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What to Wear Skiing, East vs West

Alpine Life Dec 17, 2017

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As a co-founder of Orsden and lifelong skier, I've had the pleasure of skiing in many different locations in many types of ski apparel (I test the competition's stuff too). Much like skis, there isn't one dress code for every location, time of year, or day. Here I'll compare the proper apparel for skiing in the East vs. skiing in the West. 

These regions are diverse, but for our purposes, "East" is New England and "West" is primarily Utah and Colorado. I'll also make some comments about the wetter climates in Lake Tahoe, Oregon, Washington State as well as the bone-chillingly cold places like Wyoming and Canada.

The difference isn't in what you wear, it's how much you wear for this category. Regardless of the area, you need wicking synthetic base layers. I've actually found the Uniqlo Heattech stuff is the same quality and function of more expensive base layers so give that a go.

Layering your base layers is one of the main differences between East and West, so in the East, I usually add a second layer like Patagonia Capilene Midweight. Same goes for colder western climates. 

I'm a sucker in either market for a good synthetic half zip. For high style I've recently been using a "jersey" from Italian brand Zerorh, but there are many options available.

In the East, you may well need something more substantial as well like the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardware or the Nano Puff line from Patagonia. 

In the East, you need to think waterproof since it's liable to rain at any time. You want a fully seam sealed jacket with high waterproof ratings. 20K is basically the best you can get (for the nerds, it's a measurement of how many millimeters of water can be suspended above the membrane). In the East, I'd also prioritize a thin lightweight insulation for extra warmth and 4 way stretch fabrics to accommodate all those layers.

In the West, your primary concern is about being hot in variable conditions. As such make sure you have a jacket with underarm vents and highly breathable fabrics. 20K breathability sets the standard here (For the nerds again it's how many grams of water evaporate through in 24 hours). As a quick rule of thumb, a jacket that is 20K/20K is awesome.

You'll note that it's no surprise that the Orsden products meet all these criteria, because we really tried to design outerwear with the best materials that could be suitable for any condition.

You're almost done, but don't forget about your feet and hands. It's tempting in the East to layer on the thick socks, but honestly, this just cuts off circulation. In the East or the West, I use the Euro Sock Superlites. I've yet to give these to anyone and not turned them into a convert. If that isn't enough for the coldest days consider boot heaters or even heated socks from Hotronic can keep you outside for longer.

In the East, I always go for mittens. Make sure you choose ones without individual fingers as this way you can pull your hand into a fist on the lift and easily put a hand warmer in there. Two of my favorites: The Fuse S from Leki (feel free to ignore the pole integration)  or Astis mittens for maximum style. And don't be fooled by silly glove liners, you don't need them and they don't help.

In the West, in the rain, or in spring condition, it's good to have a pair of lighter weight spring gloves. The Marker Spring Gloves have set the standard here for years and they keep updating.

I hope that helps for your planning purposes. If you I haven't answered your questions or you disagree feel free to e-mail me at steve@orsden.com.