Affordable and effective Winter Sports Gear
Above photo credit: pdbreen
NOTE: Since he actually likes strapping a long plank to his feet and rocketing down mountains, Tech Correspondent Paul Olson has you covered for this one. Yes snowboarding and skiing looks incredibly fun, but… I like my ACLs firmly intact. So when it comes to the snow sports, he’s our man. In the meantime, I’ll see the rest of you on the snowshoe trail or more importantly back at the lodge for refreshments. Stay safe…
Winter is here. This means that either the most agonizingly cold and uncomfortable season is upon us or that it’s time to start playing in the snow. For many years, I wasn’t a fan of winter, then I discovered snowboarding. Now when winter arrives, I look forward to playing in the snow and taking a winter trip. This winter, give a sport like snowboarding a shot and see how it improves your winter outlook. (Just be sure to grab a drink at the lodge after your first day to improve your outlook on snowboarding. It takes at least two days to get the hang of it.)
But winter sports are only fun if you know how to stay warm. Here’s what you need to stay warm, look good, and have fun:
Layers for your legs
Starting from the outside, get some water-resistant shell pants. Bibs are even better, like these, the Artix Ski Bib ($29). These pants are insulated, water-resistant, and breathable. I like the bib design because it’s warmer and it’s almost impossible to get snow down your pants. And with all the layers, the last thing you’ll want is another waistband. You can spend 10x as much and you’ll get more solid construction and better breathability, but these are really all you need to enjoy yourself. You don’t want to wear jeans playing in the snow, but you can get away with wearing these over jeans most days.
When it’s colder, you really don’t want sweaty cotton under your nice snow pants, you want a synthetic fleece. Cotton will start to chill you as soon as you slow down (like when riding the lift), so wear Old Navy performance fleece pants instead.
On the coldest days, you’ll stay toasty with one more layer – long underwear. Again, focus on synthetic fabrics. Wool and silk are options, but warmth per dollar, synthetics win. Grab something off the clearance rack or dig through your closest for that old pair from Boy Scouts. And the cold cotton rule applies to regular underwear too. On cold, active days, don’t double-up — wear just your long synthetic pair.
Cover your extremities
If you’re skiing or snowboarding for the first time, chances are that you’re renting your equipment, which means boots will be provided. What you need are good socks – warm, cushy things that go up to your knees. I like socks from SmartWool. They’re well made, warm, and comfortable. You’ll wear them on the mountain, but they’re great on a cold day indoors too.
- Polypropylene liner gloves.
- Heavy wool mittens.
- Nylon mitten shells … which are unfortunately sold out at REI.
While REI restocks their shells, give these 3-in-1 mittens from EMS a try. Your hands will stay warm and toasty in nearly all conditions — you may even need to remove the shells to cool-off while on the lift. On warmer days, you won’t need every layer, but keep the shell on the outside to seal out the wet snow.
What about your core?
If you take care of your head, hands, legs, and feet, your core will be fine. And chances are, you already have a fleece jacket and maybe even a waterproof shell or puffy coat. Wear these over a lightweight synthetic shirt and an old wool sweater. You’ll be plenty warm. And if you don’t have a warm jacket, borrow one. You have a buddy that has two.
Get a pair of two-way radios. Your cell phone isn’t going to work (and it’s not worth risking a drop in the snow), so use these to communicate with your group instead. Get a two-pack (so you can share) and get ones that are water-resistant.
Depending on what you have already, you’re probably only about $100 away from serious winter warmth. Figure out what you need to get to stay warm and get ready to change your outlook on winter.
Got a cold weather tip that I missed? Leave a note in the comments.