All ski socks are not created equal. Just ask Josh Hall, president and design lead for Dissent Labs, the ski sock and baselayer company he launched out of Pemberton, British Columbia about five years ago. Hall and the rest of the Dissent Labs crew are committed to making the best medical-grade graduated compression ski socks around. He didn’t get into the business to strike it rich, he did it to make ski socks that met his touring demands and that he knew would be a game-changer for bootfitters, pros and anyone who’s had a powder day ruined by blisters or cold feet.
“I would be the guy stopping on the skin track about an hour-and-a-half into the day and re-taping my heels and ankles,” Hall says. “After years of doing that, I tried out some medical-grade compression socks and they were by far the best thing I had tried. So, I started going down the rabbit hole to see what was possible. How the compression construction, an improved fit and specific materials could together improve your chances of having the best possible day in your boots.”
With a degree in kinesiology, a passion for skiing and a disdain for feet that look like mangled hamburger meat after a daylong slog, Hall began working on his first prototype, testing them in and around Whistler back in 2010. Flash-forward to 2016—top bootfitters and pros like Stan Rey, Eric Hjorleifson and KC Deane swear by Dissent Labs socks.
“In my 20 years working in the industry with ski boots, I’ve never run into a ski sock like the ones from Dissent,” Surefoot Whistler Store Manager Sam McDonald says. “It is really refreshing to have a sock that isn’t built by an engineer or a marketing company thinking this is what people should use or this is what people will buy. Instead, Josh [Hall] is building things that work incredibly well for people that ski every day and then adapting it to the retail market.”
“Some of my other sponsors give me their socks, but I wouldn’t ever go back to a regular ski sock,” Rey says. “I am super sold on these Dissent Labs socks—I really like them.”
“It’s crazy—now I don’t wear any other socks other than Dissent’s,” Deane says. “On a day-to-day basis all I wear is Dissent, even when I’m not skiing.”
Using materials like friction-eliminating Nanoglide Teflon/PTFE yarn and a Merino wool that doesn’t lose its shape when wet, the hallmark of all Dissent Labs socks is they will stay locked onto your foot all day long without bunching or slipping.
“Our socks might be boring to some people because they don’t have crazy patterns or colors, but at the end of the day the people that care get it,” Hall says. “We are making a product that is just as technical as your outerwear or your skis or bindings.”
Dissent Labs isn’t the only brand using graduated compression to enhance ski socks, but its manufacturing process is one aspect that sets them apart from the rest. Each sock is painstakingly produced in a medical-grade facility complete with a test mule and machines that are set to run slower to ensure the desired construction and un-compromised fit that have become Dissent Labs’ calling card.
To further set Dissent Labs apart from others making ski socks, the brand’s location allows them to continually improve the product. Headquartered in Pemberton, the Dissent team logs hundreds of ski days testing socks in nearby Whistler every season.
“There are so many pros on the Dissent team out on the mountain all day, every day,” Deane says. “We can find weaknesses in the product so much faster because we’re skiing six to seven days a week. We’ll bring our feedback to Josh [Hall] and he’ll adjust the weave or try a different material. So, by the time the socks hit the stores, I’ve usually logged 150-plus days in them and they’ve really dialed in that final product.”
“Josh [Hall] is really open to feedback which is huge,” McDonald says. “If I have a problem with a product, I tell him and you see a change in that product within three months and that’s not something you see out of the big brands.”
Despite a horde of brand evangelists, the finest materials and a meticulous manufacturing process, Dissent Labs isn’t touting the miracle effects of their medical-grade graduated compression. While the competition claims improved blood flow and quicker recovery time, Hall is reticent to do so.
“I think some of the claims are legitimately true and science will prove it,” Hall says. “But every foot is different and that’s why we don’t hang our hat on the compression story alone. Compression was really just a means to an end to achieve the best fit and make the best product for bootfitters, backcountry skiers and anyone looking for an all-day, consistent ski sock.”
But that’s not stopping others from praising the benefits of Dissent Labs’ compression.
“I used to have so much trouble with socks—I always had cold feet and I would just chew through socks all season long,” Deane says. “But the Dissent compression keeps the circulation going and helps my feet to really stay warm. They’re all I’ll ever wear.”