How to dress to watch outdoor winter events

‘Tis the season of fun in the snow and ice, particularly for those of us who love to ski or snowboard. These competitive wintry events also attract spectators, of course, as do the music events that sometimes accompany them. And freezing weather is not just confined to alpine peaks – you could find the temperatures near zero when you turn out to watch a football match or Chinese New Year procession.

Pic: Brendan C

If you’re going to be standing around, you need to protect your core temperature, so insulate around your torso and block cold transfer from the ground or cold surfaces like metal seats. Remember, it’s easier to stay warm than to get warm. If you jump up and down and cheer a lot, it makes sense to consider ventilation too – how are you going to release the heat you generate inside your clothes so you don’t get sweaty and then chilled when you stop?

Whichever problem you’re facing, the answer is layering. Multiple layers are more effective in keeping in warmth than a single bulky garment, and it’s easy to drop or add a layer when your needs change.

Start with a thin base layer, like thermal underwear or a well-fitting t-shirt and leggings. Silk, bamboo or wicking synthetics are particularly important if you’re active, as they transfer any moisture away from your skin. Depending on how cold it’s going to be, you can add another layer, such as thin t-shirt and trousers between thermals and waterproofs so you’re not tempted to strip to your undies in the bar later.

An insulating layer under your coat is a good idea – whether that means a fleece sweater or a goose-down gilet, or both. Something with a front zip is easier to adjust if you get too warm. Your topcoat needs to be able to block chilling winds and keep out rain or snowfall but also to breathe. It doesn’t necessarily have to be warm – getting all your warmth from your inner layers makes your outfit more flexible.

Gore-tex is the ideal, but something like a good wax jacket should keep out rain if you’re just standing around. Look for snug-fitting wrists and drawcords to keep out cold, and vents to avoid condensation. Falling snow is easier to keep out, so snow jackets are often less waterproof and more breathable. Keep your trousers dry with performance overtrousers.

Pic: Tom Mooring

Wear a hat to keep in heat – don’t rely on just a hood. Wool and acrylic knits stay warm even when wet. Fleece lining both makes the hat warmer, and stops it itching. Choose a balaclava or use a fleece scarf to protect your face and neck.

Mittens are much better than gloves at keeping hands warm, but not if you keep taking them off. A good compromise if you don’t need to use your fingers constantly can be woollen mittens over thin gloves or liners.

Never wear cotton socks in freezing weather. Choose plush liner socks designed to wick moisture and stay warm if they get wet, and thermal waterproof boots, and add extra boot liners if you need them. Aluminium layers keep in heat without adding bulk.

If you’re in sunny, snowy conditions, don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare.

Have fun out there.


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