Editors’ Choice: The Best Backpacking and Ski Gear of Winter 2019

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Storm in Banff National Park

Tester Stephen Sebestyen secures his skis on the Freshfield Icefield. 

When the guides get wide-eyed, you know you’re in a special place. That’s exactly what happens on our third day on the Freshfield Icefield: after descending from our basecamp that morning, we round a ridge and ascend to an overlook. The view is an all-timer, with the Freshfield extending in a white sheet down the valley and jumbled, snowy peaks filling the skyline. None of our three guides from Yamnuska Mountain Adventures has been here before—unlike the popular Wapta Icefield to the south, the Freshfield is rarely visited—so this is all new to them, too. “I want my ashes scattered here,” one says.

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It hadn’t always been smiles and sunshine on the Freshfield. Two days prior, a few hours after we helicoptered over an unending parade of peaks into our camp on the far western border of Banff National Park, a storm blew in. And not just any storm: This was an event, with 70-mph winds and blinding snow that kept us tentbound for a full night and day. The 11 of us huddled in our cook tent, chattering to keep our unease at bay as gust after gust rattled the shelter. What if our tents blow away? we worried. But also: This is awesome testing weather.

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