Imagine that you’re up on the mountain about to make your first run of the day. A blue sky stretches as far as you can see, occasionally dotted with puffy white clouds. The next mountain over is almost completely white, covered in fresh-fallen snow, with touches of green from trees creating a picturesque scene. To top it all off, you are about to go down an untouched run. It’s at this moment, you take in a breath of fresh air. Life, is perfect. You just put your skis down, getting ready for the run, when a sudden gust of wind blows through the area- completely chilling you to the bone. As you start on the run, instead of enjoying the fresh powder between your skis or finding that perfect jump, you are thinking about the fireplace back at the lodge and a cup of hot chocolate. The thought of a warm fireplace becomes really inviting, and you end up back at the lodge for the day.
Having the right layers and gear can mean the difference between a great day on the mountain or one spent in front of the fireplace. We’ve created a handy packing checklist so that you don’t miss packing an essential item on your next mountain adventure. But why is proper layering so important?
The most common mistake people make is not having enough layers but having too much! Over-layering gets you really warm, especially combined with a strenuous activity such as skiing or snowboarding. The heat activates your body’s natural response to generate sweat to cool down. However, with improper layers, the sweat has nowhere to go, staying trapped in your clothing, eventually causing you to cool down immensely. Combined with already cold temperatures, your day on the mountain can be cut short.
How Do You Properly Layer?
It all starts with understanding what each layer is supposed to do and layer up according to the conditions. It may take a bit of experimenting, but once you have it down, you can cut down on unnecessary layers, even decreasing how much you take on your next trip. Your luggage will thank you. Or, just get a bigger bag.
The first layer is the base layer. This layer can come in materials such as Merino Wool, bamboo blends, or even synthetic materials. Overall, the base layer is designed to regulate moisture from sweat, wicking it away from the body.
Base layers come in many weights ranging from lightweight to heavyweight. It all comes down to the conditions you will be in and personal preference. A heavyweight base layer may provide some extra warmth, but you may lose some flexibility due to it being a heavier fabric.
Next is the mid-layer. This layer can range in material from fleece, wool, or other synthetic fibers. The mid-layer traps heat and keeps it close around the body. Some synthetic mid-layers are “puffy” which gives you properties such as water resistance combined with heat-trapping properties. Combined with a proper shell or parka, the mid-layer is a key piece in keeping you warm.
The outer layer is the shell. The shell is the first line of defense against the elements such as wind, rain, and snow. Look for jackets and pants made of weather-resistant materials such as GORE-TEX®, which can also help provide further insulation. These materials will make your time up on the mountain that much more enjoyable. You won’t feel the biting wind while going down a run, or get soaked when playing in the snow. Also look for a shell that has adjustable cuffs, snow skirts, hoods, and zippers. The last thing you want is for a well-thrown snowball to get inside your jacket or pants and take away your well-earned warmth!
Protect your neck and face with a neck gaiter. This article of clothing is essentially a tube made from materials such as merino wool, microfiber, or other synthetic materials. It can block the wind from chilling your neck area and provide a small cushion of air to warm the neck and even face.
Don’t forget about the socks! A common afterthought in the packing process, this piece of clothing is essential in having a great day on the mountain. One mistake people make is to double up on their socks for extra warmth. While this may work in the short-term, doubling up on socks can actually restrict circulation to your feet, drawing warmth away from them. By choosing the right socks for your activity, you can get the warmth you need without the extra bulk and without the pins and needles feeling
Another common item forgotten at home. Get gloves that provide insulation without sacrificing dexterity. Newer models even have technology that allows you to use your phone while gloved.
You’re almost covered from head to toe. Time for the ol’ noggin. There are plenty of options to choose from to keep your head warm. Nothing beats the standard beanie with its head-warming abilities and simple design. But look for extra features such as liners or flaps to protect your ears.
Choosing a ski or snowboard helmet is no easy task as well. With a wide price range, which one is right for you? The main goal of a helmet is to protect your head in the event of a collision or fall. However, some models have advanced technology features such as MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), built-in insulation, cooling vents, seamless goggle integration, and even audio compatibility. If you happen to choose a Giro helmet, pair it up with their new goggles with VIVID lense technology!
Now you have a basic understanding of layering basics. With this knowledge, you can stay warm while up on the mountain or in any cold-weather activity. If you have any questions, come see us at any of our Sun & Ski Sports locations!