Linda Darby lives for snow sports. She loves writing about various winter activities and her articles mainly appear on sporting blogs.
Polypropylene Is Your Friend
Don't use cotton. Don't people make their first layer of clothing cotton or wool or something they think will wick away moisture. It's true that cotton absorbs moisture, but it also holds it in. That's going to be a major disadvantage out there in the cold.
For starters, after you've been down the slopes a few times, you're going to get warm. This is going to make you sweat and you'll be tempted to take off a layer of clothing. When you do, the cold air will get to that now-soaked-with-sweat cotton layer. It's going to rapidly cool the clothing and then hold it to your skin.
Because cotton holds onto moisture, that cold, wet, underlayer is going to dramatically lower your body temperature. Not good.
Use polypropylene - military grade undergarments if you can find them. They are lightweight, thin, but they hold in the heat and wick away moisture. Get bottoms, tops, and something for your head, like a pull-over face mask.
Your Middle Layer
Your middle layer is where you can really bulk up. Choose heavy garments that insulate well. Here is where you can make use of wool or cotton. The thicker the better. As long as you can still move, it's all good. You can go online, with sites like SportPursuit that are great for ideas on the types of sweaters and pants that work well.
Unlike the first layer, you don't have to worry about sweating through to the middle layer. These garments won't be held close to your skin so there's little risk of freezing if you do have to take off the outer layer. Alternatively, you could take this layer off if you get too warm.
The Water-Proofing Outer Layer
The outer layer is more of a protective layer than anything else. When you're out in the cold, you have more to worry about than just overheating. Snow or water infiltration can keep even your middle and inner layer moist if there's enough of it.
Choose materials that will repel water and snow. An example of outer gear might be snow pants with a nylon shell and durable water repellent. A better option would be an entire suit, so that there are no gaps in your clothing where snow can get in.
Look for reinforced knees and snow gaiters on the lower legs that will help keep snow out. Finally, look for a nice, thick, paid of winter socks. The trick to getting insulating socks is to shop in the hunting or professional skiing section of a sporting goods store. Both hunters socks and skier's socks are typically very thick and insulated so they will keep you warm almost regardless of the temperature outside.
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