One challenge we all face is how to stay warm skiing. In fact, it does not apply to just skiing but to life in general during the cold winter months. This is the biggest barrier to people enjoying time outside during the winter and after reading this article you will have a better idea on how to stay warm and comfortable during the winter months.
Start thinking about this and dropping hints to your loved ones and adding winter clothing to your wish lists!
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Layer Up
Nearly every discussion on dressing for winter weather mentions dressing in layers and there is good reason for that. I repeat it is better to dress in multiple thin layers than a few bulky layers.
Layering your winter clothing serves a specialized function. In general we talk about three layer zones, the base layer, the mid-layer, and the outer layer. The mid-layer is where you can readily add and subtract layers, the base and outer layers are generally one piece layers only.
The least important layer is the mid-layer and the most critical is the base layer. The outer layers is important as well, but getting the base layer correct is essential to staying warm in the cold.
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Rule 1: Stay Dry
The cardinal rule of staying warm during skiing is to stay dry! Think about it, during the summer when we are hot we often look to get into water or wet to help keep us cool. In fact, our bodies wet our skin to help cool ourselves.
How do we keep dry during the winter? That is one mission of the outer layer, to keep external water (rain, snow) off of our bodies. The outer layer needs to repel water, so water in all of its forms sheds off of us before it can soak through to our skin.
Not so obvious when it comes to staying dry is the base layer’s importance. Another source of moisture is from our body’s sweat. When we are outdoors during the winter we are active and that triggers sweating. This sweat if not removed leads to chilling and discomfort. The job of the base layer is to wick that sweat off of our skin and transport it away from our bodies. Yes, the base layer also provides protection against colder temperatures but that is not so important at the bottom of the layers.
Base layers are very different from what they were when I was young which were cotton (a bad idea) waffle base layers and my father talks of itchy wool base layers when he was young. Now, base layers come in merino wool (non-itchy) or synthetics all designed for all around winter comfort.
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Rule 2: Block the Wind
This is the other mission of the outer layer and that is to keep the outer air and wind from penetrating. The outer air penetrating the layers has two consequences. First the obvious one, the outer air is the cold air and for that reason alone we want to keep it off of us.
The second reason is to prevent evaporation of any moisture on us. We only want the moisture to evaporate when it is away from our skin. Drier air moving over wet skin causes cooling by evaporating any sweat.
The requirements for your outer layer is it must repel water and block the wind. Notice that bulkiness is missing from that list!
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Rule 3: Fingers, Toes, and Face
The third rule to stay warm skiing is keeping the extremities protected from the cold. The extremities are the last things on the bodies warm-list so we need to take extra precautions to protect them from the cold. The same rules we went over apply here as well.
Keep your extremities dry and sheltered from the cold outside air. Keeping the extremities warm is a challenge as ski socks are thin and the boots boot designers usually do not give much thought to warmth. The tight quarters ski performance demands usually trumps insulation. Plus buckling the boots tightly restricts blood circulation. This all adds up to cold toes. Also, you can buy ski boots with feet warmers built-in. Stay active and keep the heart pounding and you will be okay!
When looking to keep you hands warm often times the same solution to wear a base glove and a shell comes into play. Or, find a glove with it all. To protect your head I find is the easy, most skiing helmets (you do wear a ski helmet, no?) provide plenty of protection against the cold. It is only on the very coldest of ski days do I find I have to add-on. When I do have to add-on, my ski parka’s outer layer has a hood I pull over the top of my helmet. Though, I do confess on such days I will spend most of my time indoors.
If you are not wearing a helmet then simply make sure your cap’s material is wool or a synthetic and is wind and water-resistant.
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Brands
Just a quick mention of brands I have come to associate with proper cold weather clothing. Do not consider these as an endorsement.
- Under Armour
Ubiquitous and good stuff. Under Armour uses synthetic materials in their products.
Again, easy to find and they use merino wool in their items. The socks are easy to find, but other SmartWool items are a challenge to find, unless you go online.
Another purveyor of merino wool base and mid layers. I have not seen this brand in any of the retailers I frequent, but you can find their stuff online.
- LL Bean
- Eddie Bauer
I gravitate to wool mid-layers and Woolrich is a good source, beware though their materials are not 100% wool.
Finding a good wool sweater is becoming more and more of a challenge but LL Bean has them.
Again, shop with care, cotton is not suitable for keeping you warm in the cold when active outdoors.
- The Northface
- Helly Hansen
Obviously, none of the above lists are comprehensive. In addition, the above brands market to skiers, snowboarders, hikers, climbers, etc. Search and compare brands that target snowmobilers, hunters, and ice-fishers too, often times analogous items are cheaper for the later than the former.
How to Stay Warm Skiing — Not Just for Skiing
I use these ideas the whole winter long, whether or not I am skiing. When the weather finally becomes winter-like I wear a full base layer even to work