If you look around a busy mountain today you will see people wearing all sorts, there will be the drunken group trying to ski to the bar in fancy dress, the rich couple in their fitted matching jacket and salopettes, the park rats in hoodies and who knows what else. The truth is you can wear whatever the hell you want on the mountain as long as it covers two bases:
- It keeps you warm and dry
- It looks good
To be honest the first one is not essential but if you choose not to have that feature then you are probably drunk so you will be fine.
I am going to go through loads of the options of clothes you can wear this holiday and the features you should look out for. This is not a list of everything you need but what you might want to consider having.
A Proper snowboard Jacket
By far the most common choice on the mountain is the trusted snowboard jacket. They are designed to be waterproof and breathable, with many different types of fit and style there is a jacket for everyone. Here are some common features you can look out for and what they mean.
A Snowskirt is an elasticated band of fabric that goes around the waist to stop snow from going up your top in the unfortunate but likely event of you falling over. These are generally a good thing to have on your jacket and will come with most modern jackets. You will also find some jackets have wrist gaiters to stop snow going up your arm when you do that knary eurocarve, some people find them annoying and cut them out some people like them, your choice.
Pockets are obviously a great thing to have on a snowboard jacket, both inside and out. Be sure to check out how protected the outside pockets are to snow going in, zips are generally a good shout for external pockets. Talking of Zips make sure you can undo them with gloves on, large tabs on the zipper make life a lot easier on the mountain, this goes for the main zip on the jacket aswell. Internal pockets are good for keeping things dry like your phone and ipod. One for your ski pass also good to keep it safe, but any pocket will do really.
RECCO® Rescue System is something that is becoming an increasing feature on ski and snowboard jackets. It is basically a reflector sticker that can actually be bought separately. The ski patrols can then use their equipment to track you down should you get caught in an avalanche. It is not a sure fire way of always being rescued and proper precautions should be taken when in the backcountry or off piste. Theres no reason not to have one really. Find out more on the Recco website.
Ventilation Zips are a really good feature on a jacket. Your temperature will go up and down dramatically when you are on the mountain for a day and for me there is nothing worse than being hot on a mountain. Ventilation is essential to cool you down without hindering your dryness.
A Hood will keep you a lot warmer in bad conditions, make sure it fits over your helmet.
Taped seams are a good thing to look for if you could be in bad weather. The seams of a jacket are the most vulnerable to water seepage and having the seams taped on the inside helps protect your seams from leaking.
Insulation is a good thing to have if you want to keep warm on the mountain. How much depends on what you will be doing and where you are going, if you get a jacket that is to warm it will simply be to hot to wear on a nice day so take a look around and work out what you want. Generally it is best to have more thinner layers than one thick layer, this makes it easier to manage temperature. I would suggest getting a jacket with at least a thin layer of insulation to keep you warm but unless you are going to alaska then you probably don’t need, a super warm down ski jacket.
The Technical Stuff – Waterproofness and Breathability
A Snowboard coat is designed to be both waterproof to keep you dry and breathable to let your sweat out and keep you even drier.
Waterproofness is measured in millimetres(mm) it is basically how much water(or rainfall) the material can take before it starts seeping through, The higher the number the better it is but also the more expensive.
20,000mm and above – These are your top end waterproofs that can handle some pretty extreme weather that you probably wouldn’t want to be in anyway.
15,000 – 19,999 – These jackets are highly waterproof and will withstand pretty much anything you should come across in a resort keeping you warm and dry in rain and snow all day long.
10,000 – 14,999 – These jackets are moderate waterproofness and will keep you dry and warm as long as it isn’t torrential rain/snow all day, generally a good choice for holiday makers on a budget.
5,000 – 9,999 – These jackets are mildly waterproof and will keep you dry in light rain and snowfall.
Less than 5,000 – Its not a waterproof.
Breathability is measured in how many grams of sweat that the material will let through in 24 hours. Once again the higher the number the more breathable and more expensive.
20,000g and above – This is the top end in breathability and will keep you dry in the most sweaty of situations.
15,000 – 19,999 – This means it is highly breathable and will keep you dry though a hard day on the mountain.
10,000 – 14,999 – This is the best balance in price and function, They will keep you dry in a normal days activity on the mountain, great for holiday makers.
5,000 – 9,999 – These jackets will keep you sweat free for low levels or activity but it could get uncomfortable after extended activity.
Less than 5,000 – You will probably get pretty clammy if you get off the couch.
Soft shells made from a stretchy soft material and they usually offer high levels of breathability and warmth and with have some windproof and waterproof technologies shoved in their too. Their main advantage is that they are really comfy. Although you get less in the way of weather protection they are a great way to look good and keep cool in the spring/summer months.
I love wearing hoodies on the mountain, they offer unparalleled freedom of movement and comfort. Unfortunately they don’t keep the wind chill away and they get extremely cold in the wet. None the less, great for cruising round the mountain in the summer and spring. Its got to be a good hoodie however, that old one thats two small for you will look wack.
Salopettes are a bit easier, most people just go for a single colour that goes with your jacket. If you’re unsure, just get black, it goes with everything! The waterproofness and breathability is rated the same way as for jackets. So all you need to do is choose a colour and what kind of fit you want(slim/baggy) and then just look around for something in your price range.
Features to look for:
Vents are just as useful in salopettes as in a jacket, if you have them you will be able to keep your legs at a nice temperature throughout the day.
Ankle Gaiters go over your boot to keep snow from going up your legs, they are on almost all snowboard pants and are a must.
Braces are on some snowboard salopettes, they are often on ‘bib style’ salopettes and help keep your trousers up.
Gloves are another thing that are a must on the mountain, wind, snow and water will rapidly turn your hands into ice blocks which makes tightening your bindings hard, as well as being pretty cold. Get yourself some nice warm gloves that will keep you dry. It is worth spending money on decent gloves as they will get the most wear and tear and be exposed to the elements more. Choose something that fits you well and will keep you warm enough.
Here are some common types of glove that you can choose from:
Fingered Gloves are the most common type of glove. They allow you to use your fingers to do things and can offer a high level of insulation.
Mittens are extremely warm and are the best choice for people who suffer from cold hands. They do restrict you from flipping someone off but warmth is good.
Glove Liners are great if you need some extra warmth from your gloves, they also keep your hands warm if you need to take your gloves off for something. They are even decent to wear as gloves in the summer months.