How to Dress for Skiing

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As a new skier, your immediate instinct is to bundle up, wearing every single piece of warm clothing in your wardrobe. Paradoxically, clothing that is too warm will make you feel cold. You work harder to move around in heavy, bulky clothing. That makes you sweat. The moisture from the sweat then causes you to feel cold. Keep warmer by dressing in lightweight layers that don't restrict your ability to move.

Climate Change

  • More than anything else, ski clothing needs to be adjustable to a wide range of temperatures and activity levels. As you ride up a chair lift, you are sitting still and exposed to the wind, but as you ski downhill -- especially on steeps, powder or moguls -- you may be burning as much as 900 calories per hour. Also, it gets approximately 5 degrees colder for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, so at some western resorts, the summit may be 15 degrees colder than the base of the lift.

Covering Your Bases

  • Against your skin, wear a wicking fabric that transports moisture away from your body rather than trapping moisture against your skin. Choose thin layers of polypropylene or other artificial fabrics designed for this. Avoid cotton, as it trap moisture. Most skiers favor light or medium-weight zip turtlenecks and long underwear beneath the other layers of ski clothing.

Caught in the Middle

  • Between the wicking layer and your moisture-repelling layer goes an insulating layer. Wool and fleece provide good options, as they are warm while wet and transport rather than trap moisture. Choose insulating tops long enough to keep your waist covered as you lean over to adjust your boots. For bottoms, a second layer of polypropylene may work for warmer days, but fleece is better for colder days.

Covering Up

  • Choose outer layers made of waterproof, breathable fabrics that keep the moisture from snow out while letting perspiration escape. For skiing in cold or snowy conditions, wear a hooded ski jacket that reaches below your hips, with a zipper covered by a storm flap. Avoid heavily insulated jackets, as they lack versatility. Choose an uninsulated shell or a jacket with a zip-out lining. Bottoms that fit over your ski boots keep snow out of your boot tops.

Extreme-Weather Extremities

  • Don't neglect your extremities. Choose a ski hat that covers your ears and can be firmly secured in case of wipeouts. For very cold weather, a fleece balaclava serves as a combination ski mask, scarf and under-hat layer. Select well-insulated ski gloves made of a waterproof breathable fabric or leather. For extremely cold days, add glove liners under mittens. Goggles protect your eyes from the cold and from possible injuries.

Thin Socks for Warm Feet

  • You have two reasons for investing in a pair of sport-specific ski socks made of a wicking material, such as wool. First, the combination of padding over the shin and absence of seams helps prevent boot bruises. Second, the very thin material in the foot and back of the calf helps you get a more precise boot fit, enabling you to steer your skis more accurately. Downhill ski boots are normally heavily insulated. The main cause for cold feet is restricted circulation caused by badly fitting boots or socks that are too thick.

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