Greetings friends. I hope this post finds you doing well. The 2019/2020 SKI & SNOWBOARD season in Colorado is open. An early snowfall pushed opening dates up across the state.
Morning frost and last weeks early spotting of the white stuff are beginning to put a buzz in the air. But before you hit the slopes you have to make sure you have the gear you need. I get asked a lot, should I buy or rent, and I plan on doing a post on that topic soon, but before one can answer that let us go through all the gear that is needed for a winter ski/snowboarding trip.
WHAT YOU NEED
Winter Jacket/Outer Layer- This is a must. You are really gonna need this! And yes, everyone needs their own. Ideally you would want one that is both wind and waterproof. Gore-Tex, Pertex, DryVent, OutDry & EVent are all good choices when choosing waterproof, windproof, and breathable membrane for your jacket.
Base Layers/Long Johns/Skins – Before the alpine touring and back country craze we used to call our base layers ski skins. But terms change and if you asked someone in a shop where the ski skins are, they will not show you base layers and long johns (they would show you skins that you put on the bottom of your skies so that you can walk up the mountain in your skies). Anyway, base layers are very important. This is your underwear. Hahaha, no not that underwear, but the underwear you wear under your outer clothing. Ideally it should be water resistant – a moisture wicking dryfit synthetic material. You don’t want cotton as this retains moisture and will make you cold. It is your base and you add layers as needed; the colder, the more layers, the warmer, the less. How many layers you need always depends on the weather.
Fleece/Mid Layer/Insulated– The mid-layer is what keeps you insulated. You want to keep your body heat but still have flexibility and even some breathe-ability in the material won’t hurt. In the old days wool was standard here. It still works great today. Merino wool and other type of insulated synthetics as well as fleeces and sweatshirts are great options to keep you warm.
Socks – Socks are the under-rated MVP, no doubt. A good pair of socks can keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable. Socks come in different levels of cushion and support as well as a million different styles. I always recommend the thinnest lightest sock you can wear. Again no cotton. Synthetics or wool are good options. Proper fitting socks should never move, rub or chaff your ankles or any other part of your skin. A good pair or bad pair of winter ski socks can make or break your day on the hill. So don’t be foolish and not wear em. Haha
Gloves/Mittens – Gloves are a must. Having warm hands, as well as feet, is crucial to having a good time in the cold weather as well as on the mountain. Gloves and mittens will be worn both on and off the mountain. So they are a must. You may need more than one pair because people tend to drop and lose one. I would say that a single glove or mitten is the most lost item found at the resort. I recommend wind and waterproof gloves that offer good breathe-ability if you are going to spend a day on the mountain. Gore-Tex, wind and waterproof gloves are not required but are always nice. Some people have day gloves and night gloves. Gloves for a day on the mountain and gloves for a night on the town. You don’t need two pairs but you will need to have your own to have your hands covered. Don’t forget the gloves.
Winter Hat/Beanie – Another key to keeping warm is to have your head covered. A winter hat or beanie is is a great option. They offer the softness and flexibility to keep your head warm. Baseball caps and trucker hats don’t work so well as your ears are exposed and many times the mesh offers very little comfort to the wind and snow. Something nice that covers your ears is ideal.
Scarf/Neck Gaitor – Neck gaitors offer great wind protection. While the neck gaitor is not a necessity it really can do wonders.
Sun Glasses – Sun glasses are a must. Bring 2 pairs, just in case. Have them on you and available at all times. You will want your eyes covered. Don’t think you don’t need your eyes covered. You do. Harmful sun damage and not being able to see because the sun in glaring in your eyes is reason enough to keep them covered when the sun is around. UVA/UVB and polarized all work great but really just keep your eyes covered from the suns strong rays and reflection off of the snow while in the mountains.
SKIS/SNOWBOARD – (R) Obviously if you are going to ski or snowboard you are going to need skis or a snowboard. Last I checked you can’t actually ski or snowboard without skis or a snowboard. There is virtual skiing and snowboarding but I don’t count that. And actually you will probably need poles if you ski and you can’t ski or snowboard without boots.
BOOTS – (R) If you didn’t understand the above, let me repeat. To go skiing or snowboarding you need special ski or snowboard boots that are made specifically to be bound in skis or a snowboard. You can’t just borrow your buddy’s board or skis if you don’t have boots. And no you can wear ski boots with a snowboard or snowboard boots in skis. Not gonna work! So get that right out of your mind. Ski boots and snowboard boots are night and day apart but are a required part of the set-up. At a minimum you need skis/board & boots.
Helmet – (R) Technically while not required, I highly recommend wearing a helmet. Helmets save lives and protect your head from severe trauma; including death and brain damage. Not sure what’s more important than your life. They also keep your head warm. I think buying one is best but they are also available for rent. I’m not sure how many sweating heads put that helmet on that you are about to rent. Was it cleaned, I for sure, hope so. Anyway, I digress, helmets are rated for a crash. Yea, like when I hit my head, all good, no biggie. You should throw that sucker away after one good crash. It did what it was designed to do. One and done. Also, if you have an oldie but a goody, I know you folks, it’s time to buy a new one. Yours is probably cracked already.
Ski/Snowboard Jacket – You will definitely need a jacket to go skiing or snowboarding. Your winter jacket may or may not work. If it’s economical, while not necessary, a wind and water resistance gore-tex jacket may be a great option to keep you warm and dry from windy gusts and blizzard like snow conditions. Size and fit, as well as flexibility are all important factors when buying your own jacket. If you have the right layers and jacket the adverse conditions really become fun to play in.
Ski/Snowboard Pants – We all know somebody who skis in jeans. Yup, even the president skis in jeans. If you don’t want to be that Jerry get yourself some ski pants. Like the material in your jacket, flexibility, as well as wind and waterproof qualities are good characteristics when purchasing.
(R) – rent-able
These are the basics. I’m sure I’m missing something, but this will get you started. So get your gear in order and hit the slopes.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you all have a great start/finish to your week. Until next time, love one another and be kind to each other. Get out there, The Thrill of the Mountain is waiting for you. Ski on/ Ride On. Ski ya.
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