The Guide's Guide To Layering For Ski Touring, Part 2 of 3: Intro To Outdoor Textiles

Sweating buckets? Wind cutting right through your outer layer? Sounds like it’s time to reevaluate your tech layers. Yesterday, in the freshman course of my guide to layering for ski touring, we covered weather and snow. Today, we dig in to high-tech fabrics and how they work to moderate your temperature.

A number of fabric lines—GORE-TEX®WINDSTOPPER®, and Cordura®—are super effective for dumping heat while providing elemental protection. By themselves these systems are not perfect, but in a strategic combination, you can dial in a great protective system that sheds heat effectively and keeps you dry. To figure out which combination is best for your conditions, here’s a rundown of how each fabric functions. Check in tomorrow for the capstone of this course, Putting It All Together.

Hard-shell fabrics: Protection from water and wind

GORE-TEX® Pro, the newest addition to waterproof fabrics, keeps the protection of traditional GORE-TEX® while remaining noticeably more breathable. But in the interest of protecting its waterproof character, this fabric is still not perfect for dumping excessive heat and perspiration. It favors waterproofness over breathability, but is a huge step in the right direction. 

Pertex® Shield+ delicately balances waterproofness, breathability and wind resistance with a very lightweight construction of polyurethane fabrics. It’s used in select skiing and mountaineering shells and shelter systems. 

GORE-TEX® active is the most breathable of all GORE-TEX® fabrics. It’s nearly soft shell in feel and breathability, which keeps wet snow travelers cool, dry, and happy. In wet snow conditions, this masterfully dumps heat when you’re active, but also keeps you dry from wetter conditions. It’s rapidly becoming a new favorite of guides and alpinists.

Soft-shell fabrics: Protection from snow and wind 

WINDSTOPPER® is a wind, snow- and abrasion-resistant fabric perfect for dumping heat and moisture when you’re active while protecting your base layers. It’s not designed for wet environments—free water in the snowpack, wet snow or rain will soak this fabric. But this is fabric you want to climb and tour in most days.

Polartec® Power Shield® Pro adds real water resistance to soft shells, combining newer high levels of air permeability with durable hydrostatic resistance to keep skiers dry from both within and without. 

Outdoor Research Brand Ambassador Mark Allen is a Washington native and a certified IFMGA Guide working as a ski guide in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Norway, and Western Europe. Mark’s personal interests are alpinism and ski mountaineering descents in areas that still need exploring. His academic background is BS in geology with an emphasis on the mountain building processes. A former ski patroller now a Level I&II AIARE avalanche instructor. On his days off he explores the undiscovered corners of his back yards— the North Cascades and San Juan Mountains. You can find out more at