Greet Morosko with a Smile
Steely gray eyes peer through frosty windowpanes. Icy fingers tickle ears and noses with glacial glee. A white cape is spread across the land and his coming is announced by blustery blasts.
In a Russian fairy tale, Morosko (Old Man Winter) bestows great gifts on the daughter of a peasant left in the woods because she welcomed him with open arms. You too might welcome our arctic visitor and enjoy the wonderful bounty of winter by first being prepared.
Preparing to enjoy the winter weather begins with having the right clothing for your activity. One of the most important concepts to understand for being outside during the winter is layering your clothing.
Layering will allow you to adapt to our quickly changing weather. As anyone who has lived in the mountains for a period of time will tell you, no matter what season you’re in, there’s always a chance that you could experience any one of the other three seasons...or all of them... in one day.
Here’s what you’ll need. Your base layer should be some sort of thermal underwear. The choice is up to you on just how heavy it needs to be based upon your body chemistry, the amount of activity you will be participating in, and the projected weather conditions. Silk, polypropylene, or Acclimate are great choices for your base layer that will be closest to your body. They help wick away perspiration and encourage it to evaporate quickly. NEVER wear a cotton base layer. Cotton tends to hold perspiration, which will in turn rob your body of warmth. Plus, once it gets wet, it weighs a lot more. One other quick tip for the men, boxers are definitely a no-no with long underwear. Try a pair of silk briefs or just let the long underwear be the first layer on your skin.
Your middle layer is important because it can at times be an outer layer. Depending upon the conditions, you may choose to wear your favorite jeans and a light fleece top. But if conditions are going to be more severe, a heavier weight fleece or pile garment may be right for you. Fleece, often made from recycled soda bottles, comes in varying weights, which have different insulating properties. For instance, a 100 weight fleece, sometimes called micro fleece, has less insulating value than a 200 weight fleece that is heavier and fluffier. Because it doesn’t absorb water or odors and is very lightweight, fleece has become the material of choice for those that spend lots of time in the outdoors and is rapidly being embraced across society’s spectrum no matter how often folks are in the backwoods.
The outer layer is one that ensures you’ll stay warm ... and dry. Try a waterproof and breathable shell jacket and pants over your fleece middle layer. The breathability of the material helps with moisture control, letting perspiration escape, and the waterproof aspect keeps rain and snow from dampening your underneath layers.
Now that the trunk of your body is all taken care of, let’s take a look at the head, the fingers, and the toes. Layering is also important for your extremities. For feet and hands, look for a polypropylene liner - silk or merino wool are also good candidates for your primary layer. Then add to that a wool sock (you’ll probably prefer a merino wool because of the “itch factor” - with merino wool, their fibers are much longer and softer than regular wool, which means NO Scratching!) and a pair of gloves. Top off your gloves with a windproof and waterproof shell glove or mitten and your feet with a good-fitting waterproof boot.
For your head, try a fleece toboggan or “helmet” hat, which is close fitting and comes down a little farther on the head than a typical toboggan. On top of that, add a waterproof/windproof lined hat to shed the snow and rain. You might even want to invest in a neck gaiter, a cylinder-shaped fleece that will keep the cold drafts from blowing down the opening in your jacket to your underneath layers while keeping your chin warm.
By dressing for the weather, you can welcome Morosko and enjoy the beautiful gifts that winter brings to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the far reaching views or savor a hot cup of cocoa in town or carve a few turns on the slopes so wonderfully covered with snow.
For more information on layering, stop by and see us at Mast General Store. The folks here will be happy to answer your questions and help you choose just the right clothes to fit your activity.