Hypothermia, be gone! XC skiing in Norway, seeking clothing help
December 3, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Cross-country Skiing Outfit: I'm seeking clothing advice so that I don't freeze when XC skiing for the first time this winter (in Norway).

This winter I'll be travelling a lot to Oslo, Norway and while there will be cross-country skiing for the first time. I'll be going with my partner (also a beginner) and maybe some seasoned Norwegians later in the season (who will be taking it easy for our benefit).

What do I have? Skis, shoes, gloves, jacket. (And lessons booked!)

What do I not have? Trousers, underclothes for lower and upper body, a "proper" hat, sunglasses.

My questions:
- As a beginner XC skier what layers should I be wearing on my legs and my torso (number of layers, materials, etc.)?
- Is this hat (my only winter hat) OK (note that the jacket also has a hood)?
- Do I need sunglasses, and if so what type? I have an unused pair of Bolle 'sports' sunglasses I could resurrect.

Thanks for helping me survive, preferably without looking like this (great for kids, but not so much for 18yo males).
posted by fakelvis to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For underclothes, I like silver longjohns, like these at REI:

On top of those, I like something that's windproof but not too heavy over my legs...I have some synthetic yoga pants that work well for this but I'm not sure what product I could link.
Up above, maybe a lightweight fleece and then a windbreaker.
And then I do some relatively intense skiing that warms me up. If I'm on more of a sightseeing ski, I wear thicker fleece and maybe insulated windpants.
If I'm not sure what it will be like, I might wear a few layers of fleece above, and my yoga pants plus unlined windpants below....layers that can be removed. I lean towards pants that have little extra material around the shins -- you don't want a lot of bulk there or anything that can gather snow.

Gloves that are not too heavy are important, as long as your hands don't tend towards cold when you exercise -- my husband likes to wear pretty thick mittens, whereas I wear the minimum that will protect my hands if I fall.

Hat is requisite. I thin your hat would be ok, but I personally like to wear one of those cheap, synthetic fleece kind you can pick up at target. Deals with sweat better. I also like those headbands that women can wear; maybe you would prefer some earmuffs as a guy.

I wear a scarf if it's windy; you can also use a turtleneck or a coat that has a good neck, but I prefer a scarf. For socks, I wear smartwool covered by a lightweight fleece pair. My feet tend to get cold; you may be alright with just the smart wool. I have never found another kind of socks that I like to wear skiing. Yes, you must have sunglasses; the glare will get you except on the coldest days. ALso sunscreen and maybe some vaseline to smear on exposed skin if it's going to be windy.

tl;dr Not-too-thick layers are always good (with a small pack that you can put them in if you remove) and generally you'll be happier in synthetics, although you might want a natural like silk close to the skin. Avoid cotton because the sweat never dries.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:52 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tandem Affinity's advice looks good to me - just remember to emphasise mobility. You can't really get away with the heavy trousers and jackets downhill skiers wear for long. That said, you'll need to dress a lot warmer when learning than you will later, as it will inevitably involve a lot of standing around talking, then falling over.

Once you get going you'll find the exertion keeps you warm - it's not unusual to ski in a single layer of lycra, light windbreaker and gloves when it's well, well below zero. Just be sure to have a warm jacket waiting where you stop.
posted by nihotaniwha at 6:00 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am usually too hot if anything when I cross country ski (admittedly not in Norway but certainly in temps well below freezing). Layers are key, and a place to put your bulky layers when you take them off. Unless it's windy I often end up taking off my hat and gloves, though I need them when I start out. Of course, as soon as you stop moving, you need to put something on to keep all that nice heat in.

I aim to be a little bit chilly when I first start out, then I'm pretty comfy by the time I get going.

Your hat (especially with the hood) will likely keep you warm, but it will get sweaty and gross.

When choosing gloves, make sure they're not so bulky that you can't comfortably hold your poles.

Also I really like to wear gaiters - keeps the snow out of your shoes. For bottoms I will often just wear tights/yoga pants and gaiters (with a top layer that covers my bum).

Sunglasses are a good idea. Snow is bright!
posted by mskyle at 6:32 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wear:
- Silk long underwear (pants and shirt). Any base layer is fine though.
- Fleece top (a wool sweater works too).
- Gortex pants & jacket. Wind pants and a rain jacket would be fine too though, just nothing cotton. You are going to fall at least once, and being wet is no fun at all.
- Mittens with glove liners and a thin hat that easily fits into a pocket in case I need to remove it.
- Sunglasses (any that you have are fine).

Honestly, you are more likely to overdress than underdress. The biggest worry is actually getting hungry out there, so be sure to bring water and high-density snacks with a lot of protein and fat.
posted by susanvance at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: Consider a neck gaiter (like a short tube of fleece, far superior to a scarf ).

My hands get really cold. I don't wear gloves and would suggest mittens. Also maybe some chemical hand warmers (HotHands are what we have) --- again good if your hands get cold. It's what they give the kids during ski lessons.

As a beginning skier, you may or may not get super overheated. But layers are always a good idea.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:07 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For legs I wear a wicking layer of long johns with a windproof, breathable shell. Roughly the same thing on top. I like the standard wool mittens with the flipping finger cover but if it extra cold then wear a pair of silk gloves underneath. I also wear a fleece neck gaiter and a watch cap. Socks are most important - silk underneath wool work well. Carry a rucksack with extra socks or fleece just in case, along with water and a snack or two. I like to carry emergency chemical hand or foot warmers just in case and they have saved my toes.

I wouldn't worry too much about sunglasses in Norway, in winter. Do they have a sun in winter?
posted by JJ86 at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: Sunglasses can't hurt especially in the middle of the day. Glare off of the snow can be awful and having something over your eyes helps if there is blowing snow in the air. Sunglasses can be annoying in "flat light" situations which makes it harder to see contours in the snow but in that case you just take them off.
posted by mmascolino at 10:07 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: I wear pants made out of windblocking fleece. The brand is SportHill. I bought mine ten years ago, but here's an updated version of what I wear. On a particularly cold day, I will also wear a base layer under those pants. You don't mention socks, but you'll want some. Wool or wool blend. Something made for hiking or skiing.

I don't wear sunglasses, but many people do. Snow glare is a real thing.
posted by Area Man at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: I wear a single pair of fleece pants, thickness depends on the temperature. If its really cold I wear softshell. Then one winter weight baseline on top (under armour cold gear, mt hardwear butter zip-t, expedition weight long underwear which is basically a fleece) and a windbreaker. For learning I would add a warmish coat, not down, maybe a ski coat, and bring a backpack to put it in if you get hot. Bring water. My hands freeze so I use mitts and start out with a handwarmer usually but for learning I'd bring heavier gloves probably.
posted by fshgrl at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: You're most likely going to be warmer than you think, and you don't want to be so warm that you freeze when stopping because you are coated in sweat. But this has to be balanced with being warm ENOUGH when you're skiing.

I usually dress much the same way I would if running under the same weather conditions: Base layer of running tights and long-sleeve athletic fiber shirt, with an outer layer of baggier running pants, and a fleece top (liner for my Columbia jacket, usually; add the outer shell too if it's really windy). Hat, gloves/mittens, maybe a balaclava to keep your face warm. Thick, long socks too! If you are in fresh powder or breaking trail you'll also want a pair of gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: I enjoyed skiing very much last year in British Columbia and in the interior of BC and WA (hello Methow!!). The weather out here is very similar to the weather in the coast and mountains in Norway, even if Norway is further North.

On the coast it's warmer than in the Interior in the mountains. I wore the following:

light jacket (breathable, water resistant but not waterproof)
light pants (some wind resistant panels on the front, poly in the back)
very light gloves
a cool tuque
one pair of socks. Keep the socks light - maybe wool or poly - because your feet will get plenty warm from the skiing that you will do.

if it's cold out, then my underlayers will be bulkier:

typically I wear silk long johns (silk top, silk bottom) when it's very cold, and a merino wool long sleeve top with a zipper in the front, (something like this). This under-layer system goes under the jacket and pants, above.

When it's warmer, forget the silk layer -- the pants, merino and jacket are enough.

Glasses - you need the type with the replaceable lenses. When the light is flat, wear yellow shades. Flat light is horrible, there are no shadows, you have snow on the ground and white landscape ahead of you and white sky above. These yellow lenses will help you see the snow better, and you will be able to gauge slopes in flat light.

When its sunny, substitute the dark lenses into the frames.

Neck warmer - YES! That's a secret sauce item, it will come in so handy when the wind is biting. I know I love mine.

Finally, do keep a small back pack on when you ski. In it, keep a change of gloves, a second hat, your sunglasses kit (those lenses that you are not using) as well as a bottle of water (a half litre is enough) and some snacks (maybe mixed nuts, a fruit, a sandwich)

Cross country skiing is tons of fun. The learning curve for classic is not steep, and it's a nice little adventure. The ski hills in Norway are gorgeous!! Good for you for going there. I took the train across from Bergen to Oslo, and also admired another skiing area, near Bodo, while on a ferry trip there last year. Go. Enjoy !! And feel free to memail me if you have any other questions.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:27 PM on December 3, 2012

Response by poster: I usually find marking all answers as 'best answer' a bit of a cop out and an easy way to avoid making a decision. However, in this case, you all win my undying gratitude and have each added something valuable.

I've been stressing about this (I hate unmanageably cold) and you've assuaged my worries entirely. Bring on the snow!
posted by fakelvis at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2012

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