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What to Wear to Tear: The Secret to Layering

Big, baggy jeans and flannel shirts may have been high snowboard fashion six or eight years ago and if you’re a once-or-twice-a-season rider you may still wear them, but here at the millennium those who ride are getting much more technical in their clothing choices–and that means layering.

Layering is the key to comfort in any outdoor recreation. Whether it’s a balmy 35 degree liquid snow day at Hood or a bone-chilling negative 35 and blowing in the Alaskan Chugach Mountains, you’ll want to layer. Because our bodies operate best at a constant 98 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s important to keep your body as close to that as possible. Once your body goes a short distance down the thermometer beyond that point, it becomes hypothermic, and from there it’s a quick trip past unconsciousness to death.

Proper layering consists of three elements which are often referred to as the three W’s: wicking, warmth, and water/wind.

Something Wicking This Way Comes

Always start with a wicking layer. No matter what the conditions, you will probably work hard enough to break a sweat. In the next minute you may be quickly cooling down sitting on the lift. Our bodies are biomechanically engineered to employ evaporating water vapor (in the form of sweat) to cool us down, but this may over-cool us if the outside temperature are low. This is why we need a clothing layer that will quickly transport that water vapor away from the skin.

The wicking layer should be a light-weight material. It is usually a thin layer but can be found in several weights. Traditionally this layer was wool, but although wool keeps you warm when it’s wet, it doesn’t encourage water to transpire through other layers. Today this layer is usually some blend of polyester fibers.