Here's a little guide on skiing outerwear. Skiing is an incredibly fun and rewarding activity, but it takes place out in the cold. Nobody likes being cold. Even things that live in the cold, like penguins or polar bears, all hate it. Sure, penguins put on a brave face and often appear happy.... but it's all a charade. So for your own safety and enjoyment, make sure you're wearing suitable outwear before hitting the slopes.
Jacket is Spanish for jacket
It might be English for jacket.
These are a couple of factors to consider when looking at jackets. Slightly further down, I'll talk about how these factors are prioritized by the different types of jackets.
• Warmth / Material
• Breathability / Venting
Your jacket selection will depend on the temperature. That's a pretty obvious statement. The jacket you wear skiing in 15 degree weather and the one you wear in 45 degree weather should probably be different. Jackets will have varying degrees of insulation (I'm saying "degree" a lot), so look for something that's warm enough for the conditions. Layering is a great way to ensure comfort in a wider variety of temps and conditions, so skiing jackets often have a relaxed fit to accommodate a couple of base and mid layers. Plus your jacket should be waterproof or water resistant, to keep out the rain and snow, while being breathable enough to keep moisture from building up from within, or featuring pit or torso zippers to dump excess heat.
TYPES OF JACKETS
Hardshell jackets excel at keeping out wind and rain, while offering some degree of breathability. So they'll keep you dry and protected. However, they offer no insulation, so should either be worn on their own during warmer temperatures, or layered over an insulating layer in colder weather. All this hardshell and softshell talk is making me want some tacos.
Down insulated jackets are super light, super compressible and super warm. Almost.... too warm. Down jackets do an incredible job of storing body heat, so be warned that if you're putting in an exceptionally physical work out, you run the risk of overheating. But if the temps are super low, or if you're heading out for some backcountry skiing, a compressible down jacket might be a strong option. Be on the lookout for one with pit-zips for an easy way to quickly dump excess heat. But note, down does not do a good job of insulating if it's wet, so if it might rain or if you think you'll fall a lot, this isn't the best option. But also note, it's one of the best apres-ski options for kicking it around the lodge. Fyi, "apres" is a French word meaning "let's get drunk" (don't quote me on that).
Synthetic insulated jackets function a lot like down insulated jackets, only they're a bit heavier and bulkier, but perform much better when wet. So this would be a great option for those cold days on the slopes where you think you might take a few spills or if the forecast is calling for a dumping of snow or a chance of rain or sleet. Again, this is also transitions well to apres-ski, as it does a good job retaining body heat.
Fleece jackets make a great insulating layer for skiing. They should almost never be worn as your outermost layer though, as wind cuts right through, negating any built-up heat. If you're moving fast, you'll feel the chill. But due to their breathability, warmth retention (when protected), and ability to do their job even after getting a bit wet, fleece jackets are a solid insulation for a ski jacket system. You'll often see it as the inner layer of a 3-in-1 component jacket.
Softshells can be worn as either an insulating layer in colder temps, or as a stand-alone outer layer in warmer spring/fall skiing. The great thing about these hard-faced fleeces is that when they have a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, they do a great job at shedding snow or light rain and can handle a tumble or two. Add that to the fact that they are stretchy for exceptional mobility, and they breathe well to limit sweat build-up, and you've got yourself a great jacket for aerobic ski sessions, like cross country, backcountry, or warmer weather downhill skiing. Plus, softshells transition perfectly to casual life, if you're looking for some extra versatility.
3-in-1 jackets are very versatile and give you a lot of bang for your buck. Also called component jackets, they are comprised of a weatherproof outer shell, and an inner insulation layer. Each layer can be worn on its own in different conditions. The shell is useful on warmer, wetter days, whereas the insulating layer is good for colder, drier days. When worn together they can fend off the harshest conditions. Read on a little bit for a breakdown of insulating layers, as you can find different types of insulation as the inner layer of a 3-in-1 jacket.
Featuring useful things
This stuff is useful.
POWDER SKIRT - Also called a snowskirt, this is an elastic gasket which prevents snow from getting all up in your jacket. These are very useful in fresh powder or if you like to fall a lot. If you're new or newish to skiing, definitely look for this feature.
RECCO REFLECTOR - These puppies help rescuers find people unfortunate enough to have been caught in an avalanche. They reflect a signal, not light so stop thinking of your bike's reflector. Rescue crews are able to pinpoint the direction of the signal reflection so they know just where to look. It's pretty cool stuff.
MEDIA POCKET WITH HEADPHONE PORT - If you love jamming your favorite tunes or need to listen to a book on tape for a book report, a special pocket with cord guides will come in handy.
HELMET COMPATIBLE HOOD - A helmet compatible hood will fit over a helmet. Pretty logical. You should be wearing a helmet, so you should be looking for a helmet compatible hood. Pretty much all ski jackets have this feature.
PIT ZIPS - Pit zips are exactly what they sound like, zippered holes in the armpits of the jacket. These are a great way to dump excess heat that builds up, to keep your core a comfortable temperature. They also make tickling your friends much easier.
GOGGLE POCKET - This feature is also self-explanatory. It's a big ol' pocket in the jacket for stowing your goggles.
ADJUSTABLE CUFFS - These guys are great at interactive with your gloves to block out the snow. They can synch down to fit under gauntlet style gloves, or tighten over under the cuff gloves.
You might be pantless if you forget them
Grab a pant that fits your activity
The main factors to consider when choosing ski pants are how wet the conditions will be, and how prone you are to overheating (which will also depend on activity). In wet conditions, you'll want highly waterproof pants. Makes sense, right? I like it when this stuff makes sense. In dryer conditions, or when you know you won't be out on the slopes for prolonged periods of time, you can get away with something that's just water-resistant. Here are the main types of ski pants that are out there.
INSULATED SKI PANTS - These have integrated insulation behind a waterproof or water resistant shell. The insulation is typically synthetic or fleece, which both perform well when wet. “But why would it get wet if the shell is waterproof?” you might ask. Well, moisture can build up from sweat.
SOFTSHELL PANTS - Just like softshell jackets, softshell pants work well as an outer layer in warmer, dry conditions, or as an insulating layer in colder, wet conditions. Sporting excellent mobility and good breathability, they work well for highly aerobic skiing, like cross-country.
SHELL PANTS - These puppies are an outer waterproof or water resistant layer, designed to keep your legs and other layers dry. They allow you to tailor your warmth to the conditions, as you can put them over a baselayer in warmer conditions, or put them over additional layers in colder weather. If you're looking for this kind of versatility, shell pants provide it. Sidenote: why are peanuts without a shell called “shelled peanuts?” That's confusing, right? If you agree with me, please write your congressman.
BIBS - These things offer incredible protection from sneaky snow. You know that snow that tries to slink in through the waistline? That's the stuff it stops, in addition to the regular old snow.
All I can think about is cake
Chocolate or Cheese?
This article is mainly about outer layers, but you still gotta start with a good, solid foundation. That logic applies to a skiing outfit just as much as it does to building a house, baking a layer cake or.... Idk, building a friendship probably. Also, I think putting on makeup requires some sort of foundation. Anyways, a wicking base layer and a cozy mid layer can greatly extend the comfort range of your jacket. Pick and choose your layers based on temperature and activity level.
Keep your interphalangeal articulations from the cold
Just keep your digits warm.
Are your hands always cold? My hands seem to be colder than everybody else's, just ask any dog I've ever petted. Also ask them who's a good boy. If you find your hands are like mine and are often difficult to keep warm, get yourself a pair of heavily insulated gloves. Although mitts will typically keep your hands warmer, they lack the dexterity of gloves which is often required for skiing, from better pole control, to working zippers and adjusting goggles. If you're concerned that no glove is warm enough for your cold fingers, look for a pair with zippered pockets which can hold hand warmers.
Integrating your glove into your jacket is possible in two different ways: gauntlet vs under the cuff. Gauntlet style gloves have extra fabric which goes over your jacket cuff and cinches down tightly. They're great for quickly putting on and taking off. On the other hand (<- that was a joke), under the cuff gloves go.... well, under your jacket cuff. These aren't as easy to slip on and off, but when used with a jacket with adjustable cuffs, can create a seamless seal against rain and snow.
Protecting your melon could be the most important thing you do.
Have you ever dropped a watermelon? Splat!
I'm very heavily recommending you wear a helmet when skiing. This isn't the olden days anymore, like when motorcyclists didn't wear helmets, or hockey players didn't wear helmets, or when skiers didn't wear helmets. We have tons of data to show the severity of head injuries. Most people on the slopes now wear helmets, and you should be one of them. Most helmets offer enough warmth to get you through a day on the slopes. That being said, on cold, cold days, you might need a little more warmth than your helmet provides. For times like that, look to a wool or synthetic skull cap or very slim beanie. A lot of balaclavas are also designed to be worn under a helmet. The key is making sure your helmet still fits properly and securely over your headwear.
NOW GET OUT ON THE SLOPES ALREADY
If your body is at a comfortable temperature, you're gonna have more fun on the slopes. Plus your mom will worry about you less. So do yourself a favor, do your mom a favor, and pick out some outerwear that will keep you warm, safe and happy.