OWhether you’re just starting out on your first ski vacation or need a refresh or replacement, all sorts of questions can be on your mind when faced with the array of ski equipment available. Which jacket is the warmest? Are gloves or mittens better? Do I really need glasses? But before you flex your credit card, the most important question you need to answer is: what kind of skier or snowboarder am I? Here are some tips to help you figure it all out.
1. Master the basics
When deciding what to wear, breathability and comfort are key; skiing is a sport, and if you sweat, you want to get the moisture out of your body before you get cold. Ski jackets and pants have features to make it happen, whether it’s vents to unzip or engineered materials that wick moisture away from the body. Ski thermals, i.e. lightweight base layers and heavier mid layers, are designed to do the same. Many are made from synthetic materials such as polyester and are treated to prevent bacteria buildup – the cause of musty smells – so you can wear them for more than a day before washing them. Merino wool is also often used, as it is non-itchy and naturally wicks away moisture and resists odor.
The Scott Explorair 3L men’s jacket is lightweight but waterproof and breathable
2. Choose a jacket with lots of pockets
When it comes to jackets, the basic choice is between padding for extra warmth or a thinner shell with room for thermal layers underneath. In general, cheaper models will be less waterproof, but still perfectly fine if you’re not staying long in bad weather. Ski jackets can come with nifty extra features, including pockets for your lift pass, phone and goggles; a balaclava that fits over your helmet; or an inner powder skirt and cuffs to keep the cold and wet from riding up your back or sleeves if (or even when) you fall.
3. Rent equipment if you are going with the family
If it’s your first time – or you’re outfitting the whole family – renting from a company such as Eco Ski rather than scrambling by borrowing from friends is a sensible option (ecoski.co.uk). If only new releases are enough, consider value-for-money own-brand ranges from Decathlon or Go Outdoors.
● Skiing on a budget: tips to reduce the cost of your ski holiday
4. Invest in good glasses
Good wrap-around eye protection on the slopes is essential – the way sunlight bounces off the snow in all directions means everyday sunglasses won’t cut the mustard. Sports sunglasses and ski goggles also have durable, flexible lenses designed to withstand bumps and drops. The main trick when choosing glasses is to check whether they are suitable for sunny or overcast days, or a bit of both. Some come with two lenses, so you can change them on the go. Others are photochromic, meaning they change color as conditions change. You’ll also want to check the size – to fit your helmet (no visible forehead please) and because there are models suitable for smaller or larger faces. But don’t forget your sunglasses to be ready to have lunch on the sunny terrace of a restaurant.
The North Face Montana Futurelight Gloves
5. Look for soft gloves
When it comes to gloves, your instinct might be to go for lots of padding because it’s going to be cold. However, too much padding means you lose dexterity, and you need to be able to grab ski poles or adjust your helmet or bindings without taking them off. Ideally, gloves should be flexible, shaped to fit a curved hand, and have most of the padding on top. They should also be roomy enough to allow the fingers to create hot air bubbles around them. But in frigid conditions, or if you really feel the cold, mittens are best so the fingers can share the warmth. Useful extra details include interior cuffs, cords and straps to keep snow out, leashes that keep them tied to your wrists, smartphone-compatible fingertips, and built-in pockets for hand warmers.
6. Invest in extras
Wearing a neck and face covering, glove liners, and a thin beanie designed to fit under a helmet will also help keep you warm. And don’t underestimate the value of a pair of ski or board specific socks. They have padding for added warmth and to prevent chafing and soreness, and fitted areas to banish uncomfortable crumpled materials. A few pairs should be enough for a week as their quick-drying and antibacterial materials help prevent pong.
Bollé Eco Atmos ski helmet
7. Don’t buy ski boots
That said, well-fitting ski or snowboard boots adapted to your level are essential to have comfortable and warm feet on the slopes. Rent, don’t buy first, and go to a store for advice on which ones are right for your foot shape.
8. Bring a backpack
Even though ski jackets come with plenty of handy pockets, a backpack can also come in handy, and not just for off-piste enthusiasts who need a safety kit, but also for extra layers, hand warmers, sunscreen, sunglasses, a bottle of water and a packed lunch. . There are plenty of backpacks designed for skiers and snowboarders, but don’t get tricked into carrying other people’s stuff too.
Expert Gear Guides
For detailed advice on what to buy, check out the following guides:
● The best ski jackets for style and substance
● The best ski gloves to keep your hands warm
● The best ski helmets for protection
● The best ski goggles for style and comfort
● The best ski thermals for warmth and fit
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