With the weather becoming colder it becomes a little more complicated and involved to dress for skiing to stay warm and dry. Which is essential because who wants to be cold and wet?
When it’s quite cold you’ll probably want to have about 3 layers on your torso and/or legs. I’m going to outline what I do because I know it works for me.
I hesitate to recommend brands, but I use the MEC T1 and T3 base layers most often. I am amazed at how a fabric that I can see through can be so warm, but they are and often I simply use one of these plus a Nordic ski specific jacket.
The intent of the base layer is to remove the moisture from your skin and migrate it out and away. Staying dry is the key to staying warm.
Some people call this the insulating layer. I find I only need a middle layer when it’s extremely cold and I’ve observed over the years that what works best for me is a thicker base layer with a thinner fabric as the middle layer. The thick fabric at skin level absorbs the moisture created while skiing and transfers it to the middle layer where it can evaporate.
This is where you want your wind proofing to be. Choosing a breathable fabric that doesn’t allow a cold wind inside can be expensive, but a good ski jacket is worth the money. Most have a section in the back of non-windproof fabric to allow moisture to escape.
You know you’ve dialed in your layering perfectly when your skin is dry and the inside of your wind layer has frost on it…
Hand flexibility is important while skiing. Don’t wear a heavy mitt that infringes on your fingers ability to flex. Even though poling should be done with force from the forearm based at the wrist (Ask someone who knows what they’re doing to show you how to set up your straps if you’re unsure. There is a right and a wrong way to do it) you’ll still need to bend your fingers to control the poles travel to the front position. Skiing specific gloves seem expensive but when you consider you’ll probably use them for multiple seasons it amortizes well.
A toque or balaclava that blocks wind but minimizes sweat works best. Choose something light and easy to remove or put back on. Using a buff and a toque combination keeps your neck warm and if you double up at your ears you should be toasty warm without being too warm.
In extreme cold or windy conditions, I use downhill ski goggles. They work to a point but tend to fog up after a while. This is still better than looking like you’re hung over because your eyes are bloodshot and dry. It is possible to get frostbite on your eyes, which burns. Protect them from the wind.
Legs and feet:
Layering your legs seems to be less of an issue for me. I find I usually need 1 less layer on my legs than on my torso. Bike tights work, especially if they have a wind proof front and again, the MEC T1 and T3 base layers work excellent.
One thing specifically about your feet. Racing ski boots are made to be thin and light. Not warm. No matter what I always bring dry socks along to put on just before I start my ski. It makes a considerable difference.
Other areas: (ahem)
(We’re mostly adults here. We have a working knowledge of how we’re made. This is for information so don’t be offended…. Men: Some people use socks, some people use a thin toque, some people stick a glove down there and some people use specially knitted pouches. An extra layer there makes things a lot more comfortable on colder, windy days.)
Experiment with layering techniques so you learn what works for your level of exertion and sweat production. A lot of cycling clothing can double as ski clothing... Obviously, you’ll have different strategies for different temperatures and workouts. The goal is to be warm and dry at the end of your workout and if you’re not, then you’ve probably over dressed
Although I’ve mentioned MEC in this post, please do be aware that all the local bike shops that sell skis also have clothing for sale for skiing. And someone on staff will likely also be a skier who can help you decide what to purchase to stay toasty warm while enjoying the only true sport in the world: Nordic Skiing.