While snowy climes offer a wide range of outdoor activities, it’s of paramount importance to dress appropriately if you want to enjoy all that a snow-filled day of activities has to offer. One thing to keep in mind about a day on the snow is that temperatures can fluctuate by as much as 30 degrees or more. In addition, if you are skiing or snowboarding, the temperature on the ground can be vastly different from the temps up on the lift. Here is a short primer on how to dress in layers, to enjoy every minute of your time at Mammoth Lakes.
Knowing how to dress in layers starts with understanding the purpose of each layer. For the most part, you will want to create 3-4 basic layers depending on the temperature. These include:
- A thin base layer in a natural fabric that helps wick moisture (perspiration) from your skin
- A middle layer made of materials made to retain body heat, which will protect you from the cold
- Optional jacket layer
- An outer or shell layer that shields you from wind, rain or moisture from snow
Simply piling on three layers of clothing is not enough. You have to be sure that each layer is made of the right kinds of fabrics to do the job each layer is meant for.
1. Base layer
In cold conditions, it is particularly imperative to keep moisture away from your skin. Since moisture will chill quickly, this makes it hard for your body to maintain heat. For your base layer, you want to choose pieces made of absorbent fabrics like wool or silk. Cotton is generally not a good option, because while it will absorb moisture, it doesn’t dry quickly, just leaving you damp and more susceptible to chill.
While there are a number of synthetic fabrics you can choose from like polyester and nylon, you also want to keep in mind that those fabrics can also retain odor as well. So, if you want to still smell fairly decent at the end of the day, you might opt for a natural fabric. Remember that undergarments like bras, boxers or briefs need to also be made of a wicking fabric as well that will pull moisture away from the skin.
Base layers come in a number of different weights, generally ranging from lightweight to heavyweight, although you may find options like “ultra-lightweight” or “expedition weight.” One thing to keep in mind about base layers is that their primary purpose is wicking, not warmth. While there is certainly nothing wrong with choosing a heavier weight, it’s generally not necessary, since your outer layers are the ones you’re going to choose specifically for warmth. In fact, pairing a lightweight base layer with a heavyweight middle layer will give you more options as the temperature fluctuates. Also, heavier weight fabrics tend to be bulkier, so you also went to be careful not to layer so many heavy fabrics together that it becomes hard to move. For your base layer, you want both pants and a top.
2. Middle Layer
What you want to choose as your middle layer is going to depend on whether or not you add an optional 4th layer or jacket layer between your middle layer and outer layer. In more moderate temperatures, you might simply opt to throw a vest on over your base layer and cover it with a shell. In colder climates, you might opt to wear a fleece or down jacket under your shell, which means you might wear a simple turtleneck, sweater or sweatshirt for your middle layer.
One of your layers needs to be an insulating layer. If you are only wearing three layers, your middle layer needs to be insulating. If you opt for 4 layers, you might want to keep your middle layer to a light or midnight fabric. Sweats, yoga pants or jeans also make a great middle layer for your legs.
3. Optional insulating layer
These days, many ski jackets have a zipper in the insulating layer that you can also zip out when the weather turns warmer. Even if the outer shell you choose doesn’t come with a zip in/out insulated layer, you can always simply wear a fleece or down jacket or vest under your shell.
If the weather warms up, you can simply remove your insulating layer and you will still have all the layers you need to keep you dry and comfortable.
For truly cold weather, there is almost nothing that beats the insulating power of down. Best of all, today’s down jackets are lightweight and breathable keeping you more comfortable than ever before. This layer will generally only be necessary on top to protect your core heat.
Your shell layer is simply a waterproof layer that protects you from melting snow making you damp. While there are a number of ski and snowboarding shells designed with specific openings and pockets specific to skiing and snowboarding, in a pinch a rain shell will do just fine. You will also want to wear ski pants or waterproof pants as well, to keep your legs dry and toasty while spending the day frolicking outdoors at Mammoth Lakes.