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Cold comfort

Staying warm and dry are keys to fun and safety when in wintry climes

Cold comfort

This wool winter hat from Dale of Norway has a waterproof lining and water-repellent technology.
Courtesy Dale of Norway

Attention to detail – from head to toe – is essential when gearing up for winter activities and sports.

That’s because playing in a frosty environment can be exhilarating but potentially dangerous as well, so we sought the expertise of various apparel and equipment leaders to check on the technical developments and stylish trends on the market for skiing, snowboarding, hiking or simply wanting to look good out of the elements and in the lodge.

Things to know before shopping are what your activities will entail, sensitivity to cold and wind chill, time of exposure, use of layering and an understanding of the latest vernacular such as back fills, seal seams and hi-loft thermal fill. But it all starts at the base, and the best materials against your skin are wool and poly/wool blends.

“The inherent properties of Merino wool and thoughtful design enable people to enjoy wintry, snowy weather,” said Molly Cuffe, director of global brand marketing for Smartwool. “Thermo-regulation, moisture-wicking and odor resistance are all technical highlights of Smartwool base layers and outer layers. In normal terms, that means you can experience comfort no matter the activity or weather.”

The same cannot be said for cotton, which feels terrific but shouldn’t be part of your winter sports wardrobe. Cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it’s poor at wicking wetness from the skin, and it can become damp simply from exposure to humidity. Once wet, the fabric feels cold and loses up to 90 percent of its insulating properties, making cotton a reminder that wearing the right fabric is crucial in cold and wet weather.

“Comfort is key; if you’re cold, wet or uncomfortable, your day will be ruined,” Cuffe said. “Merino wool is Mother Nature’s original performance fiber. It works naturally with your body’s heating and cooling system; it helps to keep you warmer and drier naturally.”

Merino starts working as soon as your body heats up, Cuffe added, meaning that moisture is moved in its vapor state before it becomes sweat.

“This helps the body maintain a more stable core temperature and allows the body to work more efficiently,” she said. “Wool also keeps your body warm when wet, again helping to keep the core temperature more stable and the body comfortable in a variety of conditions.”  

Keeping your feet warm and dry is also crucial when participating in cold outdoor activities.

“A quality pair of boots is an investment that will last for years,” said Brian Hall, director of product development for Vasque. “A poorly made or ill-fitting pair of boots takes away from the experience and limits what you can do outside.”



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