by Hilary Oliver
The weather outside is frightful—but it can be so much fun. Skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing and snowboarding are all a blast, and great for fitness, but they go from fun to miserable in a heartbeat if you’re not feeling toasty. The good news is there are a few easy things you can do to stay toasty on the slopes or in the backcountry. Here are 9 tips for beating the chill so you can have more fun.
1. Dress in layers.
This one might seem obvious, but the easiest way to stay comfy is to make sure you have enough insulation to keep you warm when you’re standing still out in the cold, but also enough light, wicking layers underneath to be able to take off your outer layers when you get hot. A light wool or synthetic base layer is key, topped with an insulating fleece or puffy layer and a wind-blocking jacket.
2. Start cold, stay dry.
Even if you have a super warm puffy jacket, it’s not always smart to wear it. If you’re going to exert yourself—like snowshoeing uphill—it’s best to feel a little cold when you start out. That way , when your core warms up from the exercise, you’ll be toasty without overheating. If you have too many layers on, you’ll end up getting them all sweaty and wind up feeling clammy and cold. Save your warm insulating layers to put on when you stop for a break, when your body’s cooling down.
3. Dial in a glove-mitt combo.
Mittens might seem like kindergarten material, but they work. Keeping your fingers’ warmth all in one pocket keeps your digits warmer. If you prefer the dexterity of gloves, layer a thin liner glove underneath a larger wind-proof mitt. Then, if you need to pull the mitt off to swipe your touchscreen or fiddle with gear, you still have a layer on your fingers. Pro tip: Keep a spare pair of gloves warm and dry against your chest inside your jacket if you find your fingers get cold because of wet gloves.
4. Pack hot drinks.
If you’re carrying a pack with a water bottle, why not swap it out for a Thermos of hot tea? Staying hydrated can be hard in cold weather. Who wants to chug down icy water when it’s blowing snow out there? But sipping warm, flavored tea, or even broth, will help heat your core and make sure you’re getting the fluids you need.
5. Do the “penguin” or the “speed skater.”
If you feel your hands and fingers settling into a deep chill, alpinist Kelly Cordes recommends these two simple movements to get warm blood into your digits. The speed skater is exactly what it sounds like: swinging arms back and forth to get blood circulating into your limbs. For the penguin, straighten your arms by your sides, elbows locked and palms out. Then shrug your shoulders up to your ears and hold for a second before shrugging them back down. See this YouTube video for a demonstration.
6. Use your hood.
Hoods are easy to forget about, but they aren’t just for looking cool. When the cold breeze seems to fly right down the back of your neck, the best thing to do is put your hood up. It keeps your core’s warmth circulating back into itself instead of flying out the back of your neck.
7. Don’t overdo it on socks.
It might seem smart to wear big, bulky socks in your ski boots or mountaineering boots to keep your toes warm, but you might actually be doing yourself a disservice. Most winter boots are well insulated, and if you stuff socks that are too bulky into them, you’ll actually inhibit circulation to your toes, making them colder much more quickly. Opt for thin, synthetic liner socks instead.
8. Pump up your metabolism with snacks.
Your body works to digest high-protein and high-fat snacks, warming you from the inside. Munching on nuts, a peanut butter sandwich or energy bars on the chairlift or when you take a break will help keep your metabolism burning high.
9. Go for chemical—or electric—help.
Some days, you just need a little extra help staying warm. Keep a couple of chemical hand warmers stashed in a jacket pocket to pull out when you’re feeling particularly icy. When you shake them up to activate them, place them in between your liner glove and your outer mitt to keep the warmth circulating. If you’re in the market for new gloves, consider a pair with a rechargeable battery-powered heating system.