The Science of Layering for Skate Skiing, Downhill and, Of Course, Sledding



Layer, shmayer. Everyone says it and we all get it, right? And how often do we all blow it? Regularly.

There are three primary reasons for the value of layering:

  1. Proper layering leaves enough space to trap air, which your body will heat and the air will return the favor.
  2. Practically speaking: If you get hot, you can shed a layer while still staying protected from the elements. The same concept works in reverse.
  3. Thoughtfully considered layers can work together to wick sweat away from the skin, keeping you warm and dry.

Troubleshooting (without the sarcasm that word can imply):

  1. Overheating vs. hypothermia. Oddly enough, many people will veer toward the seasonally incongruous ill (like overheating in winter), because it doesn’t “seem” like it could happen.
  2. Know your body and prepare for everything. If you run hot, opt for a zip-neck top for added temperature regulation. Don’t opt against layers that your intuition is telling you to bring. A lowered immune system, spilling your water or falling in the snow can change your typical thermostat instantly.
  3. How far away is a reliable heat source? Are you taking a run at a resort or planning a full-day tour in the backcountry?
  4. Be creative with accessories. Keeping your core at a stable temperature should be your primary goal. That doesn’t always mean eight layers of tops, vests and jackets. Sometimes a simple scarf, skull cap or even cycling-style arm warmers can make all the difference.



Layering for Skate Skiing

  • Aerobic Activity Level: High
  • Keywords: Wicking, variable temps, wind-resistant, easy to move in
  • Suggested layers:
    • Base: Go for lightweight. You’ll be sweating a lot and you want to make it easy as possible to move the moisture. Try: Ibex Woolies 150 Crew for cold days and Zip-T for moderate days
    • Mid: A full zip vest is ideal for high temperature-generating activities. A vest will keep your core warm without overheating. Try: Shak Vest and let the power of back-to-back wool be a sweat-wicking machine.
    • Outer: The bummer about many shells is that all the moisture you’ve worked up will build in the inner lining of your outer layer. You want something highly breathable and pliable, but with a tight enough weave to offer protection from the wind and precipitation. Try: Breakaway II, a wool and nylon softshell.

Layering for Downhill Skiing

  • Aerobic Activity Level: Moderate
  • Keywords: Warmth, variable temps, waterproof
  • Suggested layers:
    • Base: You can beef up the heft of your base layer a bit for lift-assisted downhill skiing, as compared to a more aerobic sport. But don’t go too hefty. Several thin layers trap more dead air than one thick one, keeping you warmer in the process. Try: Indie Sport for a versatile weight and an easy-to-layer silhouette.
    • Mid: This layer will be determined by your outer layer choice. If you’re going straight shell for your outer layer, consider this piece your primary insulating piece. Try: Wool Aire Sweater for the performance of wool insulation and the ease of layering with a nylon shell.
    • Outer: Hard shells and soft shells in today’s market are both high performers. For downhill skiing, focus on keeping the wind and weather out.



Layering for Sledding

  • Aerobic Activity Level: Moderate, if you’re not hiking. But… wet, wet, wet from rolling in the snow.
  • Keywords: Warm, waterproof, bottoms
  • Suggested layers:
    • Base: Keeping your core at 98.6-degrees is still the surest way to comfort, but since your legs and derriere will be taking the brunt on this one, dress accordingly. Try: Woolies 220 Bottoms.
    • Mid: While dressing for sledding is highly weather dependent, you can never go wrong with a solid mid-weight, ready-for-anything, full zip jacket. Try: Pomfret Jacket.
    • Outer: Anything that can handle an inevitable snowball fight, hot chocolate spills and being at the bottom of the happiest child-filled dog pile ever in history.

Be safe and warm this winter.