Here at SKI, we have an estimated 49 years of collective experience dressing kids for this sport. Trust us—if you buy it right the first time, it will last a bunch of years. Ski-apparel companies do a pretty good job when it comes to making kids’ gear that can take a beating. They also excel at getting creative with functional, versatile pieces that are made to go from mud-puddle stomping on the way to school to snow-angel-making on the bunny hill. The bottom line: With a little planning, you can invest in gear that lasts longer and works harder. Here are some of our favorite items.
There are two design elements for kids that will stretch your dollar: jackets and pants with growth potential (the hems let out), and interchange jackets, also known as three-in-ones. All of Obermeyer’s youth kits come equipped with the iGrow Extended Wear System, basically simple colored threads on the sleeves and leg cuffs that you snip with a scissor and voilà! Another one and a half to two inches (or season or two of wear). The Catapult Jacket and Chilkat Bib are great new picks for boys this season. Columbia’s Outgrown growth system applies a similar concept. Turn the jacket or pants inside-out and yank the string on the hem for another inch and a half of length. The girls’ Snowcation Nation Jacket boasts this feature as well as colorful, fun prints for this season.
Spyder uses its Small to Tall system on most of its little-kid line, up to size 7. The brand’s older-kid apparel sports cuffs that let out a couple inches on select pants and an adjustable hem on several jackets. For the littles, the Bitsy Lola jacket, with detachable faux-fur trim on the removable hood, and the coordinating Sweetart pants both grow with your child and are way too cute to last only one season.
The engine behind the interchange jackets is versatility. Sometimes you need more warmth; sometimes a shell is just right. Interchange systems pair an inner liner jacket, either fleece, softshell, or synthetic insulation, beneath a windproof and waterproof outer shell. Wet and windy on the way to school? Pop on the shell. Nip in the air at a late-fall baseball game? Slip into the liner. Hitting the hill? Zip ’em together and wear ’em both. Patagonia’s boys’ and girls’ 3-in-1 Jacket exemplifies the concept. The quilted liner is packed with 150-gram synthetic Thermogreen insulation, and the ripstop shell won’t let any moisture through.
Under Armour joins the game with its Coldgear Infrared Wildwood 3-in-1 Jacket, which features a two-layer shell atop a zip-in fleece liner jacket with wicking technology. Columbia’s version, the Whirlibird Interchange Jacket, combines super-fun prints in its outer shell with an Omni-Heat-lined synthetic inner jacket for maximum warmth. Three ways to wear it, no way to lose.
A final note on jackets. Investing in a skiable down piece for your grom, such as Marmot’s Hangtime Hoody, means you’ve got a jacket that will do the job with gusto on the coldest of winter recesses and will offer up extreme toastiness on the slopes, too. We love this jacket for kids who run cold, and thanks to Marmot’s Down Defender technology, you don’t have to worry about the insulation losing its loft when wet.
It’s a no-brainer. Why buy baselayers that have only one use? That’s why we love Icebreaker’s kids’ collection of fun and funky baselayer tops with all the wicking and warming technology they need—perfect for skiing, school, and weekend wear. The kids’ Tech Lite Long-Sleeved Crewe is 87 percent merino for stink-free layering and 13 percent nylon for stretch and comfort. Tweens will need Under Armour’s Storm Armour Fleece Twist Highlight. The cold-weather answer to the ubiquitous UA hoodies, the Twist uses UA’s Storm technology to make it water-resistant without losing its breathability. And your kid doesn’t lose his street cred.
Adjustable ski boots? Yes, please. Full Tilt’s Growth Spurt adjusts three full sizes, saving you several hundred dollars over the course of a few years. The magic happens via a three-piece shell and a neoprene liner that stretches with your child’s feet as they grow. Bonus: rubber toe and heel soles that can be replaced when they wear out.
Let’s not forget about plain old winter boots. They no longer have to be ugly, bulky behemoths that your kids balk at wearing to school. We favor Bogs for their awesome prints, warmth, and complete water resistance. Wear them in the rain, in the snow, for a hike, or on a tromp around the village when the ski boots come off. The Classic is insulated to minus 30 degrees and extends up the shin to keep the powder at bay. New this season, the girls’ Sidney is a lace-up in an adorable buffalo plaid in addition to other prints. It’s fully waterproof and insulated to five degrees. Sorel’s Rylee is designed for the wee fashionista in your life but is actually quite the practical snow boot, constructed from waterproof suede and leather with sensible rubber traction on the sole. Pair it with jeans, leggings, or, of course, ski pants.
Don’t forget the most important piece of the equipment you’ll buy for your young skier. There are many great helmets out there, but few are what we’d consider versatile. Meet Bern and its collection of dual-use bike-to-ski helmets. Bern’s Bandito and Bandita lids sport removable ear pads and a top pad that rotates, acting either as a vent or a vent cover, depending on the temperature. Pair it with one of Bern’s snap-in liners (sold separately), and you’ve got one helmet with two uses.