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How to stay warm while skiing

We get the lowdown on which gloves and kit are best for skiing in cold temperatures

Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon

Baby, it's cold outside! Which is great when you're skiing because it means there’s plenty of snow. But what can be a little challenging is figuring out to keep yourself warm when the temperatures dive into the minus numbers. What's the perfect combination of enough layers to feel warm but not too many thermals that you get sweaty? And how on earth do you keep your fingers and toes warm when the snow starts falling and the wind picks up?

Of course all of these concerns are only intensified if you have little people to keep happy on the slopes. There’s no surer way to end a ski session early than the tears of tiny one whose fingers are stinging with cold. To answer these questions we caught up with Philip Tavell, Managing Director of Helly Hansen’s Ski Division to find out what tricks of the trade he could offer. And since the Norwegian brand has spent the past 150 years protecting skiers, sailors and other extreme adventurers from the elements in a vast array of high-tech kit, it's definitely a good place to start!  

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What's the secret to staying warm while skiing?

Start the day by being warm and keep your skin dry. Make sure you have layers so you can regulate if you feel you are too warm and carry a light fleece with you to put on if needed. If you start the day feeling cold you are doomed to fail - mentally winter has already won and youll find it much harder to jump back from that. So have that cup of tea before your first run to make sure you are warm. Keeping your hands and toes warm is vital - if these are warm you will feel warm.  

The Alps are stunning - but can be bitterly cold

Which materials are the best to be waterproof and warm, but also breathable?

Some kind of waterproof membrane on your outerwear is important to be sure you stay comfortable during snow blizzards or Easter skiing. A membrane will keep the wind chill and moisture out but it will also make sure that when you start heat up your heat has a way to escape through the pores of the membrane. Keeping the elements out isn’t enough – you mustn't feel damp on the inside either. Moisture is not not your friend in wintery weather.  

Is it possible to have a ski outfit that works well both in an early season white out but also for a pre-Easter ski?

Yes, of course! Look for lighter insulated shells or even full shells so you can layer up underneath - it is much easier to remove a layer from the inside then to take off a whole jacket. It also means you can buy a cool colourful insulation jacket that you can wear around the resort as well. If you are person that feels the cold a lot, go for an insulated jacket which you can layer up with base layers and a fleece during white outs. On warmer Easter ski days you just remove the fleece and can alternate between different weights of base layers.  

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How can you keep your fingers warm while skiing?

The first trick is to keep your gloves warm before you put them on - if the inside is cold you will have a challenge to heat them up with your fingers. A top tip is to use a hair drier to heat them up before you hit the slopes - but make sure the gloves are totally dry before you do that - damp gloves can ruin your day on the slopes. It’s also worth buying gloves a ½ a size too big so there is enough room to create some extra air.  

There's nothing worse than damp clothes when you're on the slopes

What's the secret to under-ski suit attire?

Layers/material  The key is to have materials that work together to keep your skin dry and comfortable. Cotton is not recommended for skiing - it absorbs well but holds on to the moisture which results in a cold experience. Focus on synthetic materials that are generally better at keeping you dry and warm. Wool is another good option, it doesn't dry as quickly but it is very comfortable.  

What are the best ski socks for comfort and performance?

A pair that sits snug and fits your foot. Ideally, you have a fairly thin shaft on the sock but some more padding on your toes to create more air pockets, these air pockets are then filled with warm air and your toes are warm and comfortable. If you need to travel to the slopes and carry your ski boots take a plastic bottle with very hot water and put it in the boot, this will keep that boot warm until you stick your foot in it.  

How should you care for your kit overnight?

Jacket and trousers can be air dried either in your hotel room or in the bathroom where there normally is a heated floor to ensure any moisture or wet areas will be dry the next morning. Whatever you do, don't squeeze it into the wardrobe and close the door.