The key to enjoying skiing is a functional ski kit, but you no longer have to give up looking chic while being able to perform. With constantly shifting weather conditions, sometimes on the same day, it's too easy to be too cold or too warm- and neither makes for a fun day on the mountain. I have been the victim of both with a gorgeous (and expensive) ski jacket that had NO functionality: it did not breathe as I hiked up Highlands Bowl, so I overheated on the way up and froze in my sweat on the way down. Not to mention the pockets could barely hold a credit card. But boy, did I look good! From first tracks to après, here are seven tips for buying the perfect ski kit this season.
1. Versatile Outer Layer
You go one of two ways here: an insulated jacket or a shell that you layer up underneath. In terms of personal preference- if you run cold or do not like tons of layers, go with a jacket. If you run hot or like to wear thicker mid-layers- like a hoodie- go with a shell. The key for both is making sure they are made of breathable, wind-resistant and waterproof fabric. Pit Zips are essential for climate control. Take a good look at the pockets and ask yourself questions like: Is there one for a lift pass? Will the inner pocket fit my phone? Can I stow a pair of sunglasses for lunch or aprés? Aztech Mountain makes both versions, and if you like the old-school look, Alps & Meters has revolutionized waterproof wools.
2. Waterproof and Flexible Pants
Your pants are the key to comfort. You need to be able to move- try a few knee bends and ensure they are not too tight at the waist. They should be roomy enough to fit a base layer. Similar to your jacket, look for fabrics that are waterproof and breathable. You may spend a fair amount of time in the snow if you're a beginner, but as you improve you will need to be able to retract and extend into your turns. Either way- lifts can be cold and wet, so pants that will keep you dry are a must. Lined pants give an extra warmth component if you tend to get cold easily.
3. Fun Mid-Layer
You want an excellent mid-layer that keeps you warm but looks chic at lunch or après. Merino wool is washable and odorless, which has put the ski sweater back on the map. You can also never go wrong with a hoodie or zip-up.
4. Strong Base Layer
This is the core of what will keep you warm. These are designed not to be seen. Some pants are lined, but your lower layer is crucial to staying warm, especially on cold lifts that have been sitting in the elements. I recommend:
- Flatlock seams to minimize chafing
- Spandex for stretch and ease of movement
- Boot-top cut, roughly 3/4 length to prevent bunching
- Interfacing waistband to increase belly comfort and reduce muffin-topping
5. Good Pair of Socks
Thickness no longer equates to warmth. If they are too big or lumpy, they will bunch up in your boot which can make for a miserable day. Pro Tip: Put your socks on first and then your base layer OVER your socks. If your base layer gets into your boots, your shins may start hurting, and it's a much easier way to get dressed!
6. Neck Gaiter or Balaclava
Face covering pieces can be the difference between a good or bad day on the slopes. If it's bone-chillingly cold, you can wear a balaclava under your helmet, pull it down around your neck for chilly days, and shove it in your pocket (that you checked for- see tip #1) when it's warm and sunny. A waterproof, fleece-lined gator lined will help keep the elements out and the heat in.
7. Versatile Goggles
This is especially important if you are wearing a helmet (which you should). Vision is everything when you ski. As lighting shifts, especially in cloudy conditions (flat light) or a whiteout (even flatter), you need to be able to see what is coming at you. A photochromic lens technology that automatically adjusts to shifting light conditions is ideal. The more peripheral vision, the better- which is a feature of most frameless styles. Make sure the strap is comfortable and not too tight on your face as this will cause lines and puffy eyes. Fog-free lenses are also a must-have so you can see where you’re going!