Guide to a blissful snowy outdoor experience in cold temperatures
Temperatures are nice and warm again in our beautiful country, South Africa, as we look forward to the summer and some time spent at the beach. However, some of us consider going skiing in the Northern Hemisphere. Considering hygiene rules, ski resorts are opening up for business and look forward to a good skiing season. (For more information on skiing season 2021/22 and the pandemic rules, check this website). As we write this blog post, there is a current travel ban for South Africans to fly abroad due to the newly discovered Omicron virus variant. However, we hope the travel ban is soon repealed and that you can still continue with your skiing plans.
That brings us to the question of what to pack for a skiing trip with cold and snowy weather? The answer is obvious, of course: your suitcase should be filled with a selection of merino wool garments. But what do you really need?
One of our colleagues actually lives in Germany and has been going skiing all her life. We asked her to put together a list of items for you that of course includes plenty of essential wool items and more.
The basic rule for cold destinations
The basic rule is: wear wool next to skin as the first layer, then wear something that is wind and waterproof on the outside and as the last and outer layer. You probably require one or more layers between the first and the last layer, but that is your personal choice and depending on the activity and actual temperatures. If you feel you need even more layers in-between the first and the last layer, make sure they are all breathable.
Let’s break this rule down one by one to make it easier for you to prepare and pack.
The first layer is also called the base layer and includes all garments that you wear next to your skin. These should be ideally out of merino wool due to its many benefits (read more here) of keeping you warm, comfortable and dry, no matter what the outside temperature and what intensity your activity level is. Cotton base layers will get wet and clingy and actually let you feel cold quickly. Synthetic base layers easily get too hot and start to smell as you start to sweat. Merino wool however has been a fibre of choice for many skiers over the last decades as it keeps warm but not too hot while not developing any odours.
Merino wool long johns or leggings
An important base layer is the leggings, or also often referred to as long johns. They keep your lower body warm underneath your skiing trousers.
Sleeveless tank or shirt
For your upper body, you can either choose a sleeveless tank or a short or long sleeve shirt made from merino wool, depending on your preference. We recommend wearing a sleeveless tank as your first layer, as the cut of sleeveless tanks usually is snug around your upper body and will therefore keep you warm but also not feel bulky underneath the other layers.
A very vital part to keep warm doing winter sports is your feet. Therefore, a good pair of wool socks is essential to take with you as nothing else will ensure your feet stay warm despite the temperature but also not make your feet sweat as you start to move in the snow.
Once your first or base layer is sorted, you will want to think about the second layer. This layer is there to give you that additional level of warmth during cold temperatures but is also the layer that can come off easily if you start to get too hot because you are maybe taking a break in a cozy chalet for lunch or a hot chocolate.
Heavy long sleeve shirt
You may already be wearing a lightweight long sleeve shirt as your base layer, however, as a second layer, it is recommended to wear a slightly heavier weight and more loose-fitting garment. Often a zip-neck shirt is a good choice as you can flexibly open or close the zip to regulate your temperature. Choosing wool as a second layer is also good, as the first and the second layer will then work well together in managing moisture and body temperature.
Sweater or fleece jacket
As an alternative to the long sleeve shirt, you can also choose a woolen sweater or a fleece jacket. This will add extra warmth if you tend to freeze more easily. We would always recommend a wool sweater over a fleece jacket, as most fleece jackets are made of polyester. Synthetic fleece jackets will keep you warm, but not live up to the task of preventing you from overheating. Also, fleece jackets shed a lot of microplastic fibres during wear and washing, which is something to avoid.
Second pair of socks (if needed)
For those of you who tend to get cold feet quickly or if temperatures are way below freezing point, you may want to put on a second pair of woolen socks. If you double up on socks, you need to make sure that there is no strange friction that may cause you blisters. Also, check if you can fit your foot comfortably into your skiing boots with two socks on. If the shoe becomes then too tight, the woolen socks cannot do their job well of keeping your feet warm, and you will still get cold feet. Wool requires a bit of air around the feet, as this trapped air between your feet and the wool is what ensures warmth.
Once you figured out your first and second layers, it is time to look at the outer layer. According to the basic rule, this layer needs to be wind and waterproof.
Skiing jacket and trousers
An obvious outer layer for skiing is of course a skiing jacket and trousers. These are designed to let you move freely on the skiing slopes while also protecting you from the elements. In most skiing jackets and trousers, the inside filling is a synthetic wadding or downs. However, if you are into wool as much as we are at Core Merino, you can also find brands that offer skiing jackets and trousers filled with wool wadding. These will keep you just as warm but help you not to overheat.
Scarf or neck warmer
While most skiing jackets close high around your neck, you may still want to wear a scarf or neck warmer. Both items are widely available out of soft merino wool, so you will not feel itchy at all, but still be comfortably warm and protected from the wind blowing down your neck.
Beanie, headband, and helmet
Like your feet, your head is one of the most important to protect while out in the mountains. Therefore, be sure to pack a beanie or headband to keep your head and ears cozy. There are also many beautiful merino wool products available and these will again make you feel very comfortable and never too hot. Another option is also to wear your neck warmer on your head.
In some skiing resorts, wearing a helmet is mandatory. In some places, only children up to a certain age need to wear a helmet. However, when you look around, close to 80% of skiers wear a helmet on the slopes as that is the only safe way to prevent serious head and face injuries. Therefore, inform yourself about the local rules and put your safety over convenience.
Like your feet and your head, also your hands will be one of the first body parts to get cold. Therefore, wearing thick skiing gloves that are also waterproof is important. There are many styles, fabrics, and filling combinations to choose from. If you search thoroughly, you can also find skiing gloves filled with wool, if you want to stick with the wool theme.
Sunglasses are another key item to bring with you to the mountains. Even if the sky is filled with clouds, the sun still has a strong impact, and you cannot see well without sunglasses, so make sure you don’t forget to bring them with you.
Another critical outer layer is sunscreen. As already mentioned, the solar radiation is very high up in the mountains in both clear and cloudy skies. Protecting your face from sunlight is therefore vital, as otherwise, you will end up with a strong sunburn without noticing it at first due to the wind. The rest of your body will be well protected from the clothes you wear and if you chill a bit in the midday sun on one of the restaurant terraces in your first or second merino wool base layer, the merino wool will protect you from the sun as well as it has a natural built-in UV protection.
Obviously, you will also need to bring with you or rent locally your skiing boots. Take the time to get some good assistance while choosing the right boots, as this will determine your skiing experience.
We hope this guide proves helpful to you to prepare and pack for your next skiing adventure. Is there a garment that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.