There’s cold, and then there’s East Coast cold. Fingers numb before you get to the lift, every speck of skin uncovered instantly frostbitten, cold right down to the bone cold. For folks who have never skied the East, this is what is known as “damp cold.” It is different than West Coast and Rocky Mountain cold, which is dry and, often, sunshiny. Yes, there is a difference between 30 below in Colorado, and 30 below (with a side of 30-mile-per-hour winds blowing graupel sideways) in New England. Yankees—and Eastern skiers—didn’t earn their stoic, tougher-than-nails reputation for nothing. We have feelings, too; it’s just that you can’t see them through our facemasks. Here, a guide to staying warm on the slopes—East Coast style.
1. Double Up to Double Down
Layering doesn’t have to mean well-thought-out tiers of fancy polypro. It’s effing cold out there—just throw on whatever you have. That old wool sweater you bought in high school from J. Crew? Throw it on. Have two down coats? Wear ’em both. Don’t really have proper ski gear? Grab your Patriots pull-over Starter jacket AND your Red Sox one, and layer them up. For good measure, pull your Bruins jersey over the top.
2. Go for the Boot Cut
It’s really never advisable to ski in denim, but if you insist, at least choose the boot cut style. Shoving skinny jeans into your ski boots is not going to be comfortable. And wear your fat jeans on ski days. You’re gonna want at least one pair of fleece tights under there. But really, for the price of your Calvin Kleins, you can buy a pair of at least moderately water-resistant, insulated ski pants. And if you just wanna look like you’re wearing jeans, they make real ski pants that look like denim but wear like, well, ski pants.
3. Hot Buns or Bust
Not much will ruin your ski day like a cold keister. Keep that booty warm (and dry) with the classic Hot Buns. These look equally ridiculous whether you throw them over denim, cheap nylon, or high-tech/wicking/waterproof/bulletproof/overpriced ski pants. Who cares? You’ll be doing hot laps while your Hot Buns-less buddies are taking cocoa breaks.
4. If You Can’t “Duck” It…
Duct tape (aka Duck Tape) is essential to the Eastern skier’s pack. (Really, it should be carried by everyone, everywhere.) Have a hole in those 20-year-old leather ski gloves? Throw some Duck Tape on it. Tear in your puffy coat allowing those insulating feathers to float free? Duck it. Duck Tape, of course, now comes in all kinds of fancy colors and designs. The classic silver-gray will get the job done just fine, thank you very much. And, yes, this stuff works on jeans—and Starter jackets.
5. Toe Warmers by the Case
Santa Claus brings a case of toe warmers to my house every year. Sometimes they last until February. Use them every day. Really. Sometimes you’ll need to switch out your toe warmers at lunchtime. Sometimes you’ll want to keep them adhered to your socks for après. Some fancy skiers go for the battery-pack boot heaters, but those involve messing with foot beds—and the gear budget. On really cold days, you can double up: one toe warmer under the toes, one on top.
6. The Nose Knows
Frostbite can really put a crimp in your ski day. Keep your proboscis covered with a snazzy nose guard. Forget the bank-robber-esque full-face masks. The modern skier can go for the Wizard Warmer cover, which tucks into your goggles or the Bekogear, whose website includes directions on how to measure for a custom fit. At the very least, invest in one of those long, thin neckies that won’t fog your goggles when you pull it all the way over your nose.
7. Bag (Balm) It
There’s an Austrian ski instructor at my home hill who swears she’s survived the New England winters—more than a half century of them—thanks in large part to Bag Balm. Screw neck gaiters, Maggie smears a layer of Bag Balm—a Vermont invention, originally intended to soothe the chafed udders of dairy cows—over her face every day to protect against the sun and the wind. On really cold days, she lathers on two layers.
8. Fill the Gap
There’s nothing worse—fashionistically speaking or from a warmth standpoint—than a Joey Gap. This may be known in more western regions as a Gaper Gap. These days, the kids probably call it a Jerry Gap. Whatever. Just make sure your goggles fit your helmet properly, or you’re going to get a wicked ice cream headache from The Gap. If you don’t wear a helmet, for Joey’s sake, get the top of your goggles over the bottom of your hat.