Never underestimate the weather on a ski hill. A bluebird day can turn into full-on winter conditions in the time it takes to ride the chairlift. But with the right gear you can get the most out of your lift ticket by staying out longer.
A proper ski outfit consists of the following:
Jacket: The goal is to be warm when riding up the chairlift, but not sweaty while skiing down. An insulated, waterproof/breathable jacket with a removable or tuck-away hood is best—the hoodless collar seals in air around the neck. If the jacket has an integral hood, make sure it fits over a ski helmet or else it just gets in the way. Look for a hip-length jacket to prevent snow from getting in at the waist.
Pants: These should be insulated, waterproof and breathable. Ski pants usually have interior ankle gaiters that keep snow from getting into ski boots. High-waist pants or bib-style pants with detachable straps are a good choice to prevent any snow finding its way to your waistline. Tip: Got young ones? One-piece ski suits should be reserved for kids who are well beyond the potty-training stage.
Long underwear: Either synthetic or merino wool base layers (make sure there is no cotton content) both do the trick. If you are going to buy only 1 set (top and bottom), go with a midweight model. This next-to-skin layer shouldn’t be too tight or restrictive.
Insulating layer: On colder days, a lightweight fleece or wool top and pants that go over long underwear will help keep you warm. Again, avoid cotton.
Neck gaiter: Often overlooked, this handy item (right) protects the neck, ears and lower face from wind and sunburn. Merino wool or polyester fleece are best for soft, no-itch warmth and minimal odor after long-term wear.
Face Mask: Protect your face from windburn, and if you have the money to spend try the ColdAvenger, which has a ventilator built into it to protect your lungs from the cold. Read more about the product here.
Socks: Stay away from cotton socks and anklets. Ski socks should extend to just above the calf and be made of a blend of wool and synthetic fibers. Bring two pairs of ski socks and wear one at a time, rotate the pairs to prevent blisters; keep the extra one in your pack in case of wet feet.
Helmet: This item is essential, not only for safety, but it is one of the best ways to keep your head warm.
Goggles: Medium-tint styles are best for all-condition wear. One option is to buy goggles and a helmet as a package—many are designed to work together so there’s no “gaper gap” on the forehead.
Mittens: Mittens are better than gloves for warmth. Look for a waterproof, well-insulated pair, ideally with a rip-and-stick type closure pocket for warmers (below). Wrist cuffs should be long enough to either extend under or over jacket cuffs by a couple of inches. Another option is to purchase a waterproof mitten style cover that goes over a light-weight glove.
Warmers: These air-activated heat pouches can be your best friend on the slope. Some styles of gloves have “warmer pockets,” so you just shake the warmers and insert them into the pouches for all-day warmth.
To ensure you don’t leave anything at home, make a checklist to keep in the top pouch of your gear pack.