Cold Weather Layering: Wool Stacked High Enough to Make a Sheep Jealous





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Apparently the Arctic doesn’t want to hog all the fun of mind-numbingly low temps. For most of the country (we’re not talking to you, Florida) this past week has brought unseasonably cold weather. That’s saying a lot since it is, after all, the coldest season of the year in the Northern hemisphere.

In the Colorado Rockies, several days haven’t even pushed over to the positive side of 0˚ F. At this writing, the Weather Channel simply lists Telluride, Colorado as “bitterly cold.” Ouch. While we’re weary of your underachieving ways, mercury, a little cool air isn’t going to keep us from winter play.

Layering takes on a whole new level when the temps move beyond chilly to downright frigid. Assuming you’re out to enjoy a single day in the mountains and not embarking on a trans-Arctic expedition, here are a few simple rules to stay warm.

Sweat is your enemy. Whether your intention is to sweat or perspiration is minor by-product of fun – say in downhill skiing – wool is the ideal next-to-skin layer. Both wool and synthetic fibers move moisture away from the skin. Synthetic fibers focus on quick dry times, which become instantly irrelevant when you’re stuck in wet base layers in -2˚ F temps. Wool maintains its insulating qualities and keeps you warm whether the fabric is wet or dry.

Advantage: wool.

Make each layer count. Severe winter weather leaves no time to dally with ineffective layers. Wool is warm because the natural “crimp” of the fleece fibers trap air. Your body heats the air, which creates a mini-oven around you. For comparison, down feathers also have a ton of rough edges to trap air. Cotton and synthetic fibers tend to be smoother, thereby not able to hold as much hot air near your core.

Advantage: wool and down.

Bonus tips for severely cold weather:

·      Wear a thin cap under your helmet, like the Zepher Skull Cap or Balaclava. This little accessory will likely provide the tipping point from ice cream headache misery to fun day on snow.

·      Put powder on your feet before you boot up. The powder helps to absorb sweat.

·      Invest in hand warmers for the day and put them into your gloves before you step outside. Never getting cold is better than trying to warm up after a chill.

·      Check your buddies for white spots on exposed skin. This is the first visible stage of frostbite (frost nip). Cover the skin immediately and get inside.

·      If your hands get painfully cold, run them under cold water just until you can feel the water is on the chilly side. At that point, gently mix in warm water. This is the fastest and most comfortable way to warm frigid fingers.

·      Go inside before you’re miserable. We all prefer to be outside playing, but a few minutes of warm-up every few runs is a far better option than crocodile tears and an hour of trying to feel your feet again.

Stay warm out there.