First of all you need a good ski suit that protects your body from the cold and water. A normal down jacket or waterproof trousers are not enough: in fact, waterproofness in "city" clothing is not completely guaranteed while technical ski equipment is treated to be completely water-repellent and resistant in the event of falls or chafing . At the same time, the fabrics used are breathable, thanks to microporous membranes or other intermediate layers specifically designed so that sweat can escape, keeping the skin dry. As for the look, over time one-piece ski suits have been abandoned in favor of two-piece suits, which are more comfortable and functional. In the latter case the trousers, with belt at the waist or dungarees, are often elasticated to allow better mobility. Furthermore, they must not be too long and must fit over the boots so that the elastic at the bottom prevents snow from entering. Compared to the skier, who prefers more close-fitting and ergonomic clothing, the snowboarder uses large trousers and jackets, especially useful in the so-called soft situations, those of aerial jumps, fresh snow or acrobatics on the ramp. The clothing to wear under the suit is equally important. A good rule to follow is to dress in layers: temperatures at high altitude can fluctuate greatly and it is good to have the possibility of removing or adding a garment in the event of temperature changes. We recommend microfibre underwear which, compared to cotton, is warmer, more comfortable and dries more easily. Even to keep the lower limbs warm, solutions in technical fabric are now preferred to old wool tights. However, the latter remain a valid alternative to which warm socks with reinforced gussets and breathable fabric should always be added. To protect the torso, a microfiber fleece is usually used, which is light but at the same time effective in maintaining body temperature.
Even more important than a good ski suit are quality boots. It is impossible to ski with boots that are uncomfortable or not warm enough, which is why they must be chosen with extreme care, in specialized shops and with qualified personnel. As for the overall structure of the boot, this is usually made up of metal alloys and synthetic padding materials. The cuff, the rear part, inclined forward, can be more or less flexible. There is also a flexibility regulator which varies the inclination of the cuff, depending on whether you want to ski with the knees more bent or less bent: in the first case the muscular effort is greater but it is also easier to set the start of the curve. The element that wraps the foot is called the shell and is closed, like the cuff, by special closing levers. The liner and footbed are positioned inside, responsible for the comfort and warmth of the boot: for this reason, cutting-edge materials are used that thermally insulate the foot and prevent painful pressure points. The sole, on the other hand, the external part underneath, has standardized measurements in relation to the bindings, which is why it is important to monitor the state of wear to prevent the binding from being inaccurate and therefore dangerous. An important piece of advice: when choosing in the shop, the test must be carried out with the same socks that will be used on the track. It is in fact essential that the boots fit perfectly: a boot that is too large responds imprecisely to the impulses of the leg and does not adequately protect the ankle from possible trauma. Even those who suffer from disorders such as varus (the predisposition of the knees towards the outside) or valgus (the predisposition towards the inside) can enjoy the pleasures of skiing; the right boot not only makes sporting activity pleasant and safe but can also help correct posture defects. If you then want to bring comfortable footwear with you, to wear at the refuge after a tiring day of downhill skiing, it is better to opt for sturdy snow boots, warm, water-repellent and, why not, with attractive models and colours, as the latest trends suggest.
Gloves, scarf and hat
And we come to the choice of accessories. Gloves are anything but superfluous and not just for keeping your hands warm: they, in fact, guarantee a good grip on the poles and protect your hands in case of falls. Resting a bare hand on a sheet of ice or, worse, on the sharp edge of the ski is an experience to be avoided. Modern ski gloves are made with cutting-edge, waterproof and breathable materials. The best ones have a GORE-TEX® membrane, a fabric that keeps its performance intact even after many washes. Furthermore, reinforcements on the palm and closing laces on the wrists are useful to prevent the loss of the glove or the entry of snow in the event of a fall. The padding is usually wadding and the lining is fleece. As for the models, you can opt for the mittens (the glove with only the free thumb and the other four fingers wrapped in a single body) or for the five-finger models. The former are decidedly warmer but since their structure prevents the movements of the fingers, it is advisable to wear a thin pair of other gloves under them, in case you have to remove the mittens to handle something. The scarf is a non-essential garment and skiers increasingly avoid wearing it, leaving the task of warming the neck to jackets and fleeces. Of course, it is not an easy element to manage: there is the risk of losing it or that it flutters before the eyes or that it constantly needs to be rearranged. An alternative, for those sensitive to the cold who don't want to give up additional coverage, could be tubular scarves, which are impossible to lose! Head protection is also essential. Those who use a helmet (see separate description) already have their head protected by the warm padding inside, but those who don't use one should opt, in the case of particularly harsh climate, for a wool cap with earflaps or a balaclava.
The ski helmet is an element of protection, optional for adults and mandatory, since 2005, for children under 14 years of age. First of all, it protects the head in the event of a fall or collision: to be sure you are wearing a safe and efficient product, however, you must check the presence of the EN 1077 mark and the CE acronym. Secondly, it guarantees perfect thermal insulation. This can actually also be an inconvenience on the hottest days, so it is useful for the helmet to be equipped with a good ventilation system to avoid excessive sweating. The structure of the helmet is composed of an external shell that is resistant to breakage and abrasion but at the same time light and thin. It contains ventilation openings to counteract sweating and an additional protective casing inside. The latter can be glued to the external layer or welded using IN-MOLD technology: this latter technique, now adopted by many brands, guarantees greater safety and stability in the event of even violent impacts. The internal padding can instead be made of fur or other synthetic materials. An important element is the closure buckle: it is essential that it does not open in the event of a fall but that it can be easily unfastened if necessary. Many helmets also have two ear flaps, which protect against lateral impacts without preventing or making neck mobility difficult. For younger people or for those who always need to be available, there are also earmuffs with integrated Bluetooth technology, to listen to music or receive phone calls on the slopes. In the rear part of the helmet there is another adjustment system, to tighten or loosen it in width. It is important that the helmet fits perfectly on the head; a test to perform is to shake your head slightly and check that it does not move. This adjustment system is also useful if you want to wear a balaclava or a cap under the helmet or, as happens with young skiers, for the natural growth of the body.
Skiing without a helmet and gloves can be dangerous. But skiing without glasses is almost impossible. The glasses, and their technical variant, the mask, in fact protect the eyes from the freezing wind, snow and strong glare from the sun which, otherwise, would blur the view making the descent very dangerous. Even in the case of this accessory, purchasing a cheap, poor quality product is absolutely not recommended; it could be more harmful than helpful. As for the sunglasses, they are characterized by convex polycarbonate lenses, to ensure greater lateral protection, and are shatterproof. Breaking a lens in the event of a fall could cause irreversible damage, hence the advice to opt for quality glasses even when faced with a higher expense. In addition to being unbreakable, the lenses must be resistant to abrasion to prevent scratches from making the view unclear. Protection from ultraviolet rays is also important. It is essential to keep in mind that the sun's rays, reflected by the snow, increase their intensity by up to 90%, an effect that not only disturbs perception but can also cause serious damage to the retina. To adapt to different weather conditions, ski goggles can have polarized filters that counteract glare, photochromic lenses that vary protection depending on the brightness or even real interchangeable lenses to be used according to needs. Speaking of frames, this is preferably made of light plastic, with adjustable temples that make a perfect fit behind the ear. The mask is a more stable and enveloping protection, especially useful for snowboarders and for those who engage in particularly demanding or acrobatic descents. As with glasses, the unbreakability and quality of the lenses are fundamental. A problem that can arise with the mask is that of fogging: it is therefore advisable to check whether the product has a ventilation system or an anti-fog coating. Otherwise it is also possible to use special anti-fog sprays which limit the problem.
Where and what to buy
As reiterated several times, it is essential, when skiing, to purchase excellent quality clothing and equipment. It is an investment to take into account if you want to dedicate yourself to this sport, which is fun and satisfying but also quite risky. Those who don't want to spend an excessive amount and don't practice skiing at a high level can opt for clothing brands that give all the guarantees of safety and comfort mentioned at affordable prices. For example, Colmar products, a historic Italian production company active since 1923, today an established brand in the sportswear sector. Another high quality Italian brand is Dubin which combines the search for cutting-edge materials and solutions with the aesthetic care of the garments. Even Dainese , originally a manufacturer of motorcycle clothing, has launched itself into the ski clothing market a few years ago, with excellent results and great customer satisfaction. There are also other brands that are quite expensive but are also particularly appreciated by high-level skiers:
- Spyder , a Canadian production company, one of the largest and most established in the world, whose products are distributed in Italy by Gitexpoint;
- Phenix , a Japanese company founded in the 1950s, which has always been at the forefront in the study of innovative technical materials;
- Goldwin , another Japanese company, distributed in Europe by Goldwin Europe which has its headquarters in Milan;
- Vuarnet , historic French company, partner of the Italian Winter Sports Federation.
One last piece of advice: it is better to always buy the products in store. Here the specialized staff can recommend the lines and models most suitable for you, give you advice on use, and resolve any doubts you may still have. Furthermore, the quality and originality of the products is guaranteed. The same cannot be said about purchasing on the Internet, via e-commerce sites such as eBay and similar. Of course, a stroke of luck or an advantageous opportunity can happen but it is also easy to come across counterfeit or faulty items.
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