How to Dress for Cross-Country Skiing

Dedicated athletes don’t go into hibernation when the weather turns frigid. To maintain fitness throughout the year, consider one of the best cross-training activities (not to mention an excellent way to enjoy winter landscapes): cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing.

As a full-body workout, cross-country skiing has tremendous benefits. It burns an insane number of calories—between 700 to 1,100 per hour depending on terrain—and improves cardiovascular endurance and overall health. But because it’s so highly aerobic, cross-country skiing also presents some interesting challenges for attire. When people think of skiing, snow pants and puffy coats come to mind. But for Nordic, that’s a recipe for severe overheating, since sweat in cold weather can easily lead to hypothermia.

Clothes and gear for a day of cross-country skiing must be hardworking multitaskers, able to ward off cold temps, wind, and wet snow while keeping the wearer dry and focused on the task at hand. It’s crucial that all layers must move moisture away from the skin, breathe well, and dry fast. This is where 37.5 Technology excels.

Fabrics enhanced with 37.5 Technology pull moisture from your skin and vaporize it almost instantly, keeping the skin cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. Even better, the hotter and sweatier the wearer gets, the harder it works. This is incredibly important in cold-weather sports like cross-country skiing, where freezing sweat can quickly turn a bluebird day of getting after it into a dangerous situation.

As winter sports enthusiasts know, layering is the way to go, since it makes it easier to adjust for ventilation and warmth depending on your output. Avoid big and bulky pieces in favor of lean, lightweight gear that goes a long way in removing moisture and keeping you dry. Cotton is typically a no-no: The best fabrics for cold weather activities are wool and synthetics.

Rossignol, founded in 1907, is the most iconic name in Nordic skiing. The company knows a thing or two about dressing well for the cold and has outfitted everyone from 5-time Olympic Champion Martin Fourcade, to countless ordinary mortals skiing for the first time. Along the way, the company recognized the benefits of 37.5 Technology and incorporated it into some of the most high-tech, comfortable, and best-performing gear out on the snow today.

The First Layer

A good base layer is the foundation for the entire system. It regulates body temperature by moving moisture away and creating a more comfortable microclimate next to the skin. The Poursuite (available in both men’s and women’s styles) is precisely what’s needed here. It goes the extra mile with a half-zip and venting panels that prevent overheating.

The tailored cut isn’t just a smart look: It’s by design. Clothing made for cross-country skiing should have a next-to-skin fit, which is warmer and doesn’t inhibit range of motion. It also makes it less likely that swinging poles and kicking skis will get caught up in flapping clothing.

The Mid-Layer

An insulating mid-layer is essential for providing warmth. Don’t go too dense here: It’s far better to layer several thinner layers than rely on one bulky piece. The air between layers acts as an insulating barrier, and as you ramp things up, it’s easy to strip them off to prevent overheating.

On a warmer day, a base layer and a mid-layer may be all that is needed. So it’s a good idea to pick one that can pull double duty as both in milder weather. The Poursuite Jacket is a perfect choice for this option. It provides some wind and weather protection while still being lightweight and allowing for full range of motion. Its full zipper and highly breathable back panel work with the base layer for thermal control.

The Outer Layer

If the temperature dips below freezing, you’ll definitely need a shell. A waterproof shell is the obvious choice for backcountry adventures in rough weather. If you’re gliding groomers at the local Nordic center, a breathable softshell will work just fine.

On the Bottom

For pants, many people like tights for warmth and the benefits of mild compression. Rossignol’s Poursuite Tights fit the bill. And for those who prefer pants (good in colder conditions), check out the Poursuite Pants, which feature a waterproof membrane and windproof front panels. Both feature 37.5 Technology and zipped ankles, making getting them on and off a cinch.

Gloves

Again, layering is essential here. Go with a thinner liner and a shell so the liners can be ditched as the hands heat up. Pick a shell with a long gauntlet—that’s the extended material that fits over your wrist—to keep out snow, too. Gloves are preferable to mittens, as they provide increased dexterity for poling. Though if you’re prone to cold hands, a good compromise is a style known as the lobster mitt, which offers the warmth of mittens and the range of gloves.

Socks

Layering for the feet is just as important. Go with a thin liner underneath an insulating sock, and choose wool if you’re especially susceptible to cold. But the amount of space inside a boot is finite, so resist the temptation to wear super thick socks because they will restrict circulation, making feet even colder.

Headgear

On warmer days, a headband is often all that is needed. A light hat is another appealing option since it’s easy to carry and offers a bit more warmth during rest stops. If it’s really cold, be sure to bring a balaclava or fleece hat. And reconsider the goggles: They can hold too much heat and fog up. Go with sunglasses, preferably polarized, since the glare off snow can be blinding.

There’s an old saying: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This is especially true in cross-country skiing. But with a little planning, any day out on skis can be a good one. As you consider your gear choices, remember this helpful rule of thumb: If you’re a little chilly in the parking lot and for the first few minutes of activity, the outfit is most likely perfect.

Written by Shaine Smith for RootsRated Media in partnership with 37.5.

Featured image provided by 37.5 Technology/Rossignol