How to Dress for Nordic Skiing
Cross-Country Skiing

How to Dress for Nordic Skiing


Dressing for Nordic skiing is definitely an art form.  If you wear traditional ski gear, think puffy jacket and insulated pants, you’ll end up overheating within the first five minutes.  On the flip slide, wearing running tights and a light jacket on a day when the mercury drops below zero is a sure way to feel like a human icicle.

To help avoid both temperature extremes, and to have the most enjoyable cross country experience possible, we’ve put together the following primer on how to dress for classic and skate skiing.

Nordic Skiing – Layers Are the Answer

The key to dressing for cross country skiing is wearing multiple layers which provide you versatility while on the track.  According to Patrick Coffey, White Pine Nordic Director, “I like to dress lighter so you can layer and have more options as you heat up.  Think of yourself as onion - you can take off your jacket and have a vest underneath with a baselayer or midlayer under that.”

The reality with Nordic skiing is that you’re going to sweat, because it’s such a great workout.  The more you can manage that, the happier you’ll be.  That means choosing synthetic fabrics since they wick moisture away from your skin to keep you from getting cold and clammy.  Cotton is the Nordic skier’s nemesis since it absorbs water and holds it next to your skin.

Nordic Socks – Wool is the Answer

Since cotton is out, that means wool is in when it comes to choosing the best socks for Nordic skiing.  Choose a midweight option, even if you traditionally have cold feet.  “Heavy weight socks don’t allow you to get a good feel for the ski,” says Patrick.  Plus, since Nordic boots need to be snug to give you the power that you need to kick or glide, when you crank down the boots over heavy socks, it cuts off your circulation.  And since you’re working hard you really don’t need super thick socks.

Worried about the itch factor of wool?  Smartwool makes soft, breathable and non-scratchy Merino wool socks that don’t irritate even the most sensitive skin.  Case in point, I can’t wear wool anywhere else on my body, but Smartwool socks are my favorite for all of my winter outdoor activities.

Nordic Ski Gloves – Keep Your Fingers “Just Right”

Believe it or not, your hands can sweat when Nordic skiing, especially if you’re wearing a traditional winter ski glove loaded with insulation.  Patrick, who was previously a U.S. Biathlon Coach in chilly Lake Placid, swears by the Icebreaker Merino Wool Glove Liner coupled with the Toko Profi glove.  “This combination provides good articulation and helps me relax my hands while Nordic skiing,” he says.  And if his hands get warm, he can take the liners off and just ski in the Toko gloves.

If it’s particularly frigid outside, or if your hands are always cold, we recommend the Swix Krystal Split Mitt.  This lobster claw style Nordic ski glove admittedly gives you a bit of an “under the sea” vibe but once you wear a pair, you’ll be a believer.  A combination glove and mitten, this hybrid allows your fingers to warm each other up like mittens, but with the articulation of a ski glove.

Sunglasses, Not Goggles

Too often, first time Nordic skiers make the rookie mistake of wearing traditional ski googles instead of sunglasses.  Do yourself a favor and invest in a pair of Smith Pivlock sunglasses instead.  Unlike goggles which retain heat against your face, causing them fog, these sunglasses fit snug to give you enough wind protection and air circulation to keep them fog-free.  And since the light reflection from the snow is so intense at elevation, polarized sunglasses keep you from squinting and improve clarity.

Nordic Specific Baselayers & Midlayers

Now that you have the Nordic accessories dialed, let’s get to the basics of dressing for Nordic skiing.  Since I started skate skiing, I have been reluctant to wear long underwear since I’m pretty much a polar bear and would rather start out cold for fear of overheating.  But then I discovered the new Craft baselayer system at the White Pine Nordic Center.  Ultra lightweight and super soft, the Craft Active Extreme Underpant & Active Extreme Concept Top are my new next-to-skin baselayers.  Yet another way to keep moisture away from my skin.  And the fact that they come in really fun colors with contrast stitching, doesn’t hurt.  Check out the women’s vision/orchid combo if you have a penchant for purple like I do.

Midlayer tops are great to wear over baselayers on cold days or alone on warm days.  The Swix Polaris Polo is available in both men’s and women’s styles and runs a little longer for those with long torsos than the Craft Lightweight Stretch Pullover, which is another White Pine favorite.

Nordic Jackets & Pants – The Last Layer

If you only want to invest in one Nordic specific clothing item, other than the all-important gloves, then start with a jacket or pants.  The Halti Men’s Lumista Jacket is a really good option or those who worry about being too cold on the track.  Since Halti is a Finnish company, their jackets tend to be heavier than most Nordic ski clothes, but provide the added bonus of being a great softshell option for spring skiing at the resort.

A lighter weight option for men is the Salomon Momentum Softshell Jacket in black and yellow which is Patrick’s favorite jacket for this season.  He also is a fan of the Momentum vest for men since “vests are such an awesome way to regulate your temperature and keep your core warm without having the wind blow through you,” he says.

For women, the Bjorn Daehlie Champion Jacket has flattering lines.  According to Susan Spencer, White Pine Nordic Center’s Softgoods Expert, “Bjorn Daehlie has moved away from their traditional red, royal and black color combinations and is introducing fun pinks with orange contrast stitching which is pretty forward thinking of them.”  Pair this jacket with the Craft PXC High Function Vest which has a great silhouette for women and even features breathability in the back.

Last, but not least, when purchasing Nordic ski pants look for those with a wind block layer in the front.  “Wind chill is called wind chill for a reason,” says Patrick.  He likes the Bjorn Daehlie Champion Pant for men with articulated knees for full range of motion.

Many women shy away from Nordic ski pants since they aren’t really all that flattering.  In that case, Nordic tights are another option, especially when paired with one of three Skhoop skirts for an après ski latte or beer.  But on cold days, tights just won’t cut it.  Try the Salomon Momentum pants for women.  “They fit great and make your butt look cute,” says Susan “because the seams on the back just work.”

The most important thing when dressing for Nordic skiing is to choose the right combination of layers for your personal body temperature.  “Some people run like a furnace and some run like an air conditioner,” smiles Patrick.  No matter what side of that continuum you are on, stop by the White Pine Nordic Center and check out our apparel selection.  Our experts will be happy to get you outfitted in style.

, Senior Editor

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