Winter is here and it’s time to get off the couch and on the slopes! That’s right, we’re talking about skiing and snowboarding – or any fun activity that gets kids and families outside to enjoy our great Minnesota winters! There’s nothing like playing in the crisp Minnesota sunshine from November through March!
The easiest way to stay safe in cold weather is of course to dress appropriately. This means covering exposed skin by wearing a hat, neck gator, and a snow-proof jacket, pants and gloves or mittens. Replace that hat with a helmet and goggles if you’re participating in skiing, snowboarding or another action sport. A pair of insulated, weather-proof boots for building a snowman – or sport-specific gear like ski boots – lets you ignore those windchill warnings and get outside.
Layering means starting with a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin. Ditch that cotton t-shirt! It will just leave you feeling clammy, chilled and wet. For a durable, fast-drying base layer start with synthetic fabrics such as polyester blends, spandex or rayon. Try merino wool for extra warmth on or silk base layer tops and bottoms for a moderately cool day.
Next comes an insulating layer like fleece, down or even grandpa’s cool retro wool sweater. Adjust the insulating layer based on the intensity of your activity and the air temperature.
And finally is a water-resistant, breathable layer — your jacket!
Use the same process to layer from head to toe – don’t forget about your feet! No cotton socks! Remember, dry means warm!
When it comes to windchill, also remember that the predicted wind for the day usually doesn’t matter when you’re cruising the slopes. We make our own wind! As long as you’re dressed for it, wind is generally not a factor. Laying up keeps the cold away, and of course there’s always time to duck inside for a few minutes to warm up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate!
Now let’s talk about the fun factor! Gear that fits or performs poorly will create an uphill battle to keep kids active. For example, a snowboard or ski boots that are too stiff can hold back your learning. Gear that fits poorly can also be plain unsafe. The good news is that you really can outfit your family with quality gear at affordable prices! The key is to visit a local, independent retailer who has staff that are trained and committed to getting you gear that fits and is matched to your skill level. That’s not only safe – it improves your odds for a great day on the snow!
Most local shops like to engage in the community and build long-term relationships with families. Many ski and snowboard shops, for example, offer “buy back” programs. The shop will literally buy your gear back and apply the amount toward your purchase for the next season. A select few shops also offer season-long rentals or host equipment swaps, which can be a great place to get used gear at huge savings. Several of our Minnesota snowsports areas also host equipment swaps, though you’ll need to be a little more prepared to know you’re getting equipment that’s right for you.
This is also a good time to point out that snowsports areas and traveling programs like Blizzard Ski & Snowboard School offer safe, fun learning environments where you can master the skills and maximize the fun of lifelong activities the whole family can enjoy! The better you are, the more fun you’ll have. Take a lesson from a pro!
Layer up, make sure you’ve got gear that’s right for you, and get outside for winter – one of Minnesota’s best seasons!
Jeff and Jennifer Lewin own and operate Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School (www.blizzardmn.com), a traveling ski and snowboard school since 1958 for children of all skill levels in grades K-12.