When you think about your “ski gear”, do you think about your skis, boots, and maybe even your poles? Well, don’t neglect the other critical pieces of your “gear” that shelter your body from the winter elements. After all, if you aren’t dry, warm, and comfortable out there on the slopes, it doesn’t matter what kind of skis or boots you have.
For many years now, “layering” has been the recommended way to dress for a day on the slopes and most outdoor winter activities. Layering offers flexibility for changing weather conditions and is the best way to protect you from harsh winter weather. So what do those “layers” consist of?
The layer closest to your skin should do several things. It should be able to move moisture from perspiration way from your skin, dry quickly so you don’t get chilled and possibly provide warmth or insulation. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “cotton kills” you probably chuckled but there really is something to it. Cotton fibers actually absorb moisture, take a long time to dry and cause you to feel chilled. Quality base layers that work best are synthetic, wool, or silk. Base layers come in a variety of weights so that you can choose the best option for your specific activity and personal preferences. There is usually a tradeoff between how quickly a fabric will wick (spread moisture out), dry, and how much warmth it provides. Your local retailer can assist you in determining which base layer will work best for you.
After you have your base layer selected, the mid-layer should provide warmth or insulating properties. Fleece, wool, and lightweight insulators are ideal as a mid-layer. These mid-layers also come in a variety of weights so that you can choose the best pieces based on your activity, the weather, and personal preferences. If you always tend to be chilly, select a warmer mid-layer. Be sure to consider what you wear as your outer layer. If you typically wear an insulated outer layer, you may not need much warmth from your mid-layer. If you wear an uninsulated outer layer, there are probably days when you will want the warmest mid-layer you can find to fit comfortably under your outer shell. Low profile down and synthetic insulated mid-layers are very popular right now and serve a dual purpose as a great jacket to wear around town when you don’t need the wind and waterproofness from an outer shell.
The next layer of your “ski gear” needs to be weatherproof- wind and water repellent but also breathable so that you don’t build up moisture on the inside. Gore-Tex is a well known fabrication that provides a great combination of weatherproofness but there are tons of other good fabric options. Typically a permanent coating applied to the underside of the fabric is what makes it weatherproof. Manufacturers of most technical garments then tape the underside of the seams, at least in critical areas, so that there is no leakage through the seams. Most outdoor apparel manufacturers test their fabrics for breathability and waterproofness and provide that information on the hangtags of a garment. Also consider whether your outer layer should be insulated or an uninsulated shell. Ask your sales associate to help you determine what options will best meet your needs.
Now that you have put together the perfect outfit for your day on the slopes, get out there and enjoy your other gear-your new skis and boots!