Suggested Cross-Country Ski Clothing

Since some of you may be new to cross-country skiing, I have put together a list of suggested apparel that is helpful to have in your “Clothes Bag”. While not all items are “essential” you will find your comfort level in participating in a winter sport is greatly enhanced by dressing appropriately for the conditions. There is an old Finnish saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”


  • Long underwear top and bottom – this should be of a synthetic material that wicks perspiration. This is the garment that should always be your first layer, not cotton t-shirts! There are many brands on the market that can cost upwards of $30 a piece. You can get this stuff at a MUCH reduced cost at a store like TJ Max or an online Sierra Trading If you only own one pair, a medium weight is probably the most versatile.
  • Socks of a wool/synthetic blend – the higher the wool factor, the warmer the sock will be. A synthetic liner sock underneath that wicks moisture will keep your feet drier and thus warmer. Do not wear your cotton gym socks! Two pair of thinner socks is preferable to 1 pair of thick ones, provided your boots allow for it.
  • Gloves/mittens – A glove or mitten that is designed for cross-country skiing (one with a leather or synthetic leather palm/grip) is the most appropriate. If your tendency is to have cold hands in winter, a mitten should be used for under 20 degrees. Open weave Rag wool or little stretchy gloves are not acceptable.
  • Ski Hat – A ski hat is essential. If it does not cover your ears, consider a Ski Buff under the hat that will cover the neck, carotids, and ears (they can be pulled down when not needed). Hats regulate your core temperature. You can put it on to increase or maintain your core temp or remove it to cool your core temp. Wearing a Headband only is not acceptable unless it is over 25 degrees and not windy.

If your core and extremities are dry and warm, you will find that Nordic skiing in the cold is a pleasure rather than a pain.


  • Tights or sweat pants that are synthetic are less likely to get wet when you fall down –YOU WILL FALL!
  • Nylon Wind Pants will protect your tights or sweat pants and give you another layer for warmth
  • Jackets and/or vests – Just remember these should not be too heavy – you warm up very quickly when you cross-county ski (ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU GO FAST!)
  • Wind Briefs (if you’re male) – Ask your coaches why
  • Sun Glasses – 100% UV Protection – the reflection on a sunny day on snow is just as damaging to your eyes as the summer sun. And they make you look COOL!
  • Water Bottle – Don’t go anywhere without it – Hydration is just as crucial in winter as in summer
  • Bring dry clothes and socks to put on after practice. YOU WILL SWEAT DURING THE WORKOUT! Changing into a dry top and socks will make you feel good!

Suggestions to Peak Nordic Skiers for Dressing Appropriately for Nordic Skiing

  • All Temperatures – A base layer of a wicking long underwear top with long sleeves and a pair of wicking long underwear bottoms or tights (NO cotton). One ALWAYS starts with a BASE layer!
  • 25-30+ degrees – Your base layer plus your Peak Nordic Jacket & Wind Pants or tights.
    gloves, headbands if sunny – nightime and/or clouds/snow/rain wear a ski hat.
  • 15-25 degrees – Your base layer plus what is comfortable for your individual body. Some athletes need an addition of a vest or additional top & bottom others may not. Learn what works for you! Always wear a hat at these temperatures. Gloves or mittens depending on your own personal preference.
  • 0 to 15 degrees – Your base layer, plus a secondary layer of a fleece top or vests and tights/sweat pants over the long underwear, and the third layer is your Peak Nordic Jacket & your Wind Pants. Ski buff/ear muffs/balaclava and hat. Mittens would be highly suggested. Face Cream for wind & cold protection (suggest “Warm Skin”).

High Winter Winds will affect your choices at all the different temperatures as will skiing in sunshine versus skiing at night (no radiant heat from the sun)!

Performance drops when core temperature drops – this is from the book “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein, “Small bodies have a larger skin surface area compared with the volume of their body. The greater one’s surface area compared to volume, the more quickly the body unloads heat. (Hence, short skinny people get cold more easily than tall, hefty people).” Even a small drop in core temperature affects our muscles and thus performance. Please have your athletes read this so they are not arguing with you about appropriate dress.

Thanks to Rachel Kresse from the Wausau Night Gliders for above info.


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