New to skiing - what should I take with me?
Remember you are entering a mountain environment, conditions up a mountain can change very rapidly. Clouds can suddenly engulf the mountain and what started as a mild day with a clear blue sky can quickly transform to low hanging cloud, poor visibility and extreme cold.
... and weather patterns are not consistent. Nowadays you cannot rely on typical weather for a particular month in the ski season. I've skied very mild weeks in January and freezing cold weather of -10°C in late March. Whatever time of year you are going - go prepared for any eventuality.
Whilst you may be lucky and not need to wear all these layers at once - it is best to be prepared for any eventuality. To find why any of these items might be needed - click on the links below.
- Base layer: Thermals
- Mid layers:
A light second layer top with moisture wicking properties
Fleece or similar with moisture wicking properties
- Outer layer: Insulated and weatherproofed jacket and trousers or salopettes
- Hat or helmet
- Gloves or mittens
- Proper ski socks
Optional accessories: Back pack – so you don’t have to carry your hat / suncream etc in your pockets. Snow boots for apres-wear.
Layering is the best solution.
Temperatures vary, what can start as a relatively warm day can turn bitterly cold. Sitting on a chair lift in windy conditions and feeling cold is no fun! You can always remove layers - but if you don't go up the mountain equipped you're stuck with it all day long.
The best solution is to use a layering system:
Base layer: Thermals. Favour man made materials (i.e. polypropylene - see our Thaw thermal underwear) rather than cotton as these are quick drying and washable. Thermals should not only keep you warm but wick the moisture away from your skin.
Mid layers: One or two mid layers. Both need to be breathable. Combined - layers have a great insulating effect with air being trapped in-between. These usually consist of a light thinner top and a fleece for insulation on top. On a hot day you can remove a layer and put the fleece in your back pack. Also make sure one of your mid layers has a high neck.
A high neck is really important when in snowy and windy conditions as any area of skin left exposed to the elements will soon feel the chill and the biting wind. Whilst your jacket might have a high collar - its often difficult to keep the wind and snow away from your neck completely.
Fleece tops start from £15.50 for kids and £25.50 for adults. Click here to view tops in the on-line shop.
Outer layer: Insulated jacket and trousers. Make sure you buy a jacket and trousers intended for skiing. A proper ski jacket and trousers will have a level of breathability and waterproofing. Usually the higher the price you pay will effect how technical the fabric is - which directly affects how waterproof and breathable the garment is.
Ski wear manufacturers are using more and more technical materials to gain greater waterproofing and breathability, usually ski jackets start at around 5,000mm / 5,000grs waterproof / breathability rating. You would expect them to have taped seams - to prevent water coming in through the seams. You will also find many ski jackets and trousers have venting. This may take the form of vents or zips under the arms or in the legs to help allow moisture to escape when you are being active.
All our ski clothing is proper, technical ski wear developed for a mountain environment. View ski clothing in the on-line shop.
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Hat: Another essential. Never go up a mountain without a hat. How many times have I heard people say – but I’m not a hat person. In the middle of a blizzard no-body is going to be looking at how nicely the hat suits your face. This is an essential, with up to around 40% of body heat escaping through your head, in extreme cold you do not want any of your body left un-protected.
Even if your jacket has a hood – remember this usually blows back in the wind, doesn't fit close enough to insulate you and obstructs your peripheral vision. All important if you can’t see very well in poor conditions anyway. Hats from £9.99 - see our selection of hats in the on-line shop.
If you are going to be wearing a helmet - you may consider a thin balaclava or under the helmet hat.
or Helmet: whilst it is law in Italy for the under 16 year olds to wear helmets on the mountain, most other European countries will insist on children wearing helmets in class. More adults than ever are now also wearing a ski helmet.
Helmet wearing is more popular than ever with adults and children alike being offered more attractive designs, light and comfortable helmets with ventilation also some now come with ear pieces that you can plug your i-pod into. Go to the on-line shop to see our range of helmets.
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Gloves or mittens: Another absolute essential. Gloves and mittens start from around £13 for children and £22 for adults. Don't compromise by having cheap gloves not made for the purpose - you will regret it.
Will your gloves be warm enough? It you suffer from cold hands or have bad circulation, or you may be skiing in an area where you know they have extremely cold temperatures - it may benefit you to go for either Gore-tex gloves or mittens. Gore-tex gloves start at £35.00. View gloves and mittens in the on-line shop.
Another option might be to buy some thermal inner gloves at £9.99 – like thermal underwear for your hands these fit easily into a pocket and can be brought out when the temperature drops to add an extra bit of insulation.
Socks: Ski socks need to be without seams or ribs and long enough to be pulled above your ski boots so that they do not interfere with the fit of your ski boots.
These range from the basic ski tube around £3 for kids and £4 for adults to more fitted socks with padding where needed. The choice is yours, often skiers who are hiring boots go for the thicker basic tube sock and then splash out on more expensive socks when they have bought their own boots to help create a better fit. View our ski socks in the on-line shop.
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Goggles: The importance of taking ski goggles with you can not be understated. We’ve all heard a friend say that they went and didn’t have to wear goggles at all. The difference is, whilst you may be lucky for a whole week one year, if you are caught in conditions that require goggles – snow, sleet or high wind (it is not only the falling snow but the wind that gets in the sides of sun-glasses and can make eyes stream un-controllably), if you loose your vision, you cannot get down the mountain safely.
Goggles cut out the wind, sleet and snow and the special lenses generally used are for poor visibility (not intense sun-light) and help distinguish the landscape to enable you to ski through the poor conditions. You can’t always predict the weather first thing in the morning – I would never go up a mountain without my goggles in my bag!!
Over the glasses (OTG) goggles: If you are a prescription glasses wearer, you will need OTG goggles. These are designed to give your glasses enough room (so they are not being pushed uncomfortably against either your face or left touching the goggles lens) to allow circulation of air and a comfortable fit. OTG goggles cost from around £35 and are well worth the investment.
View goggles in the on-line shop.
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Sun-glasses: You need eye protection at high altitude. Coupled with the very intense light at altitude you have the reflection from the snow to contend with as well.
Intense sun-light can not only diminish visibility, high UVR levels can be damaging to your eyes and in the mountain environment can even result in what is loosely termed snow-blindness.
Snow-blindness can occur when the eye is exposed to large amounts of ultra violet rays coupled with the reflected UV rays off the snow. Symptoms often don't occur until several hours after the exposure and can be pain in the eye or forehead, blurred vision and sensitivity when looking at bright lights. You may not be aware of the damage you are doing at the time.
When choosing your sunglasses - category 3 or 4 are appropriate for the intense sunlight you experience in mountain conditions, however category 4 sunglasses are not suitable for using whilst driving.
Sun cream: Sun-cream and lip balm are needed when skiing - because of the intense UVR at altitude you can even burn on cloudy days. Go for a minimum factor of 15 (SPF) and use a block on any burnt areas.
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You may also consider taking....
Bag: Most of us now wear back packs for skiing. However remember you’re not trekking, so the back pack needs to be fairly small and light. You also need to sit safely on chair lifts without being pushed too far forward - or remove your back pack on the chair lifts. If possible stick to a small, slim-fit back pack. One that is around 20L capacity or less should be ideal. View back-packs in the on-line shop.
Snow boots: If the resort you are staying in has snow, ice or slush at resort level then you need to consider taking some snow boots. Fashion shoes and ice, snow or slush do not go well together. You need a very good grip, you need warm inners, you need these to be weather proofed. View snow-boots in the on-line shop.
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Written by Ros at the Alpine Room, representing my opinions based on many years ski experience and working in the ski industry.