Depending on what layers you wear depends on how hot or cold your body gets, how sweaty or dry you stay…thus resulting in how much fun you have while out on the snow. It also helps to determine how long you can last out there to get your money’s worth for that expensive lift ticket that you purchased!
FIRST LAYER –Is your thermal layer, which is worn against your skin. You will find them in 3 different forms. The best fabric used for Thermals is Wool, predominately Merino. Wool helps to keep the body warm by locking body heat in. It also breathes & lets perspiration escape as a VAPOUR, so you don’t end up damp. This makes a difference between a clammy chill in a synthetic, and a happy dry workout in wool. Woolen thermals don’t smell as much as other materials, don’t shrink and DON’T ITCH!
Polypropylene thermals are great for skiing and traveling in colder climates, especially if you are on a budget or if the kids are growing too fast. Polypropylene thermals will provide warmth and comfort by wicking away moisture from the body as a LIQUID STATE. The hydrophobic fabric used pulls the moisture away from the skin quickly and efficiently to the next layer of clothing. These thermals aren’t as effective as woolen thermals but do a good job, are fast drying and will keep you or the kids warm.
Compressions Garments are used by people who ski for longer periods and do very high endurance skiing. An example of a compression garment brand you might find is SKINS. This type of base layer is more for muscle function and aiding in recovery as opposed to keeping the body warm and dry. Compression garments are great for racers, and especially good for hiking as they help to reduce lactic acid burn. Thermals also come in very attractive coloured stripe fabrics and part of the fun of skiing is to wear the absolutely un-attractive garments and make sure to take lots of photos.
SECOND LAYER – The layer put on over top of your thermals, such as Fleeces. The main use of the second layer is so when you go into the bar after skiing and you take your jacket off you look really great as opposed to standing around in your coloured striped thermal top!! The fleece is made from a fabric that retains a high amount of heat for its weight, keeping you warmer, and it also serves as an extra layer of padding for the big falls you might have! You will find fleece are needed for those rainy, windy cold days in Australia, and definitely needed for overseas holidays where temperatures are a lot lower than here.
THIRD LAYER – Is your protective outerwear layer. Make sure they fit right, look good and are colourful, so it doesn’t matter if you fall all the way down the slopes…at least you will look good while doing it! Ski Jackets and Pants have an ‘MM’ rating which means the amount of pressure it takes for moisture to penetrate or pass through the fabric. There are usually 2 ratings on the garment, one for waterproofing, and the other for breathability. You will see jackets with water repellency ratings of 3000mm, 5000mm, 10000mm and 20000mm, and then Gore-Tex.
3000mm and 5000mm is a standard rating found on most budget/entry level outerwear. They will keep you dry and warm in Australian conditions for a shorter period of time. If it’s a rainy day (cause we all know they do happen here!) and you have been out in the downpour you might notice moisture coming through to your other layers after a few hours.
10000mm, 20000mm and Gore-Tex jackets are more expensive, but are more effective. They will keep you warmer and dryer for longer periods and also transport the heat and moisture much more efficiently. These rating jackets are needed for trips to Japan and cold days in Canada and America, where temperatures do get below minus quite often.
Outerwear garments have some other features, which are good to look out for:
Seam sealing- to prevent water entering through the seams
Powder skirts- great for protecting snow from coming under your jacket
Mesh lined air vents- awesome to have open on a chairlift after a big thigh burning run.
Any or all of the items we mentioned above can be used for snowsports. It really depends on where you are going, the weather that day, budget and personal preference. You can still have a great time in any of the garments.