A snowboard or skis may be more exciting to shop for, but you won’t get far on a wet, frigid winter day without the right riding apparel. That means covering your body in moisture-wicking base layers, insulating with warm mids and wrapping up in high-performance waterproof-breathable outerwear. Here are some of your best choices to get it done.
This year, brands like Polartec, Columbia and Mountain Hardwear are launching well-publicized fabrics designed to increase the breathibility factor while offering comparable waterproofing to Gore-Tex. If you tend to sweat like a fat guy in a sauna, you may want to consider these new materials, but if you prefer to just want to stay warm and dry, stick with the tried-and-true Gore-Tex by opting into the Marmot Flight Commander Jacket. Designed to perform off the lift and on, the Flight Commander features Gore-Tex Performance 2L fabric along with features like a removable powder skirt, removable hood and taped seams.
Colorado-based Flylow has been gaining a solid rep among serious resort and backcountry skiers and riders since it was founded in 2006. The Chemical Pants are its staple pants, combining Intuitive 3L material; articulated, Cordura-reinforced knees, gaiters and cross-flow ventilation. Flylow (and the Chemical Pants) was founded to create apparel that offers purpose-designed functionality for ski mountaineering, and the Chemicals have won rave reviews from testers on sites like Teton Gravity Research and Backcountry.com for their bomber durability, breathability and overall performance. You can watch a whole video about these pants or just lock ‘em in.
I rocked the Ortovox Merino Supersoft all last season, and it’s easily the most comfortable base shirt I’ve ever owned. In fact, it doubled as a Saturday-afternoon-in-front-of-the-TV shirt, not something you can say about many other base layers. The shirt combines the moisture-managing, odor-diffusing prowess of merino with an injection of silky-smooth Lensing Modal fiber that makes it so comfortable you may just wear it to bed after a day on the hill. Available in both men’s and women’s varieties, but they ain’t cheap.
I’ve been using a fur-lined bomber hat for the past several seasons and it lives up to its name in terms of keeping my head fiery warm. Hell, if it doesn’t drop into the single digits, my head is sweating. While nothing beats the plush comfort of real fur, you can get the same backwoods warmth and style for a lot less by going synthetic. This 7Headz unisex aviator is a one-size-fits-all hat and costs a fraction of real fur at around 18 bucks.
After blowing out the finger or palm of my past three pairs of gloves, 2012 is the year I commit to a leather palm. I’d suggest doing the same if you want your gloves to last more than a single season sans duck tape. Transworld Snowboarding includes the Drop Rerun GTX in its 2012 Gear Guide calling them “burly winter gloves backed by Gore-Tex.” That’s really all you need to know about a pair of snowboard gloves, but if you need more, you get a DPU weave with leather palm, leather-reinforced index sidewall, removable stretch-fleece liner and goggle/nose wipe, all for $65.