2013-12-12

The ULTIMATE Guide to the Perfect Ski Outfit

What to wear on the slopes? We'll start from the inside and work our way out in an incredibly comprehensive guide to a flawless, uber functional ski outfit, written by a skiing and ski product fanatic. Read on for some great ski brand recommendations below that you know have been tested to the max.

Base Layer Tops

This should fit close to body for better heat retention, but doesn't need to be compression. Superfine merino wool is warm, wicking, less static and more odor-resistant than polyester. But if you have sensitive skin, try our seamless Soul Crew or mens Ergo Crew which are made from a nylon/poly/spandex blend but feel silky and soft - supremely comfortable. Look for a fairly long top with a dropped back hem if you are tall. Patagonia and Icebreaker make good base layer tops; Patagonia tends to run quite slim and long though. If you will be carrying a backpack, raglan sleeves which don't have any seams along the shoulder will be more comfortable. 

Fera Soul Crew

Ski Socks

It's often easier to put these on before your base layer bottoms. Merino-blend socks offer excellent performance and resist odor, but synthetic blends work fine too. Look for knee-length ski socks, not hiking socks will be too short. Ski-specific socks will have thicker padding along the front of the shin and sole. Smartwool, Fox River, Wigwam, Lorpen and Rohner are a few brands that make ski socks.

A caveat - do not underestimate the importance of good socks for skiing. Out of all the places you can experience discomfort, your feet are definitely the worst. (And definitely do not do cotton socks. Trust.)

Wigwam

Base Layer Bottoms

These can be long johns or snug leggings, depending on what sort of fit you want. If you don't want the leggings to be ending inside your boots, some brands make 3/4 length. I like a snug poly/lycra-blend full length legging style with minimal seams and fitted at the ankle, so I don't notice it in my boots. I find the mild compression of a legging reduces fatigue; some people choose to wear compression tights but these are generally not very warm. Fabric with a brushed inside surface will be warmer. I like having a higher rise fit to reduce the chance of any snow getting inside. Hot Chillys are my favourite.

Also something to consider - a low friction fabric so your base layer doesn't grab or tug against your ski pants - our Bliss legging has a silky, yet cotton-like feel that will slide easily against your ski pants.

Once you have your base layers and socks, you can work with layering to get the right combination for your conditions. What you wear depends on your outer layer, so let's talk about that now.

Fera Bliss Legging

Ski Parka vs. Shell? 

Traditional ski jackets have always been insulated: a waterproof (or highly water resistant) outer "shell" fabric, an insulation layer and lining. As camping/outdoor brands started making snowsports gear, the notion of separating the shell and insulation became more popular, leading to more 3 in 1 jackets and shells worn with insulators or other layers. While the latter has a practical appeal especially if you have use for a waterproof shell jacket, there are trade-offs: 

- A good ski jacket usually has a powder skirt, which is an elasticised inner hem with grip tape that keeps wind and snow from getting up your jacket or down your pants. Not all shells have this, though higher priced ones typically do.

- A good ski jacket also has inner cuffs, like those found on Fera's Melaine parka - thumbhole openings to help keep the sleeves down and warm the wrists. Not all shells have these. Make sure any shell you buy has adjustable cuffs to get a decent closure at the sleeve openings.

- Most ski jackets have a tall collar with insulation that protects your neck front and back. Shells often have an attached hood which may or may not stand up well as a collar when the hood is not in use.

- Technical ski jackets will have useful pockets on the inside and out, whereas shells tend to be stripped down and have fewer pockets. A technical jacket also has pit zip vents that help you cool your core, whereas with a vented shell you still have another layer inside. For a flattering technical womens parka, check out our Etna.

Fera Etna Ski Jacket

Waterproof Ratings  

People often think they need a Gore-Tex jacket. The reality is that many technical fabrics will keep you comfortable and dry. The degree of waterproofness you require depends on where you are skiing. The water content of snow varies from place to place, just like humidity. Places like the US Pacific Northwest and British Columbia tend to have wetter snow, and lower elevation resorts sometimes get rain. Places like the Rockies have dry snow and cold temps; you are less likely to get soaked as the snow just brushes off. Higher end fabrics will usually be laminated waterproof membranes whereas cheaper garments use coated fabric which will feel stiffer. Note that most down puffer jackets especially anything by a fashion brand are typically NOT waterproof.

Breathability

Breathability is just as important as waterproofness. You can work up a sweat skiing and if your jacket isn't breathable you'll end up clammy and cold when you ride the lift back up the mountain. FERA jackets all have high breathability ratings.

Mid-Layer Top

Depending on how easily you get cold, this can be a lightweight down or polyfill insulator jacket, fleece layer or wool sweater. Ideally it has a collar and at least a half-zipper so you can regulate your temperature. We designed our Circo Insulator with stretch side panels and sleeves for a more streamlined fit when layering. Our Meister sweaters make a stylish mid layer - they stretch more than fleece and look great in the lodge!

Fera Circo Insulator

Snow & Ski Pants 

Ski pants are all about FIT and FEEL. You don't want to be wearing something bulky or noisy all day long. Pants should definitely be made of a waterproof breathable fabric and have a snow gaiter inner cuff to keep the snow and wind out. The right size will ensure you have the perfect fit at the waist and your cuffs aren't dragging - at Fera we have numerical sizes (instead of S/M/L/XL) and lengths to get the Perfect Fit. Elastic or adjustable tabs at the waist provide flexibility should you put on some vacation pounds! You'll want at least two pockets to stash things. Insulation will keep your leg muscles warmer, reducing the risk of injury. All our pants have some sort of insulation and many feature our signature Slimline bonded insulation which eliminates bulk, giving you the most packable, light and comfortable ski pants around.

Fera Lucy is our bestselling womens ski pant and is available in special sizes and colours. For the snow fashionista, the Alicia is our sleek four-way stretch pant, fully waterproof breathable (unlike many stretch pants which are only water resistant).

For men, Touring is a lighter weight snow pant with vents and a straight leg cut. Bourne offers more warmth and a roomier leg, ideal for snowboarders and skiers alike. Magnum utilizes four-way stretch fabric for a slimmer silhouette. 

Fera Lucy Ski Pant

Bibs 

Another option is a ski bib. The upper helps keeps snow out even on deep ungroomed runs even if your jacket doesn't have a powder skirt. New this season is our innovative zip-off bib, giving you the best of both worlds - an adjustable waist pant for in-bounds and a bib when you want more backcountry snow protection or warmth and the security of suspenders. Check out our McKinley Bib for men and the Logan Bib for women. 

Accessories  

Waterproof Gloves 

These are an absolute must for snowsports. The best ones have a reinforced palm and fingers and wrist tabs or zips for a good closure. There are two types - gloves with a trim wrist which are meant to go inside your jacket cuff, or gloves with a longer gaiter cuff that extend over your jacket cuff. If you have long arms, a longer glove with gaiter will make up for sleeves that might be marginally short. My preference is for gloves with a removable lining that can easily dried overnight. Some gloves have pockets to insert hand warmers into, which is a nice feature if you get cold fingers. Hestra makes excellent performance gloves. 

Hestra

Helmet 

Besides protecting your head, helmets keep your head and ears warm - sometimes too warm! Look for a helmet with vents and that feels good on your head. The lighter the better, both for packing ease and comfort. Giro, Smith, Anon and POC are popular snow helmet brands.

Goggles 

Make sure they interface well with your helmet and find a shape fits your nose/face profile. Many brands make women-specific and even Asian-fit goggles to better suit different facial structures. Look for a goggle that provides a wide field of vision and has lenses that increase the snow definition/texture in flat light and have good UV protection (not all do). 

Anon Helmets + Optics

Neck warmer 

If you don't like the feel of snow spray down your collar, a fleece or knit neck warmer will do wonders keeping you warm and blocking wind.

Sunblock 

The UV radiation in the mountains is very strong so a good water resistant facial sunblock is essential! Don't forget to apply it at the bottom of your nose and your jawline, which catch reflections off the snow. There are winter specific sunblocks that are thicker and help retain moisture better.

Lipbalm 

Avoid chapped lips by liberally applying a moisturizing sunblock lip balm. Favorites include: Blistex Five Star and Burt's Bees Ultra. 

Is a caption necessary here? ;)

Tissues

The cold outdoor air tends to trigger a runny nose, so have a pocket pack of tissues in your pocket.

...So. Now you know. The definitive guide to a fully considered ski outfit. Happy Holidays! 

<3, 
FERA