Winter Gear Essentials: 3 Tips for Staying Warm in Vail

By Tracey Flower | Monday, January 13, 2020

Good gear can make or break the time you spend outdoors in the winter, especially in the Vail Valley where the weather can go from sunny and warm-ish to a blizzard in an instant. Whether you’re hitting the slopes, wandering around Vail Village or just out running errands, here are a few tips to help you choose the best gear for winter in the mountains.

Photo: Patagonia Vail and Beaver Creek Facebook

Tip #1: Invest in high-quality outerwear  

A good ski jacket and pants combo is a must for winter in the Vail Valley. Even if you don’t ski, you’ll end up wearing them for winter hiking excursions, sledding with the kiddos or even to an outdoor concert or two. You want these items to be durable, windproof and waterproof, and you want them to last; fabrics that do those things often come with a higher price tag than those that don’t, but, trust me, it’s worth the investment.

I’ve been wearing the same bright pink Patagonia down jacket for about a decade now for everything from snowshoeing in the winter to camping trips in early summer, and it doesn’t show any signs of quitting on me anytime soon. A lightweight down jacket is, in fact, a great place to start building your winter outerwear wardrobe since you can wear it on its own or layer it under a waterproof shell jacket for cold, wet days on the mountain. Patagonia is my go-to brand for a down jacket and they have a variety of styles and colors to choose from. Visit their Vail Village store to find the right one for you.

My friend Melanie Rice, a corporate communications consultant who lives in Denver but spends more time on the slopes (in both the Vail Valley and Summit County) in the winter than some locals do, recommends Kjus ski wear. Kjus’ only North American store just happens to be in Beaver Creek, and you can also find Kjus ski wear at Gorsuch in Vail Village.

“Years ago, I spent a lot on a Kjus ski jacket and pants, and I'm still wearing them,” she says. “They are the most technical ski wear that fits me – completely waterproof, stretchy and a powder skirt that actually stays snug around my hips (a miracle!). I've purchased other jackets since this one, but I keep going back to the old Kjus.”

Photo: Patagonia Vail and Beaver Creek Facebook

Tip #2: Stock up on gloves and socks

You can never have too many of either. Rice agrees: “I tend to lose gloves, so I love having inexpensive ones that I can stick in my purse or pockets. I have multiple pairs of REI's lightweight gloves similar to these. I keep them in my car, coat pockets and by the front door.”

Locally, you can find similar gloves at any ski shop; personally, I like The North Face for lightweight gloves like those Rice recommends.

For socks, I’m a Smartwool devotee. I swear by their socks for skiing, hiking and running. They always fit just right and they’re not too thick, plus they always keep my feet warm and dry. I hate socks that sag or move around in my shoe or boot, and Smartwool socks always stay put. Visit the Smartwool store in Lionshead Village to stock up.

Photo: Smartwool's Protect Our Winters socks support the POW cause. Smartwool Facebook

Tip #3: Get a good pair of boots

This tip applies to boots both on and off the slopes. On the slopes, a well-fitted boot is a must for skiers and snowboarders alike, but the stakes are especially high for skiers. Rice, who was recently cleared to ski after foot surgery a couple of months ago, knows the value of a good pair of boots; she just bought a new pair of Lange RX100s.

While she’s happy with these boots, she pointed out that every foot is different and said finding a good boot fitter (i.e., someone who works at a ski shop and is trained in helping you find the right boot for your foot) is a must. Ski shops like Base Mountain Sports, which has locations in Vail and Beaver Creek, have trained sales representatives who will happily help you find the right fit.

Good boots are just as important off the mountain, no matter your age. Another friend of mine, Melanie Ewings, says her must-have winter item for her 6-year-old son, Ethan, is a pair of Sorel boots.

“They are warm and waterproof and long-lasting,” she says. “Ethan is very tough on his clothes but has not yet managed to ruin a pair of Sorels, even wearing them every day at school.”

Find Sorel boots for kids and adults at retailers like Christy Sports, which has stores in Avon, Beaver Creek and Vail.

Throw on a warm knit hat (or a helmet if you’re hitting the slopes) and you’re sure to stay warm and comfortable during all your outdoor adventures in the Vail Valley.

Find a full list of all the places to find winter gear and apparel here in our Ski Shops section and here in our Sporting Goods section.

Photo: Christy Sports Facebook

Stay warm and cozy out there! We’ll see you around Vail!

About the Author Tracey Flower
Tracey spent more than a decade living, working and playing in the Vail Valley and now splits her time between Denver and Vail. She's big fan of hiking, running, camping and biking and loves travelling around Colorado and throughout the West, visiting places she’s never been and exploring old favorites.