How to Layer Ski and Snowboard Gear for Cold Weather

Imagine this.

You fall in love with skiing or snowboarding after your first trip. You decide you want to go more often, which means you’ll need to buy your own gear. While saving up, you do hours of research and demoing gear to find the setup you trust to keep you safe. You finally buy your ski and snowboard gear in Mammoth and head straight to the mountain, but before you can even get started you get hit by a blast of bone-chilling wind and know that you focused too much on how you were going to get down the mountain and not enough on how you were going to stay warm.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen to several people who have come into the ASO Mammoth shop, so we’ve decided to put together a quick guide to layering ski and snowboard gear. Check it out below!

Your Base Layer

 Your base layer is the foundation for a warm and comfortable day on the mountain, because it doesn’t matter how good your hardshell is if you’ve got a clammy base layer giving you goosebumps.

The base layer is what actually touches your skin, which is why it is so incredibly important that your it be made of something that pulls sweat away from your skin without getting cold and clammy itself like cotton would.

The best option for base layer material is merino wool, but it’s also expensive. If you don’t go with merino wool, look for a synthetic material that wicks away moisture without getting cold. We recommend keeping your base layer thin so that there’s no chance of you sweating or losing mobility, but if you expect extreme cold a thicker material may be appropriate.

Your Mid Layer

 For the coldest days, you’ll want to add a mid layer to your base layer in order to reinforce it and add extra warmth.

Down is what will keep you the warmest, but it is also a heavy material that loses its ability to keep you warm if it gets wet. Fleece is also good for base layers, but does not perform well if it gets wet. If you’re expecting wet conditions, then look into synthetic and hard fleece materials that can deal with damp conditions while also keeping you warm.

 Your Insulation Layer

 The outer layer may get all the attention, but the insulation is what keeps you warm.

As the name implies, the insulation layer keeps your body heat close to your skin. For this reason, insulation gear often consists of down material that traps heat. However, down does not perform well when wet, so if you need insulation that will perform when wet then look at a synthetic material.

 Outer Layer

Insulated hardshells can provide warmth, but the main job of a hardshell is to protect your inner layers from water and wind. On top of that, your hardshell jacket needs to be the most functional piece of gear you own because it’s what carries your loose gear.

If you want to be comfortable in cold weather, then you’ll need to pay attention to the waterproofing rating on a jacket before you buy it. New jackets will clearly mark their waterproofing, but if you’re buying a used jacket you may have no idea. Know that jackets do lose their ability to repel water over time, so if you’re buying a used hardshell jacket then pour some water on it and see if it is absorbed or repelled to get an idea of how waterproof the jacket actually is.

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