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How to Stay Warm and Dry on the Slopes: A Guide to Ski Clothing

How to Stay Warm and Dry on the Slopes: A Guide to Ski Clothing

Hitting the slopes is an incredibly fun way to spend the winter months. Carving through fresh powder or speeding down a groomed run can make you feel alive in a way nothing else does. However, a day of skiing or snowboarding can quickly go south if you don't dress properly for the conditions. Staying warm and dry is essential to having an epic day on the mountain. Follow these tips to learn how to layer up and pick the right ski clothing so you can stay comfortable from first chair to last call.

Why Proper Ski Clothing Matters

Dressing appropriately for skiing and snowboarding is about much more than just looking stylish on the slopes. Having the right ski clothing can make the difference between an epic day carving fresh powder and a miserable experience shivering on the chairlift. Follow these key reasons why paying attention to what you wear is critical for comfort and safety.

First, the proper ski clothes keep your body warm by retaining heat and keeping out the elements. The layering system of wicking base layers, insulating mid layers and waterproof outer shells works together to maintain an ideal body temperature despite the cold, wind, snow and variable weather. Quality ski-specific materials like PrimaLoft insulation and GORE-TEX fabric are engineered specifically to keep skiers and riders toasty and dry.  

Next, the right ski clothes allow perspiration to escape so you don’t get cold and clammy from your own sweat. Synthetic and Merino thermals or wool base layers along with breathable mid and outer layers prevent wetness from your exertion from soaking your clothes. This moisture-wicking ability helps regulate body temperature as you move between chairlifts and cruising downhill.

Appropriate ski garb also protects you from wind, snow and impacts. Windproof and waterproof outer shells guard against windchill and blowing snow so you don’t get the shivers sitting on cold chairlifts. Waterproofing keeps you dry in snowy and wet conditions so you don’t end up soaked and freezing. And impact zones on ski pants and jackets shield you from falls and abrasions from spills.

The flexibility and fit of proper ski attire also ensure full mobility and visibility when carving up the mountain. Articulated knees, vents and a slim fit provide full range of motion while you ride. And helmet-compatible hoods and collars with neck gaskets give you clear visibility without gaps in coverage. Having clothing that moves with you and keeps snow out enhances performance and safety.

Finally, wearing suitable ski clothes gives you peace of mind so you can focus on the runs and not your gear. Knowing your body is protected from the elements takes away worry about getting too cold, wet or banged up if you take a tumble. And being dressed appropriately means not having to cut a day short because your clothes aren’t keeping up with the conditions.

The bottom line is that the right ski clothing equips you to take on the mountain comfortably and confidently. Proper layering and snow-specific features allow you to shred all day with no distractions. Considering both function and fit, today’s ski garb is designed to move with you while standing up to the variable mountain environment. So gear up accordingly and get ready to maximize your time carving up the slopes!

Tips for Choosing the Right Ski Clothing:

Choose a Warm Base Layer

The first step to staying toasty on the slopes is choosing a solid base layer. This is the layer that sits closest to your skin and will keep you warm by wicking away sweat and retaining heat. The best base layer tops and bottoms are made from moisture-wicking synthetic materials like polyester or Merino wool. Avoid cotton, which will absorb sweat and leave you feeling wet and chilled.  

Look for a close-fitting, long sleeved tops as well as a bottom that provides full coverage. For very cold days, consider wearing both lightweight Merino thermal tops and a midweight base layer for extra insulation. It’s better to err on the side of too warm than risk getting cold. Match the weight of your base layer bottoms and top for optimized performance.

Pick Insulated Mid Layers

Once you have a good base layer, it’s time to add mid layers for increased warmth. Look for fleece jackets and pants designed specifically for snow sports. Opt for mid layers with insulation like PrimaLoft that are water resistant and breathable. Full of half zip fleece mid layers trap heat while allowing sweat to escape.

For the coldest ski days, look for insulated jackets with features like zip vents to prevent overheating. A insulated vest makes a great mid layer that keeps your core warm while allowing mobility. Zip neck fleeces and pullovers that easily fit under a ski jacket are also excellent mid layer options.

Choose a Waterproof and Breathable Outer Shell

The outer layer is your defense against snow, wind, rain and cold. Look for a ski jacket and pants made with fabric technology that is both waterproof and breathable. Materials like Gore-Tex and eVent allow sweat to escape while keeping external moisture out.

Look for ski jackets with plenty of vents, pockets and a powder skirt to keep snow from getting inside. A helmet-compatible hood is essential. For pants, make sure to check the waterproof rating and look for full side zips, vents and gaiter hooks if you’ll be in deep snow. The right outer shell is what will ultimately keep you warm and dry on the mountain.

Don’t Forget Warm Headwear

Since a lot of body heat is lost through your head, warm headgear is a must for hitting the slopes. Look for beanies, headbands and helmet liners made from moisture-wicking wool or synthetics. For extreme cold, nothing beats the warmth of a balaclava that covers your head, neck and face with just an opening for your goggles and eyes.  

If you’ll be wearing a helmet, look for options that are helmet-compatible and have adjustments so you can get a good fit over your helmet. The right headgear will help retain heat so your whole body stays nice and toasty.

Wear Thermal and Windproof Gloves

Don’t overlook the importance of quality gloves and mittens when suiting up for a day on the mountain. Look for gloves with insulation like PrimaLoft and GORE-TEX that are fully waterproof and windproof. Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves, so consider swapping between the two if your hands get cold.  

Look for gloves designed specifically for skiing and snowboarding with cinch systems to keep snow out of the sleeves. Carrying an extra backup pair is also a good idea in case your gloves get wet. With warm, waterproof gloves you’ll be shredding all day long in comfort.

Try Heated Accessories for Extra Warmth 

For ultimatum warmth, heated accessories like socks, insoles, base layers, gloves and more allow you to dial up the heat on the coldest winter days. Battery-powered heated gear contains heating elements that raise the temperature inside your layers and accessories.

Heated socks, gloves and insoles help combat icy toes and fingers, while heated mid layers can provide targeted warmth to your core. Heated gear offers the ultimate defense against cold and wetness when ordinary layers just aren’t cutting it.

Don't Forget the Snow Boots

In addition to ski or snowboard boots, having good snow boots is essential for apres ski. While your bootsoles clip into bindings on the hill, they don't provide warmth or traction for the base village. Look for insulated, waterproof snow boots with ankle support and solid tread. Many reputable brands make lightweight fashion-forward, winter-ready boots perfect for after a day hitting the slopes.  

Having spare warm, water-resistant boots allows you to change into comfortable footwear for grabbing food or drinks. Don't make the mistake of trudging around all day in stiff ski boots when you can pack snow boots and spare your feet. Snow boots keep your feet warm and dry while walking around the village after skiing.

The right ski clothing is absolutely essential to a comfortable and enjoyable day on the slopes. With warm base layer, insulated mid layers and a waterproof outer shell, you’ll be fully equipped to stay cozy and dry from the first run to the last. Don’t forget helmets and goggles, as well as quality gloves, socks, headgear and heated accessories if needed. With the gear tips above, you’ll shred the mountain in total comfort all season long!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the warmest materials for ski clothing?

The warmest materials for ski clothes are goose and duck down for insulation, fleece and PrimaLoft for mid layers, and Gore-Tex or eVent fabrics for waterproof yet breathable outer shells. Merino wool and polyester are also excellent insulating and moisture-wicking base layer materials.

Should I size up on ski clothing for extra warmth? 

It's better to stick to your normal size in ski clothing and layer properly for warmth. Oversized clothing can allow cold air in and reduce your mobility. The key is layering snug base layers under insulated mid layers and a weatherproof outer shell in your normal size.

What temperature rating do I need for ski clothing?

For most resort skiing you'll want insulated ski clothes rated to at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with core layers rated even colder. High activity skiing generates heat so you don't necessarily need a parka rated for Arctic extremes. Focus on waterproofing along with insulation rated to 0 degrees or below.

Should I wear cotton under my ski clothes? 

It's best to avoid cotton entirely when dressing for skiing. Cotton absorbs moisture and will leave you feeling wet, chilled and uncomfortable when you sweat. Instead opt for synthetic or Merino wool base layers that wick moisture and provide insulation even when damp.

Do I need special ski gloves or are regular winter gloves OK?

It's highly recommended to get waterproof, insulated gloves specifically designed for skiing and snowboarding. Winter gloves lack the waterproofing and insulation needed for the high activity and wet snow environment of downhill skiing. The right ski gloves will keep your hands warm and dry all day on the slopes. 

How can I stay warm if my outer ski shell gets wet?

If your outer ski shell gets soaked, having quality insulating mid layers is key to retaining warmth. Fleece mid layers by brands like The North Face will keep you warm when wet thanks to insulation like Heatseeker Eco. Having an extra dry mid layer to change into is also a good idea if your outer shell gets drenched.

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