How to Layer

By: Jennifer Sherowki, Freelancer


When it comes to layering for a day on the mountain, you shouldn’t just pile things on willy-nilly. There’s a method to the madness of staying warm and dry! For instance, you know that your baselayer comes first—but do you know why? And how come it’s never, ever a good idea to employ a cotton tee shirt as that baselayer?

Here’s a quick debriefing on how to use your on-hill wardrobe to stay comfortable and cozy from deep-powder December all the way through springtime’s slushy lift laps.

Wicking First Layer

The first layer you put on is all about moisture management next to your skin. It needs to let your body breathe, pull sweat away from your skin, and be ultra quick to dry. This is because even in the extreme cold, you’ll probably work up a sweat now and then. Wicking baselayers like Icebreaker’s Oasis Long Sleeve Half Zip or Airblaster’s Ninja Suit are built to naturally disperse moisture—creating a dry, warm foundation for your other layers.

As awesome as cotton tee shirts are, when they get wet, they stay wet—acting like a cold, clammy blanket to your core temperature and, unfortunately, defeating your entire layering system right there at the ground level.

Insulating Mid Layer 

Your mid layer is the place to pack on some heat for the day. I’m talking fleece, flannel, wool—maybe even a down vest. How cold is it? If your answer is only moderately cold, then a cozy hoody like Burton’s Negani Hoodie or Quiksilver’s Layover Flannel Riding Shirt will probably do. But for the really frigid days, don’t be afraid to throw a down vest into the equation—right there under your shell! Something like Patagonia’s Prow Vest is perfect doing battle in the kind of dire-cold days that always seem to have the best snow.

Weather-Protecting Outer Layer

It may seem obvious, but your outer layer should—nay, must protect you from the winter elements. Ideal for the soggy, wet conditions found in Tahoe and the Northwest, waterproof bonded shells like Arc’teryx’s Theta SVX utilize progressive technology (GORE-TEX®!) to completely seal out wetness while still letting you breathe. Alternately, insulated parkas like Burton’s Ayers Down Jacket pack supreme warmth for deeply cold conditions. It’s all about anticipating what the demands of your environment will be—and then creating an invincible armor against them.

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