Cross-country skiing can be an incredible experience. It gives you the chance to see new vistas in areas that may not be accessible by foot, all while giving your body a vigorous workout. But the unique nature of the sport—varying levels of physical exertion and changing weather conditions—means you'll need to suit up in the right cold-weather clothing to get the most out of your adventure.
The key to a comfortable cross-country outing is to remember that wearing several light layers will provide more warmth and flexibility than one heavy layer. Layering works by allowing additional space and air to form between a base, insulating, and outer layer, creating more insulation.
By layering, you always have the option of peeling away certain garments as your body heat rises or the elements begin to change. Start with a tight-fitting base layer, and then try wearing a full-zip fleece covered by an outer waterproof, breathable shell. This is your typical three-layer system.
Keep in mind that in cross-country skiing, you'll be making your way up hills and cruising down hills. As a general rule, you'll generate much more body heat on your way up, and with proper layering, you can avoid getting the chills on your way down.
Your outer shell will be one of the most important articles of ski clothing, and for this sport, be sure to choose one with outstanding breathability. A soft shell is the ideal choice for an outer layer and is excellent for most ski conditions. This type of jacket is made of a tightly woven fabric that’s typically had a durable water-repellent treatment applied, making it a great barrier between you and light snow or rain.
Keep in mind that although a soft shell offers the most breathability, it won't keep you dry during heavy precipitation. Be sure to always take along a waterproof, breathable hard shell that you can put on quickly if the snow or rain picks up.
In mild conditions when the sun is out, dressing in lightweight base layers and light cross-country ski pants will probably suit you just fine. The key is preparation—it may be bright and sunny where you start, but cold and snowing at the other end of the trail. Wearing wicking layers will ensure that you stay warm, dry, and protected.
A light cap with a visor is usually a good choice for a mild day, but if the temperature drops, a wool or fleece beanie may be the best choice. Headbands also work well to keep your ears protected from the cold.
Depending on the temperature, you can apply the same layering system for gloves, combinging both liner gloves and a heavier insulated gloves. This gives you the most versatility if conditions or temperatures change.
As for your feet, wool or synthetic socks should be worn, while your cross-country ski boots will serve as an outer shell. You may also want to wear ankle gaiters, which will help keep snow from getting down into your boot.
By dressing accordingly, you can be sure that your cross-country skiing adventure will be a comfortable winter sport in the great outdoors.
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