What to Wear Cross Country Skiing

If there is one word to summarize how one should dress for cross country skiing, it has to be layers.


Layering is the key to cold weather comfort. Most people understand the idea of layering their clothing for outdoor activity: first, the wicking layer; second, the insulation layer and third the wind and weather layer. The key to making it work for you just takes a little practice. A comment we often hear is that, once out on the trail for 10-15 minutes, people are too hot! What a great problem: to be too hot when you’re outside in the winter! Well, fortunately, it’s never been easier to lighten up your layers.

First, layer to suit the temperature and conditions at the time you’re skiing. For instance, you won’t need the same layers if it’s 30 degrees F as you will when its 10 degrees F. Likewise, you will need different layers when it’s -10 F than you will when it’s +10 F. Since everyone has a different internal comfort thermometer, everyone has different layering requirements.

Similarly, a racer who is skiing 20km at high speed the whole way will wear only two thin layers; a recreational skier who skis 5km, while stopping to admire the scenery, have a snack, snap a photo of the kids, and is varying his/her speed, will wear a thin, wicking long underwear top, a light Microfleece zip-top or vest, and a light, breathable, vented shell (which could be removed if he/she gets overheated).

A recreational skier who skis for fitness will wear less and lighter layers than someone who’s touring. If you’re too hot or too cold, try altering your layers, by wearing thinner or thicker ones, to suit the day’s conditions, and then, remove or add a layer on the trail if necessary.

A typical rule of thumb for us at Cross Country Ski Headquarters is: if you’re just a bit chilly right when you start out, you’ve probably dressed just right. After your first 10-15 minutes of activity, you’ll most likely feel perfectly comfortable.

This season, we have more different options in layering that ever before. Thin to medium base layers, thin, medium and thick insulation layers, and lightweight, midweight and warmer jackets and pants. Stop by, give us a call, or click here to see for yourself!

Hear the scoop on cross country ski clothing straight from founder Lynne Frye!

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