Many people buy a heavy parka for skiing figuring “it’s cold out there.” Parkas are fine if it’s near zero, but that ensures you’ll be uncomfortable in every other condition. If dressing for a day on the slopes could be boiled down to a single word of advice, it would be: layers. Dressing in layers will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable for a long day of skiing, ready for any conditions that may suddenly materialize on the mountain.
Start with a base layer of either soft merino wool or a synthetic fiber blend to wick moisture away from the skin. Then add a thermal mid-layer of fleece, packable lightweight down, or stretch softshell. On the outside, go with a waterproof shell or lightly insulated jacket to protect against the elements. An added bonus of the new ski fabrics: nearly all of them are machine washable (stick to powdered detergent) and dryable. Washing and drying your ski wear essentially opens the pores of the fabric so that it performs better.
One newer trend for base layers is to have cropped bottoms that stop mid-calf, so as not to add extra bulk under your ski boot. In fact, the only thing under your ski boot should be a ski sock. Ski socks are highly specialized now, too. They’re not only sport-specific, but gender and left/right-specific, too. The new technology makes a world of difference in terms of comfort and performance.
Ski Gloves and Mittens
Mittens offer maximum warmth, and they aren’t just for kids. In fact, lots of the big mountain pros are rocking mittens in the coldest weather these days. And, when it’s not so cold, go with gloves for more dexterity. You can get the best of both worlds with “Crab Claws” or “Three-fingers” from manufacturers like Hestra, which are one of our best sellers for both men and women.
If your hands tend to get cold easily, you might want to get a pair of gloves or mittens with zippered “hand warmer pockets” on the back of the hand. With a couple of hand warmer packets tucked into these pockets, your hands will be comfortable even on the coldest days.
There’s a running joke around ski towns that goes something like this: How do you tell a tourist on the slopes? They’re the ones wearing sunglasses. Locals almost always prefer goggles, except when they are ski touring in the spring when full-coverage sunglasses will work, too. Even when hiking for their turns in the warmer weather, most locals will only wear the sunglasses on the way up and will change to goggles for the trip back down.
Goggle Fog Prevention
Goggles should be on your face or in your pocket, not on your forehead or around your neck - because your head is hot! The heat and moisture get trapped inside the goggle, increasing the temperature inside. When you put the goggle back on your face, there is too much moisture for the goggle foam to wick away, and the cold temperature outside the goggle works against the heat trapped inside your goggle, creating fog. Even worse, on super cold days that fog can freeze between the lenses of double lensed goggles, and then you are stuck not being able to see until you can get to a lodge and warm them up and dry them out.
It is really not a good idea to wipe the inside of your goggle lens. All goggle lenses are treated with an anti-fog coating. Wiping the coating takes it off. It also increases the chance of scratching your lens. If you must wipe your lens, only use a goggle/eyewear cloth or the goggle bag they came in, and only do so ever so gently.
When you are done skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling or whatever other activity your goggles have helped you enjoy, always put them back into the goggle bag that they come in. This will protect the lens from all your other gear, and from the surface of the table in the lodge.
Whenever you are buying a pair of goggles, be sure to bring your helmet or favorite hat into the store with you. As much as goggle manufacturers try to make their goggles nestle comfortably up against lots of helmet styles, they can’t account for every head and face shape.
Don’t be fooled into thinking helmets are just for kids. They are important for adults, too. It might be you skiing too fast for the conditions, it might be a slip on a patch of ice, or it might be getting hit by someone who is on a slope above their ability. Whatever the reason, there’s no reason not to wear a helmet.
Hats are great for walking around town, but helmets are taking over on the slopes. Helmets are so prevalent now that many resorts require them, at least for children and anyone in ski school. Five years ago, maybe 25% of the people at Deer Valley wore helmets; today that number is closer to 65% or 70% and growing fast every year.
Helmets have plenty of ventilation for even warm spring days, and the ear areas are now made so you can hear just as well as you can when you are wearing a knit hat. And when it’s cold, just close the vents and you’ll be warmer than in a hat as well. Almost everyone who tries a helmet for a few days swears they’d never go back.
Cold Weather Accessories
Hand warmers, face masks, powder cords, sunscreen, lip balm, a neck gaiter. All of these make life easier on the slopes and add comfort to your day. And, when you (and the kids) are more comfortable, you’re a lot happier. It’s the little things that make vacations and days on the slope more relaxing and enjoyable.