Good winter gear is going make the difference between having a great day on the slopes or have a miserable one. Weather on Whistler Blackcomb changes by the minute so we have put a little guide together to help you make the right decision when it comes to your winter gear. We are going to highlight some key local gear tips about water proofing, layering and goggles. We will also give you some insight as to where to get the best gear for the best price.
Staying dry is extremely important if you want to keep warm while you are on the mountain. There are days when it might be snowing at the top but raining at the bottom. These tend to be great days on the hill as the pow is fresh and tourists tend to stay in their hotel rooms. The problem is that if you gear gets soaked before you make it to the top, you are going to wish you stayed home as well. We recommend taking a hard look at the water proofing rating before buying a jacket or pants. How they determine this rating is really complicated and to much to explain here but all you need to know is that rating is usually in millimeters. For Whistler we recommend a jacket in the 5,000 - 20,000 mm range. Anything less is not going to stay dry for long. A couple other things to look out for when buying a waterproof jacket are sealed seems. These are when the manufacturer has covered all the seems on the garment with water proof fabric and heat sealed it to the seems. This prevents water from getting though the stitching and inevitably getting you wet. The one name you need to remember in water proofing is Gore-Tex. This is the gold standard in waterproof outerwear and though there are many imitators, there is only one original.
Now that you have bought a really nice waterproof jacket, the last thing you want to do is wear a cotton sweater and t-shirt underneath it. That is kind of like spending a lot of money renovating your kitchen and then only eating McDonalds cheeseburgers in it. Having the right layers are probably just as important as having the right outerwear. The reason is that you will sweat and sweat a lot. We recommend spending the extra money for a ski/snowboard specific under layer. This will make sure that when you do sweat, you will at least stay warm. Our preference is merino wool as it works well in both cold and warm condition. Another thing to consider is that there might be as much as a 10-degree temperature difference between the top of the mountain and the bottom. We recommend having multiple layers with you every time you leave the house. The reason for this you can always take layers off and throw them in you backpack if you are feeling hot. Also different combinations might be better suited for different situations. For example, you go for a hike in the backcountry and you layer down for the hike up you might want something really warm like a down jacket for your lunch break at the top.
Being able to see is pretty important, especially in the mountains where one wrong turn can put you in a pretty sticky situation. Knowing what goggles to buy and how to care for them is essential for mountain life. There are two things that determine how well goggles will work on any given day. These are their ability to prevent light form getting in and their ability to prevent water from getting between the lenses. Clouds bring snow and we get a lot of snow here in Whistler. This means that most of the time, we don't get a lot of light. This is why you want to make sure that your goggles can deal with low light situations. A lot of companies have moved towards offering two lenses in with their goggles for that exact reason. In Whistler you will use your low light lenses 90% of the time and save those high light lenses for those sunny days in April (also when you can prefect your goggle tan). When shopping for goggles, ask about the lens that comes with it. For the most part, if the lens is really mirror like, it probably won't let a lot of light in. You also want to make sure that the goggles can deal with the moisture. Most goggle has some from of fog protection but this protection is only as good as the person who cares for it. To get the most out of your fog protection (because trust me, you are going to need it) you need to follow some simple steps. Make sure to dry you goggle out each night. That means taking them out of the case and exposing them to room temperature fresh air. Try to make sure to keep them safe until you go to use them. Sure, walking though the village with your goggle on you head looks cool but not being able to see your line isn't. Keep them in their case and in you jacket until you are getting on the gondola. Finally, do not touch the inside lens. Don't do it! This will strip off the water resistant membrane and you will loose all your defogging ability.
WHERE TO BUY YOUR GEAR:
Arc’teryx Store Whistler - $$$$ - Best for waterproof outerwear
Can-Ski - $$ (Season pass holders get a discount)
Comor - $$$
Patagonia Store Whistler - $$$$
Whistler Mountain Stores - $$$ (Season pass holders get a discount)
We hope this guide can help you prepare for winter in Whistler by picking up the right gear. If you have any questions or think we should add anything feel free to comment below.