Weather at Breckenridge Ski Resort can change in any given hour, and in any given month. So for a successful (and comfortable) day on the mountain, it’s important to know how to dress.
Rule No. 1: Dress for wind
Seems warm enough outside your condo? Well, that may or may not be the case at the top of the peaks. Temperature drops with elevation, and we’re talking a nearly 3,400 vertical change in Breckenridge, but more importantly, wind can really rip above treeline (or, anywhere, really). Wind chill is a huge factor at high elevation; it can turn a pleasant day — or a bearable single-digit temperature — into a not-so-pleasant experience.
The good news: You can outsmart the wind. Nearly any good ski jacket will do, though more technical jackets (and fleeces with windstopper) are best. Otherwise, wind blows through outwear, right to the warm layer of air next to your skin, and there goes your comfy little microclimate.
And don’t forget about your face. Face and neck masks like Phunkshun are fashionable (I love the Colorado flag one), breathable, moisture wicking, anti-microbial and UV-protectant.
Rule No. 2: Dress for cold
Breckenridge can get pretty brisk, especially when you add in a wind-chill factor. The solution: Lots of layers — specific layers.
I, personally, really gear up on powder days when single-digits rule; I wear a small neoprene face mask under my larger Phunkshun (and, yes, I’ve been known to wear an old-school fleece neck gator over all of that so it gets wet from blowing snow, and I keep the other warm, fairly dry fabric against my skin. Yes, I can still breathe, albeit through my mouth).
It’s best to use technical fabric when it comes to base layers, as well. I used to wear a polypro shirt and a silk or wool-blend layer on my lower body. But last year I found what I consider to be the ultimate: Virus Action Sport Performance Wear. Virus’ “Heat Trap” technology, based on material and yarn construction, literally increases surface temperatures by 10 degrees. So, as your body works, you feel the heat. Its bioceramic technology is based on bands applied to surgeons during operations to reduce fatigue, and Virus uses it to counteract fatigue as well. Virus is well worth the money if you want to stay warm.
Wool will also help, though many people find it itchy against the skin, so if you use it, I suggest wearing it as a second or third layer.
Whatever you do, do NOT wear cotton as a first layer. Cotton doesn’t breathe, and it will trap sweat and other moisture and make you feel chilled to the bone. It’s especially dangerous if you plan to go inside (which will heat you up) and return to wintery weather. Brrrr.
All of the above applies to socks. If you buy the right fabric, ONE pair will do. I’ve watched plenty of parents double up on socks when dressing their kids. One word: Don’t. The socks end up bunching up and creating sore spots when scrunched in boots. And, when it comes to mittens (which are warmer than gloves), again, don’t go cutesy cotton with kids. Buy high-quality, water-repellant mittens or gloves; kids like to play in snow, and the first things that contact the snow are their hands.
If your budget allows and, especially you ski or ride quite a bit, invest in a pair of Hotronic boot heaters. There’s nothing worse than cold toes, and these rechargeable battery-operated babies will keep you toasty.
Rule No. 3: Dress for sun
No, raccoon eyes aren’t in, like they were in the 1970s. Wear sunscreen. And keep reapplying it.
In our high and dry elevation, don’t use water-based sunscreens, as they will evaporate right off. Go for the greasy stuff.
Goggles, or at least sunglasses, are a must for Breckenridge’s bright-snow conditions. There’s a serious condition called snow-blindness. It won’t blind you for life, but it’ll hurt for days, so protect your eyes with UV lenses.
Rule No. 4: Protect your head
It’s now not only smart, but also “cool” to ski and ride with a helmet. Use one. Head injuries are serious. A bonk to the head, and you might not be able to read or write for quite awhile, or handle loud places, like restaurants, movie theaters, airports … pretty much anywhere public.
Rule No. 5: Layer up for spring skiing and riding
See Rule No. 1. Yes, it may feel balmy outside your door, but that may not be the case on the mountain — or, conversely, it may get downright warm by mid-day. So dress in layers.
I still like to wear a light facemask/neck gator in the Spring, just for sun and any wind protection. If I don’t need it, it fits easily into my pocket.
Choose light layers that you can shed and stash in a corner, backpack or locker. If you wear a fleece, go for something with windstopper or similar technology in case the wind starts to blow.
Many helmets come with vents, so if you’re prone to heating up, look for that option when you make your purchase.
My mom has an old Peanuts drinking glass from the 1970s that shows Lucy comfortably camping with all her bells and whistles. The caption reads: There’s no excuse for not being properly prepared. I agree.
Keep extra layers in your car (including hand warmers). If it’s spring, dress like you’re going to shed layers — and plan ahead where to ditch the extra layers, whether that’s in your car, your backpack, or a corner of the lodge.
Proper clothing makes all the difference. It makes a 5-degree, blowing, snowy day just fine, and a spring, 50-degree day absolutely blissful.