HOW TO BUY ACCESSORIES

by Wagner Skis / Oct 20, 2022

When it comes to buying skis, we’ve obviously got you covered. But what about all the rest of the gear you need?

Things that seem simple—a jacket—can suddenly become paralyzing once you find yourself doing the actual shopping. Do you want one that’s insulated, a shell, a softshell, or a hybrid? You get the picture. Let us help you demystify the small stuff. Here are our tips on how to buy all the accessories.

Jackets

The first question you need to ask yourself is where you’ll be skiing this winter. Are you a resort-only person, or do you want something that can double in the backcountry? This will help you decide whether to go with insulated or shell.

It's ideal to have one of each, of course—an insulated jacket for resort days when the weather resembles that of planet Hoth, and a shell for spring days or days when you’ll be hiking—but we know there are other semi-important things to spend money on, like your kids’ college funds.

Wagner's own Graphics Guru all dressed up with somewhere to ski
Wagner's own Graphics Guru all dressed up with somewhere to ski. Photo: Telluride Ski and Golf Resort

If you’ll only ski at the resort, you may want to look at insulated jackets. That said, if you run hot or ski in the spring and don’t already have a shell in your arsenal, you may want to opt for the shell and layer up underneath. Those who venture into the backcountry, bootpack in the resort, or ski until the lifts stop spinning will want to go with a shell.

Other important things to look for are helmet compatible hoods, pockets you can access while wearing a pack (if you wear one), powder skirts to keep the snow out, and waterproof/breathable fabric.

Pants

Again, there are insulated and non-insulated options here. We prefer non-insulated, mostly because it makes our butts look cuter. But if you run cold, don’t rule out the thicker ones. Regardless, pay attention to if the pockets are intuitive and will hold a cell phone or beacon, if the zippers are easy to access while wearing gloves, and if they have expandable options for gorging on nachos at après.

Dressing in layers is great for all sports, not just skiing.
Although this person is snowshoeing, the considerations are exactly the same for ski pants. Photo: istockphoto.com

If you do opt for shells, one trick for super cold days is to layer with two sets of long undies on the bottom. We recommend the ¾ length that only go to the top of your boots so you don’t have a bunch of extra fabric bunching up and adding volume in your boot. (The only thing that should go in your boots is your socks—read more about those below—because added bulk will only restrict blood flow and make your feet colder.)

If you’re a backcountry skier or like to hike in the resort, you’re going to want big vents to dump heat and so you stay dry on the descent. Many pants have vents that are meshed to keep out the snow, which are good options if you’re prone to falling or don’t hike much, but big non-mesh vents are ideal for long tours/hikes.

Layers

If you opt for the shell jacket, you’ll want to be sure to layer up appropriately for cold days. You’ll want a good pair of long underwear—merino wool (at ¾ length, see above) is our favorite because it stays warm when wet and never gets stinky—and a zip-up midlayer made of synthetic down, which doesn’t ball up with moisture. (If you have a quality insulated jacket, you’ll likely just need long undies underneath.) If you run warm and don’t suffer from cold hands, you could get away with a midlayer vest.

As for the undies and sports bras under the long underwear, we strongly recommend wool blends. Because there’s nothing worse than sweaty first layers; they’ll freeze your tender vittles on the lift or at the summit.

Gloves or mittens?

First, the best way to keep your hands warm is to keep your core warm; it’s crucial to have the appropriate layers on your trunk so you can pump warmth to your extremities. (Which is why our female Wagner skiers have found a hand warmer is far more effective stuffed in a sports bra than in a glove.)

Gloves need to fit over or under your cuffs.
You'll have to decide if you like over-the-cuff gloves or under-the-cuff. Photo: istockphoto.com

That said, good gloves or mittens are still extremely important. To decide between the two, you need to weigh warmth vs dexterity. Mittens are generally warmer, because your fingers will share all that heat and friction with each other in the same compartment.

However, if you’re constantly taking said mittens off to buckle your boots or zip your jacket, that may be colder in the long run than getting gloves and keeping the damn things on all the time. Backcountry skiers will also probably opt for lightweight gloves for the uphill and perhaps lightweight mittens for the down.

If you just can’t decide, another option is the lobster mitt, a hybrid between the two. These are actually quite functional, but you might look a little like, well, a lobster.

As for the insulation, you’ll want something that is breathable, because dry hands are warm hands. Most gloves and mittens worth their salt will have a synthetic material that breathes and insulates.

You’ll also need to choose between over the cuff or under the cuff of your jacket. If you ski powder or fall a lot, you may want to choose an over-the-cuff model, which tends to keep snow from packing into jacket at your wrists. That said, it also may depend on your jacket—if you have adjustable cuffs, you can usually safely seal your glove underneath by tightening the Velcro tab.

Helmet/goggles

Our advice here is to buy the same brand for compatibility. No one wants to get a brain freeze because of “gaper gap,” the airspace between your goggle and helmet, so it’s good to get the same brand for both so they fit together perfectly.

A snug fit between goggles and helmet, with a mix-and-match approach.
A snug fit between a helmet and goggles will keep your brain warm. Photo: Glade Goggles.

If you must mix and match brands, just bring your helmet with you when you try them on to make sure they fit. (A little awkwardness at the ski shop will save you a lot of awkwardness on the hill.)

Socks

The thinnest socks are best. We know, this is counterintuitive because thicker usually means warmer, but trust us on this. Ski boots are meant to be tight because it allows you to transfer power immediately from your shin to the ski, and added layering just serves to cut off blood flow and makes your feet even colder.

We like the lightest weight merino wool blends. Wool is warm when wet and antimicrobial, which means your ski buddies won’t make you buy the après round when you take your boots off.

We hope this primer helps you with your decision-making this season, so your accessories can be as awesome as your new Wagner Custom skis. Happy shopping!

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Article by Kimberly Beekman

Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.

 

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