How to Layer for Resort Skiing
Or how to not freeze your butt off on the chairlift and avoid other ski-day maladies
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Improperly dressing for a day at the resort will ruin your day. Just ask Ryan Pyles, a ski instructor with a decade of experience at resorts like the Yellowstone Club, Mammoth Mountain, and Crested Butte, and Abigail Dougherty, the manager who selects the layers and accessories sold in Aspen Skiing Company’s shops. I picked the brains of these two experts for best practices to stay warm and dry on-piste.
#1: Don’t Skimp on Socks…
One of the hottest sellers at Aspen Skiing Co.’s stores? Socks. Dougherty says guests often don’t bring enough, thinking they’ll need only one pair for a weekend. “You will quickly learn that one clean pair per day is required,” Dougherty says, because then you won’t have to do laundry every night to ensure you’re not left wearing damp or crusty socks from the day before.
#2: …But Don’t Crowd Your Boots
“Never wear two pairs of socks,” Pyles says. “You’ll cut off more circulation, constrict blood flow, and limit the dead space in your boot that helps trap heat from your foot.” Pyles and Dougherty suggest wearing one pair of thin wool ski socks; the Fits OTC Ultra Light ($22) is my favorite for its tight compression and thin fabric. And both pros reiterated to never tuck anything—long underwear or ski pants—into your boots. “It could cause irritation and discomfort on your shins,” Dougherty says.
#3: Splurge on Pants
“I always see people investing in good jackets but not putting enough thought into pants,” Pyles says. Pants that are cheap and poorly built or don’t fit right will make it impossible to get properly warm on a cold day. “Your butt is always in contact with a cold seat when you are on a lift,” Pyles says. Leave the insulating to your base layers, and spring for a pair of Arc’teryx Sabre Pants ($499). They’re pricey but will last forever, and the three-layer waterproof construction shields you from the worst elements. Plus, they boast the brand’s trademark excellent fit.
#4: Factor in the Weather
This one might seem obvious, but pay attention to more than just the temperature on your phone’s weather app. Sun and wind can seriously affect how warm you are on the lift. “My first step is to check the weather,” Dougherty says. “The forecast may say 30 degrees, but in the Colorado sunshine, it could feel like 50.”
#5: Know Your Own Temperature
“Be realistic about what kind of skier you are,” Pyles says. “Do you run hot or cold? Are you an aggressive skier?” Ask yourself these questions before you layer up. A common (and smart) saying is “be bold, start cold.” “Don’t overdo it if you are skiing aggressively,” Pyles says. “People stepping out of their car get scared by the cold, but then they ski hard and sweat until they’ve soaked through their base layers.” It’s tough to come back from damp undies once you cool down and the sweat freezes. Patagonia’s Capilene Lightweight Crew Shirt ($49), with its woven grid pattern that channels and vents moisture, ensures you won’t have to.
#6: Think Wick
Another common saying: Cotton kills. But not really at the resort, since you have the lodge right there (see #7). Still, moisture management is key. “Invest in good base layers made of wool or synthetics,” Dougherty says. “These will wick sweat away from your skin, keep you dry, and help you maintain good climate control.” She recommends Kari Traa for its awesome merino wool layers for women in a variety of styles and fun prints. Guys, check out Mons Royale from New Zealand.
#7: Utilize the Lodge
“You’re at a resort,” says Pyles. “Don’t be afraid to use it.” Shed extra shirts, socks, and long johns and stash them in a locker or your car if you overheat. Pull them back out and relayer if you fear getting cold. “On a powder day, I will change out everything, from goggle lenses to base layers,” Pyles says.
#8: Accessorize Appropriately
It is remarkable what a difference putting on Buff Original Headwear ($20) and tucking it into the neck of your base layer can make. Pyles maintains it can make you feel ten degrees warmer and will be your secret weapon on stationary chair rides.
#9: Glove Up
Go for something waterproof and insulated to protect your digits against the cold. My personal favorites are the Hestra Fall Line Leather Gloves ($165), because they hit that sweet spot of being insulated without feeling bulky. On warm days, stash a liner—like The North Face FlashDry Liner Gloves ($25)—in your pocket to swap out for your insulated gloves if your hands begin to sweat.