Hot Tips for Keeping Warm Skiing and Snowboarding

What layers to wear, the latest heated accessories and warm-up ideas for skiing and snowboarding in cold conditions

When you're sitting on a chairlift dripping with icicles in a Baltic chill that freezes your eyelashes, you might be tempted to call it a day. But, as a ski host showing newcomers around the 4,270 acre terrain of Sun Peaks Resort BC, Louise Hudson has to tough it out. Here are her top tips to keep toasty on the trails...

A cool view of Sun Peaks. Photo: Cristina Gareau

First Base

The key to base layering is wearing moisture-wicking fabrics next to the skin. But, ideally, you don't want to create any moisture as in sweating, which can later freeze and make you cold even with layers on top. In Arctic conditions, of course, sweating is easily avoided unless you are ski touring uphill at speed, in which case, layering and having a backpack is essential.

Merino is a good choice for a base layer, its natural magic comes from its ability to react to changes in body temperature, absorbing moisture without sacrificing insulation. Merino is now a staple yarn for ski layers, including socks and glove liners, adding extra warmth. Machine wash carefully and air dry to re-shape and extend the product life.

Manmade materials like Heat Holders' stretchy and super soft HeatWeaver yarn give maximum warmth and comfort while remaining affordable.

Mid Layer Management

So don't ruin the science of a perfect wicking and insulating inner layer by throwing on an old polyester hoodie with the breathability and wicking qualities of a plastic bag.

The mid layer needs to insulate, trap warmth and keep the heat in while not being bulky. 

Best mid layer tops have long sleeves with thumb holes for an added bonus of extra hand warmth and, also, hoods that act as helmet liners such as Kari Traa's merino wool tops. But beware of hood overload. If you wear a down-insulated gilet for that added body heat, then maybe choose one without a hood. Three is definitely a crowd creating a style conundrum about which fits under and which goes over your helmet.

There is good reason to buy everything from the same brand, one that has spent time and money figuring out layers that perform together as in Stellar's layering system, below. It is, also, a no-brainer if you're a style stickler for colour coordinating layers.

Ski Wear 2023

The Neck's Big Thing

A Buff or neck warmer is key for keeping out the cold, especially as it can be pulled up as a face mask to cover nose and mouth so, with goggles, your face is not exposed to the chill on chairlifts.

Take a second one in a pocket in case of sogginess. A heated scarf comes into its own during the deep freeze. Worn on top, it keeps the neck doubly snug, also maintaining ambient blood flow to the head. 

Outer Layer(s)

Waterproof, windproof and insulated are the prerequisites for the final outer layer. Waterproof ratings are calculated in millimetres and 20,000mm is for the wettest weather conditions. For windproofing, choose jackets and pants that are 1 CFM - 0 CFM / m²/sec. Go for 20,000g/mm2 for optimum breathability. And for insulation, the fill power rating should be 700+ for the deep chill. 

Some prefer a hero jacket, one that is fully proofed on the outer and majorly insulated on the inner but this can, also, be bulky. The alternative is a 700+ down puffer with a shell jacket on top.

NB For storm riding, make sure your shell jacket hood will go over your helmet, preferably with a peak to protect your goggles - or wear your goggles over the hood.

Ski Wear 2023

Hot Pants

The latest bib pant trend is good for insulating, adding a layer to the body area and preventing both draughts and, powder down the back, especially chill-proofing when worn OVER your jacket, see Planks' High Rider bib pants, image below.

But, although bib pants and one-piece ski suits are great ideas for draft-proofing, they're best avoided by women in sub-zero temperatures because of the getting nearly naked factor meaning you pee icicles in the freezing lift station loo.

Depending on how insulated your ski or snowboard pants are, wear thermal leggings underneath. For Baltic conditions and sitting on chairlifts, Decathlon have super-insulated quilted cropped ski leggings with microfibre zones for breathability. Thermals can also be substituted with winter running leggings, their extra warmth more essential than thermal wicking properties as your legs are unlikely to sweat in deep freeze conditions.

Ski Wear 2023

Cheat with Heat

Rechargeable battery-heated clothing and footwear is trending everywhere. Companies like Volt Heat, OroroTherm-ic and Heat Performance can wire you up from head to foot with their ranges of heated mitts, glove liners, vests, baselayers, scarves, socks or boot heating elements.

Fingers and toes typically register the frostiness first, but a heated vest or base layer ensures a toasty torso, helping prevent loss of circulation and heat in the extremities. Heating levels can be altered in tune with weather variations throughout the day and batteries are easily recharged overnight.  

Boot Gloves

DRYGUY Boot Gloves are wetsuits for ski boots. Made of waterproof neoprene, they provide insulation against cold snow, water, and air by trapping heat in. The fabric is made of small closed cells filled with air, acting just like wetsuits in water. Strapped over a ski boot with elastic under foot and a Velcro fastener around the heel, the boot glove traps warm air inside and keeps moisture out. Paired with high quality socks, they perform by keeping that heat in, rather than letting it escape.

Wearing them over battery-heated socks or boots means you can prolong battery life by using lower settings. 

Take a Backpack

Absolutely essential for ski touring and the backcountry (with avy safety gear) a backpack is worth carrying in resort on uber cold days for extra layers, gloves, spare heating batteries and a thermos with a hot drink.

If you're ski touring,  always take an extra pair of inner and/or ski gloves as one pair will almost inevitably become wet (and thus cold) while taking skins off during transitioning.

Slow Down

Slower skiing means less windchill. Going Mach 2, barely turning, and waiting for terrain to slow you down is not a good game plan in the cold. The faster you ski, the more of your own personal windchill you'll create.

So, make many more turns than usual, treat the terrain as if it was moguls even if it's not, and practise short swings to give your metabolism something to do, heating up muscles from the inside out. Choosing bumps runs or rugged off-piste terrain helps. 

Warm Welcome

Obviously use cafe stops for warm up drinks but, also, to take advantage of the hot air hand dryers to thaw out your accessories. When toes feel frozen, remove ski boots and massage them gently back to life.

When back off the hill jump into a hot tub wearing a Heat Holders' beanie lined with velvety HeatWeaver insulation.