Ski & Bike Tech Talk

Cold Conditions, Let’s Review…

Moonie, Dustin, with a case of frosty-beard during the 2018 Seeley Classic. Photo: Kristy Harrison

By Judy Young.

When I get the pleasure of working on the downstairs floor, I help customers answer a lot of different questions, for example, where is Chris or Joel, can Chris or Joel talk, when will Chris and Joel be back (see, you thought I only knew about clothes!). But, the question I hear the most is, “how can I keep my hands and/or feet warm?” Everyone is different, every ski is different, and no one likes to be uncomfortable while trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery and ski tracks. Of course, choosing the right “system” to keep your hands and feet warm is totally subjective, but there are a few things to think about before embarking upon this process.

Some of us have no problem-just throw any glove or sock on and we’re good to go. But many of us, as we grow older, are more susceptible to colder temps, and the hands are feet are the first to suffer.

Choosing a glove

At New Moon, we basically group our gloves into lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight categories and have several weights in each category. Make sure you are using a good quality Nordic glove. In general, the more fingers you have together, the warmer your hands stay, so mittens are warmest, split mitts next, then gloves are the lightest. Material is also important. Gloves can have less insulation but be warmer because they feature a windproof layer on the back of the hand..

You want to make sure the glove isn’t too tight so that air can circulate around your fingers and create a warm pocket between you and the glove (or mitten). If you tend to sweat, make sure you don’t get a glove (or mitten) that is too warm. You may have cold hands because you are sweating then cooling off, so get a glove that is just warm enough.

Toko offers a full range of gloves for nordic skiers, specializing in cold weather designs. Photo: Chris Young

Glove Add-ons and -ins

So say you have your perfect mitten or glove but conditions are always changing. If you can’t get warm enough, here are some things you can add to your glove. First, try a liner. If you are wearing a mitten or a split, this does, of course, separate your fingers, but a liner can add some extra insulation to make your fingers more comfortable. Next, consider adding hand warmer packets. These can fit easily in your mitten, and the Toko Arctic Mitten even has a special pocket so they won’t move around. Make sure this is comfortable with your pole strap. Lastly, you can add an overmitt or overstrap. This is a windproof shell mitten that goes over your pole strap. It often allows you to get away with a lighter glove because you have that extra layer of wind protection. We carry options from Toko and Lill-Sport.

Warm Feet

Your feet are cold, too? There are many avenues to warmer, more comfortable tootsies.

First, let’s look at socks. It may be counter-intuitive, but if your socks are too heavy, they may restrict blood flow and air circulation. Or, they may be making your feet sweat and then cool off too soon. Make sure your sock is just warm enough and fits well in your boots – sometimes tight skate boots can’t accommodate a heavy sock. Also, find the material that suits you best. Cotton is not a good choice for a sock (or really any active wear).

American-made Fits Socks are New Moon staff favorites!

Poly mixes move moisture well and stay drier but may not be as warm as wool. They also are a bit stinkier than wool. Wool, on the other hand, can get wet and still stay warm. They are naturally odor-resistant, but may be more irritating to sensitive skin. Many wool socks are Merino wool blended with elastane or other materials for not only comfort but also for better fit.

Also, try to buy socks that are geared specifically toward Nordic activities or other more active sports (i.e. hiking). They tend to be more fitted and have “zones” that support your arches and move more moisture.

You can also add a liner sock for wicking as well as another layer of insulation.

Also, if you are buying new boots, make sure to ask about how warm and protective each of your choices is. A high end skate boot is super-light and very tight and doesn’t have much insulation or room for any, whereas a touring boot is usually a cozier choice. At New Moon, the Rossi X5 or the Fischer XC Touring are good, warm choices. Pick up a pair of warmer, touring boots for the cold days!

Boot Add-ons and -ins

What can you add to your feet for even more warmth and protection? Well, inside, you can try a warm insole from Superfeet. Their Grey Merino Wool is cozy just due to the material, and the Red Hot or Hot Pink (men’s and women’s) include a heat reflective layer. Toe warmers can adhere inside your boot for some long-lasting comfort, or stick them on the outside of your boot and zip into a boot cover. The Lill-Sport, Rossignol, and Salomon overboots are just different versions of a protective layer that goes on the outside of your boot. Just a little windproofing often saves the day.

Overboots are a far better solution for cold feet than thicker socks.

Overall Tips

Although I hesitate to reiterate the importance of the “core,” preparing your torso for cold temps can have a profound effect on your hands and feet. When your body senses danger from cold weather, blood is pulled into your core to protect vital organs. That leaves little for the hands and feet. And, if your core is too cold, it cannot efficiently heat up the blood that does make it to your extremities. Make sure you are dressed correctly for the conditions. A baselayer, midlayer, jacket, and vest are all layering choices that will help keep your core comfortable and pumping out warmth to your hands and feet. As you warm up, you can remove layers and stow them in a backpack or on a tree. Or, try doing a warm-up loop or two with warmer clothing, head back to the warming cabin or car and remove a couple of layers once you’ve heated up.

While you may want to start your ski a bit chilly, that’s not always the case for your hands and feet. Starting out with them at a comfortable temperature can save precious time suffering until you get warmed up. We’ve already mentioned a warm-up loop, but you might want to add some aggressive arm windmills or just upping your aerobic output until you’re warm. Or, it may be as easy as driving to the ski trail with your gloves on the dashboard getting toasty warm so your hands don’t warm up cold gloves as you step out on the trail. For your feet, portable boot dryers like this DryGuy are great to not only dry out your boots after a ski, but to warm up your boots before stepping onto the trail.

Another auxiliary product that can also help you, although it sounds unlikely, is the Airtrim Breather Mask.

Odd looking? Perhaps. Effective? Absolutely!

This mask warms and humidifies the air you are breathing. Your body doesn’t have to work to warm up the air, and that leaves your hands and feet cozy. Joel swears by the Airtrim. It can take a bit to get used to, and does sort of make you look like a character in Star Wars, but it is worth it for warm hands and feet.


If cold hands and feet are a continuing deal-breaker for you, there are a few things you can try changing in your diet that might help a bit.

We all love a good cuppa, but you may want to hold off of the coffee or tea until after the ski. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and tightens up your blood vessels. This may lessen blood flow to your extremities making it difficult for your hands and feet warm up as well or as fast.

On the flip side, there are several vitamins and minerals that may be of help. Low iron is often a cause of cold hands and feet because it iron facilitates the transport of oxygen in the blood. Try adding spinach, red meat, or different types of legumes to up your iron intake. Or, check your cereal label. Cold cereal or something like Cream of Wheat is often enriched with iron. Another vitamin essential in O2 transport is B-12. Increase your eggs and dairy to get more of this important nutrient. Niacin is a vasodialator that helps open up your blood vessels. Beets and fish have high amounts of niacin. Vitamin E stimulates enzymes that directly affect vasodialation. Almonds, sweet potatoes, and avocados are all high in Vitamin E.

Please sort through these ideas if you are suffering with cold hands and feet when you ski, or snowshoe, or are outside for an extended period in cold conditions. One little tweak in your routine can make a world of difference in your experience. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us via email or call 715-634-8685. Hope one of these ideas can help you be more comfortable when you are on the trail. Good luck!

Update: Look for “Part 2 – Face and eye Protection” to be published soon!

4 thoughts on “Cold Conditions, Let’s Review…”

  1. Bill Gregg says:

    I use downhill goggles on cold days to protect a larger portion of my face.

  2. Rudy Gulstrand says:

    I use Birko sun glasses with rose tinted lenses. I did remove the soft cushion on the upper edge
    of the glasses which stopped the fogging up. They worked well on a five day trek across northern
    Finland a few years ago.

  3. Chris Young says:

    Look for “Part 2 – Face and Eye Protection” shortly. We’ll have that published in the next week or so.

  4. joel harrison says:

    I do too, but only on low output exercise in the cold

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