Brrr! Over the New Year, we had many cold, cold days in Colorado and Wyoming. A strong inversion kept the valley in cold fog with temperatures below -10F. Even with the sun on your face, the bitter cold air had a bite on any skin exposed, and it was hard to stay warm when you were out all day in subzero temps. It made me think of how important to was to be prepared when I went to work teaching skiing on the Jackson Hole Mountain resort during those days. Here are a few tips to keep warm in the mountains in winter:
Layer up. I know our Captain Kitty Calhoun taught you that you need only four layers: baselayer, insulating layer, shell to keep wind, snow and ice out, and lastly a warm puffy coat that fits over everything. Well, you should have seen our Mixtress Climber Dawn Glanc walk to the gym one of those cold mornings, I think she probably had seven layers on! An extra layer or two of the insulating variety can go a long way, but make sure that they fit with your other layers (no, I don’t mean they all have to be purple), rather they need to work within your layering system. These days, I often wear a baselayer, a fleece hoody, and then a light puffy jacket underneath my shell.
Don’t Sweat. If you are performing a strenuous activity such as hiking uphill to your ice climbing destination or carrying your skis up a long boot pack, it is important to regulate your body temperature before you start to sweat. If your skin and therefore your underlayers get wet, you can loose heat a lot more quickly because water is a good conductor and leads heat away from your body. Do your best to take of some of those warm layers before you get too hot.
Break time means puffy coat on. As soon as you lower down from a climb or take a snack and water break during your ski tour, put a warm layer on. This will keep your body heat insulated before your furnace slows down and you cool off too much. Missing this window takes a lot of energy and jumping jacks to reverse.
A warm core keeps your feet and hands warm. Especially for women, it can be hard to keep hands and toes warm in the winter. Start with keeping for core warm. Also, have an extra pair of gloves to change into for skiing downhill of for belaying your partner. My friend Carol Baker (she coming to Japan for her first Chicks trip) uses this trick: In the morning, she cracks open a pair of Grabber Handwarmers and pre-loads them into her extra gloves in her backpack. When she pulls them out to wear, they are toasty warm already. When I go skiing on a cold day, I stick some Grabber toewarmers on the outside of my ski socks, right over of my toes. That way, they don’t bunch up underfoot when I ski, and they get more air flow to stay warmer. These little patches are a lifesaver on cold days!