If you plan to go cross-country skiing, you don't want to be caught unprepared. Much loved in the Nordic countries, in Canada but also in Italy, cross-country skiing is a real sport, not a quiet walk with friends. It's certainly relaxing, but it requires a certain amount of physical effort. Furthermore, cross-country skiing takes place in the mountains in the snow, therefore at temperatures that tend to hover around 0°. This means it's important to know how to dress for the sport, to avoid turning an unforgettable day into a potential nightmare!
Dress in layers: the rule for cross-country skiers
There are essentially two things to keep in mind when dressing for cross-country skiing: temperatures and exercise intensity.
As already mentioned, cross-country skiing tends to be done at low temperatures, but at the same time it's a high intensity sport, more so than regular skiing. Therefore, it's better not to use classic ski clothing, which is principally designed to retain heat and protect you from the wind. In cross-country skiing the speeds are lower and the physical effort greater. As a result it's better to wear a few layers and, most importantly, specialist as opposed to heavy garments to control the temperature and humidity of your skin. What if it's very cold? Add one middle layer but be careful not to overdo it, otherwise after a few minutes of exertion you'll be drenched in sweat (in which case you'll feel even colder).
Last, but not least, you have to bear in mind that practically your whole body is used in cross-country skiing. It's a regular and repeated movement, with your arms and legs flowing continuously with the classic and skating technique alike. Therefore, clothing shouldn't be heavy and hinder movement. On the contrary, you'll have to wear garments which are thermally efficient but also light and possibly stretchy.
What to wear underneath your ski jacket:
Against this background, we might summarise everything by affirming the three layer rule. The first layer, the one in contact with the skin, must be thermal underwear. Materials such as cotton and wool are soft and pleasant on the skin, but they have the disadvantage of absorbing and trapping moisture (such as sweat). They're great for a relaxing day, but if you go cross-country skiing you'll need to use different materials, such as polyester or polypropylene. These have multiple benefits such as their breathability, their ability to absorb moisture from the body and their elasticity, which is essential to support your every movement. An example is the 2nd Skin Tee Long Sleeve T-Shirt (also available for her) which, thanks to a special fabric called Dryarn®, has a different weave in different parts of the garment (on the main structure it has a dense weave, while on the chest and shoulder blades it has a honeycomb weave for better freedom of movement).
The second layer should be worn over the thermal t-shirt, to be worn if the temperatures are particularly cold. It's actually an intermediate layer, which has the task of acting as a shield between your body and the freezing air. A fleece, for example, can be a great choice.
Cross-country ski clothing for him
The second layer should be worn over the thermal t-shirt, to be worn if the temperatures are particularly cold. It's actually an intermediate layer, which has the task of acting as a shield between your body and the freezing air.
For men, a garment like the Apex Jersey is an excellent example: designed for the PyeongChang Olympics in partnership with the Italian national team, it's the upper part of the racing suit. On the chest, sleeves and sides it's made of a special fabric called Schoeller® which provides muscle support, while the back has a mesh panel to be breathable. In mild temperatures, it can also be used on its own, directly in contact with the skin. It's also used by our own Federico "Chicco" Pellegrino, a cross-country skiing world champion who was also recently victorious at the sprint race in Davos.
Finally you have the third layer, usually a jacket (provided it's breathable), which has the daunting task of protecting you from external agents such as wind, rain and snow.
Sportful has come up with the idea of combining these two layers in a single garment, the Squadra Jacket, a lightweight men's windproof jacket suitable for intense skiing. This jacket is equipped witf a Gore-Tex Infinium™ Windstopper® membrane on the front, sides, sleeves and shoulders and breathable fabric on the back.
However, if you're looking for a racing garment, we advise you to take a look at the Apex Vest, to be worn over a racing suit or the Apex Jersey when the weather is colder and windier, or as a second layer for top-level athletes.
The legs and neck must obviously also be covered: for the former we recommend the Squadra Tight, suitable for different levels of training intensity, or for those who want a specialist garment as opposed to an extreme one. Instead, you could protect your head from the cold by opting for a race hat such as the Squadra Hat, in stretch and lined fabric.
Cross-country ski clothing for her.
For her the choice is just as varied, and of course the rules already described apply: don't wear garments that store sweat and prioritise stretch fabrics that don't hinder movement. For example, if you're looking for maximum performance and plan to do cross-country skiing in mild temperatures, we recommend the Doro Apex Jersey thermal t-shirt which is actually the upper part of Sportful's most extreme racing suit. Designed in partnership with our very own championess ambassador Dorothea Weirer, it's the best choice for athletes who prefer two-piece suits. For the lower part, however, you have the Doro Apex Tights, the second part of the racing suit. However, if wind and sleet are predicted, you don't want to be caught unprepared, but the Doro Jacket will help you save the day.
Insulating fabrics combined with breathable ones make it perfect for both hard training sessions in very cold conditions and endurance activities in slightly more moderate conditions. It's the jacket to have if you can only choose one.
Finally, also bear in mind the head: with the Doro Headband stretch fabric headband, your forehead and ears (which are most sensitive to the cold) are protected.
You'll now realise that, to avoid ruining your day or risk catching cold, you must dress appropriately when doing cross-country skiing. Which doesn't mean covering up with layers illogically: with the correct specialist clothing you won't sweat, you'll be sheltered from the cold but at the same time you'll move freely and agilely. Is there anything better?