So, it’s off to the slopes, and you’re wondering what to wear? Well, skiing is possibly one of the “most complicated” dress-for occasions, as you’re both going to be exercising (and getting sweaty) and being out in cold conditions … while still needing to be flexible enough to work you way down the mountain. You definitely don’t want to throw ski boots on over your jeans and head out into the cold … as the faster you’re moving the more “wind chill” you’ll be dealing with!
The key for ski outfits is layering. Sort of like kindergarteners heading off to school, you’re going to want to have outfit over outfit, starting with a “base layer”. Now, there is a certain amount of variability in this, depending on the weather conditions of your ski resort … you won’t need as much insulation if it’s 25°F out there than if it’s hovering around zero, but the base layer is designed to keep you from getting particularly sweaty. To this end, you should start with “wicking” garments, a particular type of fabric which pulls moisture away from the skin. A t-shirt and “long underwear” type pants (the “thermal” type if you’re skiing in low-temperature conditions) starts you off, along with socks (either a pair of thin cotton socks with heavier wool socks over them, or specific skiing socks, designed to keep your feet dry and warm, and work well with the ski boots).
The next layer, or “mid layer” will vary depending on conditions, this could include a fleece jacket of varying weight (avid skiers tend to have two or more in their gear, for different temperatures), or a sweater for the top, and sweatpants or thermal leggings on the bottom.
Of course, it’s the outer layer where fashion concerns arise most notably, but you don’t want to be going for “look” over “function”. Many experts say that the most important part of your ski ensemble should be the ski pants, which need to be waterproof, sturdy, flexible and roomy around the joints, and long enough to cover your boots. Pants that have these essential functionalities (as well as various additional options like velcro vents) can be pricey, but they help assure that you’ll not end up wet and freezing.
The final upper outer layer is the ski jacket, frequently referred to as a “shell”, which is primarily designed to be water and wind-proof, while not being bulky to allow for the fullest range of motion. One’s insulation should come on the mid-level, with the shell warding off the specific threats involved in moving 10-20 mph downhill, which will produce the wind-chill equivalent of as much as a 30° drop in temperature to exposed skin.
Speaking of exposed skin … you’re not going to want to leave much exposed to the elements. Another essential is ski gloves – very specialized items that have to be waterproof, wind resistant, insulated, strong (to handle those poles), and with a whole list of added features from clips so you don’t lose them mid-run to specific panels for wiping one’s nose (really!). Obviously, a hat of some sort (though many suggest a ski helmet), goggles (especially helpful on bright days to avoid snow blindness), and something to cover one’s face and neck (such as a “balaclava” or a “gaiter”).
Once you have the basics, there are any number of added accessories, and a wide range of styles available for those outer layers, but the above should keep you dry, warm, and safe on the slopes.