Heritage ski outerwear brand Spyder has been making waves this season with their return to the freeski market. In any park edit you watch this season, there’s a fair chance you’ll see someone rocking gear from the new Spyder freeski collection. They’ve compiled a stacked pro team including Bobby Brown, Ferdinand Dahl, Quinn Wolferman and more, as well as the role of official supplier for the U.S. freeski team. By all accounts, Spyder is back in the game of making high-quality outerwear catered specifically to the freeski market.
Founded in 1978 as a mail-order business for racing sweaters, Spyder has always had deep roots in racing. But they've got history in freeskiing as well: in the late 1990s Spyder jumped on board with the budding freeskiing movement, signing skiers such as Kent Kreitler, Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, JP Auclair and Corey Vanular before pulling back from the scene in the late 2000s. Now over a decade later, they’re looking to make a comeback. We took an in-depth look at their top-line freeride jacket, the Eiger GTX Shell, paired with the Turret GTX Shell pants.
The Eiger GTX Shell jacket is Spyder’s most technical offering in the freeski collection. With a standard Gore-Tex membrane and durable water repellent (DWR), fully taped seams and watertight zippers, the Eiger is built first and foremost to repel the elements—and it excels in doing this.
A shell jacket is supposed to be just that: a protective layer protecting you from the elements. It won’t keep you warm by itself, but when combined with a suitable mid-layer underneath it, with a shell you should be able to endure almost all conditions you encounter on the mountain.
Within this category, Spyder’s Eiger GTX can hold its own among the competition. In over 30 days of on-hill testing, from resort cruising to backcountry touring, the Eiger GTX proved itself to be a durable, functional and reliable shelter from the elements. It's tricked out with the details that matter, and free of the ones that don’t.
The Eiger GTX jacket comes in two color options, Ebony (left) or Swell (right).
Two words: FUNCTION AND DURABILITY
Created with input from Spyder freeride athletes like Chris Davenport, the design of the Eiger GTX doesn’t mess around with with unnecessary frills. The features it has are all there for a reason. The helmet-compatible hood is outfitted with dual drawstrings, built for battening down the hatches in a storm. The fully taped seams and waterproof zippers are there to keep you dry at all costs. The two cavernous chest pockets are accessible when a backpack is strapped on and are large enough to accommodate skins, gloves or any other gear that needs to be stashed away quickly.
The oversized stash pockets can fit just about anything.
The rest of the features are all strictly utilitarian: reliable Velcro wrist closures, small bicep pockets, Recco rescue chip, pit zips, insulated phone sleeve in one of the chest pockets. Put all these together, and you’ve got a no-nonsense performance jacket made to match the demands of the freeride crowd.
If there’s one feature of the Eiger that stands out among the rest, it’s durability. I’ve put the Eiger through weeks of use in all different conditions, almost always carrying a backpack, and it’s come out with nary a scuff on it. Today’s market for shell jackets seems increasingly focused on suppleness over rigidity. Though the Eiger might score on the stiffer end of that scale, it more than makes up for this with a simply bombproof construction that’s not going to let anything outside in.
If there’s any downside to the Eiger, it’s probably breathability. Its Gore-Tex laminate is rated at 28K waterproofing and 17K breathability, meaning that the jacket does better at keeping snow and rain out than it does at exhaling your sweat. When equipped with a warm mid-layer on a sunny-day ski tour or bootpack, this is a jacket you’re going to want to be shredding. But that’s a statement that applies to almost all 3L jackets out there. The two stretch-nylon patches on the shoulder blades do help to vent some excess heat from the back, convenient when carrying a pack, and also add a noticeable improvement in stretch across the shoulders.
If this jacket knows how to chill, it’s in its appearance. With mostly toned-down colors and simple patterns, Spyder has made subtlety the name of the game for its freeride-oriented apparel—a breath of fresh air in a sometimes overly flashy field.
Fit: The Eiger varies from more traditional close-cut body forms in favor of a roomier fit. Even so, the extra room comes more in the form of width than length. In the photos in this article I'm wearing a size Large, which fits me (178cm tall, 70kg) well with a looser fit that's still trim enough to not affect performance.
The Turret GTX Pant is one optional companion for the Eiger jacket; there’s also a bib version called the Nordwand GTX. The Turret pant includes many of the same features as the Eiger jacket: a hardy Gore-Tex laminate, Recco chip, and generous pockets. The single cargo pocket is perfect for stashing gloves. If there’s a pocket missing, it would be a back pocket for those accustomed to carrying a wallet for resort skiing.
Like the Eiger, the Turret is built to resist the elements and take a beating. The reinforced back sections of the cuffs means you won’t be walking your ski pants to death anytime soon—mine show only minimal fraying after a season of abuse.
The Turret GTX pant comes in six colors: Sun, Flare, Napa, Lagoon, Swell and Ebony.
The Turret’s waist gaiter is an interesting addition that takes a bit of getting used to. But if you’re not keen on getting snow down your pants after a tumble in powder, you’ll quickly be thankful for the gaiter, which when combined with the powder skirt on the jacket, makes for a very protected zone around the midriff. If you don’t want to wear bibs but still appreciate the extra protection, this is a welcome touch. A few extra details—belt loops, two utility loops, thigh ventilation zips and Velco waist adjusters—make the Turret a willing and able companion on your next freeride adventure.
Fit: Like the Eiger jacket, the Turret pants also sport a freeski-influenced fit that’s more roomy in length and width than your average snowpants. This is a style plus for many in the freeride scene; but just remember, baggy pants and crampons aren’t always the best combination!
In sum, the Eiger jacket and Turret pant show that Spyder isn't not fooling around when it comes to making top-line functional, but still fashionable, gear for committed freeriders. If you’re looking for gear that will do its job well, without making a fuss about it, this kit could fit the bill.