The most common mistake made by beginning cross country skiers is overdressing. You will be quite active and will generate a good deal of body heat. Dress in layers and don’t hesitate to remove a layer if not needed. Of course, everything you could ever need is available at Great Glen Outfitters, and we’d be happy to sell you an entirely new wardrobe. If that’s in your budget, great. If not, here are some suggestions for all your important body parts:
A lightweight hat is the most valuable article of clothing. You lose most of your body heat through your head, so you want to keep your noggin covered up. But a big bulky hat will make you all sweaty, then you’ll want to take it off, then you’ll get chilled, then you’ll put it back on, then you’ll take it off and around and around it goes until you realize you spent all day fussing with your hat and not skiing.
Think of this like a three-leaf clover: long underwear, an insulating layer and a light jacket. Synthetic or light wool long underwear is the way to go on the base, i.e. next to your skin. (Of course we also recommend your lucky underwear because you want to have a good day on the trails.) For your insulating layer, be creative: a fleece vest, a warmer synthetic layer, a light sweater. We don’t recommend your favorite New England Patriots hoodie as it will be too bulky and just soak up the sweat. On top, any windproof jacket will do. Just be sure it’s lightweight. If you are so warm you’re sweating inside your jacket, you will be in trouble when you slow down or stop—getting chilled from the moisture. Brrr… For your legs, a pair of windproof pants or lightly lined warm-ups are good for your second and final layer over your long underwear.
No one likes to have cold hands, so be sure you have a good pair of gloves. However, if your gloves are too big and bulky, skiing will be like trying to type while wearing boxing gloves. Cross country gloves are lighter and give more dexterity than bulky alpine gloves. Gloves with a degree of water repellency are best because if and when you fall your gloves will not get soggy. If you are a one of those chronic cold hand types (ladies, I’m looking at you), pick up some hand warmers just in case.
Even worse than cold hands are cold feet. Modern cross country boots are nicely insulated for warmth and comfort, so the need to wear big, bulky, wool socks is over. The same principle as hands applies here, so think about foot warmers on really cold days as long as they don’t interfere with the fit of your boots.