When the polar icecap seemed to blanket most of North America and Europe last winter, the hatters of America told us that a man without a hat can lose up to 35% of his body heat through his cranium. Apparently most of the top Austrian and Swiss racers felt the same way because they resurrected the woolen balaclava helmet—survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade used it at Balaklava in 1854—and started an international fad. The helmet is really a cap knit of wool that unrolls to shield and warm a skier's face and neck from the bite of the winter wind. Beconta imports a dress-up version with a tuft on top that is available in eight lively colors ($5.50).
Ski-racing pros have discovered another good way to keep warm in subzero weather. They wear a turtleneck nylon shirt as a lightweight wind buffer between two sweaters and, when finished racing, wear it as an after-ski shirt. It costs $5, has a zip collar and is imported by Beconta.
Ernst Engel, who talks just as enthusiastically about skiing the top of Mt. Mansfield at 30° below as he does about selling his sleek parkas to Saks Fifth Avenue, has added a warm zip-out mohair vest to his heaviest quilted parka this year. Even the hood is lined, and it zips up to cover the chin, mouth, and cheeks of a skier—leaving just enough room for ski goggles. This parka, dyed to match the colors of Engel pants, is for men or women and costs $50.
Snow bunnies always seem to have cold hands, and Glovemaker Red Weiss has tried to solve this problem with his new finger toaster, a half mitt that snaps over his regular ski glove. It has the same capeskin, the same Curon foam and acrylic insulation as the ski glove itself and comes in all sizes ($15).
Few materials quite match silk as a body-heat retainer when it is knit into long johns or liners for gloves and socks. Saks' Active Sport Shop imports a set of silk-and-cotton ski underwear ($29) that has long been popular with foxhunting Englishmen but is new :o the U.S. this year.
Silk liners have been around for several seasons, however, and they always seem to be sold out in February when you really need them. Iselin's silk glove liners ($4) allow a skier to buckle a boot, fix a binding or dig for change, all without numbing a finger. Silk socks ($4), also by Iselin, make your toes blizzard-proof when worn under a pair of heavy wool socks.