Don’t Let The Wrong Type Of Ski Clothing Ruin Your Skiing Experience. Be Prepared.
Being under prepared for skiing is one of the worse things you can do when embarking on an alpine retreat. The weather on the mountain can be unpredictable ranging from bluebird skies in the morning to a thunder snow storm in the afternoon. And I’m certainly not exaggerating because that happened to us! It is therefore essential that you pack the right pieces of ski clothing that will get you through your day and avoid being either too hot, too cold, and worse of all, wet. You DON’T want to be wet in the snow.
Between the 3 of us, I am terrible in the cold and always require extra layers. Hannah is a walking hot water bottle and is never cold. She also has clothing gripes I must deal with like the material of the clothing (she hates itching) and nothing that encloses her neck and mouth as she finds it suffocating. Andrew is all about quality. He will pay for good items of clothing that will last for years to come and he will also go to great lengths to buy exactly what he needs.
So you can imagine what our first ski holiday together as a blended family was like. Hah!
SKI CLOTHING TIP #1
Cotton. Cotton is your worse enemy when it comes to skiing. Clothes are meant to keep you warm by insulating the warmth next to your skin. Cotton retains moisture and dries slowly, especially in the cold. It then loses its thermal properties, making you colder as it makes contact with your skin. Even if you’re wearing it over some thermals, it will cause your thermals to also get wet. If you’re a first time skier, you will most likely fall regularly and you will find snow in the oddest places! Inevitable you will get wet. So, stay away from cotton. It won’t keep you warm.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #2
Thermals. Finding the best thermals to suit you can take a bit of trial and error, if you don’t already own any. Material and price come into play and really, you’re deciding if you’re going to go natural or synthetic.
Merino wool – Pure merino wool is more breathable than cotton, and ideal for adventure in all seasons. Non-itch, ultra-lightweight, machine washable, naturally resistant to dirt and odour build-up. This means it is also suitable for other outdoor pursuits apart from alpine activities. In saying that however, merino wool is by far the more expensive option and Hannah actually finds it itchy because her skin is super sensitive. So for her, she needed something underneath the merino wool thermal or she wasn’t going to wear it.
Synthetics – For those who don’t like the feel of natural fibre against your skin and are looking for a cheaper alternative, a synthetic option may be best for you. Several brands do hybrid garments in a dual-fibre mix of polyester and polypropylene and these are very effective at what they do. The polypro wicks the moisture into the polyester and it then evaporates away. These days’ synthetic polyester thermals are engineered so that it does not retain odour but it still can’t compete with merino wool. You’d have to wash them more often than its natural fibre counterpart.
In terms of brands, stick to the adventure stores. North Face, Helly Hansen, Kathmandu, Ice Breaker, just to name a few. At the end of the day you are also looking for lightweight materials so you’re not too bulky when you’re skiing and the trick is layers. Always get extras so that you can change into something dry half way through the day if you’re wet and to allow for drying time overnight.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #3
Inners. I am a massive advocate for inners. And by inners I mean inner beanie and inner gloves. I always wear a thin inner beanie under my helmet to give me the extra warmth and it really works. Helps to keep my hair intact too and out of my face. For those of you who are a little germaphobic and you’re hiring your helmet, this is perfect for you.
Inner gloves are the best, especially those with the tech tip so I can still take photos on my iPhone without exposing my hands to the cold. I also seem to never have enough blood in my extremities so I always have cold hands! I have pure merino wool inner gloves for all my winter city travels too and they are thin enough to wear under any outdoor glove.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #4
Balaclava. This is the BEST investment I have ever made. It covers my head, back of my neck, mouth and nose. I find that although the fleece one is warm, it’s too thick when I wear a helmet. So I opt for the thinner synthetic material.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #5
Socks for Skiing. Buying the right socks for skiing is really important. It might sound counterintuitive, but thin socks will keep your feet much warmer than thick, bulky socks. A thick sock will collect sweat and hold moisture close to your foot. A thin sock, on the other hand, will move sweat from your foot to the liner, which is designed to wick that moisture away from your body.
Thick socks also tend to bunch up and trust me when I say that you don’t want that discomfort around the toe area and in the calf/shin area. Very important that you tuck your thermal long pants evenly into the sock and ensure it doesn’t gather up unevenly. When that happens, you’re placing pressure on those areas and can cause bruising. How do I know? Learnt that the hard way!
Also try and get some socks without seams over the toe section because the pressure there can also cause discomfort. I know….. who knew there was so much to think about when it came to socks?
SKI CLOTHING TIP #6
Scarf. What you’re essentially getting here is a neck warmer. I have a preference for the extra warm merino wool scarves that is long enough to also cover my mouth and nose if need be. Hannah on the other hand prefers the thinner version making it more lightweight and breathable. I highly recommend the Icebreaker neck warmer as it’s the only one that she would wear without feel suffocated around her neck. And it keeps her warm.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #7
Ski Clothes. For first time skiers or very occasional skiers, I recommend that you just hire your clothes, especially for the children. Even if you ski annually, they are essentially only wearing it once before they outgrow them the next year. And for adults, if you’re not overly fussed about hiring your clothes, I recommend that you do. As first time skiers, it’s a good way to understand what you’re looking for in ski clothes before you spend the money investing in some.
If you’re really considering buying some, make sure you think about the type of fit you may want, what insulation will suit you, the length of the jacket and the pants, how warm do you want it, waterproof level and how much breathability you might need. Apart from the basics, all 3 of us have some features we always look for. For example, Andrew needs vents I his jacket and pants in case he gets hot. Hannah likes a fixed hood as she hates the snow creeping into the back of her neck and I need plenty of pockets. For some reason the mother always does the “carrying” of things!
And do wait for the sales! At the tail end of the season, all the ski shops will start discounting heavily so that’s always a great time to stock up the wardrobe.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #8
Gloves. Getting the right gloves is vital for a good day of skiing. It needs to be warm and waterproof. I like my gloves snug so not only does it keep me warm, it allows me to be nimbler when holding the poles or if I’m trying to help Hannah with something. I recommend a glove that is a little longer so that it goes further up the sleeve of your jacket. I also prefer gloves with velcro tightener around the wrist area. Keeps all the snow out during a blizzard!
SKI CLOTHING TIP #9
Ski Boots. I considered buying some ski boots for myself and I had no idea that it was such a harrowing process! Never buy online if you’re not an expert and understand what the boots are. Always get fitted professionally as they will know best which type of boot will suit you.
The width of a boot is important to allow for maximum comfort. So you do need to try them on.
Your ski level must be taken into consideration. Are you a beginner, intermediate, advanced or an expert? Your competence on the slopes makes a difference. It all depends on whether you should be getting a boot with greater flex if you’re a basic skier or ones that are stiffer so you can carve the mountain expertly. My dilemma is that I may be considered as an intermediate skier but I don’t want to be flying down the slopes!
Your weight and height is also important as the boot needs to be responsive. So if you’re on the heavier side, the recommendation is to go up boot level up and vice versa if you’re small and petite.
Bottom line is, don’t try and figure it out for yourself. Get fitted by a professional.
SKI CLOTHING TIP #10
Goggles. If you’re thinking about buying ski goggles instead of just hiring them, it’s important to get a good pair. They are an essential piece of ski and snowboard equipment as it protects your eyes from the harsh elements. The goggles are also designed to wrap around your face so it not only protects the eyes but also helps to prevent wind and sun burn on the top half of your face. Here are some tips when purchasing goggles:
- Buy them off the mountain as they tend to be cheaper. You might also wish to buy a second hand one if this is your first time skiing to spare the expense.
- Look for lenses that provide 100 percent ultraviolet protection, to shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- Also look for anti-fogging features such as special anti-fog coating, double lenses, and wide vents.
- Go for lenses with an orange/yellow hue. This provides a contrast against the white snow so that you can better make out the terrain.
- I sometimes wear glasses under my goggles instead of contact lenses so I always make sure to try them on with my glasses.
- You can even get prescription goggles if you prefer. I really should get some of my own as I am neither a fan of wearing my glasses or lenses when skiing.
- Oh and if you’re Asian, you can get special Asian goggles due to our lack of a bridge on our nose. LOL! I think this is hilarious but how considerate!
So those are just some of the basics you’ll need to consider if you’re embarking on your first ski holiday and its probably a great idea to check out my blog post 13 Useful Tips for Planning Your First Ski Holiday so you’re more prepared. And whilst you’re so busy trying to ensure you’re well equipped for skiing, don’t forget to pack appropriate clothing for when you’re not skiing! A good pair of snow boots with good grip is ideal whilst a nice warm jacket and fleece lined pants would do you well. In the meantime, enjoy the ski season! Pack well and be prepared. It will certainly make a world of difference.
Oh, and I’m sure you’re also busy researching accommodation if you’re staying on the mountain. My blog post 10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Ski Accomodation may prove to be useful too.