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For cold-weather comfort, leave the cotton at home

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- There's nothing worse than being cold and wet while skiing, and that's why there's nothing worse than wearing cotton while skiing.

''One thing beginners have to know is not to wear cotton,'' said Stephanie Kind, a ski coach at Kenai Central High School. ''They'll be falling down a lot, and cotton gets cold and wet pretty fast. That can ruin the experience.''

Even those who manage to stay on their feet for most of a ski should be extremely wary of cotton. Moisture not only comes from the snow, but it also comes from the body in the form of sweat.

''One of the amazing things about skiing is how hot you get,'' said Skyview High School coach Kent Peterson. ''I've been skiing at 8 below zero, and when I got done, my clothes were still soaking wet with sweat.''

In order to take care of that sweat, both Peterson and Soldotna High School cross-country skiing coach Sarah Tureson recommended a multilayering system for Nordic skiing. Throwing on a nice warm parka is fine for walking from the front door to the car, but it doesn't work for outdoor winter activity.

The layer closest to the skin should be polypropylene or any of the numerous garments that wick moisture away from the skin. This layer should fit tight enough to the skin to wick moisture, but it should not be so tight that it restricts movement.

''We have a saying that says cotton kills,'' Tureson said. ''If somebody on my team shows up with cotton against their skin, they don't practice.''

Base-layer garments vary in cost, comfort and washability, but Tureson said somebody looking hard enough could get a polypropylene shirt and long underwear for less than $20.

''You only need a couple of sets,'' Tureson said. ''You've just got to keep them clean.''

The second layer is for warmth.

''That should be some kind of fleece jacket or fleece vest,'' Tureson said. ''Fleece and wool make good layer stuff.''

Both fleece and wool jackets can be had for less than $20 by the astute bargain hunter. Fleece has the advantage of being lightweight, dry and a capable wicker.

Wool also is a great insulator, plus it can absorb some amounts of water and still retain insulation. However, it does not wick well, and if it takes enough water, it can begin to lose warmth.

The middle layer should be tight-fitting but should not restrict movement.

''Baggy, loose clothes don't work in skiing,'' Peterson said.

For many, those first two layers may be enough. Alan Boraas, a former high school ski coach, said if it is 20- or 25 degrees outside, the skier only has to put on enough clothes to stay comfortable when sitting in a 60-degree room.

''You definitely want to feel a little chilly before you start skiing,'' Peterson said.

However, as winds begin to gust, temperatures begin to drop and wet snow begins to fall, skiers will need the third component of the layering system -- a shell that keeps out or resists wind and water.

''Some of those windproof pants or jackets can cost $100, but if you look around you can find them for less than that,'' Peterson said. ''We tell the kids to have windproof pants and then a jacket with a shell.''

Tureson said the shells should all be relatively lightweight. Anything lined with a lot of insulation will be too warm.

Next, the skier needs apparel for the feet, hands and head.

For the feet, Tureson recommends a polypropylene liner sock. Since ski boots are warm, any synthetic fabric sock over the liner sock should keep the feet toasty. In fact, Peterson said, his feet usually get too warm when he wears synthetic socks.

The biggest mistake a skier can make is to wear too many socks and cut off circulation to the feet.

For the head, Tureson said, a lightweight hat is necessary.

''We also have a rule that if there's no hat, you can't practice,'' Tureson said. ''Even standing around for a minute, a lot of heat is lost through the head.''

Also, don't make a fashion statement with the hat by getting one with all sorts of appendages.

''A couple of new kids had a hat that was getting in the way of their arms,'' Tureson said.

Peterson said if the hat doesn't cover the ears, earmuffs should be worn. Tureson added that when temperatures really dip and winds start gusting, a balaclava under the hat is good for protecting the skin.

On the hands, Tureson and Peterson said their top skiers have special cross-country ski gloves. These gloves are made of a wicking material to keep the hands dry, plus have fabric on the palm to help grip the pole.

If those gloves aren't used, then most light gloves will do.

''If they have big mittens or huge wool gloves, it's really hard to control the pole,'' Tureson said.

Peterson had a few final tips for skiers. For males, he said, wind briefs are invaluable. Since staying warm in the winter is moisture management, he also suggested getting layers with zippers on them so heat can be controlled throughout the ski.

''Glasses or some sort of eye protection also can be important,'' Peterson said.

''You don't realize it when you're out there, but when you get in from the cold you realize your eyes are really stinging.''

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(Distributed by The Associated Press)

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Movement afoot to expand use of crossbows in Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- Bow hunters worried about a movement to expand the use of crossbows during archery hunting season in Michigan say it could result in too many deer being killed.

Only people with disabilities are allowed to hunt with crossbows, which are easier to aim and require less strength than traditional bows.

State law requires a permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to hunt with a crossbow during archery season. Getting a permit requires having medical proof of disability.

But it's difficult for DNR to police the thousands of permits that it issues each year to crossbow hunters. Agency officials acknowledge that some unqualified people have received them.

John Wynaulda, legislative liaison with DNR's Law Enforcement Division, suggested last month that the permit program be dropped. He advised the Natural Resources Commission to ask the Legislature to surrender to the agency its authority for setting crossbow regulations, and the commission voted in favor of the recommendation.

''We're afraid legalizing the crossbow will attract a ton of gun hunters to the archery season, people who haven't wanted to learn the skill but will come because crossbows are easy to shoot,'' Jerry Keck, a spokesman for the 5,000-member Michigan Bowhunters, told The Grand Rapids Press.

''This is the sum of all our fears. If you legalize crossbows during the archery season, you might as well legalize dynamiting a trout stream for fly fishing.''

This year, 11,529 hunters in Michigan have permits to hunt deer with crossbows. There are 780,000 firearm deer hunters and 351,000 who hunt with bows.

Wynaulda said DNR issues crossbow permits when it receives required medical documentation, though it generally goes no further to verify the disabilities of applicants. A spot check in 1997 of 100 applicants claiming severe spinal injuries, however, showed that 60 percent to 70 percent did not qualify.

Still, with agency staff members already stretched too thin, Wynaulda questioned the wisdom of knocking on 11,000 doors to check the validity of every claim.

''Is this how we really want to spend hunter license money?'' he asked.

An examination of crossbow programs in other states shows many reasons to open archery hunting season to crossbow users, with hunter retention at the top of the list, Wynaulda said.

Some hunters have medical conditions that don't allow them to shoot a regular bow or gun but still aren't considered disabled under the law, he said. Because current crossbow regulations exclude them, they may give up hunting.

Michigan Bowhunters, along with Outdoors Forever, an advocacy group for disabled outdoor enthusiasts, worked on the 1993 bill that established the permit program.

Keck said his organization would oppose any move to legalize crossbow use during the archery season, although the group could support it during the 16-day firearm season.

His concerns are that too many deer would be killed and the DNR would shorten the archery season.

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