The festival staff wants all festival attendees to understand that purchasing expensive ski or winter clothes is not necessary to be warm and recreate comfortably. However, appropriate clothing is essential for protection from the cold and moisture of skiing, snowboarding and some of the non-ski activities. Spring skiing weather is very unpredictable in which the temperature can either be warm or cold on various days, and even both within the same day. Here are some clothing tips to help you prepare.
Winter Park Temperature and Weather
While the months of March and April are during the spring- it can still get really cold when compared to other area climates. The average maximum temperature during the month of April is 38°f while the average minimum temperature is 20°f. These are only averages- so the temperature can certainly be colder or warmer. We believe that a person should prepare for temperatures no colder than 10° below 0, or no warmer than 50°f while recreating based on our experience. Usually a colder clear morning is the result of high barometric pressure which immediately leads to a warmer sunny day. Winter snow storms can also bring in cold temperatures that usually remain the same temperature throughout the day. One aspect of weather is wind-chill and snow. While a winter storm may not bring in the coldest temperatures- the wind and snow’s moisture can obviously amplify the feeling of coldness, or wind-chill. Another point to consider is the temperature at the ski resort base, versus the temperature at the mountain summit. A person dressed for a comfortable temperature at the ski base, might actually be under-dressed for higher mountain trails.
Preface to Clothing Suggestions
We should not suggest the same winter apparel for everyone.
Fact: Persons endure cold weather differently than others. You know the persons that are never cold, and those never warm-enough, right? Our festival staff sees students dressed with multiple layers of heavy warm clothing to be comfortable. We also see students comfortably skiing on cold days with lighter weight clothing being worn. If you are from Colorado, or from a comparable wintry weather region, you should know what amount or type of clothing should be worn on a March or April, sunny/cloudy morning and day. But also think about Winter Park’s higher elevation compared to your home town. And think about the wind-chill at the mountain summits. On the flip side, if your are from a warmer climate, you may not know what amount of clothing is required to keep you warm early in the morning at 20 degrees, or exactly how cold your hands and ears will feel at that colder temperature for multiple hours. In this latter case, its best to read carefully about what type winter clothing to bring.
Also, the recreation a person will be engaging within makes a huge difference in what clothing should be worn. The information we provide below is aimed primarily at those persons who will ski or snowboard. The weather isn’t different for them, but they could be exposed to the elements longer than those persons not recreating, or enjoying the non-ski activities. Skiers and snowboarders would likely be higher on the mountain at some time. And with non-ski activities, a person will be near a building to warm up if needed, or outside for a shorter duration, or not subject to falling in the snow.
So a person has to use their own judgement when viewing what we suggest for warm comfortable clothing.
What to Wear
Dress in layers to control your warmth
- We recommend dressing in “layers” of clothing. While early mornings and late afternoons are typically colder than during the day- removing or adding various layers of clothing as necessary throughout the day will allow a skier to adjust their temperature comfort. Clothing removed can be stored in a rented locker at the ski base, kept in a light weight back pack being worn while skiing, or securely tied around the body if preferred. Please consider to bring from home the amount of clothing needed for the coldest scenario of skiing. If your arrival in Winter Park reveals your skiing time is forecasted for warmer temperatures- just leave those unnecessary layers at your place of overnight lodging.
- Long or “body” underwear (top and bottom) is highly recommended to be worn as your base layer of clothing. Do your own research about traditional and newer blends of long underwear fabric. Since the goal of body underwear is to keep you dry and warm (wicking away moisture and insulating body heat)- we subscribe to not wearing cotton or cotton blends next to your body. While inexpensive cotton absorbs moisture- it also retains it- causing some skiers to have a cold and wet feeling against their skin. On the other hand- wearing wool is better for keeping in warmth and breathing the moisture out. But wool products are more expensive and not desired by some individuals because it gets too warm for an under layer of clothing. Wool can actually cause perspiration for some. Some good “middle of the road” body underwear fabrics to consider for price and performance are polyester, polypropylene or polyester/wool blends.
- Socks of medium or heavier weight wool blend (not necessarily “all wool”) are great because they can keep your feet and toes warm while breathing any moisture created. When receiving your ski boots and skis from the ski equipment provider- it is important that you wear the same weight of socks that you plan to wear when skiing to ensure proper boot fit each day.
- Upper clothing layers. Heavy cotton shirts (such as sweat shirts), turtle necks, warm fleece sweaters, or wool or wool blend sweaters worn over the upper body underwear are great as an upper body inner clothing layer for colder temperatures, or as an outer layer for warmer temperatures. The only suggestion for these types of upper wear, is that they be as water or moisture proof as possible if being worn as an outer layer. “Moisture or water proof” will be repeated throughout the remainder of this topic since snow can be gathered on clothing when snow is falling and when a person falls in the snow. Besides snow being cold itself- when melting from your own body temperature or by the sun, it can be uncomfortably cold when reaching your skin. We believe that fleece and wool blends are superior to cotton in repelling moisture. But cotton garments can be easily “scotch guarded” if needed to repel moisture.
- Wearing a warm moisture proof jacket for an upper body outer layer during warmer days is great. Even school letter jackets work great. Any type of outer jacket with zipper or buttoned pockets is better so that items such as trail maps, lip balm, sun screen, phone, ID, money, lift cards and gloves can be easily stored and accessible.
- A well insulated, moisture repellent coat is nearly essential on colder days. These do not have to be expensive ski coats. Just bring a warm coat that will keep your upper body warm in the coldest of temperatures. Since this coat would be an outer garment- make sure it is water repellent or has been “scotch guarded”. Long coats (knee length) are not recommended for skiing as they may interfere with your ability to fully maneuver your skis and ski poles.
- Lower body clothing (worn over long underwear). This clothing should be moisture repellent; such as water repellent athletic type pants, scotch guarded denim jeans, or even ski pants. But any of these will require proper amounts of long underwear under them on cold days. Think about bigger sizes to accommodate the amount of under garments being worn under them. On a warm day, or during mid day, a person could remove some of the long underwear to adjust their temperature if needed. Also, the bells of pants or jeans must be large enough to fit outside of the ski boot being worn! Only two things go in a ski boot- feet and socks! Do not tuck any clothing into boots. Tucking pants inside your already tight fitting boot will create additional “tightness” and discomfort with how it is creased within a tight fitting boot- and will allow cold and wet snow to get inside your ski boot! If the bell of a pant will fit over a gallon container (paint can or milk jug) it will fit over a ski boot. If a person wants to use scotch guarded denim jeans, and cannot fit over a boot, at a minimum, make sure the jean leg is large enough that it can be raised upward along the leg, just below the knee, so the pant leg will above the boot.
- Insulated and moisture repellent ski pants or bibs (with warm coat) or one-piece ski suits probably offer the very best of comfort to a skier. Colder temperatures may still require body underwear to be worn under these. These items are certainly not necessary to purchase! Usually, they can be borrowed, found at second hand clothing shops, found in clearance sales at major sporting goods retailers during the months of January through March, or purchased online. Do an internet search for places that will rent these from your area. Please do not worry about the style. Just bring something comfortable to wear, while keeping you warm.
Gloves or mittens
- It is absolutely essential that everyone bring a pair of insulated, and waterproof gloves or mittens for colder temperatures. These do not have to be expensive ski gloves. If your hands and fingers are prone to being cold- wearing insulated mittens can keep your fingers warmers by being next to one another. Or- wearing a lightweight pair of wool blend gloves under another pair of outer waterproof gloves may provide more comfort for you. Gloves or mittens are so important, if you are a beginner skier/boarder taking a lesson, the instructors will not accept a person without these.
- For skiers and snowboarders, a helmet is included with every person’s ski equipment rental. Helmets are worn by nearly all skiers and snowboarders these days. In addition to providing protection to a person’s head, it keeps a person’s head and ears warm, instead of having to wear a hat or head band.
- For those persons not skiing or snowboarding, a warm wool hat or a head band to cover one’s head and ears is absolutely essential during all temperatures, and strongly recommended. Head and ear cover may not seem important- but without these during colder weather can cause extreme discomfort. 80% of body heat loss is reported to exit the body from a person’s head.
- For really cold days, temperature discomfort to the face can be avoided if using a scarf or ski mask that protects the nose, cheeks, mouth, chin and neck. These type of weather days are less common during March and April, but could be present.
Boots or Shoes
- Boots/Shoes. Your rental ski boots will be used for skiing or snowboarding only. Ski boots are purposely very rigid boots, lacking a flexible sole, and not exactly comfortable to walk far with. Chances are when you are not skiing, a person will not want to wear ski boots for extended walks. When not skiing during your stay- any form of warm and somewhat moisture proof boots, leather shoes, or even sneakers can be worn. We recommend any of these with a traction type sole. Smooth soled dress shoes or dress boots lack traction on iced or slick surfaces. High heel shoes or boots are not as effective as flat soles in regards to stability. Higher top shoes or boots may allow less snow in the shoe when walking through deep freshly fallen snow. Canvas, low-cut, open toed, sandal-like or slip-on shoes are not advisable due to their lack of protection against moisture and cold temperature.
Sunglasses or Goggles
- Sunglasses or tinted ski goggles for eye protection are essential! Having these with UV protection is even better since there is 50% more UV at 10,000 feet elevations than at sea level. The sun’s glare off the snow will burn unprotected eyes. Sunglasses or goggles also protect eyes from snow, wind and even frostbite. Ski goggles with anti-fog lens are desired by many, and can be found online. Persons using sunglasses may desire to have a cord attached, to prevent loss during fall.
Lips, ears, nose and any exposed skin
- This suggestion isn’t about clothing, but about protection. As with eye protection, any exposed skin (ears, lips, nose, anything uncovered) needs protection from the sun! Persons who normally burn, will burn because of the increased UV at the high elevation, and reflection of the sun from the snow. Use maximum SPF rated lotions, sprays, gels as sunscreen or sunblock.
Clothing final thoughts:
- While spring months are warmer when compared to January and February, it can still be really cold in Winter Park, even in March and April. So plan for the worst, and bring enough, or the proper type of clothing that will keep you warm and comfortable.
- Don’t worry about making a fashion statement when skiing Winter Park! Bring and wear any type of clothing we are suggesting here, regardless of style. As a matter of fact, local skiers dress in whatever makes them comfortable. Matching ski clothing components, expensive ski suits and costly name brand apparel are NOT the norm.
- We suggest not spending money for ski clothing when a person could probably borrow everything needed, or find at a 2nd hand store. If needed, look online for items that cannot be found elsewhere. Waterproof athletic pants can be found online for $15. Waterproof insulated ski pants $20-$30. Ski gloves start at $15. Ski goggles start at $10.
- It is advisable to dress in layers, wearing as many undergarments or outer garments as you need (that can be removed as needed), as long as you have a moisture repellent outer shell at all times to keep you and your under garments from getting wet.
- Absolutely bring warm gloves, head/ear protection for non-skiers, and eye protection. As a matter of fact, you will not be allowed to enter ski lessons without gloves or mittens, or not wearing a helmet or hat/scarf for head protection.
- If your group will be receiving ski rental equipment the evening prior to skiing/lessons, be sure and wear the same thickness of socks then, that will be worn the next day skiing, for proper boot fit.
- There is no need to bring any slim fitting outer shell pants or jeans for skiing, especially if they cannot be raised up to almost your knee. They cannot be worn inside your boots for comfort reasons! Bring lower body outer garments that will fit outside of the boots (about the size of a gallon container).
- Your group’s planned schedule will most likely not allow any time for you to purchase any type of clothing or accessories after your arrival, and prior to the scheduled rentals/beginner lessons! It is imperative to gather these at home and bring with you, rather than trying to purchase these after you arrive. Plus, it will be so much more economical to purchase these at a local, less expensive discount retailer, or even online.
Please don’t be that person to arrive without adequate clothing (thin, or non-water repellent cotton sweat pants or jeans, usually with no insulating under garments), gloves, and/or eye protection. Without these, you will not want to recreate with any activity. Due to the time it takes to go and purchase these items (at 2-3 x times the normal price)- you will probably be forced to take lessons with another group, or even on another day. Trying to purchase items you failed to bring for the trip is a hassle you will definitely NOT want to experience on your first ski day in Winter Park!
- For a visual summary of the clothing, accessories and other items to be bring to Winter Park, as discussed above, view this PDF.