Our Favorite Winter Gear for Exploring the Cold and Snowy Colorado Mountains

best winter gear kss 1

The calm stillness in the forests, the apparent animal tracks on the snow, and the glittering pillows and blankets of fresh powder make Wintertime one of the best times to get out and explore the Colorado mountains--As long as you have the right winter gear to keep you warm, comfortable, and thriving. Keystone Science School has over 40 years of experience leading groups into the Winter backcountry. We recently polled the KSS staff to find out their favorite pieces of winter gear, and here are their answers.

  • Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie - It's such a versatile layer. I can use it skiing, hiking, or hanging out. It's super comfortable and I feel like it's the local garb of Summit County too.
  • Patagonia R1 Half-Zip - Breathable, warm layer. Perfect for skinning up the mountain, followed by a walk around town with a latte. It also zips up to your nose and has a great hood that can fit under a helmet.
  • Heated Gloves - I know, I know, it’s a totally unnecessary thing, but when standing outside watching my kids at Nordic or waiting in line for something, etc. – these keep me warm! I can enjoy being outside longer without frozen fingers.
  • Camo Muck Boots - Hands down my favorite piece of winter gear!
  • Small Foam Pad - Same size as the back of your backpack so you can slide it against the frame. Eat lunch comfortably in the snow and don’t lose all your heat. Cut up an old sleeping pad. It makes taking a break in the snow 100x better. It can also be used in emergency situations.
  • Puffy Pants - They are an essential that I didn’t know I needed until I got them. They are amazing and so comfy. Full-zip so you can put them on with equipment on your feet. They are also great when you are chillin' on the couch in your shorts and need to go outside for something, just throw them on and stay warm in the coldest temps.
  • Full-Zip Snow Pants with Suspenders - Temperatures can have dramatic swings throughout a day in the mountains and it’s been my favorite way to make sure I don’t overheat when I unzip all the way to my waist. Going full zip? Make sure you have suspenders so your pants don’t fall down!
  • Sunglasses with Multiple Lenses - Visibility is so variable in the mountains. Bright sunny days can literally be blinding requiring dark lenses and nothing beats yellow lenses on those overcast days. Live your life in high def!
  • The Extra Layer - I’ve never regretted bringing an extra mid-layer, and I have been saved by it many times.
  • Lightweight Neck Gaiter - I prefer it to be merino wool or polyester because it’s stretchy, dries quickly, and provides a bit of warmth but not too much warmth while working fairly hard cross country skiing or backcountry skiing. You can pull the gaiter up over the back of your hat and keep it just under your sunglasses or goggles when the weather comes in and breathe through it which is my favorite function. It also provides UV protection when it’s super sunny without being hot. It’s a must-have for outdoor adventures in the winter and I use it year-round too!