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Word From The Wax Bench...

Dress for XC Success – Layering

Once you’ve gotten your xc equipment fitted perfectly, the next thing to dial in is your clothing. Customers ask me all the time, “What temperature range is this piece of clothing for?” There is so much more than temperature range to dressing for success when it comes to cross country skiing. The key to comfort is layering.

Conventional cold weather clothing like bulky parkas isn’t suited to cross country skiing, as it constricts movement and generates excessive body heat. The trick is to retain warmth while allowing perspiration to evaporate. You get this by layering clothing to adjust heat loss to pace, terrain, temperature, wind speed, and personal comfort.

When dressing for cross country skiing, we typically, talk about having 3 main layers that we can mix and match, add to and subtract from to obtain the ideal body temperature.

The first layer would be your base layer or long underwear. Most of us have worn the waffle cotton long johns before. For xc skiing, or really any aerobic activity, wool or some form of polyester is preferable. Cotton absorbs water and holds it next to your skin allowing you to become chilled. While wool absorbs water, it also remains warm, so this can be a good choice. But, polyester is able to move moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm and dry.

At New Moon, Craft is our best selling base layer. Craft has several different fabrications of polyester base layers, from super-thin, elastic pieces for high-output workouts, to heavier, more casual-looking fare for skiers who take it at a more recreational pace. We have “gunde” shorts-think streamlined, wind-resistant boxers, crews, zip tops, bottoms, and even tops and bottoms with wind panel fronts. Make sure when choosing a base layer piece, you choose a size that is comfortably snug without being restrictive. Having the fabric touching your skin allows the moisture/vapor to move through the base layer’s channels and away from the body.

Here is an example of a light to midweight midlayer, the men’s and women’s Salomon Discovery 1/2 Zip.


The 2nd layer is an insulation layer called the midlayer. Midlayer tops range from a very thin Lycra to heavier tops that are microfleece or fleece. The “brushing” or fuzzy side next to the skin helps trap heat and continues to wick wetness away from your body. Remember, though, it is better to add extra layers, like a light vest, than wearing one bulky layer.


Finally comes the outer layer. The goal here is to protect yourself from wind and weather while continuing to move moisture away from the body. Waterproof shells are a no-no. You may be totally protected from moisture on the outside, but with taped seams and waterproof material there is nowhere for your perspiration to go, getting you wet and ultimately chilled. For this final layer, we are looking for jackets and pants that have a windproof panel on the front with a wicking, fabric back, or stretch panels sewn into a full wind-resistant piece. There are 2 main types of outerwear, either softshell (above, right, the Swix Delda Jacket), which is a flexible, 1-layer, neoprene-like fabric, or a microfiber (above, left, the Craft AXC Entry Jacket), which has an overlay, sort of like flexible windbreaker material.

Once Lauren and Joel start skiing, they are both going to be comfortable. It is 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Lauren has on the Swix Menali (lightly quilted) Jacket, the Swix Nordic Midlayer, and Craft Active Extreme 2.0 base layer top along with a warm, knit hat. Joel is wearing The Rossignol Poursuite (super-light membrane) Jacket and the Craft Active Extreme 2.0 base layer top topped off with a Lycra Rossi Hat. How are they both going to be comfortable at the same outside temperature? Lauren is going for a long, casual classic ski tour of about 25K, while Joel is doing 10K of intense skate intervals for 45 minutes. Temperature is only one factor when deciding on your apparel options for the day.

All 3 (or 2 or 5) layers work together to keep you dry and comfortable. And, don’t be afraid to change and rearrange your layers throughout the duration of your ski. Everyone has different comfort levels and different layering requirements, so it’s okay if you’re not dressing exactly like your buddy (see the above pic). A good rule of thumb is to be chilly when you are just starting out. If you are toasty warm, you will overheat in a few K; if you are a bit cold at the start, you should be perfect in about 10-15 minutes.

Another tip is to bring some dry clothes for the drive home or at the halfway point if you are out for a while. This can make a big difference after your ski.

The Norwegians have a saying, “Never bad weather, only bad clothing.” Once you start layering, you’ll be out on the trail in sunshine and snow. If you have any questions, give me a call at the shop. -Judy



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