Snowboarding is probably my favorite winter sport. I am a Florida native, but I moved to Utah when I was in high school and fell in love with snow. It took me a few years before I actually went skiing for the first time and shortly after that I got on a board. I have been snowboarding ever since.
So what is the best way to dress for snowboarding? This might sound funny, but it kinda depends on your age. I say that because I see so many young snowboarders that seem to be very poorly dressed for winter conditions. With only a shell of a jacket, baggy lowriding cargo pants and no hat you would think they would freeze. Yet, if you visit many ski resorts in Utah and surrounding areas, this is the type of dress that a large number of youngins are wearing. It may just be a result of just getting used to the cold since they are out there every day. For the older generations, dressing for a day on the slopes requires a little more protection from the elements. First of all, layering is the name of the game. Since the weather on the mountain can change at any time, it is a good idea to wear multiple layers that you can take off and put back on when needed. Regardless of your outer layers, you always want to start with a good lightweight wicking base layer. This is the layer against your skin that plays the important role of removing sweat from your body. Never wear cotton when you snowboard. You are bound to get some moisture on you, either from falling in the snow or from sweating. You want to wear a synthetic or wool material that is going to dry quickly. Cotton just doesn't measure up. It stays wet and therefore draws heat away from your body making you colder. Polypropylene, polyester, or Patagonias capilene materials work great for a base layer. Now, these materials come in so many different forms, that it really just depends on your personal preference and how much you want to spend when selecting one that is right for you. The best performer for the money in my opinion is polypropylene or polypro for short. It is probably the least expensive, yet it dries faster than any other fabric.
The next layer really depends on the temperature. If the sun is out and the temperature isn't too low, your base layer may be the only underwear that you will need. On very cold days, a nice thick polyester or polypropylene fleece layer is necessary. Fleece is great at retaining heat due to its ability to trap air inside the fabric. If you get cold easily, you might even double up on this layer.
Your outer layer or shell should be made of a material that is both waterproof and breathable. If you really don't fall much and it is not going to be snowing, you can get away with not having a waterproof shell. But, breathability is very important. Your high performance base and middle layers will aid in transferring moisture to your outer layer. If your outer layer is breathable, it will allow the vapors of sweat to escape helping you stay dry. A popular trend today is to wear an outer layer referred to as a "soft shell." A soft shell is usually made of a windproof fleece fabric that is enhanced with a DWR or durable water resistant coating. This allows for maximum breathability with some water resistance.
Have you been snowboarding for while and every time you finish you are soaked through with melted snow? Then, you need to invest in a waterproof outer layer. Gore-Tex has been the leader in this area as it is probably the most well know among outdoor enthusiasts. However, there is a new product on the market that claims to be up to 10 times more breathable than Gore-Tex. This new product is made by a company called eVent. You can check out their website for more information about how it works at www.eventfabrics.com
. There are also many other outdoor clothing companies that make their own proprietary versions of a waterproof breathable fabric. All of them are waterproof, but their breathablity levels differ. As long as you select one that is waterproof, you will stay much dryer and warmer as a result.