One of the hardest things to dress for, especially in cold weather, is varying levels of activity. If you think about how you spend your time skiing it is easy to see why layering is not always the easiest.

Even if we all see ourselves effortlessly cruising down the slopes, skiing can be hard work. That in itself isn’t necessarily the problem. The issue comes when you have to go back up again. Most of us then plop down in a chair lift – sitting still as altitude is gained. Handling this varying intensity places high demands on your clothing in general and your layering system in particular.

The first layer of defence should be a baselayer. The main task of this layer actually isn’t to keep you warm – the layers over will take care of that. Instead you want to make sure that your innermost layer wicks moisture away from your skin. Perhaps some of you are aware of the expression “cotton kills” – while it sounds dramatic it refers to the fact that cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin, and the main reason you get cold in winter time is when this moisture is cooled down. In winter this happens rapidly. While it is unlikely to be dangerous when you are skiing, which it can be in more exposed circumstances, being cold takes a lot of the joy out of an otherwise enjoyable activity.

Therefore, it is important to pick a baselayer made from a wicking material. While both wool and man-made synthetic fabrics will do the trick, merino wool offers several benefits. The wool fibre is naturally crimpy, which means that it not only traps pockets of warming air – it can also hold up to 30% of its’ own weight in water. This absorption keeps the moisture away from your skin, making you feel a lot more comfortable. Another handy quality of wool is that it is naturally odour resistant, which can be nice when you are skiing. The ‘after ski’ is a lot more enjoyable if you don’t have to sit in a corner by yourself because of your smell.

Lastly when it comes to the baselayer, it is important to consider the fit. Make sure that you have long and tight fitting shirts, so that there are no gaps where you let out the air your body has worked so hard to heat for you – only to be replaced with circulated cold air. For your long pants, it is also worth considering that they shouldn’t interfere with you ski boots. This is why it’s important that they are tight fitting as well, so that they don’t bunch up – causing discomfort. If you want to stay on the safe side, use ¾ long pants since the short leg means that they won’t get in the way.

To add insulation on top of these baselayers, a midlayer should be used. The purpose of this layer is to trap air, so the fit can be a little looser than for the layer worn closest to the skin. One important aspect to keep in mind is that several thinner layers will keep you warmer than one thick layer. Using several layers also means that you can actively adapt to the level of intensity – something that is not possible with only one layer. Another thing to be aware of is that the neck is an area where the body releases a lot of heat, so make sure that your midlayer has a long neck since this will make a big difference for how warm you feel.

A very common frustration when skiing is cold feet. The most important thing is to wear socks that are fit for purpose. Socks made specifically for skiing are usually reinforced in high wear areas, which increases both comfort and durability. The material of the sock is also important - wearing wool socks means that you can have a relatively thin sock that will still provide plenty of warmth. Wool also has the ability to warm even when damp, something that is useful in an enclosed environment such as the inside of a ski boot.

No matter the quality of your socks, your feet will likely still be cold if you don’t wear boots that fit right. Wear boots that are too tight and they will restrict the circulation in your feet, which will make your feet cold quick. It is also worth considering how the insulation in outdoor clothing works here – which is by trapping pockets of air warmed by your body. If the boot fits too tight, there won’t be any room for these pockets of air to form. This will effectively leave you without the necessary insulation.

On the other hand, having ski boots that are too big, and layering up with more socks won’t help either. In this case, you are likely to pinch your toes as you are skiing, which will tighten up your feet and decrease circulation. So, make sure to take the time to find boots that fit!

One final thing to consider is that accessories are a great way to quickly adjust your outfit depending on the activity. Headovers, pulse heaters, and balaclavas are all excellent options that can be used to add a little extra warmth when needed – and be neatly packed away when not.

Taking the time to consider your outfit, and the layers you are going to wear, before you head off on this year’s ski trip might take a little extra effort – but once you hit the slopes you’ll be happy you did. After all, once you’re out there you should only focus on enjoying the skiing – without worrying about being cold.