Before You Buy

How To Layer For Snowboarding

A guide to staying warm this winter

Out here in WL’s secret alpine base, we’re of course looking forward to the approaching winter. The air is definitely cold now, it’s frosty in the morning and you can almost taste the first snow.

We’ve compiled this handy guide to help keep you at the optimum temperature, whatever the forecast says

You can also almost hear the most common question you’ll find in chalets across the Alps: “What are you wearing today?” We’re not talking fashion – we’re talking layering.

We’ve said it before: one of the most common beginner mistakes is bad layering, wearing too little or too much will either send you to the nearest cafe every ten minutes to warm up, or have you profusely sweating and panting with every toeside turn.

But judging it right is hard and takes practice, so we’ve compiled a handy guide to help keep you at the optimum temperature, whatever the forecast says.

Included are two examples for each temperature range: one is yours truly, who tends to run at the warmer end of the spectrum, the other is my girlfriend, who definitely struggles with any sort of cold

Before anyone starts mashing their keyboards in frustration over how wrong we’ve got this, we know that everyone is different and this isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits all solution. To try and counter that as much as possible, we’ve included two examples for each temperature range: one is yours truly, who tends to run at the warmer end of the spectrum, the other is my girlfriend, who definitely struggles with any sort of cold. I’m in the left-hand column, Chloe is in the right.

We both ride 80-100 days a year, and have chosen our standard outfits based on what we might wear on a given day based on the temperature including wind chill on the Snow Forecast, so next time you’re getting ready to ride, see what it predicts and follow this guide:

5°C to 10°C

These are the kind of temperatures you might expect either in spring or very early pre-season conditions on a glacier (though in this instance you should be prepared for it to get colder rapidly once the sun goes in).

If you run hot: I find that, as long as you’re constantly riding, you don’t really need anything fancy at this temp – just a plain old t shirt and hoody will normally do. Anything more and you get too sweaty, which will cool rapidly in the mountain air should you stop.

If you feel the cold: Whilst the above is true for her too, Chloe still tends to rock a mid-weight thermal underneath her hoody rather than a t shirt, just in case there’s a chill breeze.

0 to 4°C

Just above freezing – for resorts around the 1000-2000m mark this is a typical day through most of the winter, and most typical bluebird days mid-season will come under this bracket.

If you run hot: I find that a good, mid-weight thermal (preferably merino) under a shell jacket see’s me covered for days like this. It’s almost always worryingly cold on the first couple of chairlifts going up the hill, but once I’m riding it’s normally always bang on. Better a touch to cold on the way up that sweating on the way down.

If you feel the cold: Still above freezing, it’s again much the same for people who find it hard to stay warm naturally – Chloe will wear the same but add a tight-fitting (but non-restrictive) thermal vest underneath.

-1 to -4°C

A cool day on the mountain early-to-mid-season, and around the temperature you’ll find on snowy tree riding days.

If you run hot: Buying a one-piece thermal – in my case an Airblaster Ninja Suit – was one of the best decisions I ever made. For days like these it keeps me warm enough without piling on extra weight so you can ride in chilly temps without sacrificing movement. If I didn’t have this though, a slightly weightier thermal would do – something like this Burton polyester base layer.

If you feel the cold: Below zero is where we start to really differ in terms of layering – Chloe adds a hoody or thick mid-layer into the mix, though she could probably lose one of the layers if she substituted her shell for a well-insulated jacket instead.

-5 to -8°C

This is now officially cold, the kind of temperatures you’ll find high up mid-season or even down to the base station on blizzarding days. This is the point where good layering becomes really important, as if you pile on hoodies and puffer jackets you’re just going to sweat, which will then in turn freeze should you stop moving.

If you run hot: Full disclosure – I’m lucky enough to be a proud owner of a McNair shirt, and this is where it starts to come in real handy, though an lightly insulated mid-layer (Burton and Patagonia do some of the best) would do the trick just as well. This kind of system works well even whilst standing around shooting stills in a blizzard!

If you feel the cold: It’s at these temperatures that Chloe starts to lose her shit, piling on the layers to keep out the cold. Keeping the double thermal combo, she subs out her riding hoody for an insulated mid layer, and at this point will start donning toasty glove liners underneath her already heavy-duty mitts.

-9 to -13°C

This is pretty cold for european climes – you definitely don’t want to get caught out here. At this point a good outer layer becomes really key, as it’ll normally be pretty windy too to get to this temp bracket.

If you run hot: Much the same as before, though I would sub-in either a one-piece thermal or thick base layer again under my decent mid-layer.

If you feel the cold: Chloe has lost her mind, going full layer-tard with triple thermals underneath an insulating mid-layer and shell, or maybe even an insulated jacket in place of the latter if it’s at the bottom end of the spectrum. She will still complain that she’s cold.

-14°C & Colder

Think either high altitudes or truly cold climates like Japan – you need to be properly prepared for this.

If you run hot: I do own a down jacket mid-layer, but at any temp warmer than this it feels like I’m suffocating, similar to doing jumping jacks in a sauna. Desperate times call for desperate measures though, and I’ll even don some glove liners too, even though there’s nothing worse than hot, sweaty hands if the weather warms.

If you feel the cold: Stay inside.

Got any good layering tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments below:

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