What should your skiing wardrobe consist of? And once you’ve purchased it, how do you make sure that your clobber stays in tip-top condition? OnTheSnow consulted Dan Vece at one of the UK’s premier ski shops, www.theski-shop.co.uk, to get some tips on buying long-lasting ski clothes.
For people that are new to skiing, and who know nothing about ski clothes, what should their ski wardrobe consist of?
As a bare minimum:
- Ski-Pants (salopettes)
- Thermal base layers
- Technical socks
And for families that are new to skiing and are taking little ones, how do children’s clothes vary? Children grow so quickly – can you buy kids’ ski clothes more cheaply?
Children’s clothing may have fewer technical qualities, so you may need to invest in more or higher quality thermal layers. Some children’s clothing comes with adjustable sleeves and trouser lengths which can be made longer as children grow.
Adjustable waist bands and bracers also help, allowing you to potentially go up a size for even more growth room. It’s also worth remembering that clothing for under 14s doesn’t have VAT.
How important is it to invest in quality ski clothes?
The weather can change on the mountains very quickly, so you must make sure that what you buy is fit for purpose; keeping you warm and dry. If you know that you feel the cold or you are going away in a particularly cold part of the season, it becomes even more important.
Quality in ski clothing also means that as [as a result of] using more technical fabrics and insulation, you can have lighter-weight, better fitted clothing.
Higher quality jackets are normally very waterproof with sealed zips and seams, very breathable, not too heavy, warm and have finishing touches such as powder skirts, lift pass pockets and removable hoods etc.
What material should base layers be made out of?
Base layers should be either manmade fabrics that keep away the sweat, silk or merino wool, which also keep away sweat and retain no odors and are pleasant to wear against your skin. Avoid regular cotton t-shirts or vests.
If you’re trying to save some pennies and you have a good quality wool jumper, is this an adequate substitute for a base layer?
They tend to be bulky, non-waterproof and get heavier as you sweat, making you colder. However there are manufacturers that specialise in wool wear that has been treated so that it is suitable for skiing. These products tend to be very technical, expensive and therefore perform indescribably better than the jumper granny knitted for you last Christmas!
If you are trying to save money, a cheap polyester thermal top with a polyester fleece on top of it will still be much more suitable than a thick wooly jumper.
Let’s talk pants - how long should they be?
Not too long so that they catch in your bindings, but long enough so they sit comfortably over your ski boots. A good rule of thumb is whether they can cover your top two buckles easily. They may just touch the floor if you are trying them on and just wearing socks.
Can you recommend some good quality makes?
- Degre 7
- Poivre Blanc
- Steiner (thermals)
- Columbia (thermals)
- Buff (neckwarmers)
Snowboarders tend to wear baggier snowboard pants. Is this much better for riding or is it just a style thing?
It’s a stereotype that just boarders wear baggier pants, it’s purely a style of clothing and commonly seen among skiers along with many other freestyle disciplines. 90% of people just wear what is comfortable and fits, not too tight and not too loose.
What are the two items of ski clothing that skiers and snowboarders should invest in?
There are really no two specific items that should take priority over another, as each has a specific job to do.
The simple answer is jacket and pants (pants being the one thing I would miss most!) however without gloves or proper socks, you are quickly going to be in danger of getting frostbite and without goggles you aren’t going to be able to see a thing when its overcast or snowing!
So, can someone get away with buying cheapish gloves?
It’s a tricky one, as everyone is so different. I find a lot of people really complain about the cold whilst they’re skiing so a jacket is undoubtedly the best place to focus on, followed by thermals. Without talking too much about hardware, a properly fitted pair of ski boots are going to do wonders for your feet warmth, but also your skiing ability, comfort and happiness on your holiday.
A lot of customers purely want to just look good, which is great, and a high-end jacket is always the centrepiece of your outfit, with the pants to match.
I definitely wouldn’t take a risk with gloves though, I find I spend a lot of my time rolling down a slope on my face and digging my skis out from the snow, and a gore-tex pair of gloves really pay for themselves here. You don’t have to break the bank on them either, a decent set can be as little as £40.
I think for most people, jacket and trousers are the #1 priority, normally as they are the most expensive items anyway. For myself; decent trousers, decent goggles, decent gloves and I’m happy.
In terms of fabric, insulation, air vents, what do skiers need their ski clothes to do?
You want your clothes to move with you and not restrict your technique, maintain your body temperature to keep you warm, but breathable so you don’t overheat (insulation or air vents) and of course be waterproof.
Are expert skiers looking for their ski clothes to perform better?
No, everybody needs the essentials. There should be no difference in your requirements as a beginner compared to an expert. An expert may know that they really need that range of motion, so they may be more “picky”.
Are there any quality standards that the clothes might have?
- Waterproof rating e.g. 10,000 mm
- Breathability rating e.g. 10,000 grs
These two are pretty much the minimum that I recommend to customers and are a good baseline for “quality”. Then there's also:
- Taped/sealed zips and seams
- Powder skirt
- Lift pass pockets
- Air vents
These other features always give that finishing touch. Taped zips and seams will always provide much improved waterproofness compared to the same item without.
How can we best look after our ski clothes?
Always check the label to see how it should be washed, normally they are machine washable at 30 degrees using Nikwax Tech Wash cleaner. You don’t have to go overboard, once a season is enough. (Never use fabric softener/conditioner on your ski pants or jacket). Again, check the label and see how it should be dried, some can go in the tumble dryer, but not all . . . if in doubt just let it dry naturally.
Once a season I always do a secondary wash with Nikwax T.X Direct which maintains the waterproofing and breathability of the jacket. Following these steps, your jacket can last you well over 10 years.