After shivering my way up too many ski lifts over the years, I learned the right way to stay warm outdoors. Layers, layers and more layers. I may have grown up in Canada, but this is not a skill I was born with and once I figured it out, I went from enduring winter to enjoying winter. From daily walks to grocery-store lineups, we will all be spending more time outdoors this year – take a few layering tips from the skiers in your midst and you won’t mind the temperature drop.
A second, cozy skin
Make sure you slip into a base layer that clings to your torso and legs to retain body heat. Soft merino wool or wool/synthetic blends will do the trick; pure synthetics layers are more affordable and dry quickly when wet, but they typically hang onto odour, unlike merino wool pieces. Buy several pairs of tops and bottoms in different thicknesses so that you have something that works just as well on those days when it’s merely crisp as well as when it’s a brisk -20.
What I love about this Helly Hansen LifaMerino baselayer is it comes with hood that, when not in use, cradles your neck quite cosily. More importantly, the Lifa synthetic on the inside wicks away moisture while the merino exterior holds in heat. A great piece for all outdoor activities. $130, hellyhansen.com
The smart-looking patterns on Smartwool’s 250 base layers mean you can lounge about in your long underwear all day and still look like you’re dressed, almost. These all-merino wool pieces are the warmest for winter, while thinner layers, marked Merino 150, work in all seasons. As a second skin, no one will notice these under your pants – unless you want them to. Top, $150; bottom, $140; smartwool.ca
Add a thicker layer
To hang onto your body heat longer, make sure there’s another layer between the base layer and your overcoat. An unstructured soft jacket or pullover does the job, and a zippered piece gives you quick cool down options.
Arcteryx’s new Kyanite LT jacket feels more like a silky soft cardigan. The trim cut of this fleece means it adds warmth without bulk, and deep zippered pockets are always useful. You will want to live in this one. $160, arcteryx.com,
Another option is the Arcteryx Atom Hoody. This thicker, insulated piece works well as a standalone jacket, and as a midlayer under your top coat on cold days. The wind will not blow through it, and the high neck and fitted hood mean you can get away without a scarf or hat on most days. $320; arcteryx.com
Your sleek exterior
Save your colourful ski shell for the resort, and in town wear your layers under your favourite overcoat or opt for something like this sleek collaboration between Helly Hansen’s Japanese and Norwegian design teams. The men’s JPN 3IN1 parka has a knee-length waterproof outer layer with a generous peaked hood, and large pockets to hold your devices and gloves. The outer waterproof layer snaps onto a quilted inner jacket/layer, with more useful pockets and a funnel collar. $500, hellyhansen.com
Don’t forget the extremities
A skiers go-to face covering in foul weather has always been the neckie, and these versatile wind-stoppers that pull up over your nose can also become impromptu masks. The naturally dyed pattern on Icebreaker’s neck “chute” echoes an image taken from space of melting ice sheets and is part of the New Zealand brand’s new Glacier collection that hopes to get consumers thinking more about climate change. This Apex Chute IB Glacier has two layers of 100-per-cent merino wool, super soft and super warm. $45; icebreaker.com
Glove liners (like a base layer for your hands) also work well on their own. This Thermal Pro glove liner from Burton’s high-performance AK line have silicone grips to keep things from falling out of your gloved hands and touch-screen tips for swiping your phone without freezing. $45; burton.com
And what’s winter without wool socks? Try wearing long ski socks to keep your toes and your calves toasty warm – especially while wearing tall leather boots. Smartwool’s PhD ski collection are colourful conversation starters; more importantly, they have no-chafe seams and are made from a durable wool/synthetic blend. $35, smartwool.ca