The Simplicity of Powder Skirts: How This Simple Accessory Keeps Snow Out
Your snow jacket (ski jacket) might not seem an important part of your equipment. However, staying comfortable and dry could all be compromised if you get it wrong. So, what is a snow skirt, and do you really need one?
A snow skirt is a simple piece of elasticated fabric sewn into the inside of a ski jacket low down. It prevents cold air and snow from getting up into your jacket during powder skiing or a fall.
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What is a Powder Skirt?
Key Takeaway: Essentially, a powder skirt is a piece of elasticated fabric around your waist, which stops snow from gaining access higher up into your jacket. When skiing in deep powder it is not unusual for the snow to swirl up to chest height and even higher.
So, at waist level, there is often a continual cloud of fine snow, which can find access to even the smallest holes. Similarly, when you have a fall, the pressure exerted on different parts of your clothing will enable the snow to wet your inner layers.
A powder skirt hangs down just above the bottom hem of your jacket. There are usually several press studs at the front of the powder skirt, which when snapped shut ensures the elasticated section of fabric creates a good seal around your waist.
The elasticated construction of the snow skirt is its most important feature. The shape of skiers’ torsos and their clothing varies enormously, so, being elasticated the powder skirt adapts to everyone's shape. This creates a strong enough seal to stop snow from entering, but it’s also not too tight to cause discomfort or restrict freedom of movement.
On exceptionally cold days, a snow skirt will also help to keep you warm. Once attached around your waist, it stops the cold wind from blowing up inside your jacket, enabling you to stay warmer.
The Snow Skirt Acts As A Barrier
If you are skiing on deep powder or take a tumble on an ungroomed run, the powder skirt creates a barrier that stops snow from getting up inside your jacket. Without the powder skirt, the snow has free access to the upper part of your body, where your body heat will quickly melt the snow and make your inner layers uncomfortable.
Some snow jackets are manufactured with detachable powder skirts. The powder skirt is attached to the inside of the ski jacket, either with a zipper or a series of press studs.
Detachable powder skirts are great if it’s a sunny day and you want to go out with the minimum of equipment or if you are spending a day on groomed runs in a resort, where the likelihood of snow getting up inside your jacket, even in the event of a fall, is pretty unlikely.
The only downside of detachable powder skirts is that the zipper can accidentally open, even just a little while powder skiing, giving snow access inside your jacket.
Quite a few manufacturers now produce compatible jackets and pants. Here the powder skirt has a loop on the back with a press stud closure. The loop is designed to pass through the belt loops on the pants before closing. This stops the skirt from sliding up and down with movement and stops snow from getting in.
With a similar function as a snow skirt, most snow jackets are now manufactured with integral wrist gaiters. These are elasticated fabric cuffs that are sewn inside the end of the jacket sleeve. They are slightly elasticated so that when you push your hand through them, they contract around your wrist creating a good seal.
This seal prevents either powder skiing snow or snow from a fall from entering your sleeve, where it will melt and dampen your inner layers. The wrist gaiter usually has a thumb hole as well, which when engaged with the thumb keeps the gaiter fully extended. It is easy to wear gloves over the wrist gaiter and still have full movement.
Key Takeaway: Most jackets now come with wrist gaiters. They prevent powder and snow from going up your sleeve and soaking your arms and base layers. You can either use them fully with the thumb hole or leave them loose around your wrist for partial protection on warmer days!
On particularly cold and windy days they also offer insulation by stopping the cold air from gaining access up your sleeve.
Extra Protection Of A Ski Bib
Some expert and professional skiers want to go one step further than the snow skirt to gain even more protection from snow entering the inner clothing. They don’t use a snow skirt but instead opt for a ski bib. This is a pair of ski pants, which has a high apron at the front and back with straps that secure it in place over the shoulders.
When combined with a good snow jacket this offers an extra element of protection and warmth from the snow, which might be trying to penetrate.
Do I Need A Snow Skirt?
Most people agree there is nothing worse than accidentally getting your inner layers wet and having to continue for the rest of the day. This can easily be avoided if you use a snow skirt to prevent snow from accessing higher parts of your body via your waistline. Similarly, on cold, windy days a snow skirt adds an extra layer of protection to stop the wind from circulating up around your waist.
Admittedly on warmer sunny days having a snow skirt lose on the inside of your jacket can be a slight irritation if it’s not detachable but it’s necessary to balance the overall advantages and disadvantages of the snow skirt to understand its value.
Is A Snow Skirt A Good Idea?
Advice: Snow skirts are very unobtrusive in the design of modern ski jackets. As such, it is easy to go skiing or snowboarding when you have one and don’t need to use it.
Even when undone a snow skirt will hardly be noticeable when skiing. If conditions change it is very quick and easy to snap the skirt into place to give useful protection against windblown snow and cold winds.