There's nothing more painful than watching a beginner freeze during their first time on the slopes. Those that have been out before will know what I'm talking about. I have great respect for people who brave the cold dressed in jeans and a hoodie with a beat red face and hands on a 20 degree day, but I'm here to tell you there are other options. I'd hate for you to be so cold and wet that you don't enjoy your first trip to the slopes, but I also understand that buying new gear isn't an option for everyone.
So here are my tips on how to outfit yourself from head to toe for the slopes, with stuff you probably already have:
- This tip should go without saying, but I've seen many red ears already this year, please wear a hat. It doesn't have to be anything special, just make sure it covers your ears.
- If it's bright enough and you don't have any goggles, wear a pair of sunglasses. Not only will they help you see, but they'll shield your eyes from the bitter winds.
- Cover the majority of your face with a scarf or a bandana. If you're really desperate, use a pair of pants to wrap around your neck. You may look silly, but this is better than going back to work or school the next day with chapped, red cheeks.
- Turtlenecks aren't exactly in style, but if you have one hiding in the back of your closet, this would be a great way to repurpose it.
- Your running gear will make a great layer. Anything of a sweat-wicking material will be great as your first layer.
- Avoid cotton when possible. Once it gets wet, you will never get dry.
- Layer up under a rain coat or wind breaker. Don't wear your peacoat skiing and try not to have your hoodie as your top layer. Either way, you'll be soaked through by the time you're done.
- Even if you don't have ski gloves, never opt for bare hands. Wear knit gloves, mittens or socks on your hands before you go without anything.
- Wear a pair of water resistant pants, like windbreaker running pants. Preferably something you can put another pair of sweats or thinner running pants under. Ideally, your outermost layer of pants should be able to come down over your boots. Tucking into your boots is a big mistake. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you will fall a few times your first time out. Everyone does it. Even those that have skied for years will catch an edge and roll through a powder keg. When your pants are tucked in, there is nothing to help prevent the snow from wedging its way into your boots and getting your feet cold and wet, which no one wants.
- Some beginner skiers make the mistake of layering thick wool socks. (I'm not a snowboarder, so I'm not sure if the same applies.) Ski boots, especially the awesome rentals Seven Springs has, are designed to keep your feet warm. Wear a thinner pair of socks; even thin dress socks will work. Never wear ankle length socks. Shorter socks will either bunch in your boots or cause blisters.
I'm going to throw out this disclaimer again when I give the following tip: I'm not a snowboarder, but I've seen a few look rather uncomfortable with pants that don't stay up. I suggest you tuck in your shirt to your pants, with as many of your layers as possible. Nothing stays where it is supposed to when you fall, and it is never fun to have snow up your back, under your jacket or anywhere else. Snowboarders also spend more time sitting in the snow to adjust boards and strap in, so this tip is really important if you plan to board.
I also recommend hitting the thrift shop for cheap gear. It never hurts to stop in just in case you find a pair of ski bibs for a few bucks. The main thing is to stay warm and have fun. Looking cool is not as important as preventing frostbite.
So bundle up and hit the slopes in the Laurel Highlands!