If you’re new to mountain trips, you may have heard “it’s all about the layers.” That advice is helpful, but only if you know what it means. Here’s our guide to helping you decide what to wear in the mountains and how to layer up so you’re warm and comfortable on whatever adventure you embark upon.
The base layer is the first building block in a warm outfit. Base layers fit closely against the skin and wick away moisture while providing basic insulation. Remember that you want the base layer, particularly the pants, to fit snugly. You don’t want extra material that could become bulky or uncomfortable in your boots. Be prepared: pack base layers of multiple weights so that you’re ready for variable temperatures and conditions that change day-to-day. Base layers come in a variety of materials including:
- Synthetics: Can include polyester, nylon or polypropylene, synthetics are exceptionally dry and durable.
- Merino Wool: This ultra-soft natural material has excellent wicking properties and is moderately durable. Check out Smartwool for great merino baselayer options.
- Silk: An exceptionally warm material, silk is supple and lightweight but doesn’t have the toughness of other base layers.
Pro tip: avoid cotton garments as the material has minimal insulation and doesn’t dry easily!
The mid-layer insulates and moves moisture toward your outer layers. This layer is your key source of warmth in an alpine winter. A range of options exists when it comes to choosing a mid-layer. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that a tight-fitting garment may restrict movement while one that is too loose may not be warm enough or become uncomfortable. Stop by the Burton store or West Portal Outfitters for a variety of apparel options and get the best gear to venture out!
- Quarter-zip fleece sweaters
- Light jackets
Pro tip: When choosing a mid-layer, select an option that you can remove if you get too warm.
On the coldest days, more layers are always a good call. Bundle up with a light jacket, puffy or other mid-weight jackets that will provide an additional windbreak and further insulation for your core. This should be a layer that you can shed as the sun comes out or you increase activity levels. Check out The North Face for a great selection of jackets for defense against the chill.
Pro tip: Be sure to try your softshell on with the rest of your gear before heading out onto the mountain. You want to make sure it fits well over your other layers and under your outer coat without restricting maneuverability.
Your outer layer is your first line of defense against the elements. Also called the shield, this layer should consist of a water and/or windproof shell jacket. Be sure to wear a waterproof shell if you think you’ll be exposed to precipitation or wet, heavy snow. Outerwear waterproofing is rated on a scale of 0-20,000. If you want to stay dry in wet conditions, aim to wear a shell rated 10,000 and higher. If you know you won’t have to contend with wet conditions, a windproof shell is still important because it will still provide protection from the elements.
Pro Tip: Check out The North Face FUTURELIGHT if you’re looking for a high-performance shell!
Hands, Feet, Head
Your hands, feet, and head are key areas of heat-loss and also need to be insulated from the cold. Protect your hands with a pair of glove liners. These are often made of silk or synthetic and provide insulation just like the base layer on your body. Add a pair of waterproof gloves or mittens on top for a protective shell for your hands.
Warm socks made from wool or an insulated synthetic will similarly protect your feet. Make sure the socks you choose are thin enough to comfortably fit inside your ski or snowboard boots if you plan on shredding! Smartwool makes excellent socks for winter weather so stop by West Portal Outfitters and pick up a pair or two to keep those toes toasty. If you want even warmer feet, head over to the Mountain Adventure Center. There you can sample the Rossignol heated boots when you demo gear. Savor the warmth and added comfort while out on the hill.
Finally, covering your head is extremely important when you dress for the mountains. Wear a face cover by Phunkshun Wear to protect not only your face but also your neck and ears from the cold. Apply a beanie or other warm hat for additional insulation. If skiing or snowboarding, it’s always smart to wear a helmet for extra protection and additional warmth. Helmets are provided with all rentals.
Pro tip: Keep an extra pair of gloves and an extra beanie or face cover handy on snowy days. You’ll be happy to change into warm, dry gear after carving up powder.
Warmth and comfort are key to making the most of your trip to the mountains! Make sure to layer up for whatever way you choose to venture out! With plenty of great retail options, Winter Park base is your hub for all the gear you’ll need to dress for the mountains and have a memorable stay in the Rockies. Don’t forget, gear rentals are also available at the Mountain Adventure Center if you don’t want to buy your own. Stop by, layer up and get ready for adventure!