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Buyer's Guide for ski pants, snowboard jackets and gloves

SNOWWEAR: Everything about Layering and the right gear on the mountain

For snowboarding and freeskiing, you need the right gear to adapt to the changing weather conditions. Snowwear consists of three important layers. The functional underwear is the first layer with a further insulating layer and as a third layer, a snowboard or ski jacket and pants are vital. These layers keep you warm and dry. Of course, the choice of the outerwear depends primarily on the conditions - because in spring you do not need as thick insulation as you would in the coldest winter. We'll help you with useful tips for buying your new snowboard and freeski clothing.

  1. Layering & Materials: each layer is vital
    1. Base layer: technical underwear
      1. Merino Wool
      2. Polyester & Nylon
      3. Technology and quick drying systems
    2. Mid Layer: insulation layer - The golden core
      1. Fleece
      2. Insulator Jacket
      3. Hoodies
    3. Third Layer: the outer shell
      1. Gore-Tex®: waterproof and breathable
  2. Waterproofing: the water column against moisture
  3. Breathability: the release of body moisture and excess heat
  4. Outerwear: Materials and fits
    1. Slim of skinny fit: the form fitting cut
    2. Regular fit: medium length and not too wide
    3. Loose Fit: the extra wide and extra long fit
    4. Long cut: regular fit with extra length
  5. The features of ski jackets and snowboard pants
    1. Hoods: protection for the head
    2. Snow skirt: stops snow getting in
    3. Reinforced behind and reinforced knees for snowboard pants
    4. Pockets for smartphone, mp3 player and wallet
    5. Zippers
    6. Ski pass pockets
    7. Sealed seams
  6. Snowboard gloves: a true mountain essential
    1. Mittens: all together now
    2. Gloves: full flexibility
    3. Pipe gloves: perfect for spring
  7. The snowwear care: how to care for your ski pants and snowboard jackets
    1. DWR: the renewable protective layer
    2. Ski jackets and snowboard pants in the washing machine

1. Layering & Materials: Each layer is Vital.

Mountaineers were the first! Meanwhile, however, snowboarders, skiers and action sports athletes also use the layering system. The old-fashioned onion-system from your mum or granny is widely known, and the same idea applies to layering. Several layers of functional gear provide the most comfort and warmth during the sport and support the performance on the mountain enormously.


Layering structure:
1. Base Layer

(Technical underwear)
2. Mid LayerInsulation layer
(Insulation: Fleece, Insulators, Hoodies)
3. Third LayerOuter layer
(Softshells, snowboard jackets, Outerwear)

The best thing about layering is that you can adapt quickly to the changing conditions on the mountain to feel comfortable in every situation. The base layer takes care of the moisture management. The mid layer protects you from the cold, and the third outer layer keeps the wind, rain and snow out. Depending on the weather, you can add a layer or take one off. In combination, the layers are a highly functional team. That is the beauty of layering: you can quickly and effectively adapt to the environment. Remember, you can always add more layers if you are particularly vulnerable to the cold!

In the following paragraphs, we explain the individual layers and go into detail on materials and technologies.

Layering
Layering: combining technical underwear, insulation & outer shell for maximum comfort and warmth

1.1 Base Layer: Technical underwear

To keep warm even in freezing temperatures, it is important to keep the moisture away from the body. For this, there is special underwear which not only keeps you warm but also keeps you dry. Synthetic materials - above all polyester - and natural fibres such as Merino or Bamboo allow this removal of sweat while at the same time keeping you warm. Ordinary cotton fabrics can’t keep pace with their function compared to the standards of technical underwear nowadays. Brands such as BurtonArmada and Quiksilver have been able to develop fabric structures with the Polartec® system, which ensures optimum breathability and quick drying for long-term comfort on the mountain, while providing a comfortable fit

Technical undewear, shirts for women and men
The technical underwear is the first contact for your skin.

1.1.1 Merino wool – Fur-tastic

Merino is a natural wool and is normally from  Australian, New Zealand and South American sheep. With the whole years fur growth of the sheep we end up with a renewable product. Compared to traditional wool, Merino is a smoother and finer fibre that has a superior texture and skin feeling compared to traditional coarse wool. The advantage of Merino is that it regulates temperatures in a natural way. It controls temperature by absorbing and releasing moisture. Merino Wool has antibacterial properties reducing unpleasant odors and is extremely breathable. The natural moisture absorption allows the skin to breathe freely.

Ortovox processes high-quality merino wool for their base layers. Merino 185 is their most versatile and provides the appropriate heat depending on the outside temperature. On particularly cold days, you should go with Merino 240 including soft inner lining as a thermal layer. The round-knit process gives the clothing a perfect fit and the zone-specific material thicknesses enable maximum heat regulation. The award-winning Merino Competition is unique regarding functionality, design, quality and sustainability.

Many brands also rely on the combination of natural merino wool and other textile fibres to achieve the ideal functionalitySuper.natural combines the advantages of natural Merino wool with the technology of specially designed textile fibres to achieve progressive performance for clothes that work without compromise. The Le Bent brand was founded on a combination of Bamboo fibres and Merino. Thanks to soft bamboo and warm Merino wool, the material feels almost like silk on the skin and is suitable for riders with an allergy to 100% Merino products.

1.1.2 Polyester & Nylon

The most commonly found of all artificial fibres is polyester. A tough material, resistant and almost unbeatable against shrinking and stretching. Polyester dries incredibly fast and is very insensitive to mold. These properties make the fibre ideal for underwear.

Nylon is also a very robust and elastic material. It is also easy to maintain and machine-washable. Nylon is often combined with an additional coating to increase the durability, this creates a longer lasting product. Like polyester, nylon is woven in different thicknesses. These figures are given by the manufacturers in grams. "The higher the number of grams, the stronger the material."

Many manufacturers rely on the synthetically produced fibres, as they have durability, longevity, cost factor and easy cleaning qualities. Even in products with high merino content, polyester or nylon is used to enhance the functionality of stretch or breathability further. The odour neutralising fibers furthermore ensure that you’re able to ride your gear as hard as you want.

1.1.3 Technologies and quick drying systems

Brands have put a lot of technical effort and research into their functional underwear for the maximum functionality.

The FABdry 2 ™ system from Eivy, for example, lets the skin breathe and transports moisture to the outside thanks to the material composition of 88% polyester and 12% elastane. Also, it is super-stretchy, which gives you an enormous freedom of movement. No more balls of fluff! Picture uses a composition of recycled polyester, polyester and spandex and dry fit technology which is warm, dry and comfortable to wear. Burton has their cotton-like DRYRIDE Ultrawick ™ Midweight 200 material that has been scientifically designed to transport cooling moisture away from the body and direct it through different layers. You remain warm, dry and happy.

1.2 Mid Layer: Insulation layer - The golden core

If the weather is good, you can go riding with just a base layer under your outerwear. In freezing temperatures, snowfall, rain or wind, however, you will be grateful for every additional layer. The insulation layer, consisting of a fleece, a PrimaLoft® layer or even a hoodie, keeps you warm. They do not lie directly on the skin and thus form the layer between functional underwear for the regulation of the body temperature and snowboard jacket or pants for the protection against the whims of Mother Nature.

1.2.1 Fleece - And your body is at peace!

Cuddly, warm, soothing. You can’t beat a good fleece!

Cotton is a naturally produced material. Fleece, on the other hand, is produced synthetically from heated petroleum and processed into yarn. After this process, the soft material is manufactured in another treatment to create the coziness which we all know and love.
These very popular Fleeces work with excellent thermal insulation, temperature control and importantly no-stink. Fleeces are ideally suited as a mid layers for layering, as well as for rainy days at home on the sofa.

At minus-degrees, a fleece mid-layer is a brilliant choice. But ordinarily not substitute for a real winter jacket but rather an addition to it.
The products marked with WindStopper® or WindWall® are windproof, yet breathable and functional – only rain and snow can get through.

Brands such as The North Face and Mammut have mastered the fleece adding functionality through Polartec® Thermal Pro® technologies.

1.2.2 Insulator jackets

The times when you looked like the Michelin Man in bulky down jackets are over. In recent years, there has been a considerable change in the development of insulating materials and jackets. The status quo is currently the polyester fiber of PrimaLoft®. Originally developed for the military, PrimaLoft® offers an extremely light and low-profile structure. Millions of air particles are trapped in a microfibre fabric. These microscopic air particles repel water while they capture heat. Primaloft keeps you warm and dry even in the most severe conditions, even after repeated washes, the performance never slips.

It is wonder then that reputable brands such as BurtonPYUA or Patagonia use the tried and tested PrimaLoft® insulation for their gear.

The highest level of synthetic insulation is the water-repellent 60 g / m² PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco with 55% recycled content. This is used by Patagonia and is the most efficient synthetic insulation and still retains 98% of its insulating strength even when wet.

1.2.3 Hoodies

Hoodies have probably got the greatest variety and individuality. For warm spring days, nothing beats a stylish hoodie, but we all know: Once the hoodie is wet, it remains wet .... or it freezes.

Everyone has a favorite shred hoodie, but as soon as the temperatures fall, the functionality of the hoodies suffers as they are often made of cotton. Style versus function can be argued, but however, when it’s time for a proper winter jacket, you’ll appreciate being warm and dry!

1.3 Third Layer: The outer shell

The outermost layer consists in winter of snowboard jacket and pants or ski jacket and pants. They are the first point of contact with the fickle and fast-changing moods of Mother Nature. For warmer temperatures, you can use Hardshell and Softshell Jackets. If you struggle with sweating, a jacket with a high breathability and an integrated ventilation system is advised. If it is dumping and you’re heading to the white room, snow skirts, gaiters, and a high water column are important to prevent snow and moisture getting in.

To make the selection easier, we explain the most important features of your gear. At the point The features of ski jackets and snowboard pants in detail.

Snowboard jacket
Third Layer: snowboard jackets and pants

1.3.1 Gore-Tex®: waterproof and breathable

The Gore-Tex® membrane is great for snowboard jackets and snowboard pants. The microporous structure gives this membrane the features high breathability, waterproofing and wind proofing. The membrane on fabrics for jackets and pants has to be bonded with an inner layer and an outer material. This connection is called Gore-Tex® laminate. A DWR coating is used for the outer layer so that the water can simply drip off.

Gore Tex® offers different products for different uses. The premium product of the manufacturer is Gore-Tex® pro with maximum protection and durability in brutal conditions. The best for hiking and touring in the mountains is Gore-Tex® active, because of its high level of breathability. Gore-Tex® always provides products with two or three layers –  2L and 3L

3-layer Gore-Tex® made out Gore-Tex® Laminate combined with a lining
Gore-Tex® 3L: outer material, membrane und inner lining are bound together.

2.Waterproofing: the water column against moisture

The waterproofing of your snowboard jackets and ski trousers is indicated with water column. Why do the producers indicate the resistance against water with a column?
A bottomless cylinder is placed on the material. Water is then filled inside and a scale shows how much water is necessary to penetrate the product. The height of the column indicates the pressure. A water column of 20,000 millimetres means that at this level, water can penetrate the material. The higher the value the better the jackets or pants withstand the moisture. Products with a high water column even keep you dry on very snowy powder days.

The figures of the water column are from 0 mm up to over 20,000 mm:

  • 0 mm to 5,000 mm: none or just a minimal protection from moisture is provided
  • 6,000 mm to 10,000 mm: protects you from light rain and moderate snowfall
  • 11,000 mm to 15,000 mm: keeps you dry during moderate rain and snowfall
  • 16,000 mm to 20,000 mm: heavy rain and wet and heavy snow are no problem
  • Over 20,000 mm: keep dry during the heaviest rain and deepest snowfall
Also the pressure from the water you put on the material is relevant for the time you stay dry. Especially for snowboarding it´s very important that your pants withstand the pressure when you sit down in the snow on your knees or buttocks. At a level of around 10,000 mm water column you can be sure that your short rest doesn´t end up being wet.

Water column or water density of snowwear for women and men
The height of the water column determines how long you'll stay dry.

3. Breathability: the release of body moisture and excess heat

On the one hand your gear should protect you from moisture, on the other hand it should release sweat from respiration. To compare the breathability of the different manufacturers there’s a special norm. The specification is indicated in gram water vapour per square meter that can escape from the material in 24 hours.

5. Outerwear: Materials and fits

At Blue Tomato we distinguish between Skinny, Slim, Regular, Loose Fit and Long Cut. The fits vary with every manufacturer – some of the labels generally cut tighter fits and others have wider fits. Furthermore, many manufacturers have individual names for the fits like “Baggy”,Athletic” or “Tailored”. We at Blue Tomato try to adapt the different fits of the producers to our system and standardise them. Besides the fits the sizes of the manufacturers are very important as some labels produce their snowboard jackets and snowboard pants bigger than others. If you´re unsure of the size of outerwear, please use our sizing charts.

Armada Outerwear
Loose, Skinny and Regular Fit Armada Outerwear

5.1 SLIM OR SKINNY FIT: THE FORM FITTING CUT

There are two functions for a skinny fit or slim fit, one is for a fashion focused, street inspired look found in the Park which is the cutting edge of fashion. The second is a backcountry focused tech style slimmer fit.

A slim or skinny fit has become more and more prevalent in the snowparks of Europe as it takes a fashion focused street look onto the features. If you like to have the best style on kickers and rails why not have the cutting edge of fashion in your outfit? A pair of skinny fit snow pants can be paired with a hoody for an urban look.

The backcountry style cut, which is often described as ‘tech’, has been optimized for backcountry riding and touring. The cut is articulated at the joints for ease of movement. There isn’t as much material so as not to weigh the rider down and fit easily with as harness. This slimmer fit is used by the manufacturers Ortovox, Berghaus, Peak Performance, Mammut, The North Face and Bergans for their technical gear.

5.2 REGULAR FIT: MEDIUM LENGTH AND NOT TOO WIDE

The traditional or regular fit, as the names suggest, are the standard cuts from most brands. This cut is roomy yet not too baggy, it allows mobility and freedom of movement. That way you can easily go for the layering with functional underwear, fleece jackets or basic pullovers and hoodies. Even if you only wear a t-shirt beneath, the fit doesn’t ride up. If you put your hands up in the air, the regular fit jacket stays at waist level. Pants in regular fit are cut straight so they fit comfortably over your ski or snowboard boots. If you want to go for a baggier cut with regular fit outerwear, size up.

5.3 LOOSE FIT: THE EXTRA WIDE AND EXTRA LONG FIT

The loose fit is the biggest cut. It allows you to wear knee protectors and crash pants in addition to the layering. The most striking features are more space at the arms and the whole body as well as a generally longer cut than the regular fit. The pants are providing generous space at the hip and you have a lot of freedom for your thighs, knees and calves. This fit is at home in the area of freestyle skiing and snowboarding. If you prefer to have the crotch of the trousers deeper and the jacket closer to the knees, this baggy fit should be the right version for you. Of course you can also vary with other fits and just take them one to two sizes bigger to obtain the baggy style.

5.4 LONG CUT: REGULAR FIT WITH EXTRA LENGTH

If you simply like longer fits but don’t want the added material of a looser cut, then the long cut is perfect for you. Regarding the width the fit is very similar to the Slim or Regular Fit, it just has additional length down past the waist, often with a further dropped tail. That´s especially beneficial for snowboarding if you often sit in the snow because it provides you extra protection against snow. Colour Wear, Airblaster and Armada are focusing more and more on this cut and even the most traditional snowboard brand Burton offers long cut snowboard pants and jackets.

Marco Concin

Softgoods Buyer Men at Blue Tomato
"With regards to the latest trends in snowboard jackets and snowboard pants our sales team is always up to date. This year you'll be well-advised with bib pants during icy temperatures since they protect you from snow up to the chest. Many manufacturers offer matched combinations of jackets and pants."

6. The features of ski jackets and snowboard pants

Not only is the material important for your snowboard clothing and skiwear, you also need various accessories like pockets, snow guards, reinforcements, ventilation openings and zippers. Small but essential differences give you the possibility to adapt your outerwear to the weather conditions and with the appropriate pockets you can carry everything you’d need.

6.1. Hoods: protection for the head

Various features make hoods more comfortable, protective and adjustable. You can remove some of the hoods from the jacket and if needed zip them on again. Through strings you can set the hood as you like and sometimes it´s also possible to roll them in and stow them in the back of the snowboard jacket. When using the hood you should make sure that it doesn´t go further than your forehead and should be closed around your chin.

Hood of a ski jacket
Ski jacket with an adjustable hood

6.2. Snow skirt: stops snow getting in

The snow skirt, an extra layer between the jacket and pants, prevents snow riding up your back if you’re riding powder or have a big fall. Sometimes you can link your snowboard jacket with your snowboard pants, this guarantees complete protection when you ride powder.

Powder skirt of a snowboard jacket
Ski jacket with a removable powder skirt

6.3. Reinforced behind and reinforced knees for snowboard pants

It´s important that the material is reinforced on the behind and at the knees. These parts are highly stressed during snowboarding and are vulnerable to water getting through. The reinforcement normally works with additional patches, stronger materials or thicker fabrics.

Snowboard pants with reinforced backside seams
Reinforced seams on the back of snowboard pants

6.4. Pockets for smartphone, mp3 player and wallet

Everyone wants extra space for carrying their accessories like a smartphone, keys, sun protection, goggles, extra gloves and an additional beanie. Snowwear manufacturers like Zimtstern, Roxy, DC or Oakley are following this trend and offer jackets and pants with loads of pockets.

Media pocket for your smartphone or other digital devices
Media pocket for all your important gear

6.5. Zippers

The zippers on your ski or snowboard jacket aren’t necessarily the same as the one you would have on your street jacket. Often they’re water resistant or waterproof to stop water getting in. YKK are the biggest name for waterproof zippers with their YKK AQUAGUARD® zippers cane be found on technical outerwear.

Zipper of a snowboard jacket
Snowboard jacket with a YKK zipper

6.6. Ski pass pockets

Most mountains now have electronic scanners for ski passes so you no longer need to insert your card. These scan through your outerwear on the left hand side. Accordingly, outerwear manufacturers usually have a specific pocket on the left hand side or sleeve.

Pocket for a ski ticket on a snowboard jacket
Pocket for a ski ticket on a snowboard jacket

6.7. Sealed seams

As seen above your seams should be sealed so that you don’t get wet in the deepest powder. The tiny little holes in the seams make water come through the shell into the membrane. The treatment of the seam at critical parts or even on the whole jacket or pants keeps you dry. At Gore-Tex® this technology is called Seam Sealing and is achieved by the Gore Seam® Tape.

Water-repellent zipper of a ski jackets' pocket
Ski jacket with a Water-repellent zipper

7. Snowboard gloves: a true mountain essential

Gloves protect you from the icy temperatures of the winter and your fingers from snow. If you are riding high speed downhill or through the park, plus try to do a powder day without gloves it can be uncomfortable – very cold! At Blue Tomato we distinguish three types of gloves:

  1. Mittens
  2. Gloves
  3. Pipe gloves

Mittens for cold outside temperatures
Mittens for cold temperatures

7.1 Mittens: all together now

Wearing mittens you can only move the thumb individually, the other fingers are covered together. Mittens are typically the warmest because all the fingers are together and the design allows for more insulation together. Also because of the design of a mitten there are less seams which means there’s less likelihood of water getting in. The main limitation is the missing mobility for the fingers which makes it more difficult to set your snowboard boots, bindings or goggles. A solution for this problem is hybrid gloves, whereby the index finger and thumb can be moved individually.

Armada Mittens
Armada's mittens keep you warm and dry

7.2 Gloves: full flexibility

Gloves also protect you from moisture and the cold but they’re usually not quite as warm or dry as mittens. The reason for that are the numerous seams at the fingers and because the fingers are separated. However, you do enjoy the maximum mobility of all ten fingers.

Five finger gloves for a little more feeling
Five finger gloves for a little more feeling

7.3 Pipe gloves: perfect for spring

Pipe gloves can be mittens as well as five finger gloves and are normally thinner. Above all, this means that they’re not equipped with additional insulation layers. They’re perfect for spring shredding. Moreover, you have more feeling in your hands wearing pipe gloves – especially in the fingers – and you can perform your grabs easier.

Pipe gloves, 5-finger or mittens - you decide!
Whether pipe gloves, 5 finger gloves or mittens - you decide what you want!

8. SNOWWEAR CARE: HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR SKI PANTS AND SNOWBOARD JACKET

New and modern functional materials will last for years but only if they’re treated with the right care. Please observe the manufacturer’s specifications before starting the treatment. As we’ve already mentioned above coatings wear off over time. That means for you that your jacket or pants aren´t water or dirt repellent anymore. But you can simply renew this protection of the natural and synthetic fibres by washing them with special detergent.

Detergents and sprays for impregnation of ski pants and jackets
Detergents and sprays for washing ski pants and jackets

8.1 DWR: THE RENEWABLE PROTECTIVE LAYER

As we’ve explained in the previous sections about the technical vocabulary, new pants and jackets are usually impregnated (for example with a DWR coating). After washing your jacket and/or pants you certainly don´t want to lose this DWR feature. How do you note if it’s time to pay particular attention to your snowwear? That’s very simple: if the water on the surface does not drip off anymore or usually if you’ve washed your outerwear more than three times.

8.2 SKI JACKETS AND SNOWBOARD PANTS IN THE WASHING MACHINE

Please wash the functional materials only with a special detergent which is especially made for the certain materials. Your snowboard jacket and pants will survive the spin cycle program of your washing machine. However, the dryer or the ironing is indicated on the label with the manufacturer’s information. Even if all specifications fit your clothing, you should be careful. Low spin cycle tours, gentle drying and low temperature for ironing clean your outerwear and make it look like new.

Tips for washing

"Normal detergents and softeners aren’t made for technical materials, you should use products like Nikwax and F100 and follow their cleaning instructions."