Over Christmas break, I got my first downhill turns of the year in northern Michigan’s Leelanau County.
Christmas Eve, the temperatures dropped super low overnight as we headed to Schuss Mountain for some resort skiing. There was tons of fresh powder (by Michigan standards) and I enjoyed the gladed runs off one of the lower quad chairs.
Christmas Day, the snow continued to fall. There was probably 2′-3′ of snow on the ground. I hiked and skied down Sugar Loaf Mountain, an abandoned ski resort, a few times which was a treat.
The following day, my brother and I headed over to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to get some more turns in. We hiked up the area known as the Dune Climb to take in some low angle, easy terrain. The wind-loaded eastern slopes of the dunes could definitely slide in some steeper places, so we stuck to the central part of the dune for the most part.
The next day I lapped Sugar Loaf a few more times since the powder hadn’t been completely tracked out yet. Skiing on a bluebird day accentuated the amazing views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding inland lakes. It’s a shame that Sugar Loaf is closed, but at least it is a spot where you can find some solitude and earn some short but powdery turns in Michigan
Minus 33 is a smaller company focusing solely on the merino wool outdoor clothing market. I purchased a lightweight quarter zip long sleeve shirt (Minus 33 “Allagash”, $60) as a baselayer for cold weather, high-output activities like running and cross country skiing.
When I first felt the garment, the merino fabric seemed tightly woven and relatively soft, with a denser and smoother weave than competing garments. I suspect it will be more durable than other wool items that I own. The stitching is good quality but not nearly as nice as Smartwool. However, the Minus 33 shirt is a much better value, and comfort is still quite high overall.
I tested the shirt over a fall/winter season in Michigan. I wore the shirt primarily while training for a spring ultra, completing 2-3 hour runs in weather down to 20F. It worked great by itself for that purpose when there was no wind or rain, and with a light wind shell when conditions weren’t as good. Breathability and moisture wicking was excellent, and the wear against the skin was comfortable. There were no hot spots or areas of chafing even after covering upwards of 18 miles. It is my favorite piece of gear for long runs in the cold. It’s also perfect for higher output winter sports like cross country skiing.
I wore it as a baselayer for general winter hiking, where it pairs well with a fleece and outer shell. It might be better to go with a slightly heavier fabric in this case.
The only gripe I have is the design of the zipper. There is an odd flap of fabric which protects the zipper pull from rubbing on the neck which is great… but when the zipper is partly down to dump heat, the flap is too big and makes the shirt drape really strangely. I’ve seen better designs which avoid this problem.