Spring Layering for the Perpetually Cold Person
It puts you in a terrible quandary if you love winter sports but are a perpetually cold person. Maybe your extremities get cold easily due to a history of frostbite or a health condition like Raynaud’s disease, which gives you crummy circulation in your extremities. Or, if you’re female, you may suffer from a perpetually lower body thermostat than our male ski buddies. (It’s true: women’s circulatory systems prioritize keeping our abdominal organs warm when it’s cold, keeping us alive but leaving our extremities uncomfortably cold and even prone to frostbite.)
Whatever the reason you struggle to stay warm during winter sports, there are a few things you can do gear-wise and layering-wise to help. There’s no need to give up on the day and go scurrying back inside till you’re good and ready to dive into an apres nacho platter and celebrate your resilience.
Keep your feet cozy.
For many of us, stuffing our feet into ski or snowboard boots is the start of a long day of painfully deep-chilled numbness. But you can reject this fate.
Start with thin socks that are either a wool or synthetic fabric blend (no cotton!). It sounds counterintuitive, but thin socks help you stay warmer. They leave a little insulating air layer between your foot and the boot to trap your body heat in. Thin socks also help you avoid pinching or squeezing the foot, which cuts off circulation. And, a quick-dry fabric blend helps you minimize clammy sweat build-up, which would make you even colder.
If thin socks alone don’t make enough of a difference, we recommend trying a fabulously low-tech solution: a neoprene boot glove. It’s relatively inexpensive, running around $30 at ski shops or, of course, even more budget-friendly if you find some UnNew here on Geartrade. You simply wrap the boot glove around the front of your boot and secure it with velcro before you click into your bindings. And presto, you’ve just added about 20 degrees of warmth to your boot. (Yes, it works with backcountry touring boots, too.)
If you still feel like Jack at the end of Titanic, you can up the game even more with electronics. You can purchase battery-powered ski boot heaters to crank up a nice radiating warmth from your underfoot soles. You can also opt for battery-powered heated socks—but most inexpensive heated socks are very thick and meant for sports like hunting, which means they won’t fit into a tight ski boot. There are more expensive ski-oriented brands of heated socks that are thinner, but you may want to search for UnNew ones or, at the very least, something on sale.
Keep your hands happy.
Ski days should be some of the best days of your life—not a time to grit your teeth and wildly swing your arms around to try getting some blood into your fingers.
Your hands, like your feet, need to be free of constriction for warming circulation to flow. Make sure your gloves or mittens aren’t too tight. In fact, it helps if they’re loose enough that you can easily slide glove liners inside them for an extra layer of insulation.
Expedition-style “overmitts” can help greatly—they’re oversized mittens you can slip over your regular gloves or mitts for an added boost of warmth and weather protection during the moments when you don’t need dexterity. (And if you do need to fiddle with your boot buckles, you can just let them dangle from their wrist cords.)
You can rely on hand-warmers too, positioning them against the back of your hand, not your palm, because the veins going to your fingers are predominantly on the back of your hand. By heating that blood flow, you’re cranking the thermostat on those fingers. However, we don’t love leaning on single-use hand warmers too much, as that’s a bummer for the environment. Hunt down some reusable ones on the interwebs and keep the single-use ones for emergencies only.
It all centers on your core.
One of the biggest boosts to your overall warmth, including your extremities, is how you dress your core.
Regular base layers don’t work for those of us who easily turn into icicles. Hunt down extra-thick ones from a brand you respect. They all have their own naming conventions, but these base layers should be labeled as heavy-weight or heavily insulating, with fuzzy fleece-y interiors that trap lots of warm air next to your skin.
Add an insulating vest (down or synthetic) to really power up your core thermostat, which will radiate heat to the rest of your body as your blood circulates. Simply putting a vest on your abdomen can make the entire rest of your body feel better.
And finally, you can consider insulated ski pants or ski shell jackets. These are a bit heavy and not typically used for high-output activities like ski touring, but for resort riding, they’re great at defending you from the chairlift shiver-fest. As an inexpensive (and adaptable) substitute, layer a thick puffy jacket with your ski shell for a big bump in insulation. You can always un-zip it or ditch it later if you get too warm.
Speaking of getting too warm, it’s crucial to avoid getting sweaty at any point. Once the layers closest to your skin are sweat-saturated, warmth is very tough to maintain. So throughout your day, take the time to adjust. Do you need to add or ditch a layer? Un-zip your armpit zips or leg vents for a little fresh air? By staying dry, your body will stay much warmer, especially when you’re standing still and susceptible to chill—say, when you’re on a chair lift or doing a backcountry skiing transition.
The rule of thumb is to remove a layer before you get too hot, then put layers back on as soon as you stop moving, before you get too cold. Keeping your body in that Goldilocks zone is much easier than fixing the situation if you’ve already gotten way too cold or way too hot (and sweaty).
Maintain a toasty noggin’.
It’s an old myth that you lose half your body heat through your head—but still, a cold head is no fun, especially when the rest of your body is already chilly. If you don’t already wear a ski helmet, definitely start there. Also, some women-specific ski helmets have a fuzzy fleece lining inside, which is delightful. If you don’t have a fuzzy-lined helmet, just pick up a thin helmet liner beanie (without a pom pom!) and wear it underneath.
A buff pulled over your mouth and nose not only keeps your face and neck warm, but also helps to warm and moisturize the air you’re breathing in, so your nose and lungs don’t have to do so much of the heating work. This makes cardio feel easier on the system and simply feels more comfortable, too!
Keep something soothingly toasty inside your backpack.
One of our favorite tips for staying warm is carrying a thermos of hot tea or hot lemon water. Not only does it feel amazing on your throat when the air is frigid, but it warms your core from the inside, too. On top of that, winter athletes deplete their body’s hydration by breathing hard in the cold air—our body humidifies the air and exhales the moisture back out, sapping our body’s water resources. So double down on that hot tea.
We’ve even taken things so far as to also carry hot food in a thermos too. A packet of hot ramen noodles, chili, or mac and cheese is not only nourishing but also warming and comforting on a cold day. Healthy carbohydrates and fats help stoke your body’s furnace—a delicious and helpful fact.
Long-term, you might even talk to your doctor and do some research about any vitamins or supplements you can take to boost blood circulation. It’s amazing the difference a simple little supplement can make in keeping you comfortable.
Fellow chilly people, we feel your pain … but are also excited you can find lots of helpful layers and warming gear here on Geartrade, from ski socks to long johns to puffy vests and even the occasional Thermos. Search for it here first—and make your gear budget last.
Tag us with your own winter warming tips, too!
Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.
Follow us on Instagram + Facebook: Tag us @geartrade with the hashtag #unnewoutdoor #wearitout on your post or story for a chance to be featured on our page.
It is now easier than ever to sell your gear on Geartrade. With our new Consignment Selling option you can finally reclaim your gear closet. Send it in. We take care of the rest.