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It's an impressive array of features and the materials and construction step up to match the rest of the highlights. Zippers are burly and don't require thread-the-needle precision – a blessing with gloves on – and are positioned so sucking fabric into the pull isn't a concern. The removable hood is a nice feature for skiers and riders who prefer to protect their domes with a helmet, as the hood is cut too trim for over-the-top coverage.
Hi-Tec designed the Sandstone Peak as an all-in-one solution, and the multi-layer piece can cover just about any conditions, just not all at once. For resort skiing on a cold day, the shell combined with the insulating liner is perfect on the lifts and moderate exertion. But hit the moguls or head for a boot-pack and the insulation quickly becomes too much. In Utah's 2012 balmy version of "winter," the outer shell with a light fleece underneath was a much more versatile combo.
And since the Sandstone Peak is really two jackets combined – the insulating puffy is the company's 550-fill power Alpine Start Parka – it's no surprise that each half has its strong suits. The star is the shell, which locked out sopping wet snow for hours and wouldn't allow defrosting lift chairs to soak through the back, an Achilles heel for some hard shells costing many times more.
While not as versatile, the down liner was a capable insulator and kept the wind out, making it perfect by itself for bluebird days. The fabric seemed capable of repelling a short drizzle, but wouldn't be up for an all-day deluge.
On their own, each of the layers has an athletic fit, though predictably, when combined there's a bit of a bulky feel. The jackets do interface seamlessly thanks to zip-in connection in front and simple but effective button loops on the sleeves.
A few small quibbles: The cuffs are just narrow enough to make it tough to fit over the gauntlet of a glove, but bulky enough when the jackets are combined to make the opposite setup tough, too. A little more of a drop-tail would be nice for added coverage in the back, but the narrow cut and draw string enclosure did an admirable job keeping powder out. The shell's thoughtful interior pocket and headphone cord loop for iPods isn't accessible with the insulating layer zipped in and the puffy lacks internal zippered pockets to stash a cell phone in the warmth.
The Sandstone Peak really is two jackets in one, and the strengths of each shine brightest when used alone. Together, the layers are perfect for a cold-blooded camper or resort skiers confined to groomers in the middle of winter. For everyone else, it's two technical pieces that can be combined for only the very worst conditions. (MSRP $280)
Alex Strickland was born and raised in possibly the least mountainous and outdoorsy city in America – Memphis, Tenn. Despite the lack of trails and people to enjoy them with, he became a hiker, mountain biker and runner. Today, he's traded up for the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and added skiing to the mix, once someone explained what snow was.
A former newspaper editor in small-town Montana, Strickland enjoys freelance writing and photography for publications around the Mountain West and sharing his love for the outdoors through his work.
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