Saturday, December 31, 2016

What to Wear Cross Country Skiing: A Guide for Noobies

Most people are their own worst enemies when it comes to dressing right for cross country skiing. The possibility of being cold gives noobies panic attacks. They think to themselves, "It's better to be warm than cold because you can always take something off."

I'll grant you, there's some logic there, but only if you dress so it's possible to remove a layer and not be left in only your sweaty underpants.

If I were a brand new, or almost brand new, cross country skier, this is what I would wear. But first, let me run through my assumptions:
  • I'm assuming you will fall down a few times. It's almost inevitable, even if you are a downhill skier. Some of the best schadenfreude I've ever had the pleasure of indulging in was watching cocky-ass downhill skiers put on a pair of cross country skis for the first time ever. It takes them about five minutes to get their shit together, but those five minutes are bloody terrific.
  • I'm assuming you'll be doing a bit of standing around, either to listen to an instructor or to pause at the top of a hill and wait for everyone to clear out of your potential crash zone.
  • I'm assuming you are not skate skiing. In fact, I'm assuming you don't even know what skate skiing is. 
Also one last fashion pointer for downhill skiers:
  • Pretty much don't wear anything you wear downhill skiing to go cross country skiing, except maybe your underwear and socks.
  • This means, do not wear your hat, your coat, your pants and under no circumstances, your goggles.
Without further ado, here's your cross country skiing outfit checklist:
  • A running t-shirt, but take two with you so you can change at lunch. Something like this:

  • A thermal long sleeve shirt (not fleece). Something such as:
  • A vest. This vest should not be puffy, it should not be fleece. Go with something thermal with a high neck and a zipper in front like:
  • If it's really hella cold out there (like 20 degrees below freezing), or if you know for a fact you'll be standing around a lot, you could add this on top of everything aforementioned so you can easily remove should you start steaming in your own juices:

  • A shell jacket. This jacket should not be insulated, just windproof and breathable:

  • On your legs, wear one or two pairs of running tights or one pair of long underwear, not cotton. If you're going the long underwear route, get some polypropylene or whatever the new fangled version of polypropylene is called these days.
  • Some sort of waterproof shell pants. These shell pants should be breathable and not insulated. It's best if they have legs wide enough that you can get them on or off over your ski boots so you can strip 'em off when you go in for hot chocolate in the lodge:
  • Bring along three pairs of heavy smart wool socks so you can change if your feet get sweaty. Definitely not cotton. If you want to get fancy, wear one thin pair of smart wool socks, and then one thicker pair. This helps avoid blisters. Another way to avoid blisters is to put silk tape all over the back of your heels and then smear Vaseline all over it. You're welcome, tip of the year, there.
  • For your hat, wear a hat you'd see a runner wear. Some kind of low profile knit affair. Or wear a beanie or a doo-rag and a knit cap over the top of it. It should look like this:

  • Wear a fleece scarf or some sort of scarf big enough that it can cover your chin and mouth when you zoom down a black diamond or the wind starts blowing.
  • My hands get cold, so I wear lobster claw gloves. It'll be a little trial and error to find a pair of gloves that work for you, so bring every glove or mitten you own and try them all out. If you have a pair that are windproof but not too bulky, those might be your winners.
  • Hand warmers and toe warmers.
  • Tie your long hair back. It's a disaster if it starts snowing and your hair gets wet and plasters itself to the side of your face.

If you click on any of the links to Amazon above, apparently I'm supposed to get some sort of cut. They say I'm supposed to mention this. Check that box, even though I've had this blog for ten years and have never, not even once, received one red cent from anybody clicking through on anything. Not sure if this is because my biggest fan is my mother and she has a high tolerance for consumerism or if I never actually set up my Amazon account right. Either way, consider yourself in the know and have a great time skiing!
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