Has there even been a more essential piece of skiwear than the turtleneck?
Whether you rocked a White Stag cotton turtleneck under a cable-knit V-neck in the ‘60s or a pricy Maser pullover in the ‘70s, hand-spun cotton felt like pure luxury every time you put it on.
Next, Norwegian brands Lifa and Odlo popularized zippered turtlenecks made of petroleum-based fabrics – a style that really took off once Patagonia developed its soft-handed Capilene that rivalled cotton for next-to-skin comfort. There was a downside, however – after a year or two of heavy use, synthetics would reek from accumulated sweat, spilled wine and other mystery odours.
The late ‘90s ushered in the era of merino wool, first in socks and then later in tops and bottoms. Pure merino absorbs more sweat than synthetics, dries quickly and, best of all, can be worn for days without accumulating body odour. The downside is that it’s expensive, develops holes and rips and can’t be abused in a dryer quite like cottons or synthetics.
For the 2018 ski season, the turtleneck is back in a variety of high-performance fabrics. Here are five of the best from the current crop.
1. Helly Hansen Canadian National Team
Taking its cues from Helly’s role as official supplier to Canada’s alpine ski team, this stretchy merino wool/polyester blend is both durable and warm. Wear it with pride while cheering on Canadian skiers at Pyeongchang 2018. $110 | hellyhansen.com
2. Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer 1/4 Zip
Merino underwear comes in different weights that usually correlate to number of grams per square metre. This toasty Smartwool zip-neck strikes an effective compromise across a wide range of temperatures and conditions. $130 | mec.ca
3. Icebreaker Descender Long Sleeve Half Zip
New Zealand’s Icebreaker is synonymous with merino wool, but lately their proprietary fabric has featured strands of nylon spun around the core of the wool fibre to provide freedom of mobility while keeping its shape. $230 | icebreaker.com
4. Dale of Norway Olympic Passion Sweater
Known for its distinctive snowflake patterning, Dale of Norway wovens look as great sitting around the fireplace as they do on the slopes. This official Olympic sweater for the Norwegian Olympic team features the Norwegian cross, which Norse mythology says wards off evil spirits and guarantees gold medals. $299 | daleofnorway.com
5. Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover
Patagonia probably sold more of its original high-loft fleece Synchilla (synthetic + chinchilla) pullovers to couples watching Law & Order reruns than it did to Rocky Mountain ice climbers. Forty years later, the basic design is unchanged but that lush, comfy polyester is now made of 80 per cent recycled material, and Patagonia’s innovative Fair Trade Certified program sends a percentage of the sale of each garment back to local factory workers and their communities. $169 | patagonia.ca
– Steven Threndyle