Dressing Tips for Playing in the Snow

Listen to a local radio station or call the resort weather phone for current and expected temperatures, winds, and clouds. Weather forecasts on TV may be misleading by giving the weather for nearby cities rather than the ski area itself.

Three Main Clothing Layers

1. Moisture Transport (long underwear) Layer
Dress from the top down with close fitting Capilene, Coolmax, Dryline, Merkalon, Outlast, Polartec, polyester, polypropylene, Thermax, other fabric which doesn't retain moisture. Some silk and wool underwear can perform well even though they absorb more moisture than synthetics. Avoid cotton. Cotton retains a lot of moisture which will conduct heat away from your body. Fishnet and fleece fabrics may be warmer than weaves. Tuck tops deep inside bottoms and bottoms inside thin socks to help keep the warm air in and the snow out. Avoid putting seams or wrinkles of underwear bottoms where they will end up inside ski boots. Antiperspirant on feet can keep them warmer and boots drier.
2. Insulating Layer(s)
Choose insulating layer(s) of polyester fleece, wool, or other non-absorbing material. Zip T-necks can be unzipped to help cool you down if the temperature rises during the day or after exertition.
3. Wind and/or Water Blocking Layer
Outer layers should be wind proof if the weather is cold and water repellent or waterproof/breathable if wet snow or rain is expected. Grangers XT, Kenyon Water Repellant, Kiwi Camp Dry, Meltonian Water & Stain Protector, Nikwax, Scotchguard, Tectron, W.L. Gore's Revivex or similar products can help repel water. According to the November 2001 Inside Tracks consumer guide, Nikwax and Tectron wash-in products work very well on breathable fabrics, lasting through several washings and protecting fabrics from ultraviolet rays. Water under pressure from wind, sitting on wet chairlifts, and resting your hands on wet thighs is more likely to penetrate fabric. Although they can be very expensive, outer layers with high waterproofness may be useful if you intend to ski or snowboard in wet conditions. Some snowboarding pants have waterproof materials on the seat and knees. Some manufacturers make strap-on seats of waterproof material to keep seats and thighs dry (Hot Buns). An inexpensive and regionally fashionable alternative is a plastic garbage bag tucked into your waistband. Outer garments which have pit-zips or other vents can quickly cool you down if overheating after a run or if the weather is warmer than expected.


A large percentage of body heat can be lost through the head. Cold feet and cold hands may be a sign that you are losing too much heat through your head. Helmets and hats which cover the ears can retain much of that heat. Goggles also help, especially if it is windy or snowing. Goggles with double lenses and antifog coatings are less likely to fog. Goggles with built in fans such as the Smith Turbo C.A.M. can help prevent your glasses from fogging as well.

Fleece lined face masks are also useful in cold, windy, or snowy conditions. Masks which direct your breath upward are more likely to fog your goggles. Fleece neck gaitors and balaclavas can help retain heat although they sometimes can force your breath into your goggles.

Feet may be kept warmer by using neoprene BootGloves and/or electric boot warmers such as the Extreme Comfort, HOTfoot, Hotronic Footwarmer, or Winter Heat. BootGloves seem to help to keep feet warmer and may be especially useful in snow deep enough to cover your boots. They don't require batteries and are much more durable than electric boot heaters.

Avoid overtightening boot buckles or wearing socks that are too thick, which can reduce blood circulation to the feet. Although long underwear pants which reach inside the ski boots can make boots fit poorly, clothing gaps above the boot tops can make feet colder. Make sure your ski pant cuffs cover this area or use gaitors. Cut-off wool or fleece socks or leg warmers can be used over the boot top and leg and under nylon gaitors or ski pant cuffs.

Mittens are warmer than gloves. Loose fitting gloves with thick insulation are usually warmer than thin, tight fitting gloves. Chemical heat packs can be used inside gloves and mittens for additional warmth. Cold air over the wrists will make fingers colder. Pull long underwear and insulating layer sleeves down over your wrists and hold them there as you pull on your outer layers. Gloves and mittens with long gauntlets which reach over and snug over jacket sleeves help keep the wrist area warm.

Dressing for the extreme temperature range at ski resorts does take some attention, but the correct choices can make you comfortable on early morning chairlift rides in temperatures near zero and in the afternoon sun in temperatures above freezing. Choose fabrics which don't retain moisture and clothing that allows various degrees of venting to remain comfortable in a wide range weather conditions. You'll find additional information on the web pages of these ski and snowboard clothing manufacturers.

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