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How to dress for cold weather adventures

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Skiing in Jeans — A cold rough ride

As a Colorado native, I knew from a very early age that skiing in jeans is a huge no-no. Seen as a fashion faux pas, the practice has been around long before my little skis hit the slopes to practicing my “pizza and french-fry”. Beyond the fashion faux pas, wearing jeans and other wardrobe missteps creates a serious chance of ruining your outdoor adventure due to hypothermia and frostbite. While an uncomfortable and chilly experience is more likely, stay warm, dry, and on game with these tips for outdoor adventure attire.

The Right Socks

Happy outdoor adventures start with the right socks. The boots you’ll be wearing while skiing or snowboarding are designed to keep your feet warm in the cold. Wearing thick socks or multiple layers of socks will give you blisters and cut off circulation. We all know how bad blisters can be, but cutting of circulation can be dangerous by inviting the possibility of frostbite. Invest in a purpose designed pair of socks that provide the warmth you need. Spending a little extra money on this item is worthwhile. You’ll know you’ve got the right balance when you can wiggle your toes.

Save up to 60% on your adventure clothing.

Avoid Cotton Fabrics

Have you ever noticed that skier or snowboarder who has a frozen t-shirt hanging unnaturally below his/her jacket with crusty snow clinging on? Cotton clothing, like t-shirts, is horrible for cold, wet, and sweaty activities. The fabric soaks up water and retains it easily. As water is soaked up, it weighs down the material and transfers the cold of the air through the fabric and next to your skin. Talk about adventure zapping! You may not get to the point of a sagging t-shirt, but even the tiniest amount of sweat can chill you to the bone when wearing cotton.

Too Many Layers

The natural inclination is to wear as many layers as possible for cold weather activities, but it’s easy to go overboard. Stick with thin layers that are designed for your activity. Start with a base layer made from a wicking material — usually polyester — designed to move any moisture away from your skin. One layer under your snow pants and jacket may be all you need. Some people, like me, run hot and choose fleece lined snow pants as the only layer on warmer days.

After the wicking layer, choose an insulating layer. This layer keeps the warm in and the cold out by trapping air between the wicking and insulating layer. When you do sweat while riding the groomed trails or dancing through powder, this layer keeps the cold air away from the moisture created. Materials like fleece or wool will maintain its insulating ability even when wet.

Finally, use an exterior layer for protection — jacket and snow pants. This layer should be water repellent and block the wind and snow. When selecting yours, keep ease of movement and functionality features in mind. Traditionally, snowboarders prefer looser fits for full range of motion. Skiers may choose tighter fits, but in the end, it’s up to you. Beginners are wise to choose a jacket with a snow skirt, to keep out the snow during falls. All levels of snowboarders should consider pants with reinforced seats and knees for extra protection when kneeling or sitting on the snow.

Don’t Forget Your Head

When it comes to hats, helmets, neck gaiters, and goggles think simple. You want a hat that fits under your helmet without bunching up. You want a neck gaiter that stays up during activity, but pulls away from your face when needed. I’ve been experimenting with a balaclava, not to be confused with baklava. This clothing choice is a combination of hat and neck gaiter in one and is perfect for keeping things simple. You may find that you don’t need a neck gaiter because your jacket collar serves that purpose. In that case, a simple hat would be a better solution than a balaclava.

Finish off your adventure outfit with a high-quality pair of goggles. This is another area where I suggest your splurge. Choose a pair that do not fog easily, have polarized lenses, and a large enough strap to fit around your helmet.

Prepare and Experiment

Experimenting with your clothing and layers will get you to the right balance. Bring extra layers and add or remove as needed. The goal is achieving a maintainable body temperature during your winter outdoor adventure. Finding the happy-medium of layers will ensure that your body performs at peak levels. As a little whippersnapper riding the Colorado Rockies, my mom would make me put on multiple layers of socks and shirts — think Randy from A Christmas Story. Because of this, I was always cold and didn’t like our trips to the mountains. Although, I never admitted to it at the time because I wanted to have fun like everyone else. It wasn’t until I was in control of my adventure duds that I figured out these imperatives for happy outdoor adventures.


How to dress for cold weather adventures was originally published in Aspen & Pine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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