Let’s be realistic, it only takes one person shivering and miserable to bring an early end to your ski day. Also, transitions from slope to the lodge can pose a challenge, especially with kids. Too cold then too warm, where’s the happy medium?
With planning, everyone can stay warm, dry, and comfortable no matter how cold the temperatures or how hard they play. But some of us run cold and others naturally stay warmer. So, what is a surefire plan to keep yourself and your crew warm and toasty all day?
The answer is layering. With experimentation, you’ll dial in your perfect kit, but if this is your first ski trip, these tips will help you make sure you are set for success. I’ve also included a few suggestions worn by the Ski Utah crew.
In the simplest terms, layering is a technique using base, mid, and outer layers of clothing that can be added or subtracted as needed to maintain a comfortable body temperature. A key element is the base layer which not only warms you, but it also keeps you dry when you build up body heat, so you don’t get chilled when you slow down.
If you’re planning a ski holiday, don’t spend your budget on the biggest, bulky, jackets and pants you can find and expect to be comfortable. Instead, layer smartly which allows you to stay comfortable even when shifting from slopes to après ski around the fireplace.
The most important tip of this entire article is to select high-quality fabrics for your baselayer and to skip cotton entirely. This is the layer against your skin, it’s very important to get it right. The goal is to regulate temperature and wick away moisture.
Wool blends are an excellent choice for base layers because they help you regulate your temperature from high activity to slowing down. They also wick away moisture if you sweat. While wool costs a bit more, a quality set will last you years and deliver comfort the entire time.
Synthetic fabrics are another, more affordable, option. A few styles even include fleece linings, which is perfect for lower activity days when you don’t expect to sweat.
Pro-tip - If you do expect to play hard and sweat, make sure that your underwear is made from a high-quality moisture-wicking material as well. These aren’t your economy bag of briefs with produce on the label. Have a look at the Stio Basis Power Wool Boxers for example. Yes, they are an investment, but if you’re planning long high-output days, they prevent chafing and that’s worth a lot. At a minimum, remember that cotton is not your friend when things get sweaty down there. The same holds true for socks.
Do you run cold? Select a heavier-weight base layer such as the Stio Basis Midweight to give you a head start on warmth. You can always adjust the next two layers if you get too warm.
Conversely, if you typically run warm, plan to ski hard, or want to take your adventures into the backcountry, such as the Ski Utah Interconnect Tour, then choose a lighter weight base like the Basis Power Wool line designed for high-output cold-weather activities.
Baselayers should be fitted vs. baggy because you’ll wear other layers on top and don’t want them bunching up.
Adjust mid-layers depending on weather and activity level. Pack a mid-layer that will keep you warm in the coolest conditions expected, and then unzip or ditch it if you're too warm. An added bonus, mid-layers easily double as a light outer layer around town or in the lodge. They’re often long-sleeved, but vests are also a great option if you expect mild conditions.
Look for breathable fabrics such as down, synthetic fill, or fleece for your mid-layer. I also suggest using a zip-up which gives you options if you’re feeling a bit warm. For a sustainable, RDS (Responsibly Sourced Down) Certified option, this Pinion Down Sweater is ideal for layering. If you really want to keep your buns warm, grab a pair of the Furnos Insulated Knickers, they’re getting rave reviews from skiers who wear them as a mid-layer, or even alone. A highly versatile piece!
Because this layer fits on top of your base and under your outer layer, it shouldn’t be too bulky. This is why I love down pieces that insulate with minimal bulk, making them perfect mid-layers.
This layer is your defense against the elements. It blocks the wind and will keep snow off your other layers on storm days or if you fall or sit.
The goal here is water and wind resistance, plus breathability, much like a raincoat. The difference is in the insulation, fit, and ski-specific features such as snow skirts (they keep snow from pushing under the jacket when you fall).
When fitting this layer, make sure to leave room for base layer and mid-layers. Ideally try everything on together. Winter outerwear is designed with layering in mind, so your normal size should fit with room to spare.
Outerwear can be as minimal as a shell or can be insulated. Insulated is a safe bet if you’re unsure. The Doublecharge Insulated Jacket and Pants are good examples. They’re ideal for a typical resort ski day. If it’s a warm day, simply adjust your mid-layer.
Alternatively, if you know you’ll be playing hard and potentially working up a sweat, go for a lightly or un-insulated jacket and pants with features such as ventilation zips to help regulate your core temperature. The Environ Jacket and Pants are designed for high-energy days off-piste or in the backcountry.
Lastly, add gloves or mittens and a beanie and you have a clothing kit for all forms of snow play and around town as well. Note that mittens are warmer, but limit dexterity as a tradeoff. On a storm day, I also add a wool neck gaiter or balaclava, but find them too warm on other days.
As you prepare to play in The Greatest Snow on Earth®, remember that layering is the secret to staying comfortable and will make the difference between long fun days on the slopes vs hanging out indoors. Additionally, it will make the transitions from outdoors to indoors fast and seamless.
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