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Gear

Get Ready to Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

As the winds blow colder and the snow arrives, thoughts of strapping on your cross-country skis, skate skis or snowshoes come to mind. Eventually, the snow base will be enough to wander out and indulge in a favourite pastime.

The gap between each winter season is about eight to nine months here in Ontario. Most sports do not have so long to wait ’til conditions again become favourable. For these snow sports, the season is a mere three to four months in the south (if we are lucky!) and Northern Ontario might get a month more of good conditions. So be ready!

Here is a quick read on what you should be thinking as we all get psyched for our first venture out onto the trails of a frozen winter wonderland. Are you primed and good to go without any foreseeable mishap?

red snowshoes

Gear Checklist:

 

Boots – Did your boots perform the way you wanted last year? Perhaps they were too tight or too loose? Did the laces forever need tightening? Maybe it’s time to replace them with more a modern bindings system and better ankle support.

Do your boots have seams that are starting to come apart? Before they do, use some contact cement to keep them together. Would thermal foot pad inserts in your boots help keep your feet warmer?

Bindings –  These simple yet crucial devices keep your boot securely in place and pivoting freely, so check yours for cracks and loose screws. Skiing back on one ski is no fun (it’s happened to me).

Nordic Skis – Check for cracks, chips and scarring on the bases. These imperfections can usually be ignored if they’re just cosmetic, but rock scratches on your ski bases do add friction, so if you’re a speed demon, then tend to them or take them to a pro shop to be fixed. Give your skis some love.

You might be using hand-me-downs or used cross-country skis. That’s OK, but if you want to go faster, you may wish for a more custom fit. Perhaps you are considering skate skiing.

Getting Nordic skis that actually match your height, weight and skiing style will improve your push and glide strokes. This gets you farther with less effort and more enjoyment. Isn’t that what we all want.

And keep your old ski as designated “rock skis” for those outings when there is barely enough white stuff to ski on but you just have to go.

waxing nordic skis
Wax on, wax off, wax on…

WAX –  The really important part is applying NEW WAX. Last year’s base wax has surely worn off and a new base of glide wax would be wise on ALL skis. If you ski on “waxless skis,” that includes you. (You don’t need grip wax but you still need glide wax.)

For the rest of us Nordic skiing purists, time again for that annual ritual, messy as it is. But well worth it to go faster and farther than the waxless crowd (subtle jab there).

Scrape off the old gummed-up grip wax. Then start putting it all back on before your first outing.  Do you need to get more wax for your favourite temperature ranges? 

[I am not going to tell you how to wax your skis – look it up. For some that is a science and a degree in physics…surface tension, capillarity behaviour…much could be said, lol]  

Snowshoes – Have your shoes been performing well last year? Do the straps need adjusting and are they still holding together? Are the boots you use in your snowshoes a good fit? Do they pivot properly, stay centred as you stomp through the snow?

Poles – You need poles to ski Nordic trails. It just cannot be done without them. Not so much for snowshoeing on even ground but good to have on steep or icy inclines.

A simple stick device with a grip on one end and a pointy part on the other. Are those ends in fine shape? Or do you need to adjust the grip strap (which loosens in time), or replace a missing metal tip or broken basket?

These long aluminum/fibreglass appendages have to endure a lot of stress, you occasionally falling on them. See any fractures, bending or breaks? It could be time to retire them before they fail.

Buying Gear – The used equipment market has served me well over the years with the odd find at a yard sale or on Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There is not always a lot of gear out there, so finding exactly what you need can be tricky.

Last year things got scarce and I expect the same this season. New equipment inventories are likely to be thin again, so get what you need now. Don’t wait. 

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks



Sports Clothing –  Did your winter activewear perform well last year? Time to pull it out of storage and size it up. Are any of your garments wearing thin, unravelling, looking tired, or just not keeping you warm and dry?

Feeling comfortable – warm but not too warm – on the trail is your goal. Having ample movement without the bulk of thick layers gives you the freedom necessary to engage in this sport. I get into that whole topic of the science of ski clothing in this post from last year.

 

Transportation:

Your vehicle – Whatever gets you to the resort, ski club or woodlot to enjoy the trails needs to be reliable. Winter is not a time to wonder if your car, van or truck is going to give up on you. 

Be sure your vehicle is fit for the road and full of gas.  Check under the hood that fluid levels are topped up, especially the windshield wiper fluid. Nothing makes winter driving riskier than poor vision at night through a salt-encrusted windshield. 

In the last decade, I could finally afford snow tires on rims. If you can too, they definitely give you more traction in the winter.

Coach Bus – When I belonged to a ski club, riding the bus to the trails was a joy. Not having to drive home tired, in the dark and/or during a blizzard was so worth it. 

Check club bus schedules for changes before they surprise you. These days Covid may have caused cancellations. 

And may I add, consider staying overnight at a motel to make the outing less of a gauntlet. You can also trek an extra day before heading home during the daylight hours.

 

Food:

The last thing to mention is buying a box(es) of your favourite snack foods for the trail loops. Look over what arrangements you have with water bottles, day packs and waist pouches for your outings.

If all this still works for you, carry on. If you are running out of water, munchies or whatever, don’t go through another year of grief.

Get organized and update your setup so you can enjoy your time away.

So that’s a good start to getting in gear (pun) for the winter months. May it be an enjoyable, peaceful and invigorating outdoor experience.

 

Stay warm and safe – Dan Roitner

nordic ski for sale

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks



December 27, 2021No comments, , , ,
Stay Warm Doing Winter Sports

How to Dress for Outdoor Winter Activities

I explain ways to be Comfortable outside Nordic Skiing or Snowshoeing

  • Retain Heat, Lose Moisture
  • Dress for the Occasion
  • Wear the Right Material
  • Three Layers
  • Shopping Tips
  • Final Tips

 

The old adage “dress for the weather” is so true. No matter what Mother Nature throws at us, blizzards, sleet, snow, chilly winds or a deep freeze , you can be active (within reason) and enjoy the outdoors in the winter, in comfort; just Dress for It!

Many parts of Ontario are covered in snow for a third of the year. Either you hide inside your cabin bored, restless or make something of it, and come out to play.

Remember all the times you suffered freezing outside; your poor fingers, toes, ears. How the day ended sooner than you had wished because you had to seek warmth inside.

Let’s improve on that scenario so you can stay out longer in comfort

Retain Heat, Lose the Moisture

Keeping our bodies comfortable in the winter requires retaining the heat we generate. The basic science is to keep the heat in and to transfer the moisture out. How little or how much depends on the barrier between you and nature’s elements.

It is the warm air trapped in the weaves and fluffy fleece material that forms a barrier between your skin and the outside temps. How effective these layers of material are will keep you comfortable longer. 

This encompasses the material, construction and insulating properties of your boots, socks, pants, underwear, fleece, jacket, hat and gloves. Seems like a lot to wear just to have some fun in the winter. 

By buying and using the right apparel you can be active outside without all the bulk. 

The next issue is the barrier to cold nasty winds trying to penetrate your garments, mixing with the warm insulated air and cooling you down sooner.  You want an outer shell that can block most of the wind pressure yet breathe when you sweat. 

Here is where it gets tricky and expensive to make garments that can do everything and do them well. 

I once skied in a jacket shell that was wind and water-resistant. It did a fine job when it rained but failed to let out enough moisture doing a high aerobic exercise as Nordic skiing can be. This jacket was better suited for leisurely hikes.

snowshoe couple

Dress for the Occasion

A mistake beginners make is to wear their street clothes on the trail and overdress. These garments may have kept you warm standing at a bus stop or sitting by a firepit but will soon overheat you when active. 

You should actually start your trek on the trail a little underdressed with the intent to get moving and warm-up. Aim to be in your comfort zone within 15 – 20 minutes. A few hill climbs will do it.

What should not happen is that you have to start peeling off layers. If so, this is telling you, you have overdressed… and now what are you going to do with that extra stuff?

This is why you see many seasoned Nordic skiers wearing thin tight spandex clothing. You might think they are chilled (crazy) but they are moving quickly and working hard, generating plenty of heat. And one of the most complete workouts when you get going, especially Skate skiing.

Personally, I feel more comfortable wearing a looser fleece and shell and baggy pants that are not so skin tight. I stop more often for photos or to wait for others to catch up (like my son). Here is where you can catch a chill if you stand around too long when it’s – 15C.

Wear the Right Material

The second mistake newbies do is wear jeans, sweat pants, cotton T-shirts, cotton socks, puffy parkas and big hats. This may be fashionable but will perform poorly. Best to change into this after your exercise.

One of the problems with these garments as mentioned is they wick moisture inefficiently away from your skin to the outdoors.  This gets your clothing damp and wet. Cotton garments will feel cold, stiff and heavy, a problem in the winter. 

Another problem is they are not sewn to fit as activewear and can rip and split.

Also if you fall into the snow these materials allow snow to cling. If you are not quick to brush it off they will melt and ice into your fabrics.

Better to choose to wear wool and polyester blends. These materials are light, perform well, retain heat and wick moisture. Wool actually still feels warm after it gets wet! A merino wool base layer is fine for low activity but choose polyesters for more vigorous outings.



Three Layers

Dressing in layers is key in regulating your body’s heat and moisture. 

  1. Base layer against your skin

  2. Mid-insulating layer of fleece, thicker the colder it is

  3. Outer windbreaker shell layer

Here is where good activewear can help regulate and keep you in a steady comfort zone for the whole day. This will require a few outings to test and use your combination of outerwear to find the sweet spot to regulate your activity level and heat output.

Most of my advice for skiers applies to Snowshoeing. A few other points to note. Snowshoeing may be for you a slower-paced trek which means you need to dress a little warmer than skiing. But if you are doing a lot of hills and your backpack is full it could be a major workout.

Once you get off the set path and do a little bushwacking in the deeper snow you are at risk of getting a boot load of snow. Either consider boot gaiters that cover the area where the boot end and the pants begin or snow pants that come down around below the boots.

Other entry points for snow; pockets, wrist and neckline areas should be tight to block snow from entering. If you trip and fall over into a metre of the fluffy white stuff you will understand the situation quickly. lol 

 

Shopping Tips:

Pockets – You can never have enough pockets. Look for deep pockets that zip closed. Velcro is OK but it only takes one time to have a spill and loose stuff in the snow to know that securing valuables in a zipped area will save you much grief. And at some point, you should use a backpack to carry things.

Vents – Look for jackets that have zippered vents under the armpits. Undershirts and fleece tops should have a zipper that comes down halfway from the neckline or opens completely.

Noisy clothes – Picture yourself out in the quiet solitude of a forest winter wonderland. As you move along the only sound is the swooshing sounds of your clothes rubbing. This could get annoying. Look for a softshell material for a jacket and pants.

Low-Stick Materials – If you are still prone to falling over or you fancy heading into deep snow wear materials that snow does not cling to. If caught in a snowstorm you will appreciate this.

Where to Shop – If you try to shop for garments specific to Nordic skiing or tailored to Snowshoeing, there is little out there on the racks. For the Nordic racing crowd, they need the edge but for the rest of us, we can look elsewhere to suit our needs.

Both Cycling and Running are very similar activities with a much large audience. Shop in those departments online or in the aisles of sports stores to find suitable ski and snowshoe activewear. Look in the fall through the winter into the spring, you will find cold weather apparel for cyclists and joggers.

 

red skier on track

Shopping List:

Hat – small thin hat, not too bulky

Gloves – you need a good grip on the palms to hold onto the poles. Finger gloves work on milder days, while mitts can keep the digits warmer when it gets colder. I also use thin inner gloves as I am always removing a mitt to shoot pictures.

Neck warmer – optional, great on a frosty day, pull it over your mouth and nose to warn your breath, and as a covid mask too.

Undershirt – a tight fight polyester long-sleeved shirt with a soft non-itch inside feel

Underpants –  polyester full-size briefs/panties with tight-fitting long underwear on top. Buy two types, thin leggings and a thicker fleece blend for those frosty days.

Pants – non-stick snow material, either tight or loose fit, some favour in front wind-breaking material which I think is a good idea and the back breathes more.

Fleece Top – buy two kinds, a thin and thick version depending on how cold it is.

Shell Jacket – full length or waist height, windproof with zippered arm vents (if you can find them). Plus a hood that rolls up under the collar is a blessing in a snowstorm.

Socks – use a wool blend 40% or greater,  wear one good pair, not two pairs in a boot which gives too much motion resulting in less ski control and perhaps blisters.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

two snowshoeing

Final Tips:

  • Change Socks – I change into dry wool socks before putting on my ski boots. If you are out for a backcountry full day trek you might appreciate a change of socks midday.
  • Pack Extra – An undershirt and fleece top to change into for the way home or have a full set of clothes if able.
  • Warm Boots – Keep your ski boots warm in your car’s cabin not the trunk on the way up to the trailhead
  • Eat Well – Have a proper high carb meal in the morning before you go out and bring some type of energy bar foods for the trails to top up your gas tank.
  • External Heat – Glove warming packets and electric socks are an option if you are having problems with generating your own heat on the hands and feet extremities.

 

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. I may get a small referral fee if you shop at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

There is an eco-friendly movement recently to recycle old fibres to make into new garments.  Patagonia is a leader in this cause and sensitive about its carbon footprint. I am delighted to be able to represent them.

Some items get expensive I know. Think of it as an investment in comfort and safeguarding against frostbite and the nasty Canadian winters we can get stuck in. Also, consider it as a little insurance to better your odds when the going gets tough or there is a problem. They usually last longer too.

Check used clothing stores for older similar garments good for the trail.  And try ski swaps at Nordic ski club events they may have gently worn garments.

So there you have it, a basic getup to take on Ontario winters and enjoy them. As mentioned, modify your wardrobe according to the activity and weather outside.

Then get out there and Go for It!

For more info on this topic :

MEC – Clothing Layers: How to Stay Warm

Salomon – How to Properly Dress in 3 Layers 

Outside Magazine – Dress for Cross Country Skiing

 

 

Play safe, stay warm – Dan R.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

February 7, 2021No comments,