How to Properly Layer your Ski Apparel // Helpful Ski Hints
Have you ever bundled up to go skiing, and found yourself sweating by the time you made it to the mountain? Then of course, after you sit on the chair lift and reach the top of the mountain, it's cold again and you're freezing. What was once a little sweat, is now a thin layer of ice on your cotton tee shirt, and it's right up against your skin. So you figure you'll make the best of it and get started on your run. The descent does the trick and by the bottom of your run you're just about sweating again. Guess what happens next? Yup. You guessed it. This cycle is bound to happen all day long unless you figure out a way to stop it. And that's where layering comes in.
A good layering system serves two major purposes. First, it should systematically work to move moisture away from your skin, preventing this Thaw --> Ice cycle that is so common. Second, it should be a good way to regulate your heat as you can add, shed, or swap layers depending on temperature changes throughout the day.
So how do you actually pull off a complete layering system? Step one in any good layering set up, starts with covering your bases. It is essential to have good next-to-skin base layers that work effectively to move moisture from your skin, to the outside of the garment. Typically, base layers are made from either a wool blend, polyester blend, or some sort of hybrid fabric that incorporates both materials. The most important part about this layer, is that it cannot be cotton! As a fabric, cotton is extremely good at absorbing and retaining moisture. While this is great for making things like towels, it's not so good when your goal is moisture elimination.
Working outward, the next layer you'll want is a solid mid layer. There are several styles of mid layers out there, so you're real free to take your pick. Pieces in this category range from water resistant soft shell jackets, to thin down jackets. They can be either a simple vest, or feature long sleeves. Mid layers are actually some of the most fun to pick out, because there are a wide variety of styles available, and they can double as something you can wear out on the town. Owning multiple mid layers is usually a good idea. This way, you can choose the right layer according to the temperature that day. Plus, if you bring extra layers to the mountain, you can always switch to a different mid layer if the temperature shifts.
Of course no layering set up could be complete without a waterproof breathable jacket to top it all off. This is potentially the most important part of your outerwear, as it's the layer that ultimately keeps the weather out. Any good winter jacket will be waterproof rated, and provide a layer of protection against the wet weather. Notice how I said any "good" winter jacket. That means that there are definitely bad jackets out there that try to pass themselves off as acceptable winter protection. A lot of lower end jackets, like you might find at a department store, use uncoated nylons. This material looks waterproof, but in reality it's unlikely that these jackets will keep you dry.
As a general rule of thumb, price is a good indicator of the quality of a winter jacket. The reasoning is simple; the more waterproof a fabric is, the more expensive it is for the manufacturers. As a result, some of the highest priced jackets are also the most waterproof. And not only that, but more expensive jackets are also made with higher quality materials inside and out. This leads to a longer life span for your jacket, creating a better value. In comparison, a cheaper jacket will be made with cheaper materials, and therefore won't work as effectively, or last as long.
Which brings us to our next point. Beyond the waterproof rating of the fabric, you should also look into other features of the jacket. For instance, does it use waterproof zippers? What about sealed seams? Is the piece fully or critically seam sealed? The difference here, is that fully seam sealed means that every seam is taped to prevent water leakage. On the other hand, critically seam sealed means that only the most vulnerable, or critical, seams are taped. Other features to look for in your outerwear are things like a goggle pouch, a pass holder, removable hood, media pocket, and other small conveniences that improve the functionality and comfort of the jacket.
And there you have it. A quick run through on how to layer properly. It's simple really, just remember that any good set up has three layers.
1. A base layer to keep your heat in and moisture away from your skin.
2. A mid layer that acts mostly as an insulating layer.
3. An outer layer that keeps moisture and wind out.
And that's really it. If you lock down these three layers (possibly with multiple mid layers), then you'll be well prepared for any weather that heads your way!