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Essential Gear For Skiing & Snowboarding

Critical Clothing & Gear

Taking a ski vacation, particularly with kids, can seem like a daunting task.  Between all of the gear, making sure you have the right clothing, hauling everything to the airport, loading it in a car, etc.  And, then there’s determining what gear you need!  Trust us, we realize that the beach vacation may be a tempting alternative.  But, we assure you, there’s nothing like a winter vacation and we’ve got tips and recommendations to help you ensure you’ve got everything you need!

Remember, if needed, you can find all of the essential winter gear and apparel when you are in Vail at one of our many retail and rental shops! Renting equipment once you’re here also eliminates the need to bring skis, boards, poles, ski or snowboard boots and even a helmet. Vail’s rental shops offer a huge selection of ski and snowboard rentals, so you can find the rental package you need. As an added bonus, most gear rental shops feature the newest models to try out!

winter gear to buy & rent

Layers are essential

Base layers are your first line of defense to staying warm and comfortable while skiing or snowboarding on Vail Mountain. Base layers (thermal underwear) help wick sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you dry, while also providing a level of warmth. There are plenty of features to consider when choosing the best base layer:

  • A snug fit to your body (without restricting movement). Remember, you still have a few more layers to go, so more form fitting base layers help save space for your bulkier mid and outer layers.
  • Thermal tops that can be tucked into bottoms ensures you’re keeping that body warmth in and snow doesn’t get in IF you take a tumble.
  • Look for tops with hand/thumb holes. Not only do they help keep your hands toasty, but they keep your sleeves taught and in position instead of scrunching up inside your jacket sleeves

A mid layer goes over base layers and under your outer shell/jacket. This layer is typically where much of your warmth comes from and is the layer you need to pay the most attention to as conditions vary. What to wear skiing in 40-degree temperatures is much different than what to wear when its 10 degrees. On warmer days, a vest, light fleece, or no mid-layer would be adequate. When the temperatures drop, go with something heavier like a warmer fleece or a down/puffy jacket.

Your outer layer goes over everything – your ski or snowboard jacket and snow pants that are meant to protect from the outside elements like wind and snow. These layers are built from a variety of high-tech materials like Gore-Tex to give maximum element protection while being as breathable as possible. Look for a ski jacket or snowboard jacket with adequate pocket storage and zippers to help dump warmth in the event you are getting too hot.

You should never wear more than three layers (base, mid, and outer layers). Many skiers think the more layers the better, but this is wrong. Additional layers add bulk, reduce mobility, and often end up being way too warm. It’s best to dress for the temperatures by selecting the correct base, mid, and outer layers.

Visit a retail shop at several convenient locations throughout Vail Village and Lionshead to shop for the latest soft goods.

Keep Your Fingers Toasty

The right gloves or mittens can make or break a ski day! Hands are a cold spot for most people during the winter season – especially kids. Make sure your hands are nice and cozy. All things equal, mittens are considered to be warmer, because fingers can share heat with one another, and the warm air inside your mitten circulates more freely around your hand. Also, with gloves, cold air surrounds each and every finger on the outside. Obviously a glove designed for sub-zero temperatures will be warmer than a cheap, routine winter glove bought at the general store. The amount of insulation and shell material still play important roles in the warmth of any ski glove or mitten. This is an area to invest in ski/snowboard specific gloves! And, glove liners and hand warmers inside your gloves/mittens can help tremendously, especially on those extra cold days!

The importance of ski/snowboard socks!

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there at some point – your feet are freezing!  It’s hard to enjoy a day on the slopes if your feet are cold or uncomfortable. Choosing the right socks is one of the most important, and unfortunately overlooked, gear decisions for skiing or snowboarding. The best ski and snowboard socks will be snug, cushioned, and breathable. We highly suggest purchasing more than one pair of ski or snowboard specific socks, and not just any sock. This will ensure the right “cold weather” materials are used and they fit properly in your boots. Remember thicker does not always mean warmer.  If your feet are too tight or socks are bunched up in your boots, it makes for a cold and uncomfortable day. Long, thin socks are a better option for skiing to protect your shins and provide your feet breathability.  The best ski and snowboard socks have all of these features and more:

  • Ergonomic design more closely resembles the shape of your foot and provides a snug fit
  • Materials are moisture wicking to repel sweat away from your feet and keep them warm
  • Padding is strategically placed throughout the socks for added comfort and durability
  • Tall fit to provide coverage from your knees to your toes

A Brain Bucket

A helmet obviously keeps your head safe in case of collision, but also does an excellent job keeping your head warm. Some helmets have adjustable vents to adjust airflow depending on the conditions.  Ski helmets are sleeker and have cooler graphic designs than they did in the past. Many skiers consider their helmet to be part of their look and appreciate the extra comfort and safety features.  Buying kids’ ski helmets is especially important, as their skulls and brains are still developing. Risks increase even further in the terrain park or any other instance where the skier is moving at high speeds or falling from tall heights.  It is critical to try on helmets before purchasing, as each model and design fits differently. Vail’s retail shops offer a selection of helmets to buy or you can rent one as part of your equipment rentals.

How to Haul Everything

Ski bags are essential for long haul traveling to destinations like Vail, and they are the only way to fly with your gear. Additionally, ski bags are great for storing all your ski gear and keeping it together during the offseason. Finding the best ski bag for your needs can alleviate quite a few headaches and can make it easy and painless to travel and enjoy your favorite ski destination. There are various types of ski bags:  just for skis and ski poles, just for ski boots, and bags that can carry boots as well as your clothing, helmet and more. The bag you use depends on the gear you’re bringing.

Flat lay of mountain ski equipment and alpine accessories. Helmet, boots, ski goggles, etc. isolated on white background

The Extras

More gear suggestions include items to keep you extra comfortable, depending on the weather!  Boot heaters will add assurance that your feet and toes stay warm! Gloves with built in heaters are also now an option to keep hands and fingers toasty. A neck-gator or some type of face covering keeps your face and neck warm and protected from wind-chill. Goggles are essential, even on sunny days to allow you to see clearly, protect your eyes from harmful rays, and keep the wind out so your eyes don’t water up when flying down the mountain. Bringing a winter hat along with you is never a bad idea. Some people actually wear a beanie underneath their helmet for added warmth. It’s also nice to have some headwear for après-ski so your ears don’t get cold while sipping on your post-ski beverage. You can find all the latest trends in headwear at Vail’s retail shops.


*Content courtesy of The Ski Source