Versatile mid-layers are growing increasingly popular. When worn properly, underneath a ski shell or puffy, or as a stand-alone while touring, they keep you warm and vent heat as you head for your next run. Fortunately, there are many options that can wick away sweat (synthetic fibers as well as wool) while weighing practically nothing. We all know there is nothing worse than that heavy and sweaty feeling while shredding cold smoke. Below are a couple options that highlight some of the many options on the market.
The Ortles Hybrid TWC Jacket blends tough Durastretch fabric with the company's proprietary TirolWool Celliant, a thermoregulating property of burly Tyrollean sheep that graze in the Alps. Its ability to keep me warm yet not too hot while skinning was much appreciated last week when the Wasatch received its first snow. It's designed for stop-and-go activities, i.e. ski touring, and is also wind- and water-resistant. It can be easily worn as a light jacket when things get toasty just like they did last week. During the morning cold, I skinned with relatively little sweat, and as the day wore on, I opted to use it as a light jacket given the hood and multitude of pockets. Its sleek lightweight nature has earned a place in my arsenal for this winter when headed out for long days, particularly given its versatility and packability.
Norrona's Lofoten Alpha Raw Hooded Jacket is a different beast than the Ortles. The folks from Scandinavia are clear to point out it is a true mid-layer, since it offers no rain, snow, or wind protection. What it does offer is an unreal amount of warmth to weight ratio. The waffle-like Polartec Alpha 120 fabric is air light and lofty warm (like a puffy) yet can effectively dump heat. It's a bit of a unicorn in that the synthetic fabric is woven in an open construction, meaning the airflow draws moisture away from the body. While touring in sunny 30-degree temperatures, I found myself warm yet never turning the corner into sweaty. If your ski resort requires some hiking and traversing to the goods, then this should be under your hardshell. Likewise, it's ideal for cold days on the skin track for speedy skinners, or any day for those who tour at a moderate pace—since this layer will dump heat on the up and retain it as you toss on your hard shell. It's also available in women's.
I love insulated flannels. Perhaps it's the non-tech look that appeals to me; I can go shred laps at the ski area with it tucked under my snow bibs and shell, then come home, take off my shell, and snow-blow the driveway or walk the dog without ever changing. I'm never worried about ruining it, and I can wear it wherever the day takes me. The Fort Point Insulated Flannel from The North Face is reversible, giving the option of plaid or a solid color, and has snap buttons as well as a collar (classing it up for the après scene). It also has multiple pockets—differentiating it from the traditional hunter-style insulated flannel, including two hand pockets for when you're walking the dog with a brew and need to keep your other hand warm.