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How many Layers to wear while skiing

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I am relatively new skier and never seem to dress up appropriately for skiing. Whats the best way to layer up for a cold ski day?
post #2 of 24
 how cold?

what I wear varys

most days 

top - underarmour/smartwool, middle fleece,  thick shell

bottom - underarmour/smartwool, insulated shell pants 

cold days -
top - add puffy instead of middle fleece
bottom - add fleece sweat pants

warmer days 

top - underarmour/smartwool , fleece un insulated shell
bottom - underarmour/smartwool, shell pants

really warm days

top - wicking tshirt(if hiking) any old tshirt if not. shell and/or steezy green softshell hoodie
bottom - gym shorts, shell pants

hot days 

top - MTB jersey, T-shirt, or no shirt on the chairlift
bottom - gym shorts, shell pants ....I never wear shorts because off the fall risk.
post #3 of 24
As Bushwacker said, everybody's idea of a cold day is different.  My idea of "cold" means that it won't reach 0 degrees Fahrenheit all day, and that pretty much means glove liners, gloves, wool shirt, heavy fleece, down jacket, shell, wool under pants, and insulated pants.

This weekend it will be in the 50s, so I'll probably have a t-shirt and a baseball hat.

I believe the key to staying warm on the cold days is to keep your torso and your head warm.  Those are the two areas that your body will keep warm at all costs, by reducing blood flow to your extremities to keep the torso warm.  So keeping a few more layers over your torso can help keep areas (i.e., fingers, toes) that would otherwise be cold stay warm because they can keep their full compliment of blood flow.

The usual tips:
  • Cotton gets wet and stays wet.  Wet stuff against your skin sucks away heat.  Any of the modern miracle fabrics do better.  Their are tons of expensive brand names -- Marmot, Patagonia, Arcteryx -- but REI / EMS brand name stuff works just as well for most of us.
  • Helmets are warmer than hats, plus helmets are windproof.  You might have to try on a bunch to find one that fits.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves.  Some people's hands stay cold no matter what they do; if you're one of them, ditch the gloves and get mittens.
post #4 of 24
 "A cold day" is relative. Any ski day is cold compared with a day at the beach or most days coming home from work depending where you live. It also depends how easily you get cold.

Roughly ...

35F - shell, light nylon shirt, base layer
25-30F - shell, fleece, base layer
20F - shell, fleece, base layer, neck warmer
10-15F - shell, fleece, light nylon shirt, base layer, neck warmer
below 10F I'd probably double up on base layers .. might consider some of the chemical hand/foot warmers

(I always wear helmet, goggles, medium wigwams ski socks, gloves and unless it's really warm, glove liners so I can work my camera without my hand freezing)

I am pretty tolerant of both hot and cold, your mileage will vary.
post #5 of 24
just don't wear cotton as a base layer, and none is better.  For me, medalist long johns, pajama pants, slightly insulated waterproof pants, long sleeve shirt over long john shirt, north face 700 down vest, 686 shell jacket with sweatshirt zip in liner.  SMARTWOOL SOCKS!! This works for me for all conditions except spring skiing when I go in my pajamas.  Otherwise I can just unzip and vent the rest of the stuff and go really fast to cool off.  If I know it's not gonna get windy and/or windy I leave the vest at home. 
post #6 of 24
icebreaker base layers and midlayers are awesome
post #7 of 24
I have Raynaud's and suffer terribly from the cold. I use multiple layers this way when you get to hot at least you can remove them. I am also an avid user of Marino wool, you can even where it for a couple of days without the awful odours that you get from man made fibers. 
I have found a company that deal in Marino wool. All there gear is made in New Zealand, not the far East like the makes of Arcteryx, Icebreaker even though they do use Marino.Please follow this link www.chocolatefishmerino.co.uk/
 I am in no where connected to this company, it is just that I believe in supporting local industries and does what it says on the tin.
post #8 of 24
A few more thoughts:
Long underwear or turtlenecks with thumb holes do seem to keep my hands warmer than regular long sleeves.
A balaclava under a helmet will add 10 -15 degrees of additional protection for most helmets or hats.
A  hood that covers your head also offers significant protection for both your head and your neck.
Electric heated insoles for boots work.
Zippers are the easiest and most comfortable way to regulate temperature. Start the day dressed with the pit zips and collar open and then close them if you get cold.
If you're not overheated when you get on the first lift you're probably under dressed.
Ski difficult terrain = Warm. Ski fast cruisers or stand around talking = Cold.
post #9 of 24

Depends on what you mean by cold. 

I agree with the above thought that when you're differentiating between cold and REALLY COLD, I usually double up on base layers, wear a glove liner and mittens instead of gloves, add a pullover fleece tube facemask and take along hot paks for toes and fingers.

On a REALLY REALLY COLD DAY (sub-zero) I'll wear my ridiculously warm 25-year old Descente ski suit instead of a coat and ski pants, and ski rings around the shivering fools who'd dare to criticize my sartorial choices.


On a day like today? Jeans and a windbreaker over a turtleneck.  

post #10 of 24
When it's cold (-20 - -25 C, seems to be -4 - -13 F) I have a thin base layer of polypropylene, then merino wool, fleece, bottom more fleece, top thick wool sweater and then insulated shell. You have to remember that just adding layers isn't enough, you also have to make sure that the "next layer" is loose enough not to compress the previous ones.

I also have thick mittens with merino wool liners, merino wool Buff under my helmet and heated insoles in my boots.
post #11 of 24
 I pretty much always wear the same thing except in the spring.  Only change for me is whether I wear a neck gaiter or not, whether I wear glove liners or not, and whether I use my hotronic boot heaters.

Smart wool base layer top.
Fleece (or mid layer coat liner)
Insulated ski coat (not a really thick one though.)

Polypro longjohns 

Insulated Ski Pants
Leather racing gloves

The neck gaiter is a key piece of gear when it's cold.  When it's really frigid I've worn both a balaclava and a neck gaiter, but that's very rare.

Nice thing about glove liners is I can take my gloves off to do things that require more finger dexterity without exposing my fingers to the cold air.

post #12 of 24
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post

 The neck gaiter is a key piece of gear when it's cold.  When it's really frigid I've worn both a balaclava and a neck gaiter, but that's very rare.


+1 on the neck gaiter, or balaclava.  I have one permenantly in my ski jacket and there are days when nothing matters as much as that neck gaiter for me to be able to enjoy my day.
post #13 of 24
Wear enough not to freeze, but not so much that you cook. The whole point of layering is so you can adjust your body temp based on what is outside of the outer layer, or how hard you work. As said, everyone is different and so is their interpretation of cold. Also, geography plays a role of cold as well. A few degrees below freezing in west coast fog can feel colder than a dry -20c in the Rockies.
post #14 of 24
This thread is long, long dead but I thought this was an interesting take on resort layering:

post #15 of 24

Huh?  As if I can't unzip both my shell and my middle layer?

post #16 of 24

WTF!  Was that rubbish written by Donny Osmond?

post #17 of 24
Originally Posted by mtcyclist View Post

WTF!  Was that rubbish written by Donny Osmond?

Haha...I happened to stumble across the article and the whole time I read it I was thinking "is this guy for real? Am I missing something here?" I dismissed it so quickly I considered maybe there was some detail I wasn't getting.
post #18 of 24


Originally Posted by Xela View Post

Huh?  As if I can't unzip both my shell and my middle layer?


Good luck venting your underarms and getting air circulating under your insulating layer. I'm a big fan of insulated shells for this very reason.

1) Having the insulation tied to the loose cut of the insulated hardshell can create significantly larger ventilation and air circulation when compared to a closer-fitting midlayer, even when both outer and mid layers are unzipped.

2) Pitzips on your shell won't do jack to ventilate your underarms if the heat is being trapped by the midlayer.

3) Significantly more freedom of movement in the arms and shoulders, since you almost never need a traditional midlayer.

4) No more cold elbows due to compressed insulation


I highly recommend you try it.




The article was written by a skier at Loveland, CO. This is significant for several reasons:

1) Loveland can be extremely cold and windy (often sub-10 degrees), so you generally need a lot of warmth in your layers

2) Loveland's best terrain is hike-to above treeline terrain, so you'll sweat like crazy if you dress for warmth - ventilation is KEY

3) Loveland's liftlines are generally in very well-protected locations, so you'll be too warm waiting in line if you dress for warmth - ventilation in zero wind is KEY


Outside of wet, stormy ~30+ degree days, I've found a shell jacket to be pretty obsolete. We don't really get that kind of weather out here in CO. If it's stormy, it's usually in the 20s or lower.


Top layers:

long sleeve light base

half-zip powerstretch pullover

MHW Desna powerstretch hoody (integrated balaclava)

synthetic puffy vest (Patagonia Micropuff with the collar removed by a seamstress)

highly breathable stretch-woven softshell (Marmot Tempo Hoody, 10-15 CFM)

insulated hardshell (Flylow BA Puffy, equiv to ~80g Primaloft One)


Bottom layers:

light boxers base (non-cotton)

light long johns base

3/4 heavy long johns base

3/4 powerstretch tights

loose, thick mesh shorts (think basketball/athletic)

highly breathable stretch-woven softshell (Outdoor Research Ferrosi, 9 CFM)

hardshell with both inner AND outer thigh venting (Oakley Flare)


For frostbite-cold days, I have a cut-down Masque (only covers nose, upper lip and cheeks) in a pocket. This, coupled with the Desna hoody gives me a full-coverage balaclava, except for the mouth. Having the mouth completely open makes it impossible for the goggles to fog up. Excessive lip balm coverage helps protect against frostbite in the mouth area. A high jacket collar can also easily block wind in this region, when on the lift. I've found this system to be INFINITELY more comfortable and versatile than a balaclava. The only piece to loose is the cut-down Masque, and it's extremely small and non-bulky and WAY easier to quickly slip in and out of a pocket. The Desna hoody can easily be slipped on and off without messing with a pack, or a bulky balaclava in a pocket. A patagonia R1 hoody can work too, but I prefer the powerstretch material for resort skiing, based on direct experience.


My layering system (based on the day's ~high, taking the strength of wind into account):



LS under softshell

pullover under softshell

LS under Desna under softshell

Desna under insulated hardshell

LS under Desna under insulated hardshell

LS under Desna under vest under insulated hardshell

pullover under Desna under vest under insulated hardshell



boxers under softshell

light base under softshell

light base under hardshell

heavy base under hardshell

heavy base under mesh shorts under hardshell

boxers under powerstretch under hardshell

boxers under powerstretch under mesh shorts under hardshell


A few notes:

1) I used to have an eVent shell. It was not as flexible system as a softshell and insulated hardshell. Most of the time it was ok, but about 25% of the time it was either too warm, or too cold (most often too warm). Goretex Proshell was even less versatile, probably about 35% of the time.

2) I generally switch over to the insulated hardshell at around 20 degrees.

3) I've found powerstretch to have a VERY wide range of comfort. It's better next to the skin than any other midlayer I've tried (including Patagonia R1 powerdry), and it layers well.

4) I usually dress on the colder side and carry the synthetic vest in my backpack for mornings or if it dramatically cools off.

5) A looser-fitting R1 or R2 fleece would work better on top of the Desna instead of the pullover underneath, but it's not a big enough difference to want to buy one especially for that situation (it's only that cold 2-3 times a year). The pullover is really a perfect baselayer under the softshell for 80% of the warmer days since it wicks so well and is SUPER comfortable.


I do still own an eVent hardshell, but it's not needed in Colorado. I bring it with me when going to Tahoe or the PNW, but avoid using it whenever possible because it's incredibly uncomfortable compared to my other options - and not because of fit, but because it's a hardshell, and they never breath enough when you're working hard. I guess if I was a lazy skier, it might different.

Edited by Brian Lindahl - 11/6/12 at 1:54pm
post #19 of 24

I wear 13-14 layers depending on the weather. I find it offers incredible versitility and options......wink.gif

post #20 of 24
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post

I wear 13-14 layers depending on the weather. I find it offers incredible versitility and options......wink.gif



Do you change skis each time you shed or add a layer?

post #21 of 24

isn't that really supposing that I change at all?  Its a lot easier if you gear up in december and then again in late april or early May. 

post #22 of 24

To Brian Lindahl:  My EMS fleece jacket has pit zips.  No problem.  And I often wear a vest, as I tend to generate a lot of heat. I'm surprised more fleece jackets don't have pit zips.  The North Face Denali does, but not many other "pure fleece" jackets do.

post #23 of 24

they don't have zips due to the breatheability of fleece. unless it's backed or has a windblock material, it should breath just fine.

post #24 of 24

Fleeces are generally slimmer fitting, and the insulation is trapped up against your body. An insulated hardshell is relatively loose fitting, and insulates the interior airspace of the jacket. If the pitzip opens on an insulated hardshell, all of that heat escapes immediately. When you open the pitzips of your fleece jacket, the insulated heat contained inside the fleece jacket (trapped against your body) doesn't escape, only the small amount of heated air next to your armpits escapes. There's a big difference in the cooling properties - again, pitzips in fleece jackets don't work that well since there isn't really an interior heated airspace underneath the fleece. See 1) in my post above.

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