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Ski Gear Review: Orion Packs offers perfect solution for in-bounds hiking

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Skiers at Alta Ski Area in Utah have long joked about the "great skiing and lifts that almost get you to it." While in-bounds hiking has been a staple at Alta for decades, hike-to-terrain has been a growing trend. From Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands opened in 2002 to chutes at Breckenridge Resort on Peak 6 opened this season, resort skiers are boot-packing their way to new heights more often.

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Originally introduced by Orion Packs at the 2013 Snowsports Industries America Snow Show, the Archer pack ($100) makes sense for resort skiers looking for a better way to hike with skis. Prosper Wang of Littleton, Colo., recently tested the Archer in his home state.

Prosper Wang- Ski Gear Tester:

On first inspection, I noticed how well the pack is constructed and the attention to detail. The frame is stiff plastic to distribute the load evenly and hold the skis securely. The material and construction feel bombproof. The back pocket unzips completely but has a bathtub floor to prevent items from falling out when opened. It is large enough to fit a down jacket or a water bottle and brown bag lunch. The front waist-belt pockets will carry some small items.

While the pack overall feels stiff, it is very comfortable when worn. The skis are held very securely and close to the back, so they have very little unintentional movement. It was extremely comfortable with or without skis. With skis attached to the pack, the weight was so well-distributed that the extra weight was barely noticeable. After hiking with the loaded pack for 30 minutes, I was equally impressed. While it looks a little unusual, for in-bounds hiking, this pack really hits the mark."

The standard Archer ski pack does not have dedicated storage space for an avalanche probe and shovel, so it would not be suited to uncontrolled backcountry terrain. However, Orion's snowboard pack, the Method ($150), does have space for such equipment. A Method snowboard pack designed for women ($110) is already available. A women's variation of the Archer ski pack is slated to be released this year. Orion's product line may be purchased through the company website.

Disclaimer: An Orion pack was provided for the purposes of testing.

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