In order to maximise your time and enjoyment out on the slopes you need to keep warm. The secret to keeping warm is layering and warming your ‘core’ (vital organs). If your core is warm then your body can heat your extremities. If your core is cold then your body will focus on warming your vital organs and your extremities will become cold – simple? Here is our guide to layering.
The Base Layer
This is the most important layer in the system as it sits closest to the skin. Without a good quality base layer, the performance of each subsequent layer will be compromised. This layer must be close fitting to maximise the fabric’s moisture wicking capabilities, allowing perspiration to be transported away from the skin and out through each layer. Look for technical wicking fabrics or merino wool, which has natural wicking properties – and doesn’t smell after a few days of hard skiing. Cotton, by comparison, absorbs moisture and holds it next to your skin making you feel damp and cold when resting. Compression base layers can also aid muscle recovery.
Merino wool: Icebreaker, Smartwool, Mons Royale, Helly Hansen.
Technical garments: Arc’teryx, Helly Hansen, The North Face, Odlo.
Compression: Skins, Under Armour.
The Mid Layer
The mid layer provides you with versatile insulation, both on and off the slopes. It must be highly breathable to allow moisture transportation from your base layer out. In cold conditions, it is important to have these layers to trap air as they provide extra warmth, and by adding or removing mid layers, you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Wearing multiple thin layers is less bulky and more versatile than wearing a single thick layer. A gilet (body warmer) is a useful addition to any layering system, keeping the core warm without restricting arm movement. Most ski and snowboarding brands produce mid-layer garments with their ranges.
The Outer Layer
The jacket and pants form the outer layer of your clothing system and are designed to protect you from the snow and wind. As well as the outer fabric being breathable, both the jackets and pants will feature zippered venting to allow you to ventilate and manage excess body heat. This outer layer should also offer durable protection against the abrasive effects of snow, ice and equipment, yet be light enough to allow for sustained activity.
Most jackets and pants will have some form of lining or insulation to add comfort and warmth. Choose a level of insulation that suits your personal preference, and the outer temperatures.
Shell jackets are lightweight, packable and offer protection from the elements outside, but they will not have any insulating property, instead relying on an insulation layer worn underneath. A versatile and great value for money form of outerwear is the 3-in-1 jacket, which consists of an outer jacket and a zip-in/zip-out insulation layer, allowing you to adapt your clothing as the weather changes.
Soft Shell jackets are ideal if your activity requires a high level of aerobic output, as they not only offer exceptional water resistance and windproofing, but also deliver maximum breathability and allow perspiration and vapour to evaporate. They are a great option for spring skiing.
Mobility is another factor to consider. Modern garments now feature fabrics with 2-way or 4-way stretch providing enhanced levels of performance and greater comfort. This can also allow garments to have a more fitted style without restricting movement. In addition, advances in technology now allow manufacturers to create stretch fabrics that maintain their waterproof properties as they stretch, so you can have it all.