Gear Review |

Gear Review

In Aspen we love to talk about what truly makes us locals.Forget hidden powder stashes, cheap offseason eats and priority in the local housing lottery – I found true local status (or at least the appearance of it) a month ago at REI in Denver. It was the purchase of my first-ever down jacket, a Marmot brand “black puffy coat.”At the time of purchase, the color “cinnabar” was in the running, as was the brand that was more expensive by $70 – The North Face. But instead, I left the store with a $130 on-sale, polyester black 700-fill puffy coat with a rolled-up hood in the collar. My life is forever changed.

I’ll get technical for a moment: It’s obvious why people wear these during Aspen winters. They are filled with goose down separated into chambers of various shapes and sizes – to ensure that the down never shifts, creating cold spots. The fill count tells you just how puffy your coat is. Snowflakes bounce right off these jackets, and the inside of the coat feels like warm pillows.Locals who wear puffy coats are operating with the knowledge that it’s the warmest thing they could be wearing. Stylewise it can be dressed up or down, matches with virtually anything (as long as you chose black over, say, cinnibar), and ultimately is the emblem of a year-round resident of the mountains.Once I started wearing mine, people began treating me like I belonged here. It’s a hard phenomenon to describe, but everyone I approached that week on the street in pursuit of some quotes for an article smiled at me and gave thoughtful answers. Maybe it’s because I looked so squeezable, but it’s probably the allure of local knowledge.

A final benefit to the puffy coat was pointed out to me during X Games weekend, as some friends and I squeezed through the crowd in Wagner Park gathering to watch The Roots’ concert. Because of the jacket’s smooth exterior, I glided through tight spots without a second thought. “You don’t have to worry about rubbing up against strangers when you’re wearing that puffy coat,” a friend said. And he was right. Insulation from the cold, the look of being locally savvy, and the ability to slide through crowds quickly without being groped? That’s my kind of coat.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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