Getting it in Gear for the Ski season (Part 2)

Submitted by Lori Mayfield on Sat, 01/20/2018 - 11:42

(Continued from Part 1)

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SOFT GOODS

I'm a gear geek and relish the research of what makes a sport like skiing or snowboarding enjoyable - which hinges on the comfort of your apparel. If your kid is warm (but not roasting) in proper gear, the odds are stacked in your favor for a good time on the hill. Clothing is largely similar for skiing and snowboarding with slight differences I'll point out as we cover items from head to toe. 

Generally speaking, snowboarding clothes tend to be baggier and not just because of its skateboard/surfing, street-look roots. On a snowboard, you're constantly sitting down on the snow to buckle up or raising your arms and using your whole torso to carve turns or grab your board for a trick in the terrain park. Ski clothing on the other hand, tends to be more aerodynamic, with a sleek, more form-fitting look, though snowboarding styles have influenced skiwear in some brands blurring those differences. If you have an interest in doing both (skiing and boarding) like we do, jacket and pants that allow you to sit down without ripping the seams in the seat or raise your arms over your head without your belly showing will work fine for both sports.

Mom and son: from helmet to socks.

Helmets are a must-have, whether skiing or boarding, in the same way a seatbelt is in a car. Just buckle up. New since I last purchased a helmet is MIPS technology which adds a layer of protection to your noggin. I liked Giro's Stellar and for my son and the Range for myself. Both include integrated POV camera mounts and Fidlock® magnetic buckle closure. Another great choice is Oakley's Mod 5 (for me) and Mod 3 (for my son).  Both helmet brands offer compatible goggles for a seamless fit. If you aren't using Oakley lenses, Mod helmets come with two brim sizes to eliminate the gaper gap (that space between the top of your goggles and your helmet.) Adjustable vents are on my must-have features in any helmet.

Goggles:

Just like sunglass lenses, you get what you pay for. For myself, I love Smith's Vice ChomaPop goggles for their peripheral vision and versatility in variable light conditions. And Smith's Grom goggles were a terrific choice for my son who wears prescription glasses underneath. That can get tricky with fog issues but the Grom's perform well without any issues.  Oakley's Line Miner Prizm Snow Goggles were another excellent choice for my son offering a fuller face fit and stellar peripheral vision. I loved Oakley's Flight Deck XM Prizm goggles designed to maximize light and enhance visibility. Per Susie's advice at Christy Sports, I tried goggles on with my helmet choice and walked outside the store in bright light, then back indoors to shaded areas to get a feel for how the lens transitioned. Every face is different, so it's well worth trying these on to find the best fit for you.

Neck gaiters:

Protecting your neck from the sun and wind is vital. We're fleece purists especially for colder temps. Phunkshun Wear (made from recycled plastic bottles) offers solid colors or a multitude of fun patterns and a range of temps.  While thinner than fleece, they provide UPF of 50+ sun protection, are breathable, anti-freeze, moisture-wicking-pretty much all the features your neck needs on the slopes. From a fashion sense, if you're pairing these with a solid jacket, you can add a little pizazz to your look.

Base layer:

Cotton is mainly all my son will wear off the slopes, given his sensory processing issues of the "Mom, cut this tag off before I die!" variety and refuses to wear anything too: scratchy, itchy, tight, stiff or just plain yuck. However, cotton is not a good choice for a base layer (sweat freezes and chattering teeth soon follow). Silk, while technically not as warm as merino wool, can mean the difference of hitting the slopes or not for my son. For me, I'm less fussy, but if I look at polyester I sweat. Merino Wool or Bamboo are great fabric choices for warmth, odor control and comfort.  It's a good idea to buy at least two pairs (tops and bottoms) as you'll launder base layers much more frequently. A crew neck works for tops, especially if paired with a mid-layer that covers your neck or neck gaiter. And for bottoms, 3/4-length is fine as you don't want your leg bottoms tucked inside your ski boots.

Mid layer:

With so many 3-in-1 coat options with built in fleece liners, and outerwear technology geared for specific temps, you don't have to go all Michelin-Man to stay warm. A thin, half-zip turtleneck fleece is my go-to mid-layer choice. Burton makes a nice mid-weight fleece set for kids with DRYRIDE ultra-wick and stretch fabric, billed as a base layer but can function as a mid-layer that my son likes. Proof that not all fleece is the same and worth a splurge for performance. (This set happens to include a crewneck top but paired with a neck gaiter, it works.) For skiing, a more traditional ski sweater like Nils' Sigrid (accented with their Liliana beanie for après ski) makes more of a fashion statement if you're going to fancier ski resort like say, Aspen.

Outerwear:

Ski/board pants: For women, there are as many options in ski pants fit as there are in jeans, from short, regular, tall, petite, full figured or slim cut, with or without stretch. It merits trying them on for fit and style preference. Allow a little extra room for layers especially if you opt for a pant that's less insulated. For kids, a "room to grow" choice is optimal (available in jackets too) allowing you to let out a seam to extend pant length, adding at least another season of use.   This year I went with Burton's GORE-TEX® Stark Pants for ultimate warmth and waterproofing for my son. I like its adjustable waist and belt loops (for my beanpole-built kid), pockets galore, and mesh-lined vents make it ideal for winter and spring conditions.  The "room to grow/room to shrink" option has yet to be available for moms whose weight fluctuates like mine. As with my jeans, I have my skinny and my more comfy options in ski pants, depending on which way the scale pendulum swings.  I love Nil's ski/board pants because they have a style to flatter any shape and work for skiing or boarding. Their Melissa pant offers a relaxed fit that performs for boarding or skiing and comes in a long length, ideal for my 5'9" height.  

Jackets: A helmet-friendly hood (that fits over my helmet on the lift during high winds or a snow storm) and pit zips (for warm days or overexertion on an epic mogul run) are two key features I look for in jackets. Burton's GORE-TEX® Stark jacket was a great choice for my son. It's less bulky than 3-in-1 jackets I've opted for in years past and he doesn't feel like he's got a gorilla on his back. For myself, I like this season's Nil's Belinda jacket sized up to accommodate a more snowboarding (looser) fit, but still tailored enough to be flattering. 

Mittens/gloves: Dakine is da-bomb. For snowboarding, a longer cuff is a good idea (think digging out of a tree well) and I like Dakine's many options that come with storm liner gloves which are touch screen compatible.  On my board (and they work as well for skiing), I prefer Dakine's Sequoia GORE-TEX® Mitt. On any given day I'm forever switching from just liners back to insulated mittens depending on the temperature. Similar features for my son, except in a glove, is Dakine's Titan GORE-TEX® Glove. He's learning to snowboard this year so Dakine's wrist guards are a must-have and sleek enough to fit underneath his gloves. 

Hydration packs: Staying hydrated at altitude is critical. Camelbak reins in this arena with its ZOID™ for my son, offering up to 2 liters of water and just enough room for a snack and a hot cocoa packet.  As the keeper of lunch and anything we might decide to shed throughout the day, I like Camelbak's POWDERHOUND™12, which lies flat against the back for riding the lift. Its diagonal ski carry is a nice feature for getting to/from the lifts.

Socks: The right sock can make or break your day on the slopes. One company that knows socks inside and out is Eurosocks. They don't just make a different ski and board sock for each sport and gender, but offer options in each. For skiing, their graduated compression socks are terrific. They're designed for ski racer performance, but are also the bomb for middle-aged moms whose feet might otherwise swell after a half day trying to keep up with her fearless fifth grader. These can make the difference between, "Let's call it a day" and "Race you to the back bowl". 

Other essentials: Lip balm with sun protection, sunscreen (I carry a larger bottle in my gear bag and a mini for our jackets to reapply midday), lens cloth (for spills), cheap pair of sunglasses to stash in a jacket interior pocket for lunch on the sundeck. Credit card/ID/cash, tissues. 

Worth the splurge: My GoPro camera captures memories and is a fun way to help my son finesse his form when we review it at day's end. 

Next up: Let's pack it all up in the newest ski gear bags of the season.

Follow along with Lori's journey to ski at all 22 Passport ski areas here.

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