How to Dress for Backcountry Skiing.

This week I have taken three different people touring for either their first time, or close to it. People who begin to backcountry ski typically have a background in resort skiing and so they’re used to wearing several layers, mittens, goggles, a helmet, etc. Skiing in the backcountry is different. It’s different because you have to hike uphill. Which makes you hot. Really hot.

Because of this the best advice I can give to DRESS FOR THE UPHILL. The reality is that you may hike up for an hour and only ski for 10 minutes. If you transition fairly quickly and keep moving, the downhill isn’t going to be long enough to make you warm. Ideally you can wear the same thing on both the uphill and downhill so that you don’t have to spend your time taking on an off layers when you could be getting absolutely pitted.

What I have found to work for me is to wear:

– my mountain bike helmet with a light beanie and/or neck gator depending on temperatures and sun.

– A light base layer, a long sleeve bike jersey, and light windbreaker. If I get hot I unzip. Simple.

– Long underwear and sweats. If it’s cold or wet I’ll wear snow pants. I have a pair of under armor sweats that are stretchy and can cuff over my boots, keeping the snow out which is great. Companies like Dynafit, or La Sportive make touring pants that would probably be even better.

– I typically wear bike socks on my feet. I find that because they’re breathable they don’t get as sweaty which in turn keeps them warmer. It also gives my feet more warm because they’re thin so circulation is better.

– For my hands (the most important for me because they get cold the easiest) I wear a thin pair of running gloves under a race over-mit. The over-mit has slits in the palm so I can easily take my gloved hand out for better dexterity or breathability. Works great.

– I’ve stopped wearing goggles. I use Bliz sunglasses and paired with my Oakley helmet I’ve found that 99% of the time I don’t need goggles and it saves me another step. I’m not opposed to trying different goggles, I just haven’t needed to. I know that Dynafit and other racing companies make lightweight touring goggles that would stay on your helmet. This sounds reasonable to me because you don’t have to take them out of your pack and put them on, which is a big time waster in my opinion.

I hope this is helpful.

Happy Skiing!

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