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How To Buy Ski Base Layers

Most skiers dress in layers that work together to keep them dry, warm, and protected from the elements. When you layer, you can take off or put on pieces as needed, allowing you to be prepared for fast-changing winter weather conditions or tailor what you're wearing to your activity levels.

The importance of layering

  • Dressing properly for skiing means dressing in layers that will work to keep you dry, warm and protected under a variety of conditions
  • Remember to dress for the coldest or most extreme weather you anticipate
  • The best layering system for skiing consists of three layers:
    • Layer one: long underwear/base layer
    • Layer two: insulating tops & pants
    • Layer three: outerwear

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Layer one: long underwear/base layer

The function of tops and pants in this layer is to keep you dry by allowing perspiration to evaporate quickly, keeping you comfortable all day. Long underwear should also provide warmth and comfort against your skin.

Styles

  • The traditional combination of long-sleeved pullover and long pants, both with ribbed cuffs to keep out the cold, is still most popular, but other styles are available as well
  • These include mock neck tops, short-sleeved tops, and short-style bottoms that cover enough of the thigh to keep the quadriceps muscles warm

Fit

  • Base layer garments for skiing should fit close to the body to absorb moisture effectively
  • It's generally best to stick to your normal apparel size. Too-snug garments will restrict your movement. Too-loose garments can bunch or chafe.

Functional requirements

Your comfort is the key here. Base layer garments should be soft, keep you dry, and provide a little warmth.

  • Softness
    • Advances in fabric and fiber technology have made softness a functional requirement of good long underwear
  • Moisture wicking
    • Performance fabrics whisk perspiration away from your body to the outside of the garment where it can more quickly evaporate
    • When you wear long underwear with moisture wicking ability, a warm, dry area is created between this fabric and the insulating garment you wear over it
  • Thermal properties and fabric weight
    • The weight or bulk of the fabric used in the garment determines the warmth it provides
    • Alpine skiers typically choose long underwear that is light- to mid-weight
  • Anti-bacterial/Anti-microbial
    • Though not a necessity for a good base layer garment, anti-bacterial/anti-microbial treatments are available in some styles and offer added benefits
    • These treatments make garments resistant to odor-causing bacteria and microbes, including mildews and molds
    • If you intend to wear long underwear for several days in a row without washing it (as many skiers do during ski vacations), anti-bacterial/anti-microbial treatments can be beneficial

Materials

  • Polyester and other synthetics
    • Synthetic fabrics are usually the best choice for long underwear, since they provide a good combination of moisture management, softness, and thermal properties
    • Polyester is the most common material used, due to its excellent wicking ability
  • Silk
    • Silk is used especially in lightweight pieces
    • This material is a soft, strong, natural wicking fiber
    • Silk long underwear is sometimes treated to enhance its moisture wicking ability
  • Wool
    • Wool fiber naturally wicks away moisture
  • Cotton
    • Cotton garments are warm, soft and comfortable when you first put them on, but cotton is not recommended for long underwear or base layer garments, because of its tendency to absorb and hold moisture
  • Blends
    • Blends of these fibers offer the best properties of each and are desirable if you plan to ski under a variety of conditions

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Layer two: insulating tops & pants

The primary function of clothing in this layer is to keep you warm.

Styles

  • This layer includes a variety of tops, including sweaters, fleece tops, and vests, most often in pullover styles
  • Fleece or knit pants are also available
  • Basic cotton knits should be avoided due to cotton's tendency to absorb and hold moisture
  • Style is also a factor, as these garments can easily double as casual streetwear

Fit

  • These garments should have a loose fit for good freedom of movement, but they should also fit under a jacket and ski pants without sagging or bunching.

Functional requirements

  • Warmth
    • Insulating garments come in various materials and weights, and these will impact the degree of warmth they offer
  • Moisture Wicking
    • Moisture wicking is the ability of a fabric or fiber to move perspiration from the inner layer of the garment to its outer layer for quick evaporation
    • This will keep perspiration moving further away from your skin, allowing your body to keep you warm more efficiently
  • Low-bulk
    • Providing warmth without a lot of weight or a lot of bulk is important for general comfort but particularly for ease of movement
  • Stretch
    • Materials that offer natural stretch or garments that incorporate spandex/Lycra® are good for more active skiers or those who prefer greater freedom of movement

Materials

  • Fleece
    • Synthetic fleeces, such as Polarfleece®, the popular polyester fleece fabrics from Malden Mills®, are the most widely used materials for insulating garments
    • In addition to providing warmth without a lot of weight or bulk, they are good moisture wicking fabrics and lend themselves well to both popular and traditional styles of ski apparel
    • Fleece is also machine washable and retains its shape through repeated wash and wear cycles
  • Pile
    • This synthetic fabric has many of the same characteristics as fleece, including wicking, breathability, and warmth without bulk, but offers a luxurious, faux-fur appearance
  • Wool
    • This fiber is naturally warm and moisture wicking
    • Wool is often bulky, which makes this fiber less desirable for some skiers
    • Wool shrinks easily as it dries and is not as easy to care for as fleece or pile
  • Cotton
    • Cotton is not recommended as long underwear or base layer garments, because of its tendency to absorb and hold moisture

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Layer three: outerwear

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