Now ubiquitous, a year ago there was only one place that a face mask didn’t seem out of place: the ski hill. Neck tubes, masks, gaiters and balaclavas have always been part of the uniform on the slopes. COVID just made them mandatory.
“No one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering,” said Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, which operates 37 hills in North America and Australia.
Just about every ski resort across the country has announced COVID safety plans that include wearing something covering from nose to chin in lift lines, loading and riding lifts, in all buildings and during lessons. The only place you’ll be feeling the cold against your face this season is sliding downhill.
What exactly a face covering means on the slopes is a little less clear. Most resorts haven’t specified, but Utah’s Deer Valley Resort says single-layer face coverings aren’t good enough. Summit County Public Health, the local authority, requires two-layer face coverings with no vents or valves.
The other thing to consider is fog. Tuck most neck warmers under a goggle and you can expect to see lots of it and not much else. New designs direct exhales, so this isn’t as much of a problem.
For all those whose ski tubes are not up to the extra demands of this winter here are three options that won’t leave you constantly adjusting, blind or worse, holding your breath when tourists from a red zone step into your gondola.
Best if you’re often hot or COVID-noid
Buff Filter Tube
Buff took its popular neck tube and added a filter pocket to make one of the safest neck warmer on the slopes. Slip one of the included three-layer, replaceable, paper-like filters into the pocket and it will screen out 98 percent of bacteria and more COVID viruses than any other neck warmer on its own. It’s not too hard to breathe through, yet channels exhales through the filter, keeping moisture out of the goggles. (Buff sells boxes of replacement filters separately.) The neck tube is one of Buff’s lighter ones. Made from recycled polyester it is form-fitting, so it stays in place over the nose, and is lightweight, ideal for warmer days, or skiers and riders who run hot. [$29; buffusa.com]
Best if you need new goggles too
Anon M4 Goggle Toric + MFI Face Mask
We’ve been matching goggles and helmets to ensures gap-free integration for years. With the M4, you can do the same to prevent holes in virus filtration. The M4 goggle relies on four magnets to hold the lens onto the frame and, more importantly, make it easy to swap them out when the clouds roll in. That’s still the case—it comes with an extra lens—and the lower magnets double as retention for the MFI Face Mask. It too has magnets hidden in its top edge, which is also contoured to the goggle shape. Pull the goggles into place or the mask up and the two automatically (and snuggly) fit together. Lighter material at the mouth acts like a chimney to prevent fogging. The mask, which is also available on its own, is also a little looser-fitting, creating a small air pocket around the face. [$300; burton.com]
Best if you hate tight-fitting face masks
Seirus EVO Arc Dynamax Dana
The Dana combines three technologies to create a safe, warm and easy breathing face tube. It’s made of Dynamax, an insulating, wicking and wind-blocking fabric, and is shaped like Seirus’s EVO Arc masks, with a contoured shape that holds the fabric away from the nose and mouth. It also features HeiQ Block, a proven antimicrobial treatment applied directly to the fabric to help kill viruses and bacteria on contact. This also means it won’t start to smell as quickly. The treatment washes out over time, so it’s not quite as effective as Buff’s replaceable filters, but the mask is more comfortable to wear—and warmer, perfect for frigid days. [$30; seirus.com]