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Wool base layers aren’t what they used to be—in the past decade merino has become a skier’s best friend—stink-free, non-itchy, thin, and warm.
But recently, wool has been the stuff you wear against your skin when you ski, not what you wear against the elements. This season that’s changing. Leading outdoor merino clothing manufacturers are making wool that can handle weather—from cold to wind to a drizzle or melting snow. Here are four of our favorite pieces, all available for men and women:
Icebreaker Realfleece Nano Kodiak: Q: What could be more delicious than a sweatshirt? A: Icebreaker’s cozy wool fleece sweatshirt that’s water repellent, stain repellent, and self-cleaning.
Icebreaker applies Schoeller Nanoshpere, a sort of DWR treatment, to its Realfleece merino so that water, mud, beer, salad dressing, barbeque sauce, and even oil simply run off the surface. Yes—you’ll want to wear it skiing as well as après.
Realfleece Nano has the same look, feel, and breathability as other Icebreaker Realfleece: anatomically shaped cuffs to keep hands warm, smooth running vislon zips, a chest pocket with an internal port for your headphone cord. and extra stretchy breathable panels on the sides, underarms and back. Available in a zip or hood for men and women, $250-$270.
Ibex Aire Hoodie: There’s nothing cozier than a puffy when it’s really cold out. Ibex marries everything you love about your puffy with the best wool has to offer in a wool-insulated puffy. The Aire will keep you incredibly warm, even if you get sweaty or wet, and it won’t smell like wet dog or armpit even when you’ve worn it for the better part of a season.
Ibex’s wool AIRE insulation is made from 90-percent merino and 10-percent PLA (a corn starch derivative). Wool insulation’s warmth-to-weight ratio is as good as what you get with down or synthetics. But your jacket will stay puffy as the ski seasons wear on, regardless of weather. Ibex debuts its wool insulation in a packable, stuffable, weather-resistant, 100-percent recycled nylon shell jacket with DWR. $325, ibex.com.
Dale of Norway Storetind: Skiers have been carving up the slopes in Norwegian wool sweaters since before skis had metal edges or Jackson Hole was a resort town. Dale of Norway kept the classic styling with the Storetind, but turned the Norwegian ski sweater into a piece of technical clothing. The quarter-zip Storetind has a Gore Windstopper lining that’s windproof and highly water resistant. It’s hidden beneath the nano-tech treated fully water repellent Norwegian Heilo wool sweater, which still looks like the sweater your dad wore skiing. Also hidden inside: a powder skirt, wrist warmers, and security and ski pass pockets. $579, dale.no
Smartwool PhD SmartLoft Divide: Our favorite piece for high aerobic activity like hiking for turns in the sidecountry, nordic skating, or even fall ski season training, the Divide combines wool insulation in a waterproofed nylon shell on the front of your body, much like Ibex’s AIRE insulation. Instead of PLA, however, Smartwool’s uses 20% poly. The rest of the jacket is tight-knit, hardface merino. It’s highly breathable—it was our go-to midlayer all season, and what we wore as outerwear for spring skiing. But it’s warm and weather repellent in ways that surprised us. As long as testers were cranking, the Divide stayed dry and warm. It won’t stink, but you can still machine wash it when it gets that salty crusty look. It’s not a piece to wear solo on the coldest days, but when you’re really cranking, it transfers moisture like a champ, while keeping you warm and vented with less bulk than a fleece. $200, smartwool.com