The wind whipping in your face might be okay during a summer bike ride, but it loses some of its appeal when you're barreling downhill on a pair of snow skis in the winter. Ski masks come to the rescue. The best ski mask for you will suit your particular activities and needs, and the surrounding weather conditions. If you choose carefully, it might even look kind of snazzy.
Coverage options range from half-mask neck warmers, or gaiters, that pull up to cover the bottom half of your face to the balaclava, a full-head mask that sometimes includes a ventilation system to warm the air you breathe. Myriad masks fall between the two extremes, with varying coverage and features. Options include lightweight, bandanna-type masks that fit snugly beneath your goggles, pull-on balaclavas with eye openings or full-face openings, and masks with adjustable chin closures.
Fleece is an efficient choice for a ski mask because it provides warmth without bulk, wicks away moisture and is machine-washable. Sporting goods companies also sell masks made with fleece blends. Masks for the coldest climates often have a fleece inner lining and an outer nylon shell that keeps out water and wind. Wool is warm but does not wash and wear as well as fleece.
Many ski masks come in only one size that supposedly fits all, but different styles might not work for everyone. A ski mask should be snug enough to keep out wind and cold, but not so tight that you cannot easily get it on and off. The mask should feel comfortable, and your head should feel warm and secure, not as if it's stuck in a fabric vise. Make sure the mask can fit beneath the hats, helmets or goggles you usually wear.
You want to stay warm but you also want to stay safe. Your ski mask must allow you to see, hear and breathe. Some masks have a special fabric over the ear area for better sound reception. Others have a built-in nose warmer. Some are shorter, while others extend down your neck and upper chest to tuck into your jacket. Don't forget comfort. Some materials, such as fleece, are softer and cozier than others, such as wool. Dense materials are better at keeping out wind than knit materials.