What should you wear for ski mountaineering so you’re well equipped and can have fun safely? Here are five basic tips from our Karpos Academy, a team made up of the best ski mountaineers in the world and those who develop the highest-performing garments for these athletes.
When you’re preparing your backpack, one garment too many is better than one too few, especially when it comes to protection against the elements. Depending on the forecast and weather conditions, we recommend wearing a versatile jacket and pant like the Marmolada Jacket and Marmolada Pant, but when you need additional protection in case of wind or temperature changes, it’s good to have both a windproof thermal jacket like the Lot Jacket and a lightweight rain jacket that’s also compactible and waterproof, like the Lot Rain Jacket, in your backpack. In addition, you’ll need a cap, thermal gloves, and, depending on your personal cold sensitivity, a windproof or waterproof overpant.
On colder days we recommend a warm insulated jacket — the more compactible the better. Karpos has reduced the volume to a minimum with the Vinson Jacket.
When you get out of your heated car on cold winter days, and for your final preparations before you head out, we recommend wearing a warm jacket. As soon as you set out, though, you’ll probably want to take it off. We’ve learned from experience that it’s not a problem if you feel a little chilly at first, because you’ll warm up quickly after a few minutes as you climb and the intensity increases.
The (planned) intensity of ski mountaineering plays a key role in clothing selection. Depending on your speed and the difficulty of your route, you can choose garments of different thicknesses and with different characteristics to wear over a close-fitting technical base layer. In addition to the intensity, the decision to tackle the climb with a lightly insulated jacket, a vest, or a lighter-weight jacket obviously also depends on your personal sensitivity to temperature. This also affects your choice of pants. For extremely fit and ambitious ski mountaineers, even just the Alagna Evo Jacket and Alagna Evo Pant are sometimes enough at the right speed. As for headwear, except for on spring outings in mild temperatures, you should always protect your head with a lightweight headband or cap.
While a few thin layers will likely be enough for the climb, you’ll want to be careful at the summit or while waiting between the end of the climb and the beginning of the descent. You’ll need to consider how to supplement or change your clothing layers based on the length of the break, the weather conditions, the wind, and the degree of dampness. Athletes who sweat a lot sometimes also change their base layer, and they’ll add one of the rainproof or insulating jackets described above in point 1 over their lighter-weight climbing jacket. The same applies to your head, as you’ll want to replace your sweaty headband or cap with a new dry garment (compatible with your helmet — for example, the Alagna Cap). Although the head and torso are more sensitive to cold than the legs, those who tend to get cold easily may want to put on an overpant for the descent. This is especially true for activities carried out in extreme conditions, such as intense cold, wind, and precipitation.
The fifth point, more than a clothing tip, is the suggestion to take into account your own individual experiences and characteristics when choosing items for your sports wardrobe. Especially for ski mountaineering in alpine areas, where you’re likely to encounter significant variations in temperature and intensity, keep the following in mind: selection of the right clothing means drawing on a combination of the known laws of nature, knowledge of sports medicine, and personal and subjective experiences.