There’s a Zen to layering on Vail Mountain |

There’s a Zen to layering on Vail Mountain

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Every skier has their cold obsessions, said Mark Greenbury after a chilly day in Vail’s Back Bowls.

Some people are obsessed with their feet. Others their hands. Others their ears. Some feel like everything will fall off. Some people don’t seem to get cold at all.

Then you have those like Greenbury, who dress for the slopes as carefully as they would dress for a wedding, each piece with its place and purpose, carefully thought out for maximum warmth and utility.

Staying warm is all in how you dress. You can do it the smart way, or do it the cold way.

Here’s a gathering of wisdom of how to stay warm while skiing. The people interviewed weren’t doctors or high-tech fabric scientists ” just those who ski long and hard and know how basic clothing can keep you warm.

Long Johns and beyond

Hardcore skiers can agree on two things:

One, moisture is your enemy. Damp socks and shirts will freeze you up in a hurry, so staying dry is about the most important thing you can do. That’s why you should avoid cotton like the plague. Cotton soaks up water and sweat and keeps it pressed against your skin.

The other big thing is to dress in layers. Layers keep you warm and keep you flexible. Layers can be added on, and layers can be shed. Layers let you customize to weather.

Maybe you’re a three-layer person, maybe a four. Depends on how cold it is, or how warm you like to be.

Greenbury, like many skiers, starts with full body long johns to keep himself warm and dry. They are essential, he said. It’s important to buy long johns made of “wicking” material like polyester. Basically, buy your long johns in a ski store, not in the Hanes department at Target, he said. Greenbury prefers Crafts Pro Zero thermal layers.

“They were a Christmas present a year ago. I haven’t stopped wearing them,” Greenbury said.

On top of his long johns is a well fitting fleece sweatshirt. It’s warm, but not too bulky. “I wear one of these every day.”

Next, he has his bigger, insulated North Face Ski Jacket. This is his first line of defense against cold winds and moisture.

His wildcard? On the very coldest days, he might wear another fleece jacket underneath his big insulated ski jacket. On the warmest days, he has a much lighter sweater to wear on top of his long johns, or he may not wear a sweater at all.

“You really have to check the weather every day,” Greenbury said.

He wears fleece pants with waterproof ski pants over them. Sometimes, if it’s too warm out, he’ll skip the fleece pants.

Your head

On the coldest days, it’s all about the face, Carey Hester said.

That’s why he always has a balaclava, or ski mask. If needed, it can cover his entire face, his nose, just his mouth, or he can easily take it off.

“The only time I’m ever miserable is if I’m not wearing this thing,” Hester said, pulling on the stretchy cloth lining his face. “I don’t like the feeling of numb skin.”

He wears the balaclava under his ski helmet, which, while protecting himself from injury, also keeps a lot of heat in. Many skiers don’t like balaclavas, he said, while those who do wear them rarely have numb noses or ears.

On days he knows it won’t be as cold, he might just wear a knit ski cap, his helmet and goggles.

Either way, Hester knows you lose a lot of heat from the head, and always keeps it covered.

Your feet and hands

Glenna Martin said her most miserable ski experiences were those before she became a serious skier, before she realized the importance of good socks. When the feet go numb, you become worthless, she said.

Her trick? High quality ski socks that keep her feet dry, thus keeping them warm. She buys Lorpen socks.

Don’t wear cotton when skiing, Martin said. Otherwise, you’ll regret it.

“Good socks. That’s all I have to say,” she said.

Also, don’t make the beginner mistake of wearing two or three pairs of socks, says Martin. It’s best to wear one pair of thin, specialized ski socks.

Some people, like Jennifer Lowry of Vail, wear a very thin sock liner under good socks for another layer of protection, to help keep her warm and dry.

Others, like Jeremy Harrison, make a habit of changing their socks at least once during a day.

“When you sweat, your socks get wet, then they get cold,” Harrison said. “I keep dry socks in a bag in my backpack.”

On the coldest days, Martin uses “Hothands,” which are chemical handwarmers she can keep in her pocket. She buys them in bulk online.

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