Dressed To Chill – A Guide to Ski & Snowboard Clothing

With the nights now reaching the point where they start long before we leave the office; and most greetings including the words ‘cold’, ‘chilly’ or ‘Baltic’; it can only mean one thing – snow is on its way and we should be gearing up for the ski season!

The 80s – Too cool for
practicality…or anything
else really

Obviously when it comes to ski and snowboard attire, the styles and fashions are as varied as any high street; yet considering temperatures in some mountain ranges can be a staggering -30C and below; many people still take a very laissez-faire approach to what they put beneath that lovely Spyder/Oakley/Mountain Hardware jacket and pants combo. To those who find themselves wearing 6 or 7 layers on the slopes, just think; if you can get away with wearing 2 layers down to 0C at home; do we really need to triple this to keep warm once the snow falls?

The simple answer is ‘no’ – Dressing in a carefully structured set of four key layers can completely transform your comfort and performance when out skiing or snowboarding; keeping you warm whilst removing the hassle and restriction of regular clothing. Set up correctly they allow your skin to breathe, whilst simultaneously trapping the vital layers of air that keep you insulated from your icy surroundings. Today we’ve put together a ‘Ski Layering For Dummies’ breakdown of the five various layers that will keep you on your feet and in the snow this Winter:

1) The Base-Layer

The first layer you will need to wear is your long underwear (a shirt and pants). Old “long-johns” made out of cotton, wool, or flannel will not keep you comfortable on the slopes. Instead, breathable thermal under-layers that wick perspiration away from your body and eliminate that cold, clammy feeling are excellent (T-shirts can be especially bad for this, so take note). Check out our latest base-layers (Mens/Womens) from Icebreaker; especially their ‘200’ and ‘260’ ranges.

2) The Mid-Layer

The mid-layer is your key insulator. For this, you can wear anything from a sweater or turtleneck, to an insulating shirt (designed to keep you warm without adding extra weight). Comfort, flexibility and personal preference will determine what works best for you; but whatever you choose, make sure that it will keep you warm, as this layer is essential to keep you out on the mountain. Smartwool’s range of merino wool tops make perfect mid-layers for those desiring flexibility.

3) The Fleece Layer

Some skiers and boarders choose to wear a fleece or soft-shell layer under their ski jacket. A soft-shell jacket can keep you incredibly warm on days that are especially cold. This layer is very much optional depending on the conditions you will be skiing in, and can be interchanged with the Mid-Layer in warmer (generally -10C and above) conditions; in Spring you can even use your soft-shell without a jacket. Furthermore, some ski jackets come with a fleece layer built-in (see below), so be aware of this when shopping.

4) The Outerwear

Your jacket and pants are your most expensive layer, but they are also by far your most important. A good ski/snowboard jacket will fully protect you from the elements/environment, and being the layer on-show, they also represent your personal style and tastes. The key variation in jackets and pants are those which are insulated vs. the shells – Insulated outerwear will not only shield you from wind, snow, and rain, but they will keep you warm and comfortable. Shell jackets will shield you from harsh elements, but they are not insulated so they will not keep you as warm – probably best to be wearing a soft-shell/fleece with these come December-Feb in the Northern Hemisphere. Furthermore, keep an eye on the waterproof and breatheability ratings of any jacket/pants – Spring in the mountains can be slushy and a low waterproof rating (<10,000mm/square cm) can quickly result in soggy base-layers (or worse)!

The styles on offer here are many; ranging from body-hugging alpine cuts, to the baggy, over-sized look of freestyle outerwear. As a general rule with outerwear, always buy the bigger of two sizes if you are unsure – once you’ve got your boots and layers fitted; keeping it tight can get cosy! For the latest outerwear, see some of the offerings from Spyder (Mens/Womens).

5) Accessories

Ok, so it’s not really fair calling this a layer in itself; but go out onto the mountain without some solid gloves, socks and headgear and you’ll soon find their relevance in this list! Whether you want some extra protection in the way of impact shorts, helmets, goggles; or a good beanie and gloves to keep the heat in; SportPursuit have you covered this Winter!

If you’re still wondering quite what you need to be wearing and where; get in touch and we’ll happily steer you right to the perfect suit for what’s shaping up to be a perfect season!

See you on the slopes!

Doug Stidolph 2013