I have already written quite a long article on clothing for cross country skiing but I thought it would be useful to post some of the tricks that the guides at Venabu use to be comfortable while cross country skiing.
The buff balaclava
In the photo above Wenche is modelling version 1 (see below) of the buff balaclava. This is a really useful trick on bitterly cold or windy days.
Version 1. See the photos above and below. Put your buff around your neck. Pull the back of your buff up over the back of your head and over the crown of your head, so the front of your buff sits under your chin. Then put your hat on over the buff and hey presto. I have seen Wenche then add a second buff around her neck to tuck down into her jacket. Yep, looks a little reminiscent of a medieval knight but it works ☺
Version 2. See the photo below. Put your buff around your neck then put on your hat. Again, pull the buff up over your head, and hat, and fold the front of the buff under your chin. Similar to the first way but this time the buff is outside your hat. I prefer this version because once I’m moving I tend to warm up quite quickly. Version 2 allows me to put the buff down round my neck and not overheat - all with with minimal 'faff', see below.
I like to use a thin buff – just like our Venabu branded ones ☺ because the thinner jersey-knit fabric is super-flexible and ‘moulds’ to the shape of my head. It’s this that keeps me cosy and I don't over heat.
I also find that when I wear the buff balaclava my nose stays warm - without covering my nose and mouth. Wearing a buff or scarf over your mouth tends to get the buff/scarf wet = chilly, brr.
Minimising 'faff', 'faffing' or even 'faffage' ☺ is one of the key top tips for staying comfortable when exercising outdoors. In my experience if it’s easy for you to regulate your temperature without stopping or taking your rucsac off every time you are more likely to make small, timely adjustments and so stay comfortable. Using ‘pit zips’ in a shell jacket is another example of making quick, faff-free adjustments.
Sunglasses worn over the hat or headband
Wearing sunglasses with the arms over the outside of your hat or headband can help reduce the likelihood of the glasses fogging up. See the photo below of our Become a Better Skier group from March 2019. Clearly this won’t be good for your glasses if your hat or headband is very thick but over a sporty cross country ski hat it should be fine. This may be a look that you’re familiar with and in my experience it’s practical and works, rather than just being an affectation or ‘too cool for school’.
Having the glasses’ arms a little away from the side of your head helps air to circulate rather than if you are ‘sealed in’ with a hat pulled down over the forehead, close to the sides of the face and over the glasses’ arms. If your hat/headband is thick and knitted it may be possible to push the arms of the glasses through the knit without damaging anything. Worth experimenting with, in private, at home?
Choosing tops/jackets with hoods
Hooded jackets are a firm favourite of mine, even as an underlayer. They zip up under the chin, adding warmth that way. If the wind picks up or it’s a bit chilly when starting out, but you’re likely to warm up, a hood can then be pulled up or down giving faff-free temperature regulation.
Carrying enough pairs of gloves or mitts
This was a top tip shared years ago in a lecture at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland and proved revolutionary as someone who gets cold hands. The guides working at ‘The Lodge’ are experts and know a thing or two about keeping warm in tricky winter conditions.
They suggested taking one, two or even three spare pairs of gloves or mitts (carried in a dry bag in your rucsac) out onto the hill. Working in damp, cold Cairngorm weather is different from cross country skiing in Norway but the principle is the same.
On ski tours here at Venabu I carry a spare warm pair of mitts or gloves, just in case. On day long tours like our Ski Safari off track days I’ll take an ‘uphill’ or morning pair and a second pair to change into on top of the mountain after the harder work or at lunchtime, as I know the first pair are likely to be damp. I still have the back up warm pair with me, just in case.
Carrying a ‘belay’ jacket – synthetic or down?
As a spare warm layer for lunches, longer snack stops or in case of emergency a ‘belay’ jacket works really well. The term ‘belay jacket’ comes from climbing. During a long climb each climber will spend some time at a ‘belay’, or stopping point, while their partner is climbing. In winter this can be chilly/unbelievably cold! The solution is to put on a jacket that goes over everything else that you are wearing, even a shell jacket. This can then be taken off and stuffed away when it’s your turn to move again. It is easy, less faff and you don’t lose any heat by taking the outer shell layer on and off to wear the jacket underneath.
In the UK or damp conditions it may be best if this belay jacket is synthetic so it still insulates even when wet/damp. I’ve found a synthetic belay jacket to be really useful when hillwalking in the UK. If it’s cold, say on the tops, I’ve worn the jacket over my outer shell, even in rain, and it’s kept me toasty warm.
In reliably dry, snowy conditions a down jacket does the job and weight-for-weight will be warmer but if it’s going to get damp then down won't insulate effectively. So a down jacket may be the best spare layer for cross country skiing in Norway during January but a good synthetic jacket may have more cross over value if you are here in warmer weather and also get out into the hills in the UK or trek in the Alps in the summer.
If you have any questions or comments I'll be happy to hear from you: