You'll have a wide variety to choose from so that you can find the perfect outerwear and baselayers to match your style on the mountain.
I'd like to thank Alex Brown from the North Face for coming in and talking to me about a couple 2015 options to look forward to. And thank you for listening to the latest edition of the Summit Sports Podcast for skis.com and snowboards.com.