January 25, 2022
It’s finally dropping.
Meet our new Apex Backcountry Ski Collection, a limited-edition ski touring line that’s got us more excited than a powder day (okay, almost as excited).
This collection blends innovative fabrics, modern lines, and deep backcountry heritage – along with some vintage surprises. We sat down with MEC Label designers to find out why we think you’ll dig what it’s all about.
The big idea behind Apex
Our goal for this collection was to bring MEC’s return to the mountain to life. To kick it off, a small crew of devoted backcountry skiers from the MEC Label team combed through stacks of old MEC catalogues. Their goal? Select a shortlist of classic backcountry touring products we could transform into the best technical outdoor gear of today.
The early 1990s catalogs were a treasure trove – colour-blocking was prime, gear was loaded with practical features, and fat skis hit the scene for the first time.
“The pieces we chose to redesign for the Apex Backcountry Ski Collection are examples of authentic, time-tested products,” says Adam, MEC’s Chief Product Officer. “With modern updates, they enable the same spirit of mountain celebration and personal expression we saw in the 1990s, but with the technical design standards of 2022.”
To celebrate our roots, each piece has a special label hidden inside with the story of the original product that inspired it.
Apex Icefield Jacket
The technology behind stormproof jackets has exploded since the Icefield jacket first graced the pages of our 1990s catalogues. To create the new Apex Icefield Jacket, MEC Label designer Nicole took cues from the originals, then reimagined it from the fabric up.
“The biggest update is the material,” says MEC Label designer Nicole. “The MEC Apex Icefield is 3-layer construction with an electrospun polyurethane membrane instead of a traditional waterproof-breathable membrane. This gives incredible breathability when you’re working hard. It also has fully taped seams and offers the same level of waterproofness rating as MEC DriBase tent floors.”
Electrospinning is a newer innovation in the world of outdoor apparel. To picture how it works, imagine a membrane made of layers of super fine nanofibres, like a microscopic plate of spaghetti. The space between the nanofibres is small enough for air to pass through, but not big enough for water to get through. It also makes the fabric feel lighter (not crunchy) and prevents you from feeling clammy.
Of course, the fabric wasn’t the only update. MEC jackets used to have flaps covering the zippers, since watertight zippers hadn’t been invented yet. The Apex Icefield now has watertight AquaGuard® zips, along with glued cuffs to minimize the number of stitch lines to create a more watertight package.
“The Apex Backcountry Ski Collection is pretty unique, since it mixes heritage-inspired designs with really innovative materials.” – Nicole, MEC Label designer
Like the Icefield Jacket, these bib pants got a major fabric upgrade from their 1991 predecessor. One thing we did keep? The Salopettes name; it’s French for (you guessed it) bib pants.
Something we think skiers will love about these pants is the mix of materials. The upper bib section is the same highly breathable electrospun membrane as the Apex Icefield Jacket, as you’ll be shedding heat in that zone. On the legs, we’ve used sturdy 3-layer Pertex Shield, since that’s the section knee-deep in snow.
The Apex Salopettes are perfectly paired with the Apex Icefield Jacket. Overlaying zippers are all designed to be in the correct spots, and the modern silhouette carries through from top to bottom.
“These are highly functional products that can really perform in different environments: high-output needs for breathability, temperature changes for cold or wet weather, durability and packability.” – Adam, MEC Chief Product Officer
Apex St. Elias Expedition Down Parka
Our warmest and most packable backcountry parka feels as toasty as a sleeping bag because it takes design principles from a sleeping bag. When the MEC Label team set out to reinvent the St. Elias Parka from the 1992 MEC catalogue, they applied equipment advancements to apparel.
“Like a sleeping bag, this parka has offset box baffle construction to minimize cold spots,” says Nicole. “It also has water-resistant Pertex® Endurance coated materials where you need it (hood, shoulders, cuffs and back panel), similar to how sleeping bags use coated materials at the head and footbox.”
The 800-fill is ridiculously warm. The parka is made to be a shelter piece, perfect as insulation on lunch stops while touring, staying as comfortable as possible while belaying on drippy ice, and hunkering down on alpine routes.
MEC staffer and climbing product expert Graham had the chance to try it out for some winter bouldering sessions in Squamish, BC. “Even though it was about -12°C with the windchill, the St. Elias was super warm when I wore it between attempts. We needed a mini propane heater to keep our hands warm and the rock was so dry it was almost slippery, but I couldn’t feel the cold at all with the St. Elias on.”
Apex Weeping Wall Backpack
“Funny story – I actually bought a vintage Weeping Wall pack years ago, way before we decided to create the Apex collection,” says Joel, the MEC Label designer behind the Apex Weeping Wall. “When I had the chance to update this pack, I couldn’t wait to find ways to tweak the design to make it even better.”
We kept the minimalist ethos, daisy chains and of the heritage pack, which was called “state-of-the-art for skiing and climbing” in our 1992 catalogue. To modernize it for today’s ski tourers, the Apex Weeping Wall has new essential features: a bottom loop for a diagonal ski/board carry, a full-length YKK AquaGuard® zipper for easy access, and a dedicated snow safety gear pocket for probes, shovels and skins.
A huge innovation for this pack is the fabric. Spectra® material is incredibly durable and stronger than steel, pound for pound – this pack is built to last. Who knows? Maybe thirty years from now, a future MEC designer will pick up a vintage version of the 2022 Apex Weeping Wall to keep the legacy going.
It’s an awesome feeling to see the twin peaks on MEC backcountry gear again, and to launch a new line that’s inspired by our legacy and geared toward human-powered adventures. We can’t wait to see them all in action.