Our long serving brand ambassador Felix Lai has been helping us develop and prototype our Mark V Shell suit for a couple of years now. We asked him to tell his story behind the creation of our very first single membrane shell suit, which is available now.
I have been guiding in the backcountry of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido for the last 5 seasons. My love for nature and untouched snow has led me to summit some of the iconic volcanic mountains in the region including Mount Yotei, Asahidake and Rishiri. While northern Japan’s mountains are not famed for their height, the harsh winter conditions demand the best in commitment and tenacity both in the mind and in the gear used. The genesis of the Oneskee backcountry suit originated from the desire to have an expedition grade full body seal from the environment and the super dry ‘Japow’ that is on every snow rider’s dream list.
The Oneskee Mark V Shell suit was first conceptualized in a café by Tower Bridge in London after three years of skiing in the Oneskee Mark II, III, and IV suits. The idea of a one-piece suit for skiing powder is a no brainer. For most backcountry skiers, we hike to access incredible landscapes in search of perfect untouched conditions. We enjoy the ‘uphilling’ and the ‘downhilling’ of skiing and snowboarding. The need for a suit that is comfortable for the climb, and the durability of all the materials for the repeated adjustments of our gear transitioning from climb to downhill mode are the main objectives of the Oneskee Mark V Shell suit. Mostly it needs to be good enough to survive the 3 months long powder guide’s life.
The prototype suit was then tested on the Tokachi volcanic mountain range and the surrounding Daisetsuzan National Park during the winter season of 2019-2020. To make it a real-life situational test, a mixture of resort and side country skiing were included along with big lines in the back country. It was a season with the most variable of conditions unlike the quintessential endless top up of powder in previous years, making this a perfect season for testing. The suit was worn unwashed for 82 days of skiing with 80% BC vs 20% lift access skiing. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the BC suit was even tested in an avalanche this season without any adverse outcome. Although the prototype suit was eventually washed and DWR treated in April for its final week-long test in the boat accessed back country of Greenland, the pandemic has derailed this final outing.
As a shell suit, all the insulation has been stripped out to yield a snow proof suit that is ideal for layering. Avoiding excessive sweating even in -25⁰C of northern Japan is key to comfort for the multi hour long climbs in snow or gusty wind. The waist diameter is adjusted by the built-in waist loops, combining with the internal braces, the lower half of the suit can be raised to allow for freedom of movement whilst climbing or dropped to steazy low rise ski/board mode for downhill. On ridiculously cold days on a windy ridge line or at the summit, the first thing I do before transitioning from climb to ski mode was to put on my oversized puffer jacket over everything. The Oneskee managed to dry out mostly by the time we have skied to the bottom of the mountain.
On a good day, the depth of the Japanese snow can warrant a post ride ‘jacket shake’ to get rid of any snow collected during the ride whether you have fallen or not. This habit will soon be forgotten in the Oneskee. With a bum zip, multiple pockets and heat dumping vents strategically placed to allow for air bag backpack shoulder/chest/waist/groin straps placements, accessibility and ease of use formed the design criterion. Whilst I have seen more one-piece suits on the mountain in the past few seasons, some are serious entries, some are more comedic, the Oneskee is definitively one for the function conscious and style uncompromising skier or snowboarder looking for an all-round suit for back country freeriding, to layering up when chilling on a chair lift on the way to some groomed perfection.
Huge thanks to Felix for his work in making this product a reality, go check out his Instagram pages here: