Tips to Stay Warm, Dry and Safe
Every year, as the temperatures drop, nothing beats winter boredom like snowboarding. Many first timers grab whatever is in their closet and hope it will hold up against the snow. Having tried that route when I began snowboarding, I quickly realized normal street-ware is not made to handle rolling around in the snow. To help make sure you stay safe and have the most fun while snowboarding, here are some tips on the kind of clothing you should consider before your first run:
The Base Layer:
The most important articles of clothing are the ones closest to your skin. Your base layer is what will keep you dry and warm throughout your snow day. If you can avoided, do not wear cotton as your base layer. Cotton absorbs sweat and keeps it close to the skin. When the sweat cools, it draws heat away from your body, making you colder. Wear moisture wicking fabrics such as nylon or polyester. These will keep sweat off your body and prevent it from freezing against your skin.
Your base layer should include a long sleeve shirt, long underwear bottoms and long socks. Tuck your shirt into your bottoms and your bottoms into your socks to make sure all skin is covered and avoid snow getting where it shouldn't.
Like most fun things in life, snowboarding is a dangerous sport. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself.
- Impact shorts:
You will be spending a good amount of time falling on your backside; especially if you are a beginner. Therefore, have a pair of impact shorts. It will help protect your rear and your tailbone. Impact shorts are shorts with strategic cushioning around the thigh and back area to protect you when you fall. They are worn between the base layer and snowboard pants.
- Wrist guards:
When you fall, your natural instinct is to put your hands out to catch yourself. However, that’s also how sprained wrists happen. Avoid this by wear wrist guards. They wrap around your hand and wrist joint to prevent them from bending in awkward positions when you fall. When I began snowboarding, I would constantly be falling and very often, land wrong on a patch of ice and sprain my wrists. I wouldn’t be able to write for weeks. Since I started wearing wrist guards, I haven’t had that problem and snowboarding become a lot more fun since.
Pro-tip: Because of the added bulk of wrist guards, your hands might not fit into your normal glove size. Opt to buy gloves that are one size bigger than normal to accommodate for your wrist guards.
It always makes sense to wear a helmet. Be sure to choose a helmet specifically designed for skiing/snowboarding as these helmets have insulation to keep the noggin warm and the ears frostbite-free. A good helmet should fit snug but not tight and the chin strap should not be choking you either. Some even come with clips on the back of the helmet to hold your goggles in place.
- Knee pads:
If you’ve ever caught the front edge of your board on ice, you know how painful it is to land on your knees. Save yourself the grief by equipping yourself with a set of knee pads. Your knees will thank you. There are two categories of snowboard kneepads: sleeves and straps.
Sleeve-type knee pads look like a sleeve that you put your leg through with padding on the front covering your knee caps. Be sure to find a pair that hugs the knees, but isn’t snug. A snug knee pad can cut off circulation in your legs.
Strap-type knee pads attach to the knee by two straps at the top and bottom of the pad. They’re less likely to cut off circulation in your legs, but aren’t as secure. Try out both types of knee pads before you buy to find your preference.
Just like every other part of your body, your eyes also need protection. Goggles protect them from snow and harsh UV rays from the sun. Make you choose a pair that fits comfortably on your face with no gaps anywhere around the frame. Opt for a pair with polarized lenses to help cut down on the glare that comes off the snow. For those that ride both day and night, I recommend having a second pair of goggles with a clear lens for night riding. Wearing your tinted goggles at night really cuts down visibility of the snow and can be very dangerous.
Although one would think you need some insulation to keep you warm while snowboarding, often, the base layer is all you’ll need. In fact, wearing too much can actually make you colder because as you move around, your body overheat and sweat. When it cools, it’ll bring your body temperature down. In general cases, the most you’ll need is probably just a t-shirt to give some separation from your base layer to your outer jacket. In extreme temperatures, a fleece will help. If you’re unsure how hot/cold you will be on the mountain, bring an extra layer to keep in the car or a locker. If after your first run, you feel you need more layers, throw it on. It is better to start with fewer layers because you avoid being overdressed and sweating.
Your outer layer is your primary defense against the elements. If you are new to snowboarding, you will be spending a lot of time falling, crawling and sitting on the snow. Therefore, your outer layer should be as waterproof as possible. For the absolute best in waterproofing, I recommend wearing clothes made of Gore-tex® fabrics. While there are cheaper products out there, many of them lose their waterproofing capability over a couple wears. I have found Gore-tex® to hold up the best against moisture in the long run.
Whatever you do, DO NOT try to go snowboarding in jeans, sweatpants, or any other clothing that is not waterproof. Those kinds of clothes absorb water quickly and freeze over. It is no fun spending an entire day with frozen clothing on and stand a good chance of getting frost bite.
I hope this article has been helpful to you as you venture out on your trip. Snowboarding is an extremely fun sport and a great way to get through the winter. Wear the right clothes and you will enjoy the sport more while also keeping warm dry and safe.