Layer cake. Seven-layer dip. Lasagna. There’s a lot to love about layers, something Abigail Stern, founder and designer of base-layer company Matek, knows well. “I love layering talk,” she says to me on the phone. Of course, she and I are talking about the best way to layer for skiing, not discussing how to make dip. (If you must know, the perfect seven-layer dip is actually a six-layer dip—skip the olives and don’t @ me.)
Having graduated from Parsons and worked at Nike on sportswear before founding her own line of technical performance intimates, Stern is something of an expert on layering for skiing, so I sought out her advice ahead of a family ski trip I was taking to Jackson, Wyoming. I first learned to ski in Switzerland when I was about 4 years old and living in Germany. At the time, I spoke fluent German and was fearless. These days? I can utter a danke, but that’s about it. And don’t even try to put me near a black-diamond slope.
What do you even wear skiing these days? I wondered. Puffer bike shorts? Obviously not. Space blanket leggings that convert the body’s energy into heat? Also no, but somebody should get on that.
One thing I know for sure? My other expert source, professional skier Lexi duPont, isn’t sitting around asking herself these questions. In fact, she’s designing her own gear for Eddie Bauer and literally flying herself around her hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho. Lucky for us, she took some time away from skiing in Alaska to answer a few questions I had about layering from a pro’s point of view.
As for me, I’m no expert, but I followed their directions and lived to tell the tale. Keep scrolling to see a designer, a professional, and a novice share the best tips for layering while skiing.
For too long, the base-layer space has been basic and boring, and it hasn’t fully considered the female form. Think men’s items sized down and offered in typically "girly" colors like pink. Abigail created Matek to address this disparity. Her first tip? Don’t forget fit. “When things fit you better, you stay warmer,” she says. That’s why she designed her line specifically with women’s bodies in mind.
The base layer is the most intimate part of your outfit—it’s literally touching the skin—so it needs to fit right. As Abigail astutely points out, “Undergarments in any other situation are very important, not only for how all the other layers look and how warm you are and all that but also for how you feel and confidence.”
Her next tip? Smart layers, which she thoughtfully considers when dressing for a day of skiing.“ I put a base layer on, and then if it’s not the Gerenuk, which has a turtleneck, I make sure I have [something to cover my neck]. I just came out with a dickie harness-type thing, which is essentially the same thing as a gaiter. Then I always like a sweater that’s cashmere or something knit—not a sweatshirt. When a sweatshirt gets wet, it gets very heavy and will keep you cold, and it’s not even that warm to start with.”
And don’t forget to keep the snow away from your body. “If I get cold, I’m done for the day,” she shares. “If there’s any inch for the cold air or the snow to touch, that’s terrible. Even with my two-piece set, it’s a bodysuit, so it’s basically making it a onesie because it’s a high-waist legging with a bodysuit so there’s no exposed skin.”
Professional skier Lexi duPont has very succinct and easy-to-remember advice: no cotton. “The most important layering tip for skiers is more of a motto that you must never forget: Cotton kills,” she shares over email. “Cotton is a definite no-go for winter activities or pretty much any outdoor activity. If cotton gets wet, it stays wet. If your layers get wet and stay wet, they will freeze and can have catastrophic consequences.”
So no cotton ever, but here’s what you should wear when skiing if it’s a little warmer out: “Put a cotton-free tank top or T-shirt under everything. It can be super cold in the morning or in the shade and blazing hot in the sun. Put on some sunscreen and work on that base tan while shredding in the sunshine.”
Speaking of sunscreen, don’t forget to layer your skincare as well. “The sun is intense in the springtime,” Lexi says, “and when you combine the power of the sun with altitude and its reflection off the snow, you get double the power.”
As for her go-to outfit when she hits the slopes, “Eddie Bauer’s Fineline Jacket and pants are my go-tos. I personally designed this ski outfit, and I swear by it. It is great for layering and good for every ski condition.” Oh and she also shouts out Matek for the ultimate base layer. Same, girl.
Truthfully, I don’t have much to add. Except maybe bring enough chapstick for everyone so you’re not stuck at the top of the mountain sharing with your dad like I was.
But I will tell you this: I took into account Abigail’s and Lexi’s tips, and I was way more comfortable than I thought I would be for my first time skiing in more than a decade. For two days in Jackson, I wore the Gentoo and the Dik-Dik with a Patagonia fleece and Obermeyer down jacket and pants (and Supergoop! Superscreen Daily Moisturizer, $38).
Besides being offered in my favorite color on earth, Yves Klein Blue, the Gentoo was incredibly comfortable. (It also comes in my second favorite color: black.) I felt contained and warm and like I never wanted to take it off. The full-body long johns are made from recycled nylon and have palm tree nut buttons, an eco-friendly touch from Abigail that nods to the mountain community, which will undoubtedly be affected by global warming.
The Dik-Dik is hilarious and unexpectedly stylish. It was the key part in keeping my neck and face warm as I skied down the slopes at Jackson Hole faster than I should have been doing. I can see myself wearing it on and off the slopes for many seasons to come.
My Obermeyer outerwear had one job—keep me warm and dry—and that’s exactly what it did. I was dismayed to find out my pants didn’t have pockets, but I was able to stash my phone and accessories in the jacket, which had multiple.
Keep scrolling to shop my ski outfit and some other pieces on my wish list for next year.
Already planned your next ski trip? Here’s what to wear on the plane.
Source: Who What Wear – Giselle Childs