Ski Wear: The Key to Enjoyable Snowy Adventures
The unique beauty of snowscapes can be experienced in a number of ways, but skiing is definitely one of the most exciting ones. Sliding down snowy slopes under the winter sun is a fun physical activity that can improve your cardiovascular endurance and health, strengthen your legs and lower body muscles, improve your balance and core strength, increase your flexibility, help you lose some weight, and increase your vitamin D intake. Plus, it can also enhance your mood, improve your proprioception, increase your sense of spatial awareness, and offer you many more psychological and mental health benefits. Amazing, isn’t it?
If skiing is a bullet point on your bucket list that you haven’t crossed yet, learning why snow clothing is an immensely important piece of snow gear and what features to look for when shopping for ski clothes is without a doubt one of the first steps you should take. Why? Simply because your snow clothes will have a direct impact on your comfort and overall skiing experience.
In order to be fully protected from the elements (yes, mountain weather can be very harsh), you need to invest in high-quality snow wear, including a ski jacket, ski pants, salopettes, and, of course, ski base and mid-layers.
Waterproofing and breathability are the two crucial qualities your ski jacket needs to have. Your jacket should keep snow out and allow the heat and moisture your body generates while you ski to escape at the same time. The performance of ski jackets depends largely on the waterproof/breathable membrane in the fabrics they are made of. The level of waterproofing is usually expressed in numbers referring to a water test. So, 5,000 mm is low waterproofing, 10,000 mm is average, 20,000 mm is high, and 28,000 mm is extremely high. Keep in mind that high waterproofing can take away from your jacket’s ability to absorb moisture and release it through the material.
Breathability, on the other hand, is often rated in grams, from 5,000 g being low to 20,000 g and more being high or very breathable. You can also come across RET (Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer) values for breathability. So, basically a RET value of 0 indicates excellent breathability, whereas a RET value of 30+ isn’t breathable at all. This means that being active while wearing such a clothing item will most likely feel extremely uncomfortable.
Aside from a waterproof membrane, most ski jackets come with a thin waterproof coating on top of the material as well. This is a great feature because it protects the jacket’s water resistance and breathability by preventing water from settling and soaking in with ease. DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment is the phrase used to refer to this type of coating.
When it comes to insulation, the popularity of synthetic padding is on the rise because this cruelty-free option tends to work better when wet. Yes, synthetic insulation can be quite bulky, but newer forms are more compressible and stretchy and mimic down quite successfully. In case your cold intolerance is high, you might want to consider purchasing a ski jacket with battery-powered heating panels.
Sealed seams and moisture-wicking materials are two more desirable features. Seams sealed with tape tend to be more waterproof, whereas jacket linings made of quick-drying materials can help you stay dry on warm days or when working hard. This is so because moisture-dispersing fabrics are designed to transport sweat away from the body.
The durability as well as the weight of the materials a ski jacket is made of play a significant role too. For instance, the outer face fabric can be several layers thick. Such ski jackets are more hard-wearing but tend to be heavier and feel harder. The fit and cut are important as well. If you plan to cruise smooth pistes, opting for slim fit is the smartest decision you can make. A baggy cut, on the other hand, is more suitable for those who like hiking and other big movements. Luckily, there’s a variety of options between these two extremes.
Last but not least, look for jackets with venting zips and inner snow skirts. The former are great for dumping hot moist air, while the latter can prevent snow from shovelling up your back when you fall.
Experts say that ski pants are an item of snow wear that’s unfairly underrated. Finding the right ski pants for you is a must because they will not only help you look great, but also keep you warm, dry, and comfortable all day. Waterproofing is a key quality here as well. To protect yourself from unexpected weather, look for pants with a high waterproof rating (from 10,000 mm to 20,000 mm).
When it comes to warmth, there are many different ski pant types. For example, there are uninsulated ski pants that come with a lining for a little dose of extra comfort. Then there are ski pants with synthetic insulation. For the ultimate level of warmth and comfort, it’s smart to combine a pair of shell pants and base layer thermal leggings.
Be careful not to overlook the importance of waist size. When shopping for ski pants, move one size up compared to your usual trousers. This will allow you to move freely and wear extra layers underneath. Fit is key as well. Many professionals suggest deciding on pants that are neither too tight nor too loose. Tight-fitting pants can hinder your mobility and limit your athletic potential, whereas loose ones can slide down your body as you stretch and move, which, let’s face it, can be both inconvenient and embarrassing.
Make sure the pants you decide on are longer than your everyday trousers or jeans because they need to cover your ski boots (additional 10-13 cm will likely do the trick).
When it comes to features, cuff reinforcement, a snow gaiter, vents, pockets, and seam taping all deserve a place on your to-consider list.
Although many of us use the terms ski pants and salopettes interchangeably, they aren’t the exact same thing. Ski pants or trousers are fitted at the waist, while salopettes are high-waisted and usually come with a bib that braces can be attached on to.
According to numerous experts, layering is one of the easiest ways to stay warm on the slopes because it traps air between each layer. A basic layering system consists of base layers, mid-layers, and outer layers (jackets and pants). The purpose of base layers is to manage moisture, i.e. move sweat away from your body and help you stay dry from the inside. Look for base layers that offer breathability as well as reduce uncomfortable sweat against your skin. Synthetic ones are a great option. Both tops and bottoms should be close-fitting. Going for your usual size is the safest choice.
Mid-layers are an important part of your on-piste ensemble as well. They help transfer moisture to the outermost layer and provide the much-needed warmth. Insulated jackets are a popular mid-layer option because they offer the best warmth-to-weight ratio.