Outerwear usually consists of a warm turtleneck and the ski outfit itself. A two-piece garment, pants and jacket, is superior to a single-piece. The single-suit may look sleek, and certainly is, but it’s either all on or all off. On the other hand, a two-piece outfit with a jacket that consists of a water-resistant outer layer and a removable inner liner (which may be kept on in cold spells or taken off on warm days) is the more adaptable. Bib-style pants are warmer than regular ski pants. If you do wear regular pants, hold them up with suspenders, not a belt.

If the weather is exceptionally cold, add an inner fleecy polyester or down-filled vest or sweater.

Ski jackets, as well as most winter outdoor garments, are filled with either down or man-made fibers. Top-quality down is the warmest filling, ounce for ounce, known. It’s expensive, and worth it.

However, there’s only one - only one - way to evaluate the quality of the down in any garment: its “fill” capacity. According to federal standards, down with up to 20 percent feathers can still be labeled “down.” With a higher percentage of feathers, the label must specify “down and feather fill.”

Fill capacity is the cubic inches an ounce of down will fill. Excellent - quality down has a fill capacity of no less than 550. In other words, an ounce will expand to fill 550 cubic inches. Superior down has a fill capacity of 600 to 700.

To avoid telling consumers the fill capacity, many outfitters, some with highly prestigious names, loudly and proudly proclaim that their garments are filled with “Prime” down, or “Southern Goose” down, names full of sound and fury that signify nothing more than that the garment is probably overpriced. All quality down products have a tag or marker specifying the fill capacity. If the fill capacity isn’t listed, a smart shopper will immediately go elsewhere.

Man-made fibers range from very good to excellent. The best have a comparative fill capacity of 400 to 500, are superior to garments marked “down and feather,” and are less costly.

All the man-made fibers used as fill in outerwear and sleeping bags do have one characteristic superior to down. When down gets wet, it flattens into a soggy nothing. When man-made fibers get wet they can be wrung out and still maintain their loft.

Eventually, all garments must be cleaned. All man-made fibers can be dry-cleaned. However, unless a dry cleaner uses the special solution that does not harm down - a solution prohibited in many cities because it’s highly inflammable - a down garment should be washed only with the special down soap sold at outing goods stores or a pure, mild soap. It should never be washed with detergent.

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