What to Wear
The Right Clothing Makes a Huge Difference.
You will want to wear clothes that will keep you warm and dry. We do not recommend cotton clothing (jeans and a sweatshirt) as it becomes wet, then cold. You probably have most of what you need already, but if not, try borrowing from friends for your first visit.
The best way to dress for skiing or snowboarding is to wear layers. This gives you flexibility to add or remove layers, depending on the weather. Turtleneck shirts, sweaters, long underwear and footless tights work well as under-layers. Don't wear jeans or street pants. Denim is not waterproof, so water will soak through and you'll end up cold, wet and miserable. Avoid wearing cotton next to your skin because it will absorb sweat and snow and make you shiver. For that same reason, wool or acrylic socks are better than cotton athletic socks. Most importantly — wear only one pair. Ski and snowboard boots are designed to be warm. Thick socks, or multiple layers of socks, will only give you blisters. If you buy anything, it should be a pair of waterproof shell pants and warm long underwear. You probably have a winter sports jacket already. You may not need as many layers of clothing as you think. On a sunny day, you may only need two layers — the waterproof outer layer and the turtleneck/long underwear first layer. But bring a middle layer (fleece or wool sweater) just in case. You can always take off clothing, as you get warmer.
In general, the three main layers are wicking, insulating and weather protection:
- Wicking layer: This is the layer worn next to your skin, usually consisting of long underwear. The wicking layer should fit snugly (not tight) next to the skin in order to effectively wick moisture.
Look for thermal underwear made of a synthetic — usually polyester — fiber that has "wicking" power. This means the fibers will wick (move) moisture away from your skin and pass it through the fabric so it will evaporate. This keeps you warm, dry and comfortable. Silk is also a good, natural fabric that has wicking abilities.
- Insulating layer: Comfort is key for the insulating layer. It should be loose enough to trap air between layers, but not so bulky that it restricts movement. This middle layer includes sweaters, sweatshirts, vests and pullovers.
Fleece, a synthetic material that maintains its insulating ability even when wet, also spreads the moisture out so it dries quickly. Wool naturally wicks away moisture.
- Protection layer: The exterior layer, generally a shell and pants, serves as your guard against the elements of winter. It should repel water from snow, sleet or rain and block the wind, while also letting perspiration evaporate. Whether you are a skier or snowboarder, your protection layer should fit comfortably, offering you maximum range of motion.
Most genuine winter shells and pants are waterproof and breathable to some extent by using tightly woven fabrics teamed with a coating or laminate. This keeps moisture on the outside but allows perspiration to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable. Depending on the weather, you may be interested in pants and jackets/shells with increasing amounts of insulation. Look for functional hoods, cuffs, pockets and zippers — details that truly make garments comfortable in a snowstorm.
Although less baggy than in previous years, most snowboard clothing is still designed to fit looser than alpine skiwear, giving snowboarders freedom of movement. In addition, many snowboard pants are reinforced in the seat and knees for extra protection when kneeling or sitting on the snow.
Up to 60 percent of your body's heat can escape from an uncovered head, so wearing a hat, headband or helmet is essential when it's cold. (Tip: If you wear a hat, you may be able to wear one less layer on your body.) There are thousands of styles of hats and headbands, usually made from fleece or wool. Many have non-itch liners. Helmets are becoming very popular. Not only do they protect your head from bumps, but they also keep your head warm. A fleece neck gaiter (like a collar) or facemask is a nice addition on cold days.
Sunglasses and goggles
Sunglasses protect your eyes from solar radiation. Snow, or any other reflective surface, makes ultraviolet (UV) rays stronger, while increased altitude also magnifies the danger. Look for 100 percent UV protection in sunglasses. Make sure the glasses fit snugly behind your ears and rest gently on the bridge of your nose. On flat-light days or when it's snowing, goggles are vital. They protect your eyes and special lens colors increase the contrast so you can properly discern terrain features. Goggles should form an uninterrupted seal on your face, extending above your eyebrows and below your cheekbones. Watch for gaps, especially around your nose.
Gloves and mittens
Don't buy gloves or mittens that are too tight. There should be a little air space at the tips of your fingers, which acts as additional insulation. Look for gloves and mittens that use waterproof, breathable fabrics. Mittens, in general, are warmer than gloves, but offer you less dexterity. Snowboarding gloves and mittens often have a reinforced palm because of extra wear from adjusting bindings and balancing on the snow. Some snowboarding gloves and mittens also have built-in wrist guards, which are excellent for novice snowboarders.
One pair of lightweight or medium-weight socks works best for skiing or snowboarding. Too many pairs may make your boots too tight and cause poor circulation that can lead to cold feet. Socks are made from a variety of materials, including polyester, silk, wool and nylon. We do not recommend cotton socks. Some socks have wicking properties similar to long underwear, meaning your feet will stay dry and comfortable.
Sunscreen and Lip Balm
The sun's rays are less filtered at higher elevations. Snow also reflects sunrays like a giant mirror, making them even more intense. Wind can burn your skin too. It's tough to explain to your boss or teacher why you're bright red when you supposedly "spent the day in bed recovering from that nasty flu virus that's going around." Protect your skin and you won't have to think of any excuses!