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Shoppin’ in the Hood, part 2

By G.D. Maxwell

Four more shopping days till the moment of truth. If you’re already finished it means you’re either (a) well organized, thoughtful, diligent and way ahead of the game – in which case I hate you – or (b) broke and hoping everyone buys that line about having donated money in their name to your favourite charity… you.

For the rest of you, welcome to the crunch. The best way to assuage your guilt about leaving things to the last minute is to go big.

Okay, Now We’re Talkin’

When you start looking in the $100 to $500 price range, we’re probably shopping for someone very, very special. Quite possibly yourself. What the heck, love the one you’re with.

If the kind people at Pique hadn’t brought me dragging and kicking into the world of digital photography, I probably would have done it myself… eventually. You’re probably not working for someone as nice so you’d better head on over to One Hour Photo and discover instant gratification for yourself. Enter the world of pixels for $290 with Fuji’s Finepix A200. It’s got a serviceable 2 megapixels – whatever they are – as does Nikon’s Coolpix 2500. More power, more features, $450. Rick will tell you, as he told me, to go over budget and spring for Canon’s PowerShot S30. At $700 it rightfully belongs in the final shopping category, but Rick’s a pretty persuasive guy. Oh yeah, and the camera’s way better with lots more megapixels and more computing power than most of NASA’s early space shots.

Or you can jump on another digital bandwagon, DVDs. Whistler Audio-Visual in Function can put you into a couple of Toshiba’s DVD players. The SG 3800 also has more computing power than the Mercury shuttle, progressive scan and that crisp picture and interactivity they tell me only DVD offers: $250 for a machine that was over a grand eight months ago. Other Toshiba models lower the price bar to $190, at which point, videotapes really begin to look like stone axes. If you’re a doer, not a watcher, they can also set you up with the latest XBox or Sony Playstation 2 consoles for around $350.

Almost next door, Zoomy’s got a nifty entry into the digital world too. The Logitech ClickSmart 510 is part see-Spot-run digital camera for snapping shots to e-mail to the folks back home who can’t believe we don’t have any snow, and part video-conferencing camera that sits neatly atop your computer. $250 will get you closer to Jetsonian video phoning. Also there, the Lexmark Z35 will print faster than you can imagine in black and white, but slip some of that shiny paper in it and it’ll do a nice job of the pics you take with your new digital camera: $139.

And while it’s not electronic, the geek on your list will really dig Victorinox’s cool blue Cyber Tool. A $115 Swiss Army computer tool with all the bits to turn a functioning computer into its component parts, the Cyber Tool’s available at Keir Fine Jewellery. While you’re there, look around. You can say it with flowers, but flowers die. Say it with jewelry. Keir has some way-cool baubles from the depths of geologic time. Necklaces, pendants, earrings and such from Alfred Cook marry 30,000 year old wooly mammoth ivory with ammolite to create pieces people want to touch: $120 for a loonie-size necklace and another $100 or so for a nice gold chain to hang it on. Or when your mountain mama really wants to do it in style, Dave’s got fancy. A freshwater pearl dangling below a pale-green peridot looks great as a set of earrings: $325.

Not exactly jewelry but not really gear, McCoo’s has a wall of funky watches. Nixon, who must have come out of political obscurity and death to make a line of watches, presents girls with the original moral dilemma: naughty or nice. Both the Naughty and Nice watch run $120; you choose. Or choose both. For the unapologetic neohippies among us, they also make the Rocker, part watch, all badass leather band about three inches wide. Ride the nostalgia for $150. On the other wrist, Suanto’s Observer is more gear than watch. Altimeter, lap counter, 99 day log, oh yeah, and watch, $380 will bring more structure to your life than you can imagine… but you’ll have to be looking at your wrist a lot.

It’s a lie that I’m so greedy I once hung a pair of waders on the mantelpiece for Santa to fill, but I still like large stockings. At Loral, stockings have been turned into art. Handmade from recycled, thriftshop fabric, whimsical Christmas stockings feature cross-stitched angels and Santas, baubles and beads and a touch of fur: $200. Penny Martyn’s Alpine series canisters also bring art and function together in ceramic forest scenes: $150 and up. And if you’re not living in staff housing, hammered iron wall sconces with delicate white tulip glass shades are $250 each and definitely look better in pairs. Or light the room with a rustic twig lamp: $224.

Better still, turn the lights down low, put the sexiest music on you own and jump in the Love Nest’s Original Bungee Sexperience. Firmly in the have-to-see-to-believe category, the Sexperience is a hang-from-the-ceiling, hardware not included harness, seat, whoopee swing. You and your amour du jour can experience weightless, free-floating love in as many kinky positions as you can dream up. $465 but think what you’ll save on a gym pass.

Okay, this is the price range where gear begins to get really good. For example, you can indulge your inner racer with state of the art skis… circa 1990. Fanatyk Co has, tucked behind the door, a pristine pair of Fischer RC4 full-on downhill skis for $299. If you think you’re still strong enough to wrestle a 223cm pair of shapeless skis down the Dave Murray, these are your ticket, complete with Salomon 900S bindings. Or just in case W-B reopens the mountain bike park, they also have a Dainese Multisport +2 armoured jacket in dress black: $370.

Wild Willies can put you into cross country gear in this range, which may be the ultimate act of faith. An entry level classic package with Fischer Summit Crown skis, boots, poles and binding will run $299. Or you can puff on shorter skate skis with a Peltonen Laser ski, Alpina boot, poles and binding for $450. Take your kids along with their own outfit, including Fischer Sprint Crown skis and the works for $200.

The accessories du jour – helmets and goggles – run up the walls and across the ceiling at McCoo’s. This is the price where goggle technology reaches its peak. Coated and mirrored lenses, superior optics, curved lenses with no discernible distortion at the edges, and much more comfy foam. Spy Comets are slender and sensuous with sunglass-technology, polycarbonate lenses for $109. And Smith’s Triad Spherical in the rose-copper lens is $140. Match either with the best-selling Giro 9 helmet, a shorty with removable earflaps for spring riding: $150. Or this year’s update, the Giro Fuse; same basic shell, better ventilation, better foam core: $220.

Escape Route’s got the cheapest way into the backcountry and back. Whistler’s own Yupi. Part snowshoe, part slidin’ machine, these $285 thinkin’ outside the box devices are a fun compromise. A step toward the rich gear of backcountry travel are Alpine Trekkers. Slip these $237 inserts into your downhill bindings and voilà, free heels for climbing uphill. Or you can start collecting the pieces and get into serious backcountry gear. Freeride bindings from Diamir lock into downhill mode or freeheel for skinning uphill: $459. You can couple Dynafit’s TLT all-terrain boot ($419) with their Tourlite Tech bindings ($459) and you’re nearly there. Slip on a pair of 90MM Deluxe Low-Fat climbing skins for $165, pack up the other gear – this is where that Dakine Heli Pro pack comes in handy; this year’s model in lots of colours’ll run you $115 at Sportstop – and head uphill.

Back in the valley, as much as we might fixate on gear, (wo)man does not live by gear alone. Edin Boutique has about the funkiest collection of faux fur vests imaginable. At their most sedate, these look like neolithic fashion statements with a crazy quilt of natural colours and textures. At the wild end of the spectrum, they are an acid trip of colour, with panels of rainbow stripes and hot aqua. $198 to put some fun fuzz in your life.

Across the way, Amos and Andes carry the acme of winter fashion. Skjæveland Norwegian sweaters, at least in this town, will pass for formal wear. These timeless wool sweaters with their pewter clasps, especially the version with red holiday trim, will start popping up everywhere in the next couple of days. Get your own for $300 and wear it forever.

Down the walk, Inside Out Boutique has what just might be the ultimate vamp bath robe. Yeah, yeah, lots of filmy lingerie but finally, you can lounge in a comfy warm robe – with no peakaboo bits – and still drive the man in your life into a frenzy of lust. From the Nick & Nora collection, the Oreos and Milk robe ($131) is a baby blue and striped number festooned with lots of luscious Oreos and glasses of milk. Talk about flamin’ a guy’s passions.

Finally, somewhere between clothing and gear, Warren Miller must be jumping for joy. There, on Wild Willies side wall, almost hidden from view, is Warren’s dream come true. Stretch ski pants are back, baby! Descente brings back the glamour of skiing with their Lark stretch pant. Hey, we’re talkin’ stirrups here. In form-fitting basic black of course, relive the glory days of skiing for $390. While you’re there, check out what might be the world’s most expensive gloves. Reusch has married don’t-mess-with-me racing team coach gauntlets with high tech in their AIS – alpine information system – gloves. $350 gets you gloves and a very techie stop watch, lap timer, altimeter, etc., that fits into the right wrist at a jaunty angle so you can read your splits on the way down the track. Oooooh.

Just Passing Through the Neighbourhood, Thanks

Okay, this is where the big dogs live. From $500 to whatever, things trend toward sublime. The tech is higher, the touch is more handcrafted, and the gear is generally what we save like crazy for or just hope we find in the demo rack without much wear and tear. In honour of the nature of this category – and showing considerable restraint if I do say so myself – let’s start at the top and work our way back down.

I couldn’t find a Porsche SUV at Mountain Motors and even if I could, they’d know better than to let me take it for a spin. So no cars. But considerably more expensive than any car I’ve ever owned – and for my money way more worth it – is NEC’s 50" fifteen-thousand buck plasma television down at Whistler Audio-Visual.

The first time I saw a plasma TV the price was pushing 25 thou and only a quick hammer lock applied by my Perfect Partner kept me from goin’ home with one. It would’a taken the cheque a week to bounce. Plasma TVs have to be seen to be believed. Their picture is almost three-dimensional and with a good digital feed, sharp enough to cut. This one supports more kinds of input than I understand but takes up less real estate in your living room than a 13" black and white. Six inches thick and hangable. Soon, my pretty, soon.

If the reality of your finances means compromise, the 27" Sony flat screen in the next room just screams compromise. It’ll be the last standard TV you’ll ever buy and at $800 will keep you happy until plasma becomes as mainstream as colour. Hook it up to Crazy Rob’s steal of a deal on Sony’s DAVS 500 home theater in a box for $650 and it’ll feel like you’re ridin’ shotgun next time the Dukes of Hazzard come on. DVD/CD, five speakers, thumpin’ subwoofer. Imagine what it’d look like hooked up to that… stop torturing yourself.

I don’t have a house to put it in but there are plenty around town it’d look perfect in. Sabina Hill and Corrine Hunt are an artist/architect collaboration out of Vancouver. Their ovoid Raven coffee table at Daily Planet blends art and design in an exquisite marriage. On a hand-rubbed cherry wood base, a plasma-cut, buffed stainless steel Haida raven totem has been stretched over a buffed copper underlay. It drapes around both ends and one edge of the table, which itself is two tables split at about 70/30 of the oval. The flexibility afforded by this design, the unique blending of materials, the iconic imagery and the stunning craftsmanship of its execution, make it seem like a steal at $5,100. Check out the pair’s wall hangings while you’re there. Same theme, same materials, under $1,000.

At Tricia Guiguet Interior Design in Function Junction, a very skilled artisan has crafted a chest of drawers. Using the rich but simple grain of B.C. alder and clean lines, the four-drawer chest is accented on the vertical and horizontal edges with a thin trace of the wood’s bark that’s been left on and polished. Round spool drawer pulls on nicely crafted, spacious drawers, repeat the theme with bark still attached to their outer edges: $2,195. Also there, an iron and steel chandelier with a prowling bear circling a pine tree centre sports four candle-like lights and screams Whistler home: $1,200.

Next door at Nostalgic Living and Whistler Design, Debbie Evans has low, broad coffee tables made from antique sleighs. Reclaimed pine boards, smoothed and polished to a rich patina form the tabletops between preserved sleigh runners, some with sweeping front bows, some ending near the tabletop. From $1,395 to $1,895.

Having won the right to clothe Canada’s national ski team, Spyder is showing up everywhere this year. At $1,300, Spyder’s SCC men’s jacket at Whistler Village Sports isn’t anywhere near hardcore, but if your core’s gotten a bit softer over the years and your lunches at Christine’s have gotten a little longer, this high-tech, soft touch jacket might be your ticket to comfort on the mountains. If your skiing leaves you thirsty, Spyder’s Monashee at a hundred bucks less is a full-on shell with zip out inner jacket. It’s neatest tricks are a built-in hydration system and an unexpected flexible temperature gauge fused into the jacket’s inside.

But the award for most tricked-out jacket has to belong to Oakley. Oakley? Drop into McCoo’s and check out the Radiator. The outer shell, in black and a light green, is deceptively nondescript, almost pedestrian. Waterproof, breathable – everything is – it’s the inner jacket that’ll blow your mind. Part Dune, part Predator, the full inner jacket inflates through a handy tube that hides in its own sleeve and disappears under the collar. Inflated, it surrounds you with, what else, dead air and gives you the cut look of an alien powerlifter. $1,100 and you may void the warranty trying to turn the inner jacket into a hydration system by filling it with vodka. Think about the boost to your badass image wearing the inflated inner jacket with Oakley’s Medusa, a leather hat with S&M like tresses: $700, same store.

Speaking of badass, you can make a statement standing in the Peak Chair liftline sporting his and hers Atomic Big Daddy and Sugar Daddy skis. Part downhill, part waterski, these wide boards are guaranteed not to fit in any gondola ski rack not designed for snowboards. The graphics say "you go, boy" and the price, $1,200 and $1,100 respectively, includes binding systems. At Sportstop and elsewhere.

At the centre of the backcountry universe, Escape Route, you can finish your quest for untracked powder. If you board, you’ve got to consider Prior’s Split Decision. Throw a couple of levers and this board becomes two boards suitable for skinning up slopes. Throw ’em again, and you’re surfing by the pool. This much flexibility’ll run you $1,040 but Andrew’s feature will convince you it’s the way to go.

But if you’re determined to keep your feet apart, tuck your tootsies in Denali’s Scarpa randonée boot ($535) click ’em into a pair of K2’s Work Stinx and head for Overlord Traverse, weather and snowpack permitting. Or go whole hog for freeheeling with a pair of Crispi CXP boots – men’s or women’s $599 – and Tua’s Big Easy teles: $635. Life ain’t all downhill.

Without reservation, the coolest thing in crossover gear this year is Salomon’s X-Adventure package. It’s not a downhill ski but it has shape to burn, torsional rigidity and sharp steel edges. It’s not a classic cross-country ski but it has fishscale bottoms. And it’s not a skate ski, although at 145cm you can certainly skate it. This thing’s a new category. The $900 package at Wild Willies includes the skis, a pair of hard composite snowshoes built for climbing and boots that’ll work in both. Create your own sport once you figure out all the places this gear will take you.

For a guy who doesn’t shop, I’m blown away by what’s out there. Whether you go small or go over the top, somewhere in this unlikely town, some hard workin’, independent spirit probably has exactly what you’re looking for. The range of gifts for gearheads is unparalleled, of course. But you can furnish a home both humble and grandiose; you can bejewel a lover, clothe an army, feed a hungry spirit and do it all without taking your hard-earned bucks down valley to the big smoke. So think nice thoughts about your neighbours and look around town – whatever you want is in your own back yard, Dorothy.

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