MID LAYERS How to pick
OUTER LAYERS How to pick
Learning to layer is an important skill to master when braving that winter mountain chill. It’s even more important if you’re skiing or snowboarding down said mountain since you’ll be trying to stay warm and cool at the same time. It’s the ultimate paradox! So how do you know what to wear? The answer: it depends. But have no fear, our super snow expert and Berkeley Soft Goods Lead, Andy Dischekenyan, is serving up his best tips for layering up in the snow.
The Main Factors
Before you even think about slipping on a base layer or zipping up a snow jacket, Andy suggests you figure out two things: what the conditions are where you’re going and how hot or cold you run.
To pack prepared, you gotta know what you’re going to be up against. Skiing Tahoe in March is going to feel very different from skiing the Alps in January, so figure out what you need to keep your warmth (or your cool) wherever you’re going.
You also have to figure out what temperature you’re calibrated at. Do you work up heat quickly and want to leave a trail of layers on your way down the mountain? Or are you bundled up to the max at the first sight of snow and still getting chills? Understanding how much heat you need to keep shredding will help you pick the right layers.
These are the most important pieces for retaining warmth and wicking away sweat so you’ll want to make sure you get the right kind and fit for you. Merino wool is a classic for a lot of skiers and snowboarders but modern blends from brands like Helly Hansen and Patagonia are some of the most popular baselayer options today. Fabrics aren’t the only thing to consider though, how your baselayers fit will also affect how much heat you can trap.
“If you run cold, you want to make sure that they fit snugly,” says Andy, “If you run hot, a looser fit might feel better since it’ll be a bit draftier.”
Helly Hansen Dry- Helly Hansen’s Dry line is perfect for days on the slope when you know you’ll work up a sweat even in low temps. This layer is light and will help wick away moisture.
Helly Hansen Warm - When temps are super cold and you know you’ll need moisture management and warmth, Helly Hansen’s Warm line is a perfect option. This midweight baselayer uses Lifa® Stay Dry tech to keep you dry and 100% merino wool to keep you warm.
Patagonia Capilene - Patagonia’s Capilene Polyester tech meets Polartec fabric for a top-notch base layer that will keep you dry and warm. It’s available in 3 weights so you can be ready all season no matter what the weather reports say.
Smartwool Mid 250 - For those looking for a wool option, Smartwool is your best bet. Check out the mid-weight base layer for natural warmth, moisture wicking, and even odor-resistant properties. (And they’ve got great socks, too!)
Check out our First Layer Apparel Rental Package and you'll be able to cover all of your bases (get it?!) in one easy step.
The Mid Layers
Mid layers are the meat of our layering sandwich. These layers help keep your body heat trapped in under your ski jacket. Most mid layers are some kind of fleece, down or synthetic down, and even flannel. These are your most versatile layers since you can wear these pieces when you’re off the mountain too.
If you run hot you may find that less is more or--if it’s warm enough--you might even skip a mid layer altogether. If you run cold you can layer on more pieces but remember that too many layers can sometimes mean more bulk. Avoid looking (and feeling) like the Michelin man and layer smart!
A fleece layer is light enough to be the base of multiple mid layers and warm enough to be your only mid layer. If you’re still feelin’ the chill, adding a down or synthetic vest can add warmth to your torso while leaving your arms free to move.
Even with all of these mid-layer options, Andy suggests leaving most of the layering to your torso.
“I find most people, even if they run cold, only really need to keep their torso warm since their arms and legs are constantly moving. You want as much dexterity and freedom of movement in your arms and legs as possible,” he says.
To prevent your legs from becoming popsicles in super cold temperatures, try adding a lightweight fleece pant on top of your baselayer.
The Outer Layers
And now for the final layer: the shell. Your shell’s main mission is to keep moisture from getting in. Hard shell jackets and pants are super durable and super waterproof so snow ain’t got a chance of getting through when you’re wearing one of these babies. But if you’re looking for something a little softer and quieter, soft shell apparel is made of material known as “hand” fabrics and will keep you dry without the crunchy feel (and sound).
While your shell is primarily for waterproofing not warmth, some shells do have insulation so keep that in mind when you’re layering up. 3-in-1 jackets have a waterproof outer shell with a removable liner (often down or fleece) making them super versatile. It’s an easy one and done piece to add on top of your baselayers.
P.S. Rent our Basic Apparel Package to get your shells on in one easy step!
The Odds and Ends
Now that you’ve got most of your layering ensemble, it’s time to accessorize!Head & Neck:
Your ski or board helmet is going to have some insulation so for most people, a skullcap will provide enough warmth.
Leave the long scarf at the resort! A neck gaiter will keep your neck warm with no fancy twists or knots required. From fleece to Merino wool, you’ve got plenty of options to keep your neck at optimum warmth level.
Want an all-in-one option? Try a balaclava for head, face, and neck protection. Also a great option for those who are camera shy.Hands:
“Snow mittens are better at keeping your hands warm since each finger doesn’t have to fend for itself. The mitten traps all the body heat coming from your fingers together in one space so it’s easier to keep them warm,” says Andy.
While you might lose some dexterity (you’ll have to take them off for that top of the mountain selfie), you’ll have enough to grip your ski poles comfortably and keep your fingers warm.Socks:
Skiing and snowboarding is no fun with frozen toes. Luckily, your ski or board boots have some insulation so you can leave the thick, fuzzy socks behind. Our favorite socks to wear are our Smartwool ski socks. They’re perfect for keepin’ your toes toasty and your feet comfortable.
Sports Basement is your one-stop shop for all your winter layering needs and now you can leave the packing up to us with the All Apparel Rental Package! We’ve got you covered from head to toe...literally.