Which brings up one more thought on the Quantum. I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a place on the slopes for a moderately priced, full-on hard shell. A friend of mine skis in the Quantum because he can’t stand the idea of being wet, but he admits he always has his underarm vents open to avoid the clambake. (And when you think about it, how “waterproof” is that when a powder fall fills you up like the Ninth Ward?) Skiing primarily in Taos, it would never occur to me to doubt the Higgins water repellency vis a vis the Quantum, since New Mexico powder is about the lightest and driest you’re going to find.
FlyLow sizing worked out well for me. At 5’10”, 170, I have a history of buying Medium shells that look good in the shop but feel like a straightjacket when I need to layer beneath them. FlyLow sizing runs on the large side, and the Medium Higgins, although a slimmer cut than the Quantum, perfectly accommodates my “six pack gone rogue,” alone or with insulating adjuncts.
The color that caught my eye was orange, but this is no ordinary Jack-O-Lantern. It’s nuanced and understated, but still bold, just what you would expect from an outfit called FlyLow; I’m no colorist, but you could think of it as ‘Tuscan brick shit-house with coral undertones.’ I put it on and compliments flowed, and not just from the paid sales staff. (Of course, a buddy was less kind: “That color does not exist in nature; or maybe it does: salmon meat.”)
I was warned, and here pass it along to the reader, that the Higgins does harbor a potential shortcoming; it lacks the detachable powder skirt that graces the FlyLow Quantum. Instead, it has “powder snaps” that marry it to your Magnums (or other pant loops.) It occurred to me that I could just cut out a skirt from any old shell in my closet and sew it in. It was then I discovered that no shell I currently own has a powder skirt. A non-issue, I guess, for me.
My first early season Higgins outing at Taos was bitter cold and windy on the ridge above Juarez. Whether on the chair or in ridgetop view-contemplating mode, the Higgins rebuffed all inclemencies, although I could feel some minor air leakage on the GS portion of each run. In serious action, though, the Higgins, like its namesake, is a perfect invisible sidekick. No balking. Every idea is a good one. Get down.. fly low.. I can see what they’re getting at.
Later in the day, I was baked enough to reach for the pit zips. Sorry to report, as with all shells I ever inhabited, I still can’t always operate these vents on my own without substantial disrobing or danger of muscle cramps. Is it socially acceptable to ask a stranger for help with this somewhat personal task? When you’re wearing FlyLow, the populist brand, I can report that the answer is Yes.