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What does a beginner wear?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Lets face it. The right ski wear is phenomenal these days but its not cheap, and not likely something that a beginner has laying around.

I think we've all been there.
You're talking a friend into trying to ski for the first time, and he/she says, "I don't even have snow pants. What do I wear?"

So, you go to the closet, or the closet of other family members and you find something that will 'make do'. Maybe a little loose or a little tight, but they'll do.

Now that we have found a pair of snow pants that sorta fit, assuming that your friend has a coat, because everyone has a winter coat, we find a pair of gloves. That's the easy one because we all have an extra pair of gloves.

Our friend is all set to hit the slopes with the exception of a headwear.

I know the right thing to do is to rent a helmet or find a helmet in our own ranks to put on said friend, but for the first timer, I will confess, I've been known to say..........."you'll only be on the bunny slope, just wear a good warm hat"
Then, being the good friend that I am, I first dig out my dad's old "hunter orange" stocking cap.
After some interesting expression on said friends face, and expression that screams "hail NO!", we dig around and find an appropriate warm hat for the friend. This is not an easy task these days because we all wear helmets and just don't have a selection of hats around like we used to.

I'll follow with a post about my emphasis on Headwear, but in closing of this OP, I'd like to say........."THANK GOODNESS THERE IS NO PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF MY FIRST DAY ON SKIS!"
post #2 of 11
I know it is not always possible, but the beginner should have the best clothes etc possible....it does not take an expert to appreciate warm and dry....I think subjecting people to what you describe above is a ski career killer....story goes like this...ya I tried skiing...I was wet, cold...my feet hurt and I felt like a dork....it wasn't fun....so I don't see going back....

Solution? If the friend has cash, go to the ski store with them and get the proper stuff...money tight...lend em you good stuff...you go like the dork..(hey you are already hooked, it wont kill you for a day)...then once they like it...get em the good gear....
post #3 of 11
I think there are three key areas and two are difficult to control for the beginner. The easiest is the hat. Convince the beginner of the importance of the hat to keep warm and how it can be removed to help cool down.
Avoid cotton. Old swetshirts and and the cotton long johns dad wears hunting will be soaking wet on the second trip up the bunny hill. Invest in at least a cheap wicking poly-pro crew top next to the skin.
Next is the boots. I don't know how you get a comfortable boot at a rental shop. Again, no cotton athletic socks. They will get wet, wad up and rub a hole in your foot. It's my opinion that most beginners get hot and tired and wet and then cold. Buy or borrow wool or synthetic socks.
Nobody is happy when they are tired and wet, much less cold. You can't avoid tired but I think if you can stay dry you can probably stay warm and live to "enjoy" another day on the bunny hill.
post #4 of 11
Don't forget the "Starter" jacket...
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
I agree with all of you that its best to get your friend in the best gear, even if it means dressing like a dork and letting the friend have MY good stuff.

But c'mon,
I have two of nearly everything, most of us do, just in case we have a two day ski outing and need a second set of ski gear. Sometimes,(most cases with me) a Friend just isn't the same size or gender and sharing your personal gear isn't reality.
post #6 of 11
As I've said in prior posts, I tried skiing once about 20 years ago and was wearing jeans, cotton, etc. I ended up being wet, cold, miserable and I vowed to never try it again. I went out of my way to avoid dating men who skiied. I had a horrible opinion on the whole subject -very expensive, uncomfortable, etc. I had no idea that my husband was a skier until well into the relationship.
But when I agreed to try it again for his benefit, the smartest thing he ever did was to make sure that I had the right kind of clothing and equipment.

A friend at work who was a fanatical skier loaned me her hot pink ski pants/jacket and various other ski wear to go with it. Actually, she gave me the stuff because she was no longer wearing it as it was way out of style. I ended up being totally comfortable in spite of the weather (it was snowing) and on top of that, people who hadn't seen me ski were looking at me as though reminiscing about the days when the hot pink outfit was "in" (i.e. I didn't feel dorky in my outfit...that day anyway).
Clothing makes a world of difference. I already knew about clothes that wick from cycling and how much more comfortable they are. But I was totally astonished that first day about how much more comfortable I was vs. the miserable day 20 years earlier.
If shopping for clothes, ski pants or ski jacket, I recommend looking for vents. The first season that I skied, in spite of wicking material, I could never completely adjust my clothes to be totally comfortable. Then I discovered ski pants and jackets with zip vents...
now I'm comfortable the vast majority of the time.
post #7 of 11
Alright, I don't think cotton socks and t-shirts are gonna signifigantly effect a beginners experience in any way. (See the "Cotton Kills" thread in General Ski Discussion.)

Having typed that, you do need a decent outer layer. Snow pants and a winter parka of nylon or some high-tech fabric. Wool, blue jeans, and fur jackets just will not cut is as they will become wet, sodden and heavy. You need snow pants too. Jeans are ok if it's not cold or snowing, and if you are not planning on falling. Whether or not you plan to fall, as a beginnger, you will.

Something for the head is essential. I have seen more miserable looking beginners with snow and ice caked into their hair than I could shake a ski pole at. If you're lucky it will be a beautiful, blue sky day with milder temps. Don't bet on it - have the hat, preferrably helmet, on hand. At a ski area, hat and helmet-head hair styles are the norm. Nothing says gaper or newb like wearing an ice sculpture for a do.

Just my 2 cents.
post #8 of 11
I seed kids come before be with all the hand me down stuff from friends and family members and sometimes it makes me sad the parents can't place themselves in the kids shoes and consider how they send them into lessons.
Clothing is everything for winter sports. Underlayers and proper coats pants and hats. It doesn't need to be the latest but it has to be functional and fittiing.
Beginners need goggles. When the snow falls hard and heavy they suffer tremendously when they don't have goggles to cover their eyes and for kids half of their faces. I keep four pairs in my ski bag just to share with those in my classes

Boots have to be fitting properly and not be the big brother's stuff . I had a kid with boots too big twist his ankle because of way too big boots I didn't notice until I saw how small his shins were in relation to the cuff of the boot.
I know it can be a very expensive sport but it doesn't have to be. There are many options in outfitting a beginner that take advantage of used or sales that unload later years gear.
post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by trekchick View Post
You're talking a friend into trying to ski for the first time, and he/she says, "I don't even have snow pants. What do I wear?"
That can be a bit of an obstacle. It's actually, I think, a lot easier if you live in Michigan. Appropriate gloves? Pants that "will do"? Where I live, nobody who doesn't already ski, or go up into the mountains in the winter for something, would even have these.

If you're really good at talking people into things, clearly the best thing to do is to drag your friend to the store and get him to buy as much decent clothing as he'll spring for. On the plus side (sort of), he's now more heavily invested in finding out he likes the sport, and you're more heavily invested in convincing him of that.

Borrowing / lending may work, if you're prone to having similarly-sized friends. It's easy for hats, and probably gloves. A little dicier for underwear, and other people's pants never seem to fit right.

Socks! If you don't tell him otherwise, he'll wear big, bunchy wool socks or something like that. Tell him otherwise. This one is easy, 'cause socks are relatively cheap, and you can use them even if you never ski again (unlike black nylon pants that don't quite reach your ankles and have zippers up the outseams, which don't really work with a dinner jacket, though it might be worth a try).

Equipment: rent it, unless you're really good at talking people into things. I don't know about getting someone to lay out many hundreds of dollars on stuff that's utterly useless for any other purpose without at least trying it once. Go with him to the rental shop, and pay attention, especially to the boot-fitting part. If it's convenient, you may be able to rent stuff ahead of time at a shop near home, in a more relaxed and thoughtful manner than what'll happen at the hill.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by GarryZ View Post
I seed kids come before be with all the hand me down stuff from friends and family members and sometimes it makes me sad the parents can't place themselves in the kids shoes and consider how they send them into lessons.
Clothing is everything for winter sports. Underlayers and proper coats pants and hats. It doesn't need to be the latest but it has to be functional and fittiing.

I know it can be a very expensive sport but it doesn't have to be. There are many options in outfitting a beginner that take advantage of used or sales that unload later years gear.
Garry, I have an example of this exact thing............
I sponsor a ski program for a local church school. Caberfae generously offers a rate of 8/lift and 2/rental for these kids. The equipment isn't phenomenal, but it gets these kids on the slopes.

If the rate were higher, most of these kids would never be introduced to skiing. Their parents sincerely don't know what their kid needs and assume that the clothes they wear while sledding is the same as skiing.

THIS is why I usually keep extra hats and gloves in the Jeep.

As for properly fitting boots..........
When you're herding a bunch of green kids through rental, and you ask them "how does it feel" its tough!

I absolutely love getting these kids on the hill, correct clothing or not, they've all got smiles on their faces, and think Mrs Franke is pretty cool for an old lady.
What's really cool is when I convince their parents to ski too!
post #11 of 11
Short answer … layers.

“Cold” weather doesn’t always mean you’re going to be cold. Probably the most difficult thing to get accustomed to – even for more experienced skiers. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, so what you start the day with may be totally in appropriate for the afternoon. Therefore, a light wicking base (first) layer next to the skin is a great start. Worst case, I think even Walmart has inexpensive “performance” undergarments – shirts and ”briefs” for sure but, I think full length leg cover as well. Don’t buy it too big – snug fitting is better. **Important** pull the lower part of the leg material up on you shin above boot level. The seams will be pressed into your leg by the boots and will be uncomfortable during and after skiing if you don’t. Some leg coverings have specially designed shin sections designed to reduce this problem, but it’s not likely you’ll find that on inexpensive versions. Finish the first layer with one thin/medium weight pair of non-cotton socks. Multiple layers of socks will create more problems than they solve – won’t be warmer! If you usually have cold hands, invest in (or borrow) a thin pair of silk/synthetic glove liners.

Unless you wake up unexpectedly at a ski area one morning, do take the time to buy/borrow a good first layer ahead of time. You can buy it at the mountain (and do if you don’t have it), but forget about inexpensive.

Cotton: search for other discussions about it. Can be worn, but it does raise the chances of an uncomfortable experience. Depends on conditions, length of time spent on snow, and the outer clothing worn. On a cold, damp, snowy day if you’re wearing cotton from first layer to last, you’re gong to be wet and most likely very cold and very uncomfortable. On a warmer sunny spring day in soft wet snow, if you fall you’re going to be wet and … yes, probably uncomfortable. If you’re a tough 18 yo kid who doesn’t need no worry about no stinkin clothes, chances are you’ll survive unless you get lost in the trees for some reason.

Heavy, thick insulated jackets and pants are not a good solution for most people. Even at 15-20 degrees F, with direct sun and no wind you will warm up fairly quick if you’re moving around. Especially at lower elevations (where most beginner terrain is located) the mid-day temperatures will often be 10-15 degrees warmer than when you first start in the morning. Thirty plus degrees, bright sun, and no wind is brutal in a heavy down parka. Personally I’d die of heat exhaustion.

So, layers.

After the first layer, it’s all about insulating from the cold and keeping water and wind out. The more wind and water you keep out with the outside layer, the less insulation you’ll need under it. The caveat to this is if the outside layer is 100% impenetrable, then your perspiration will not be able to escape and will turn to water droplets when it hits the inside of the cold exterior “shell”. The result – after a short period of activity, you’ll be as wet (or wetter) than if you didn’t have a waterproof layer on the outside. Rubber rain pants/jackets for rainy conditions … you’ll stay dry for a short period of time, but you’ll quickly get wet from the inside with even a moderate amount of activity. If it’s cold outside, then your insulation is “blown” from being wet and it’s just a matter of time before you start feeling cold and clammy too.

Multiple thin or medium weight layers trap more heat within them and provide more freedom of movement than stuffing a single bulky thick layer over your first layer and inside of a normally comfortable jacket. Do that and movement will be restricted and you’ll have hot/cold spots.

Outer layer – water-resistant snow pants and gloves are probably the most important clothing item for beginners. More than likely you’ll be on the snow a few times. Once you progress to the chair lift, the seats will be wet on snowy/rainy days, so you’ll probably get a wet bum even with the water resistant pants. No question you’re “privates” will notice if you try to slide by with regular pants or cotton warm ups. Worst case you can use a tightly woven nylon wind/warm up pant. You’re gong to get wet with repeated falls or wet weather conditions, but you’ll stay drier longer. The same for a jacket, tightly woven nylon/synthetic shell will reduce wind and moisture penetration while letting perspiration evaporate. On warmer days, a “windbreaker” can work and on cooler days (not cold) it will still work with a mid-weight second/third layer under it. To make an upper body covering more protective, worst case grab a “rain cover” from guest services to block the wind. If it’s raining, you probably won’t even have to ask – they’ll be laying around. Helmet or hat – definitely. An internal or attached hood on a jacket also helps to shed rain/heavy snow off helmets and hats and keep it from rolling down the back of your neck. I don’t mind a wet head if it isn’t bitterly cold, but lots of people find it VERY unpleasant.

Obviously most of this is a compromise to investing in good quality clothing. The plus side to making an investment in layered “high-tech” fabrics is that they can also be used for other activities as well – hiking, rollerblading, snowshoeing, biking, tennis, golf, kayaking, running, … you get the idea. Pretty hard not to get some value out of the layers because they aren’t so over-insulted that they are only appropriate for ski-like conditions.

When you really think about it, it would take forever to truly cover the subject of dressing for skiing. Everyone come join the fun!!!
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