Cross country skiing by it's very nature exposes participants to cold, sometimes harsh weather. Nordic skiers also work hard in these conditions, which generates body heat but also sweat. Controlling moisture and wicking it away from one's body, then, becomes even more important than retaining heat, especially during races. This moisture management can be achieved using a three layer system consisting of a thin, moisture wicking base layer, a thin fleece midlayer to provide a small amount of insulation, and an outer shell which shields the body from the wind.
The base layer transfers any moisture away from the skin. Without this wicking action, sweat will act as a conduit between the skier's body and the outside elements, rapidly cooling and drawing heat away from the body. When looking at the base layer, undergarments should also be considered. Wind briefs, specifically, provide additional wind blocking as well as working with the rest of the base layer system to wick moisture; we highly recommend anyone who skis purchase at least one pair of these for especially cold or windy days.
The mid layer provides the bulk of the insulation for the skier. Surprisingly to many new skiers, it is not particularly difficult to stay comfortable as long as one remains active, so mid layer gear tends to be relatively thin. The mid layer is usually combined with the outer layer for pants and tights, and depending on the level of exertion and weather on a given day, a mid layer top may not be necessary at all. On the other hand, multiple midlayer tops or a dedicated midlayer tight may be worn to provide extra insulation for extra cold days. The value of the mid layer is its flexibility.
The outer layer acts as a shield from the elements. Typically, the jackets that make this category up are quite thin and built primarily of a windproof material with some highly breathable panels in protected areas where heat tends to build, such as under the armpits. Pants and tights, on the other hand, are often combined with the mid layer and correspondingly have some internal fleece lining to provide warmth.
Race suits also might be considered an outer layer, although they are built on the assumption that they will only be worn in high exertion efforts where heat and moisture dissipation, as well as freedom of movement, are the primary factors in maintaining comfort. Thus, race suits tend to be very minimal and provide comparatively little protection. Next Page (Ski Accessories)