Everyone loves a day on the slopes when the sun is shining and temperatures are moderate. But finding just the right clothes, regardless of the weather, is key to making the most of any skiing and riding adventure.
When in a winter environment, layering is crucial says Stan Kosmider of The North Face. “The most underrated thing when people are getting ready to go outside is bypassing the part that’s closest to the skin. Yes, cotton feels great, but when you’re in an aerobic situation like skiing and snowboarding, that cotton actually absorbs all of your sweat, and when that sweat is against your body, you’re more susceptible to hypothermia and other cold weather problems,” Kosmider told SnoCountry.com.
So even if you have an expensive down jacket and shell, if you’re not prepared with the layer that’s closest to your body, those external layers won’t keep you as warm as they should.
The North Face’s base layer FlashDry, a polyester blended fabric, helps get the moisture off your body and gets it out into the atmosphere. “There’s hundreds of thousands of pores across the little strands of fabric. As the sweat is coming out, it disperses it across the fibers,” Kosmider told us. Merino wool is another great base layer option because of its antimicrobial properties.
Next is a mid-layer, which captures heat in fleece layers. “You want to be conscious of how you are going to use the piece, Kosmider said, because you want it to be thin enough to layer, but still trap heat. The North Face has “gridded” pieces that have tiny little grooves that allow sweat vapors to travel out through the layers of clothing, but the fleece still traps heat.
For insulating layers, two effective materials provide options, depending on the conditions you might encounter.
Down’s warmth-to-weight ratio is unmatched, and is a popular choice for everything from jackets, to sleeping bags, to comforters. The North Face uses 100 percent responsibly-sourced goose down.
Unfortunately, when down gets wet, the loft is compromised and actually reduces the amount of insulating properties it has. So unless there is a waterproof fabric over the down, wearing down in the rain is not the best insulator.
Kosmider says if there’s a chance of getting wet, use synthetic insulation such as Primaloft, a manmade polyester blended fabric that is hydrophobic. Even when it's completely submerged in water, it actually still stores heat.
Finally, an outer shell can protect you from variable conditions like snow and rain. GORE-TEX is a membrane construction that’s 100 percent water proof, but highly breathable. This revolutionary product that came out in the mid 70s, allows water to stay in molecular shape longer - water beads right off. “GORE-TEX allows you to zip it up and go do what you want to do, and stop worrying about it,” Kosmider told us.
Finally, taking care of your investment in gear is key to it functioning properly and lasting a long time. “The biggest thing you can do is wash your garments,” Kosmider said. Washing on the delicate cycle with a non-dye liquid detergent will clean out the pores of your jackets, and putting it in the dryer will re-morph the water-repellent finish. Kosmider also suggests drying your down jacket with clean tennis balls or balls specifically made for the dryer, to let each of the down feathers dry and return its loft. Don’t ever hang-dry down, because mold and mildew can grow in the many feathers.
A good pace to start for a layering system is The North Face’s Tri-Climate series, which offers an easy combination of insulation, waterproff layers, and breathability.