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February 04, 2009

What to Wear When Skiing

Marmot-La-Grave-cropped Plenty of you are, I hope, getting out and doing some skiing. But skiing is a tough thing to dress for. You may be on a lift five, 10, or 30 minutes. Then there’s 10 or 15 minutes of hard work down the run. Then you sit again, exposed to the elements. And conditions change from weekend to weekend, and of course during the day. So a good ski outfit needs to adapt to a hard work/no work routine, not to mention the vagaries of the weather.

For that reason, I am an inveterate layerer when I ski. My gear bag has a whole bunch of stuff I can put on at the last minute, depending on the weather outside the car or at the lodge. I just don’t care for jackets and pants that commit me to a certain level of insulation.

So here’s my basic kit:

Base layer: For my legs, usually Icebreaker’s Bodyfit 260 Leggings ($70). Warm and breathable, these do a great job of temperature regulating across an amazingly wide range of temperatures. For spring skiing, I opt for Patagonia’s superlight Capilene 1 Bottoms ($36). If it’s really cold (10 degrees F or lower), I might put on a pair of very basic fleece pants; Campmor’s Men’s Microfleece Pants ($36) would be fine.

For a top I like Patagonia’s Capilene 1 Crew ($38).

Insulation: I'm based in Washingon state, and for a typical day of skiing at Crystal Mountain or Stevens Pass, I find that Patagonia’s Micro Puff jacket ($180) is just about perfect. It’s a sweater-like garment that has a smooth nylon shell and that is insulated with polyester filament, so even if it gets sweaty or wet it keeps me warm. It’s light, very warm, breathes well, and layers beautifully. The current version has a full zip, but I wish they’d again make the half zip like my somewhat older version has.

Shell: There are lots of good choices here. These days for pants I wear a pair of Patagonia bibs that the company doesn’t make anymore, but their Men’s Primo Flash Pants ($350) are similar. They’re waist-high and bibs are nice, but hardly anybody is making bibs these days (Arc’Teryx does, but their Alpha SV Bib is $500!). Mountain Hardwear’s Stance Shell Pants ($160) are a little more affordable and are a versatile, ski-friendly lower shell.

Nearly any good quality shell works for your upper body. I’ve been very happy the past two winters with a prototype made from Gore-Tex’s new Pro Shell material. Burton makes a snowboard-friendly jacket with the stuff, called the AK 3L Jacket ($480). For skiers, check out Marmot's La Grave Jacket ($450).

For less scratch, Columbia Sportswear’s Whirlibird ($179) combines a good shell with a zip-out fleece liner, so it can stand as a good all-in-one. Or there is L.L. Bean’s Mountain Stretch Shell ($200).

I add some gloves, hat or helmet, and goggles, and I’m off—hopefully for a great day on the slopes.

Photo: Marmot's La Grave Jacket (courtesy, Marmot)

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding · Travel Gear


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Im looking to take a skiing hol soon. Great info thanks.

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