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Layering for Skiing – It’s an Art

He is not layering for skiing properly.

Layer for skiing properly, and you’ll never look like this.

If you perfect the art of layering for skiing you will find the great outdoors a most wonderful place to be in as often as you like. However, I’m sure you know the weather while skiing can be very unpredictable. In the mountains it can go from a warm sunny day to freezing temperatures and butt-kicking winds very rapidly.  If you’re not able to adjust your clothing to accommodate to this rapidly changing weather, you’re in for a piss poor day combined with some serious grumbling. Luckily you’ve arrived here and can learn about the art of layering for skiing which allows you to make quick adjustments based on your activity level and changes in the weather –YEAH, you’re saved!!  Say Halleluiah – you will stay toasty warm and dry no matter what Mother Nature throws at you – IF you heed these teachings.

Let’s break this system down and see what it consists of and how it works. When you are layering for skiing there are 3 layers and each layer has a very specific function. I’m going to cover what each layer is and the expected function of that layer in this post.  I’ll take up each layer individually and go into specifics about best materials and practices in each one in later posts. You can access those posts in the drop menu below this Layering for Skiing tab.

OK, enough lead in – let’s get on with it.  The 3 layers for skiing in this system are: the base layer, the insulating layer and the shell layer (outer layer).

Layering for Skiing – The Base Layer

This is your next-to-skin layer.  It provides a first layer of warmth, but its main function is to wick moisture away from your skin so that you stay dry. It then should dry out quickly so that you don’t get that wet, clammy feeling that comes from wearing wet fabric.  As a note on fit:  this layer should fit fairly snugly because if it’s not touching the skin – it can’t wick away your sweat.  That means that your sweat will sit on your skin and evaporate.  (like yuck!)  This will make your skin clammy and cold, which when it’s cold… well anyway – you get it.

There are various base layer weights and they come in all sorts of fabrics, but I will cover that in full in the article where I go into the base layer in detail.

Layering for Skiing – The Insulating Layer

The insulating layer is the layer on top of the base layer.  Its main function is to keep you warm by trapping air close to your body.  Insulation all works the same basic way – it traps air which has been warmed by your body close to your skin and thus minimizes heat loss. The more air you trap, and the less you lose, the warmer you stay.
Think of it like this. Your body puts off heat – it heats up the air next to your skin and this air starts heading out away from your skin. If it’s cold, you want to trap that air right there, close to your skin line, so you put on a nice fleece pullover. If it’s REALLY cold, you put on a second line of defense, like a down vest or something. Thus any air that slips through the fleece is trapped by the vest. (that air is some pretty slippery stuff, let me tell you)  If it’s not so cold, the sun is out and it’s quite nice, then you just put on something light weight.  Make sense?

As with the base layer, there are various weights and fabrics to be found in the insulating layer too.  There are also some fancy thermal reflecting materials that are available that work to keep you warm too, but just go to the insulating layer specific article for the full poop on all this.

Layering for Skiing – The Shell Layer

This is the layer that goes over the top of  the earlier layers.  Its job is to protect you from wind, water and snow.  It’s your outer armor and it has to keep wind and water from penetrating to your inner layers.

You have to stop the wind, as the wind will whip away that trapped air your insulating layer is holding onto to keep you warm.  You have to stop the water because if the inner layers get wet and it’s really cold out – you are in some seriously deep doo doo. You’ll be something like a popsicle with a fur coat on (think about it – it fits).  Not a good scene at all.

Now ideally this fantastic layer does all the above PLUS it breathes.  This means that it lets water vapor from your perspiration escape out into the environment. “Wait a minute”, you say, “It has to stop water that is out from getting in, but must let water that is in – out??”   Yup, you got it.  One way water flow.  If your perspiration isn’t able to escape from this system, it condenses on the inside of your shell. This will make your base layer and insulating layer wet.  If they get wet – well – you’re revisiting the aforementioned popsicle scenario.  I’m not going to get into how all this is accomplished here, but I will tell you all about it in the shell layer specific article.

Another thing you need to pay attention to when getting your shell layer is fit. Your shell needs to be roomy enough to fit easily over all your other layers and not restrict your movement. Believe me; you have to think about that when you’re in the store, trying on the shell by itself. I just recently bought a new shell.  Fit me nicely in the store and I loved it, but I didn’t think about it being roomy enough all over.  It was a very cold day the first time I wore it, so I beefed up my insulating layer.  I put on a fleece pullover and also a down vest.  They both zipped up to the chin.  Then I put on the shell, and it would not zip up past the bottom of my neck.  It was too tight.  Man that sucked.  I’m going to have to use that shell for warmer days only as it will not accommodate much in the way of insulating layers. Wish I had thought of that before I bought it.

The great thing about using the layering for skiing system is that it is very efficient and versatile. You just add or remove items to accommodate the changing conditions and temperatures you encounter when skiing in the great outdoors. So use the system and have a great time.

There you have it.  The art of layering for skiing in all its glory.  Well, not all its glory – as I still have to go through each layer and break down the materials and options that are specifically available in each one – but at least some of its glory.   You can get the rest of the information in the layer specific articles,( base layer, insulating layer and shell layer), that you will find in the drop down menu below the Layering for Skiing tab.  Go there and get the rest of the scoop.

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