Skiing is one of the most exhilarating sports and forms of physical exercise we can do. It is also a sport which demands paying complete attention to your surrounding environment and weather conditions at all times. Keeping warm is essential, but there is a good way and a bad way to go about it.
In addition to having your skis properly waxed and knowing where you will head for a hot drink after a big day on the slopes, it is critically important to dress correctly in relation to the elements. Under dressing can result in extreme cold, maybe even frostbite or hypothermia. Dressing too warmly can overheat the body and cause all sorts of problems like fainting.
There is a middle ground on how best to dress warmly while skiing. You want to stay warm, but also wear the kind of clothing that allows your body to breathe and wick moisture away. As a longtime recreational skier and representative of a company that makes performance ski wear, I know what works and what doesn't.
Here are a few warm, simple things to think about before hitting the slopes.
Years ago, we thought that a pair of long johns and a parka were all we needed to stay warm while navigating those black diamond runs on a freezing cold night in February. We certainly know better now. Although long underwear can still be effective in keeping you warm, the key today is to layer garments and effectively keep cold out while at the same wicking moisture from the body.
Three layers will best serve your needs. There are a number of great brands that can fill that role, so the decision may end up being a personal one. You will need a wicking layer, which sits closest to the body and acts to pull moisture from you and disperse it outwardly. Next would be an insulating layer, which acts to keep out the moisture and cold from the elements trying to penetrate the body. Last would be the outside protection layer, which can act as a water repellant and first line of defense against the wind and moisture.
Cold and water reach the hands and feet first, so it is critically important to wear waterproof gloves and proper socks, although you should never go too thick on either. Good fabrics to look for in socks include polyester, silk, wool and nylon. Purchasing socks with wicking properties will keep the feet exceptionally dry, meaning your feet will stay dry and comfortable.
You might also consider boot gloves, which is a neoprene piece that fits over your ski boots and adds up to 20 degrees of warmth to your feet and toes. While not perfect, the boot glove is worn by more and more avid skiers who say it can dramatically reduce the level of discomfort caused by the cold conditions.
When shopping for jackets and pants, pay close attention to not only the fit, but also the materials being used. The hang tag may proclaim that your outfit is wind proof, when in reality it doesn't offer much protection at all. Wind resistance is a lot different than windproof, so be sure to do your research when choosing a jacket that will keep out as much wind as possible on a cold day on the mountain.
There really is no garment that is 100 percent waterproof, but the technologies are so advanced as to come pretty close. Gore-tex helped to educate and revolutionize the waterproof market. Determining what works best for you is dependent on both weather conditions and the amount of time you normally spend out on the slopes.
It's quite simple. You want to wear technically-made clothing that breathes while at the same time is able to wick moisture away from the body. A number of top outdoor apparel manufacturers have revolutionized the industry over the past decade, incorporating state-of-the-art fabric innovation with fashion. Whether it's a well-known fabric like Nike Dri-FIT® or Adidas Climacool®, or a lesser-known brand, the wicking properties are pretty standard these days and usually are comprised of a microfiber polyester material.
Cotton absorbs water like a sponge, which is great if you want to use your jeans or t-shirt as a mop. Wearing cotton long johns below your outer clothing won't help once you fall on the slopes.
Anything that restricts movement is a bad thing when it comes to skiing. Tight clothing can easily impede arm and leg movements that are essential to skiing well and enjoying the experience. And wearing tight clothing will also force the cold air through the membranes of the clothing, which will greatly minimize the protection offered by the jacket and pants.
Conversely, loose clothing is good up to a point. If it is too loose, it could also restrict your movement, but more importantly it could let cold air and water seep through to your body.
Though many skiers take to the slopes wearing jeans, one fall and those denim jeans absorb water and take on additional weight. You might as well quit at that point and head back to the lodge for some hot chocolate.
This one should be easy to remember. But if it's snowing and your clothing is getting wet before you even go up the chair lift, you might want to have a few backups, such as extra gloves, hats and socks. Water is the last thing you want to absorb, especially when it's cold and you are about to go zooming down the side of a snow-packed mountain. Socks should be knee high, thin to medium weight and have moisture-wicking properties.
You may encounter some days of great skiing where the temperature warms up to 50, but it always gets cold again when the sun goes down.
Being prepared means layering with lightweight, technically-advanced fabrications that will wick moisture from the body while at the same time keep you warm on the inside. It's a proven formula for success on the slopes.
More expert advice about Skiing
Photo Credits: © Galina Barskaya - Fotolia.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com