The Farmer’s Almanac predicts that New England will have colder than average temperatures and above average precipitation this winter. (Hooray!) The Old Farmer’s Almanac and NOAA disagree, forecasting milder temperatures and less snow. Whatever. Winter is coming and you’ll want to be prepared for whatever it brings. Here’s a roundup of some of the best cold weather clothing that will keep you warm and dry even if (when) the nor’easter blows in. Listed prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail.
Start with a good base
We ask a lot of our base layer. This next-to-skin garment — a.k.a. long underwear — has to be comfy but not too bulky. Most important, it has to have super wicking power. When we’re sweating after skiing down the gnarly Goat Trail at Stowe Mountain, we want that moisture away from our bodies before we take the next chair up. The new Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody (www.patagonia.com, $149), made of 51 percent merino wool and 49 percent recycled polyester, checks all the boxes. It’s thin, soft, warm, and stretchy, and it’s a super power when it comes to wicking moisture. Outdoor recreation gurus are calling it a game changer. We like the bottoms, too ($129).
Another base layer game changer: the Columbia Titanium Omni-Heat 3D Crew Top and Knit Tight (www.columbia.com, $90), featuring new reflective lining and “small pods of vertically-oriented fibers that help create an air gap between your body and the fabric for better heat retention.’’ Translation: You’ll be warm and dry even on the harshest days.
We have a few pairs of Icebreaker leggings and tops; we wear them throughout the winter. This year they came out with the Icebreaker Kids’ Tech 260 Leggings and Long Sleeve Half-Zip Top (www.icebreaker.com, $55/$60), made of soft, warm 100 percent merino wool. Even the fussiest of kids will love these under garments.
Add a hardworking mid layer
The mid layer’s job is to keep you well-insulated and toasty warm. This is the layer you are most likely to swap in and out depending on weather conditions: a puffy coat, a down vest, a fleece jacket, a hot hoodie. It’s the most versatile piece in the layering system. One of our favorites: the Mammut Aconcagua ML Jacket (www.mammut.com, $169). It’s made of Polartec Power Stretch Pro material, which translates into soft, ultra-stretchy, warm comfort. It’s good at wicking moisture, too. Wear it under a waterproof, wind-resistant outer layer on nasty days, or as a stand-alone jacket when the weather gods are being nice.
The popular Helly Hansen Lifaloft Hybrid Insulator Jacket (www.hellyhansen.com, $185) is another multipurpose workhorse. The synthetic insulation is incredibly warm and lightweight so it makes a perfect mid layer, but it’s water- and wind-resistant, and good looking enough to wear walking the streets of Boston, or kicking around the resort.
The new North Face Techno Ridge Hoodie Pullover (www.northface.com, $129), available spring 2019, is another lightweight, all-around jacket. It’s soft on the inside, with a rugged, water-repellent exterior, so it can do double duty. It’ll work well on those sunny spring skiing and riding days.
Stay dry from the outside in
Snow mixed with sleet in the morning, turning very cold in the afternoon; total accumulation of six inches. Ahh . . . winter in New England. You need a monster of a coat for those days, one that’s well insulated and waterproof. The problem is that sometimes, to get a hard-shell jacket that is super weathertight, you have to sacrifice mobility and comfort. Not so with the recently introduced Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket (www.outdoorresearch.com, $599), with new Gore-Tex technology that allows you to move with ease. It feels light and stretchy, not stiff; is breathable and loaded with smart features. There are also matching bibs ($599).
The Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl Jacket ($479) stands up to whatever winter throws at it. The jacket features a watertight exterior made of 100 percent recycled polyester Gore-Tex fabric and interior polyester insulation. Water beads off this baby! It also has watertight zippers, a removable, helmet compatible hood, adjustable powder skirt, lots of pockets, and a back hook to attach the equally hardworking Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl Pants ($379).
In the same top-notch category is the new Columbia Powder Keg II Jacket ($350), featuring Omni-Tech waterproofing and a patented Omni-Heat 3D thermal reflective lining that is super warm. It’s not too bulky, and has all the convenient bells and whistles, like pockets where you need them, underarm venting, and an adjustable helmet compatible hood.
You’ll be styling in the top-of-the-line, award-winning Strafe Ozone Jacket (www.strafeouterwear.com, $629), a beast of a jacket that the Aspen-based company calls “our most technically advanced design.’’ The patented design includes a Polartec NeoShell and Polartec Alpha Direct to create a “one of a kind, lightly insulated jacket.’’ It’s roomy, warm, weathertight and, as reviewers consistently say, “worth the money.’’
If you’re looking for a lighter outer layer, the Flylow Women’s Vixen Coat 2.1 (www.flylow.com, $375) or the Flylow Men’s Lab Coat ($525) are proven winners. The Vixen uses the three-layer Stormshell fabric, while the Lab Coat uses the patented eVent DVexpedition fabric. Both are soft and light, making them super comfortable to wear and easy to fold up and stuff in your boot bag. It’s got a lot of technology and comfort crammed into a lightweight package.
The freestyle, big and baggy North Face Men’s Ceptor Jacket ($320) offers similar performance, with its three-layer, solidly weatherproof fabric and well-thought-out features.
For kids, it’s hard to beat the L.L.Bean Patroller Ski Jacket (www.llbean.com, $149), with a waterproof shell and soft fleece lining. It has a relaxed, comfy fit, snap-in powder skirt, and reflective logos on the front and back, making it easier to keep track of your little schussers. Pair it with the L.L.Bean Patroller Ski Pants ($89).
“Insanely soft.’’ “Kept me dry in the worst blizzard.’’ “Fits just right.’’ That’s what people are saying about Strafe Belle Ski Pants ($429), featuring a weathertight and breathable Polartec exterior and an interior insulation that feels like fleece. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the slopes or backcountry, these bottoms could be your best investment.
The relaxed Flylow Magnum Pro Pant ($325) is also a top seller for good reason. The stretchy hard-shell fabric is designed to keep out the elements and has a quick-drying, soft-to-touch lining, making them super comfortable.
But for the money, you can’t beat L.L.Bean Carrabassett Ski Pants ($179). They’re waterproof, wind-resistant, and easy to get on and off. Put them over a good base layer and you can play all day in just about any weather.
Fingers and toes
Nothing can ruin a good ski day like cold digits. We don’t care what you have on the other parts of your body, if your hands and feet are cold, you’re miserable. We have several pairs of warm, cushy, and snug-fitting Smartwool PhD Ski socks (www.smartwool.com, $22.95-$29.95), along with Wigwam Snow Sirocco socks (www.wigwam.com, from $16).
The Columbia Powder Keg II Glove ($80) features the company’s new Omni-Heat 3D reflective lining, a fleece interior, and a rugged, waterproof exterior.
If you prefer mittens, consider the Black Diamond Mercury Mitts (www.blackdiamond.com, $109.95), with removable liners.