What’s the most important piece of advice you can give on how to dress to someone who has never been skiing?
100% LAYERING. Most new skiers and riders have not tried proper layering systems. Being new to the sport, you may not know if you ride cold or hot and how often the temperature fluctuates throughout the day. Having a few layers that work together can be a game changer to ensure your outerwear system can perform and keep you comfortable.
The more you think about layers, the less you’ll have to stop to adjust. Here, Morris Hogan adjusts his temperature after a descent in Chamonix. Photo: Victor Major.
How do you dress/layer for different forecasts and seasons? For example spring skiing vs. winter skiing, bluebird days vs. snow days...
A full ski season covers a broad range of temperatures and conditions. With the added variable of the type of skiing you are intending to do, there are myriad options for dressing/layering!
When getting dressed and layering up we like to think of it simply in terms of BASELAYER, INSULATION, and OUTERWEAR according to activity, effort, and temp. Here’s how to dress like a local for varied conditions:
BASELAYER: Everyday starts off with a top and bottom baselayer. Baselayers provide next-to-skin comfort and temperature and moisture regulation and vary in material qualities and weight. Go with a mid-weight or heavy-weight baselayer for cold days. For moderate/warm or active (ski touring) days, choose light-weight or thin baselayers.
INSULATORS: Next, you can layer single or multiple insulators. Top (or bottom) insulators provide much of the temperature regulation and vary in warmth and breathability. For those colder days, choose an insulator that isn’t too bulky, yet maximizes warmth like down or synthetic down-replacement insulation. Double up if it’s really cold. For moderate/warm or active days, choose a more breathable insulation that will help mitigate moisture. This could be thick fleece or active insulation like Polartec® Alpha®.
OUTERWEAR: Outerwear provides the protection from the elements and varies in waterproofing, weight, and breathability. For extremely cold days we recommend insulated outerwear pieces. Insulated outerwear allows you to maximize warmth with less layers and bulk. For moderate/warm or active days, we recommend a versatile three-layer (3L) shell with a waterproof/breathable membrane.
Depending on conditions, recommended layering all deviates from the above system! For bluebird days with a warm sun, you might be able to layer lighter than an overcast day of comparable temp, or skip outerwear all-together on a slushy spring day (Canadian tuxedo anyone?). For deep powder days, you’ll want outerwear that prioritizes weather protection and keeps moisture out, like a one-piece suit or high-bibs and a jacket with a powder skirt. For days backcountry touring or with lots of in-bounds hiking, you’ll want to prioritize breathability.
Our favorite system starts with a tech tee, followed by a lightweight fleece layer, then an insulating layer, and finally lightweight 3L shell outerwear. Depending on which insulator(s) you use, this system can work in all but the extreme ends of the spectrum.
For cold weather, go with a high-performance baselayer, a mid-layer or insulator, and an insulated jacket. Check our Outerwear Guide to see which outer piece is best for you!
Which kind of materials are best for the baselayer you wear when skiing?
The two most common materials for baselayers are synthetic polyester or fleece and merino wool. Synthetic baselayers are generally higher performing. They dry faster, wick moisture better, and are generally more durable, however they can get stinky after multiple uses. Merino wool baselayers on the other hand, are in general less durable and dry slower, but can provide warmth when wet, are not polyester-based, and are naturally antimicrobial.
The best baselayer type is generally personal preference. If you’re often skiing in a wet, humid climate merino wool may be the best choice. If you are in a drier environment, and have access to multiple baselayers, synthetic can provide higher performance. Of course there are many blends and materials available and it will take some time to discover your preference. Try to avoid cotton as it dries slowly and provides no warmth when wet.
How many pairs of baselayers do you need for skiing?
The right baselayer helps regulate body temperatures and works with your outerwear. You usually only need one on most days and two for colder days. However if you’re heading out everyday, you may want to snag a couple of your favorites to start a rotation.
Do you want baselayers tight or loose?
Depending on the baselayer material and intended use, you may want either. Tight, compressive baselayers may increase your physical performance while looser baselayers may be more comfortable for longer days. Baselayers are designed to fit next-to-skin to wick away sweat and keep you dry, so somewhere in between tight and loose is a good place to start!
What is it about Strafe gear that helps skiers and boarders stay warm and comfortable while on the mountain?
At Strafe we use the highest-performing technical materials and fabrics to create systems of baselayers, insulation, and weather protection depending on your intended activity. From the beginning, Strafe recognized that modern waterproof outerwear does a great job of keeping moisture and wind out, so often the limiting comfort factor is moisture buildup internally. To mitigate that internal moisture, we focus on maximizing breathability with air-permeable fabrics and insulation systems, allowing you to stay drier, warmer, and more comfortable longer.
Photo: Tyler Huntley
What’s your favorite piece of clothing from Strafe for when it comes to your skiing setup?
We love our eVent® outerwear pieces. These are 3L shells that hit the sweet spot between the two main compromises of weather protection and breathability and weight and durability. No one wants to ski in a kevlar trash bag or ride in a fragile, freezing fabric. After many years of development these eVent® shells found the perfect balance. With the right layering they’ll work for any day and any activity in the mountains.
Is there a newly released item this season you want to highlight for building a solid ski gear setup?
We are super stoked on our new Men’s Alpha Insulator Short and Women’s Pant. If you’re skiing or touring in cold conditions regularly, these pieces allow you to stay comfortable with a single bottom baselayer under your shell pants. The full-length side-zip allows you to easily remove them should things warm up and the 100% recycled, quick-drying, and lightweight Polartec® Alpha® insulation is the most breathable insulation we’ve ever used. They’re truly a game changer for cold days and climates.
Insulated shorts are the cheat code for cold days. Photo: Jake Burchmore
Since your company is based out of Aspen, a place known for colder temps at a high elevation in the Rocky Mountains, does this give you an advantage when it comes to creating your products and having insight on how to stay warm?
Of course! We are spoiled and definitely have an upper hand on how to create an effective layering system when it comes to protective gear. Our offices are located right at the base of Aspen Highlands, home of some of the best inbound terrain in Colorado. We’re athlete-owned, so we make the gear we need.
Hiking the Highland bowl, ripping down to the lift, and riding up to lap again places unique demands on apparel in terms of breathability, weather protection, insulation, mobility and storage. We found gear needed to be a blend of breathable, waterproof materials and constructions with snow-specific features and fits for moving efficiently and skiing hard all day. We’re trying to constantly evolve and find the newest and best materials to keep us dry and warm on the coldest days!
When you’re working hard you may have to unzip to dump some excess heat. Photo: Tyler Huntley
What’s the most important thing to consider when getting ready for a ski day?
Gear doesn’t make the day great, but can sure make it better! Skiing is a cold, outdoor sport with a lot of moisture and it’s generally much easier to cool off than it is to warm up. Dress warm and give yourself options to adjust based on your comfort.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you wear, just as long as you’re warm, comfortable, and outside enjoying it.
Anything else you’d like to add about layering/getting dressed for a day on the mountain?
Don’t be afraid to try new things! Trying new layering is how we learn what is most comfortable for us as the skier or rider we are.
“Whatever it is that motivates you on the less inspiring days of winter, embrace that, because it’s convenient to be stoked about skiing when it's dumping powder... maintaining the excitement to ski when conditions are less ideal is more impressive.” Mallory Duncan, Strafe Ambassador and PNW Sales Rep. Photo: Jake Burchmore