Winter is coming! With colder temperatures in the forecast by the end of the week, this timely blog entry should help you prepare the appropriate gear for skiing in Winnipeg winters.
Cross-country skiing is a high intensity sport, and so you’ll build up a healthy amount of body heat and moisture when training. Some of this moisture is sweat, but most of it is condensation from the temperature difference between your body and the cold air. The faster speeds also result in significant wind-chill as well as an increased frostbite risk.
Here’s a formula to follow when dressing for DN, remembering that each layer should be breathable.
THE THREE LAYERS
Base Layer: This layer will keep you warm by drawing moisture away from the skin. Tight fitting long underwear or tights made of polypro or merino wool are best for keeping skin dry. I like merino because it rarely smells bad; synthetics are the worst. Cotton has been called the “death fabric” as it gets very wet and cold, so don’t wear it anywhere when you are skiing.
Mid Layer(s): These insulating layers, using materials such as synthetic, merino, or polar fleece, are designed to keep you warm and wick that moisture even further away from your skin. Try multiple layers rather than one super thick layer, so you can easily remove what you don’t need while out on the trail. You can use layers of varying thicknesses to help you regulate temperature better.
Outer Layer: You will want a windproof soft-shell and ski pants, which have windproof panels in front and are breathable in the back. We (mostly) ski facing forward down the track, and so create the windchill on the front of our body. A great option on some jackets is zipper venting under the arms. You can test windproofing by holding the fabric to your mouth and attempting to blow through the fabric… try not to do this in a ski shop while wearing heavy lipstick.
Steve’s tip: spend a couple minutes warming up each hand before going outside, to offset the body’s reaction to the cold of drawing blood away from the extremities.
Hands: Mittens are warmer than gloves, but gloves give you better pole control, and are great in warm weather. In choosing mitts for skiing, pick a mitt that is compact and fits into your pole strap well. Invest in a pair of extra thin polar fleece overmitts for those extra cold days.
Feet: Feet can be a challenge for many. In addition to choosing warm, comfortable ski boots, the best solution is to wear a merino wool sock and hold back from layering socks to the point where you barely have room to move your toes. There must be air space around your foot to allow blood circulation, and to trap heat. If you find your feet are chronically cold, you can try fitting Instant Toe Warmers into the boot, or invest in a pair of neoprene or insulated boot covers, sold by many ski shops. You could also buy electric socks (yes they exist!)
Head: Toque, balaclava and buff combos are great. I’m a huge fan of long merino wool buffs that can be folded in all sorts of combos. Cover exposed skin on very cold skis – it takes no time to wind up with frostbite. Check your friends’ faces, they may not be aware of what’s happening to them.
For ski clinic nights, be prepared to be standing around more than you would on a normal exercise or workout ski. Add an extra insulating layer (or two!) and protect your extremities.
On interval nights, be prepared to be skiing like a maniac, way faster than you would on a recreational or low-intensity training ski. Remove an insulation layer, but wear that soft-shell breathable jacket to protect you from windchill. You will also want a good balaclava, toque or DN buff combo that covers skin and will keep that cold air out of your lungs.
This may be an outfit to try for spring skiing ...