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What a difference the right clothing can make! The weather may be cold, windy and wet, but you're warm and dry because you're wearing authentic winter apparel. Whether you're skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or just running errands, versatile winter apparel is worth the investment.
This is the snug-fitting (not tight) layer worn next to your skin, usually consisting of long underwear. 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. Even though it's cold, you will sweat - especially if you are cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
This middle layer includes sweaters, sweatshirts, vests and pullovers. The purpose of this layer is to keep heat in and cold out, which is accomplished by trapping air between the fibers. 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. Popular insulation materials include fleece (a synthetic material which maintains its insulating ability even when wet and spreads the moisture out so it dries quickly) and wool (which naturally wicks away moisture).
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. Most genuine winter shells and pants are made 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 and type of winter activity you will be doing, you may be interested in uninsulated pants and jackets/shells, or garments with increasing amounts of insulation.
Tip: If you wear a hat, you may be able to wear one less layer on your body.
Up to 60 percent of your body's heat can escape from an uncovered head, so wearing a hat or helmet is essential when it's cold. There are thousands of styles of hats and headbands, usually made from fleece or wool. Many have non-itch liners. Helmets are very popular and not only protect your head, but also keep your head warm. A fleece neck gaiter or facemask is a must on cold days.
Sunglasses and Goggles
Sunglasses do much more than make you look cool, they also protect your eyes from damaging solar radiation. Snow, or any other reflective surface, makes ultraviolet (UV) rays stronger, while increased altitude also magnifies the danger. 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.
Gloves and Mittens
Look for gloves and mittens that use waterproof, breathable fabrics. Mittens, in general, are warmer than gloves, but offer you less dexterity. Consider the type of activity you'll be doing. 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. Cross-country skiing gloves tend to be lighter-weight for extra movement and because you perspire more.
One pair of lightweight or medium-weight socks works best for skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. Socks are made from a variety of materials, including polyester, silk, wool and nylon. Some socks have wicking properties similar to long underwear, so your feet will stay dry and comfortable.
What not to wear
- 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.
- Cotton isn't advised. Cotton is great for towels, because it soaks up and retains moisture. That's precisely why cotton is all wrong for on-slope apparel. It absorbs moisture (sweat and snow) and retains it. When the wind blows, you will get very, very cold. Don't wear cotton athletic socks, cotton jeans, cotton sweatshirts, or cotton T-shirts.
- Resist the temptation to put on too many pairs of socks. You'll restrict circulation and actually cause your feet to get colder.