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Staying warm on those cold slopes

Nonskiers have been known to wonder whether skiers actually stay warm or merely suffer cold in silence for the privilege of sliding around in subfreezing temperatures.

The truth is that a wisely dressed skier can feel warmer than someone sitting in a 66-degree room. The key is in the dressing.

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Expensive skiwear is not really essential, although it can help. What is necessary is the right selection of fibers applied in layers. In the final analysis, trapped air deters heat loss, and layering clothes is a way to trap air. Layering also allows you to peel down as you warm up, thereby reducing perspiration, which can be a major factor in heat loss. Putting back on outer garments when you rest helps to keep a steady body temperature.

Layer No. 1 should be long underwear, preferably either wool or the recently developed polypropylene. Both tend to draw perspiration away from the skin. Polypropylene is being hailed for its comfort and effectiveness, and wool is one of the best natural insulators (ask any sheep).

A turtleneck jersey makes a fine second layer. I prefer the feel of a natural fiber like cotton, but synthetic blends are popular. Wool pants are best for keeping legs warm.

Skiwear is water resistant, but someone without ski pants could use a waterproofing spray or get a pair of warm-up pants. Jeans and gaiters, which are de rigueur for teen-agers, won't work if it's very cold or if you fall down a lot.

A wool sweater topped by a water-resistant shell or windbreaker should finish the job unless it's really cold. Then an insulated vest may be needed. A wool hat and clean wool socks are essential accessories. So are well-insulated, waterproof gloves or mittens. We'll discuss various insulators in another column.

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