The Layering System
Inner Body Layers
- Base Body Layer. Thermal underwear in soft polyesters are much better than cotton as it 'wicks' away moisture from your skin to the next layer, keeping you dry and warm.
- Mid Body Layer. A brushed micro-fleece is very effective at wicking body moisture away while trapping air in the fibres to give you an insulating layer between base and outer layer. A lightweight thin microfleece (130-170 gsm) is very flexible and allows a second mid-layer top (either a poloneck or another fleece) if the air is very cold.
Outer Body Layer
Jackets and trousers must be at least snowproof allowing snow to brush off. Waterproof and breathable fabrics are the best as the snow can get wet and heavy, and it can rain. Windproofing should include taped seams with storm flaps over the zips. A thermal legging is essential in normal cold mountain weather, and a microfleece legging is a good choice in extremely cold conditions.
Outer Body Warmth
Head. Up to 40% of body heat is lost through the head, so a hat should be carried, if not worn, at all times in the mountains. The hat should be able to cover the ears. A neckwarmer covers the gap between the jacket and the hat, and also stops chafing of neck and chin on the jacket. If a helmet is worn, a balaclava acts as both head and neckwarmer.
Hands. A basic Thinsulate ski glove does the job, but can get wet both inside from the skin and outside from melted snow. A waterproof/breathable glove avoids both dangers, but is more expensive. Gloves should have enough wrist to prevent any gaps between the jacket sleeve and glove. An inner liner provides extra warmth.
Feet. Socks should be knee-length and only one pair should be worn at a time (inner socks can be worn between boot and sock). Ski tubes have no heel and are seamless. The technical sock is more expensive, but is shaped with a heel and has padding at the pressure points.
Eyes. Either sunglasses or goggles must be worn to provide 100%UV protection from the bright white light. Goggles should always be taken up the mountain in case it rains or snows, they are also more flexible and robust than sunglasses. Anti-fog single lens goggles can still mist up when skiing hard and double lens are preferable but more expensive. For those with prescription glasses, OTG (Over The Glasses) goggles allow you to wear them under the goggle. Sunglasses should be category 3 or 4 with polycarbonate lenses that don't shatter. As with goggles, brown, orange and yellow lenses are best for flat light conditions. A glass cord secures the glasses to your head and is convenient when glasses are taken off indoors.
Face. In the thin air and bright light, your face is receiving high doses of radiation, even on cloudy days, so a high factor sunscreen is essential. Factor 25 suncream should be sufficient, but 30-35 is recommended. For those who burn easily, factor 50 would be best of all. Lips crack easily in the dry and cold conditions: a combination tube of lipsalve and suncream is covenient especially on a cord round the neck.