Known as a highly aerobic activity, cross country skiing generates a lot of body heat even when the conditions outside are cool and damp. The clothing you choose needs to protect you from the elements, while keeping you dry and regulated to reduce the risk of severe cold and hypothermia once you stop being active. Here are some items you should consider when deciding what to wear when cross country skiing.

Keep in mind, it is best to be able to add or subtract layers depending on the ever changing weather conditions you may encounter.

Outer Layers

what to wear when cross country skiing

Softshell Jackets: When you’re cross country skiing you want to look for a jacket that has incredible breathability, a soft shell is a great choice for most skiing days. Softshells are designed with tightly woven fabrics that typically feature a DWR (durable water repellant) finish to shed light moisture and snow while you’re out on the trail. These jackets allow you to stay protected from the elements while remaining incredibly breathable to reduce moisture build-up on the inside of your jacket, so you stay comfortable and dry.

Hard Shell Jackets: It’s also a good idea to have a hard shell jacket with you out on the trial, as it will create a waterproof and breathable layer between you and heavy snowfall or downpour. Although soft shells are great for most weather conditions, they will not prevent heavy moisture from penetrating the jacket causing moisture to seep in and build up on the inside of your jacket. Keeping a hard shell in your pack will ensure you stay protected in any condition.

Base Layers

what to wear when cross country skiing

Lightweight base layers should do the trick in mild weather conditions, and will often provide more warmth than one heavy weight base layer; however it is never a bad idea to keep extra layers in your pack so you can change throughout the day if the weather takes a turn.

Wearing a lightweight and midweight base layer instead of a single heavy weight layer creates “dead air” space between layers, this helps retain warmth in cool, damp conditions and allows you to add or remove layers as needed.

Keep in mind that bulky layers will limit mobility while skiing. Fitted layers will offer unmatched mobility, although compression layers or layers that are too tight may limit blood flow or eliminate the “dead air” space between layers, thus having the opposite effect. Bring back up layers in your pack so you’ll be ready to replace any clothing that may get wet from perspiration and sweat. Keeping dry layers in your bag prevents you from getting cold when not in motion.

For more information on base layers, check out our blog on how to layer for skiing and snowboarding.

Hats and Gloves/Socks and Gaiters

As most of us know, a ton of body heat can be lost through your head and hands if not layered properly in cold conditions. Here are some other items to keep in mind when heading out for a day on the trail:

Hats/Balaclavas: A light hat or balaclava will work well on most mild days, although you may want additional coverage when the temperature starts to drop. Keeping a wool or fleece hat and a headband as a backup in your bag will prevent you from getting too cold out on the trail.

Gloves: When you’re looking for gloves or mittens to wear cross country skiing keep a layering system in mind. A lightweight liner, an insulating layer (wool or synthetic) and an outer shell combo will do for your hands what it does for your body, keep you dry and regulated. This also allows you to add or subtract layers as needed based on the conditions you face outside.

Socks: Often cross country skiers will use a liner sock, followed by an insulating (wool or synthetic sock) for warmth, while your ski boot acts as an outer shell keeping your feet protected from harsh winter weather. Thick socks may be used to create more warmth, but keep in mind the space you have inside of your boot.

Gaiters: If you’re looking for additional protection, another option is to slip snow gaiters over your boots to prevent any cold air or snow from finding its way in.

Now that you know the basics of how to layer when cross country skiing, you can confidently head out with the right gear and accessories for a long day on the trail!