Dress for Success on the Trails

By Gillian Kranias (aka Trakkers’ investigative fashion journalist)

When skiing as part of a community, and one that involves collective bus rides, it’s fun to explore our diversity, as it intersects with our common love for winter. For this blog post, I interviewed several Trakkers skiers about “what is essential in how you dress for the trails?”

Besides being a fun collection of human-interest snapshots, I hope this post will provide helpful guidance to new skiers, and a new idea or two for any of us still refining our personal ski fashion.

Add a layer to your hiking gear

In the bus on the way up, I chatted with Trakker’s social events coordinator Gina Ang. She had a simple rule: wear hiking gear, plus a water-resistant layer. Now, that keeps a wardrobe simple!

Invest in the base and the extremities

In the cabin at lunch I talked with Pascal. He shared more specific details, such as wear a synthetic base layer that fits close to your skin, for “wicking” (this brings the sweat out, keeps you dry). Care for your extremities with an athletic wear (or wool) hat and gloves (switch to mittens when it is cold). Pascal wears no scarf. He says it gets in the way. Learning this, I inquired about the collar on his base layer – which raises slightly over the neck.

Pascal gracefully agreed to pose for you all, so you can see the very particular zippered neck on his synthetic base layer. (I realized my outfit benefits from a similar-shaped neck which is both fashionable and “snug”, but unlike Pascal, I add a scarf on top.)

The good ol’ (or new) balaclava

While we were speaking about extremities, another Trakkers member chimed in about the multiple benefits of a balaclava for protecting her from the wind. We took a series of pictures as she demonstrated how versatile this one piece of gear can be.

There are essentially three ways to wear it. Apparently MEC has several styles to choose from, all black. Looking online just now, I also find cheaper and more colourful varieties for those who prefer.

Wear what you’ve got

So far, the people I have talked to are wearing newer, high-tech ski fashions. So, in the interests of being a balanced journalist (or perhaps to highlight some of my own tendencies) I started to seek out some less conventional ski fashion models.

Lindsay, our bus captain coordinator, was snacking outside in her oversize downhill pants. When I asked about them, she explained that she is originally from Vancouver, and started cross-country skiing in Ontario because our hills are too small. She has been skiing in these old downhill pants for 4 years:

Lindsay said she still hasn’t gotten around to “getting something more appropriate”. In response, I asked : “When has it been a problem…?” and she laughed, “It’s never been a problem!”

The hoodie takes [care of] all

The Trakkers teen contingent was straight forward. You need the hoodie. Like the balaclava, it can be worn many ways and, when needed, block the wind (it was a windy day).

Unlike Lindsay, who encountered no problems with her unconventional gear, these boys did: “The only problem is … it obstructs your view.”

The best advice from a beginner, for beginners

None of the folks I interviewed have a PhD in winter dressing. And I remind you, reader, that “the opinions expressed in this blogpost are only the views of those interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of this writer, nor Trakkers Ski Club.”

I asked myself if there was something to learn from the people new to skiing, so I went to chat with the group of women who had just come in from Trakkers’ Absolute Beginners Class. They were eating their packed lunches, speaking a language other than English, and laughing a lot. Their table exuded that energy of refueling, warming up and bonding after the delights of fun in the snow. I wondered how they felt about their clothing choices and options, so I inquired.

There was a strong consensus that having padding on your pants would be the most critical advice for a beginner – to protect from all those hard falls! And the more waterproof, the better.

Everyone has cost-saving tips

As I chatted more with one of the women in the beginners’ group, Yvonne, other Trakkers members around the cabin started chipping in with shopping recommendations. A problem, noted Yvonne, is the high costs of new gear – it adds up.

To economize on costs, the following suggestions were shared:

  • “Look for fleece pants plus a [waterproof] shell.”
  • “You are small [mentioned another small woman]. I buy in the children’s section at MEC, it’s much cheaper.”
  • I recommended that Yvonne take a look at Lindsay’s lovely downhill ski pants (see pic above) and noted that larger second-hand shops tend to have these, for only a few dollars.

More scoop on pants

I later saw that Yvonne and her friends spent the afternoon playing in the snow – a great snowball fight. She told me she had packed extra pants to change into for the bus back. I agree with this advice – I always change into a dry cozy top for my trip home.

At the end of the day, before we boarded the bus home, another Trakkers teen was pleased to pose with his mom in their matching high-tech pants (more satisfied MEC customers!)

Style matches style

From talking to others, I have learned that we all dress for our own style of skiing (or snowshoeing, which I did that day). If you ski hard and sweat a lot, that top layer matters most. If you head out to distant trails (up to cliff-tops or across a farmer’s fields), you need backup options for wind protection. For beginners, who interact more with the snow on the ground, good protection on your bottom layer is key.

In my next blogpost (mid-season), I will report on equipment preferences and advice from within our diverse Trakkers community. All those choices in boots, bindings, skis and poles! Until then, keep warm and happy on the trails.

 

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