The most recent storm had been accompanied by winds up to 98 mph, which had thankfully calmed down to a mere 20-30 mph as we worked our way up the exposed ridge toward our ski objective for the day. When we crested a rise, there it was before us, or rather, should have been, but all the snow had apparently been blown to Kansas and we were left staring at a rocky, windswept basin. At least I’d been comfortable on the way up wearing the redesigned Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket.
Softshells are all the rage, and are great when I’m out for a jaunt on my own time, but when I’m working in the backcountry in the winter, I prefer to have a bomber hardshell. No matter what conditions I encounter, I know I’ll be prepared. The Alpha SV is the top-of-the-line hardshell from Arc’teryx, updated this year to be stronger and lighter. I’ve used the Alpha SV numerous days this season, guiding backcountry skiing as well as for a few days of ice climbing (before it all fell down anyway.)
The GORE-TEX Pro outer shell combines burliness with breathability, and thanks to generous under arm pit zips, it’s easier to dump heat than you first expect when you put it on. On cold days I’ve kept it on for short uphill skins (20-30 minutes), and by opening all the vents I was able to stay comfortable on the ascents. The fabric definitely feels “crinkly,” but that’s the tradeoff for the durability. The chest pockets ride well above a harness and are easy to access, there is also one internal stash pocket, and another small internal zippered pocket.
I only got a few days ice climbing in it, given our unusually warm winter. The rock in Redstone is notoriously abrasive, and I did my best to scrape and drag my way up a few iced-up chimneys, but the jacket was no worse for the wear. The hood fits easily over a climbing helmet and had no problem covering up my ski helmet as well, with the tall collar easily zipping shut to seal out the badness on the most blustery and snowy days. I find the arms are a great length and don’t fall down my wrists when reaching overhead to swing my tools.
As the highest-end jacket made by one of the premium alpinist clothing companies in the world, it ain’t cheap at $749. If you spend many days each season in hard conditions, it’s worth considering as your workhorse shell that will be your constant companion for years to come.
Fit: I’m 6’2”, 170 and a large was a good fit, I’d say it runs standard to other Arc’teryx jackets.
Weight: 490 g / 1 lb 1.3 oz
Ideal Uses: Ice Climbing, Alpine Climbing, Ski Mountaineering
More info and tech specs can be found on the Arc’teryx website.