Photo: Aidan Goldie

Winter Product Picks (and Tricks) for Staying Warm

Ski mountaineer Aidan Goldie shares his top gear items and advice for staying warm and comfortable in the gnarliest winter conditions.

Knowing how to handle cold weather is a learned skill, and one that any good teacher can appreciate. Take Aidan Goldie, a ski mountaineer and science teacher born amid Chile’s tropical rainforests, who had to work hard to pursue a lifelong dream of climbing and skiing on snow-covered peaks. When he was 12 years old, he finally got his chance when his family immigrated to Colorado. But Goldie quickly discovered that good ski technique wasn’t the only new trick he needed to learn. 

“If you’re cold and wet all the time, it can really affect your initial enjoyment of the sport,” explains Goldie, remembering a particular arrival at the top of a ski day’s first run, only to have sweated through his gloves entirely. “Suddenly my hands are freezing,” he recalls, “and by the time I get to the bottom, I don’t feel like I can get them warm.” Being unprepared can prematurely end a ski day just as surely as poor fitness, says Goldie, pointing out why he’s spent his career dialing in his cold-weather systems to stay out as long as possible.

Here are Goldie’s hard-earned tricks for staying warm in any winter weather—applicable to any active outdoor venture at hand.

 

1) Slow your roll. 

When it comes to winter adventure, staying warm means staying dry. If you get damp—either due to sweat or melting snow—it can be difficult to warm back up, Goldie says. That can put you at risk of hypothermia. So, keep an eye on your pace. If you start to sweat, you’re going too fast with too many clothes on. Stop ASAP to drop a layer. And if you’ve already stripped down to a T-shirt? Slow down. 

 

2) Dial in your wicking strategy.

Layering and pacing aren’t the only components of smart sweat management. “You really need to have a base layer that works for you,” Goldie says. Choose a shirt that lays close to the skin, where it can wick sweat, dump heat, and help you regulate your temperature. Many skiers opt for thin merino-wool base layers—usually long sleeves on the top and full-length long underwear on the bottom. Merino wool not only wicks sweat but retains warmth when wet and naturally fights odor. However, Goldie finds that when he’s really working hard, a summer-weight, synthetic fabric can be even more effective. “I’m a big fan of using a sun hoody,” he says. “They’re very lightweight and make a good wicking base layer.” 

 

3) Dress in layers. 

Dressing for winter weather is all about layers. The idea is to have lots of thin articles of clothing so that you can add or subtract them to optimize your insulation level. On top of his base layer, Goldie usually wears a breathable mid-layer—usually a lightweight jacket with synthetic insulation. In his pack, he carries a big puffer jacket that he throws on during water breaks, snack breaks, and transitions from uphill to downhill. 

 

4) Snowproof yourself.

Remember what we said about staying dry? That’s as much about keeping the snow off as it is about staying under the sweat threshold. If it’s actively snowing, Goldie will wear both a hard-shell jacket and hard-shell pants. He generally looks for options that have full-length zippers, which let you vent heat—or zip it in—as needed.

 

5) Bring at least three pairs of gloves.

When it’s cold, your body shunts heat from your extremities to your core, leaving your hands vulnerable. Goldie’s strategy for keeping his digits warm: always having dry gloves. “Once gloves get wet, it’s pretty hard to dry them while you’re out,” he says. “So I always bring three to four pairs with me. I’ll use a light pair of liner gloves with leather palms when I’m ski touring. If things get cold or windy, I’ll throw on a pair of shell gloves over the liners to deflect any snow or moisture.” Since he usually sweats through the liners on the uphill, he’ll switch to thicker gloves for the actual skiing. “I usually keep a couple of pairs in my backpack,” he says, “just in case one gets wet.”

Photo: Aidan Goldie

6) Wear the right socks. 

Goldie’s hack for warmer feet might surprise you: To keep comfortable during Colorado’s cold winters, he relies not on thick woolies, but on a pair of ultra-thin compression socks. Thicker ski socks can squeeze between your foot and boot, impairing circulation. The thin fabric of a compression sock, on the other hand, ensures maximum circulation, which is critical for keeping feet warm. Plus, Goldie says the trim fit reduces rubbing. “I switched to compression socks four or five years ago, and I don’t think I’ve gotten a blister since,” he says.

 

7) Snack often. 

“If you keep eating, you tend to stay warm throughout a tour,” Goldie says. Plus, he adds, “If you have enough fuel, that allows you to stay moving, which also keeps you warm.” On recreational winter outings, Goldie doesn’t set any specific calorie targets. Instead, he just tries to mix sweet and savory foods and eat whenever he’s hungry. But when he’s racing or pushing hard, he’ll try to be more conscious about his food intake, aiming for about 300 or 400 calories per hour. 

 

8) Stay hydrated.

Drinking water is a critical component of staying warm, Goldie says. When you’re dehydrated, your blood gets thicker and more sluggish, which means warmth and oxygen aren’t getting to your muscles and extremities as efficiently. “Still, I have a hard time drinking water when it’s cold,” he says. “So I usually attach a water bottle pocket to the front of my pack’s shoulder strap, and I’ll put some kind of electrolyte or supplement powder in there.” The system keeps the water accessible, makes drinking seem more enticing, and helps prevent the water from freezing. (On really cold days, Goldie will bring a thermos of hot tea, too.) 

 

9) Puffy-up during breaks.

There’s an old saying among winter adventurers: “It’s easier to stay warm than get warm.” Whenever you stop to rest, snack, or transition from uphill to downhill skiing, the first thing you should do is put on all your layers. “It’s so tempting to grab food or water, especially if you’re hungry or thirsty,” Goldie says. “I try to avoid that temptation and go straight for the big puffy jacket and the gloves before I do anything else.” 

 

10) Keep your stuff off the snow. 

Goldie says it’s common for new backcountry skiers to feel rushed during transitions. They’re worried about slowing down the group, so they take shortcuts: They toss their pack down backpanel-first in the snow, or lay down their gloves or jacket while they fuss with their gear. But when you do that, Goldie says, your things get covered with snow—which melts into your clothes as soon as you put your jacket or pack back on. “It might take a little more time to put your layers back in your pack rather than setting them down, but that little time investment can keep those things dry,” Goldie says. “And that can dramatically improve your comfort and experience.” 

 

Goldie’s Top 4 Gear Picks for New Winter Adventurers 

Dealing with cold may be a skill first and foremost, but having good gear sure doesn’t hurt. Here are a few of Aidan Goldie’s favorite products for staying warm on winter outings. 

  • Hand warmers: While good glove management is usually enough to keep you warm on cardio-intensive outings, Goldie relies on hand warmers for resort skiing. “It’s harder to regulate your body temperature when you’re not walking uphill, so I use these for list-served days,” he says.
  • Breathable water-resistant winter pants: Good soft-shell pants provide comfort and protection when moving in the mountains. Goldie particularly likes the Mammut Aenergy line for its superior stretch and breathability. 
  • Neck gaiter: A ton of body heat escapes through your neck and head. To stay warm, “I always ski-tour with a Buff on,” Goldie says. “It’s really versatile and great for keeping the neck and ears warm.” 
  • Sturdy winter boots: Goldie spends most of his season in ski boots. But if you’re hiking or snowshoeing, you’ll need a sturdy, waterproof boot to keep your feet warm and dry. In that case, Goldie recommends the Scarpa Mescalito Trk GTX, which has a durable suede upper and a waterproof liner.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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