I Attended the World University Games, and This Is the Gear That Helped Me Survive Winter Sports Spectating

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Cheering on your favorite athletes during the winter months can be daunting to prepare for. While athletes at the World University Games or the FIS World Cup circuit are constantly moving (read: staying warm), spectators generally stand in one spot, so they need to be ready for anything. 

Thankfully, decades of experience have prepared me for standing outside in the cold for hours at a time. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy as 1-2-3. (Hint: that means remember to wear layers.)

Along with dressing yourself up like a human Matryoshka doll, remember skin protection from the elements. This means being prepared for the sun, wind, snow, and whatever else Mother Nature might throw your way.  

Below are some of the most important items I always make sure I bring with me. Be on the lookout for freebies at events (I often find myself with sunnies, chapsticks, and cowbells). And if you’re looking for more Olympics-oriented gear, be sure to check out the Team USA store, which often has plenty of accessories to show off your hometown pride. 

Base Layers

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

HEATTECH Ultra Warm Tights

Long johns should be comfy, thin, and warm. That’s why Uniqlo has been my go-to for over a decade. You can wear them all day without having to change or overheat. Go ahead and get yourself a set of tops and bottoms that feel right. As the most important layer, be picky with the right fit and feel.

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Men's Winter Calf Sock 4-Pack

Since you probably won’t be sweating too much, go for a thicker sock that will keep your toes warm and fill out the extra space in your boot where cold air can get trapped. Still, it’s nice to have a little fashion moment when you go inside to warm up by the fireplace. Kick off your shoes and show off your aprés chic. 

Middle Layers

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Organic Cotton Rollneck Crew Sweater

Since this is a layering game, you want a top with a medium thickness that won’t look bulky or be too hot (remember, your base layer should be trapping heat). Leave the chunky knit at home and go for something like this waffle-patterned sweater with a relaxed fit. 

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Squall Shell Pants

I recently got these in Lake Placid. And wow, what a game-changer. They fit perfectly over my pants but aren’t too baggy if you just want to wear thermals underneath. These shell pants are crucial, keeping you dry while you frolic in the snow while you’re waiting for the next race to go off. Plus, there are plenty of pockets to keep safe whatever you bring along. 

Outer Layers

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Boundary Pass Down Parka

An outer top layer should keep out any wind and moisture while maintaining some style, like this number from Eddie Bauer. I love the look of faux-fur fringe on the hood, plus functionality comes through with the outer and inside pockets. You can get this in classic navy or black, but if you want something different, be bold and go for grape.

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

1964 Pac Nylon Boot

I’ve had these boots for over three years now, and I have yet to register any complaints, both functionally and sartorially. The base is a thick rubber sole, while your legs are snuggly wrapped in felt insoles protected by waterproof nylon. Add a sherpa-lined cuff to trap falling snow from getting into the boot, and you’ll have toasty feet for hours. I even use them as rain boots on chilly fall and spring days. 

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Storm Gloves

Extremities are often the first things to go cold, so it’s important to get your digits right. Under Armour has a great line of gloves with a wide range of thicknesses. This middle-ground style will keep you warm and offers moisture-wicking capabilities should you start to work up a sweat. 

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Brushed Scarf

When the wind is whipping, it’s best to have something covering your face. Still, you want it to be easy enough to move around to sip drinks and shout as loud as you can. Enter: the scarf. Honestly, you can’t go wrong, but something a little on the thicker side without getting into “chunky knit” with a touch of winter colors is excellent. 

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Fair Isle Beanie

Some might opt for earmuffs to protect their coif, but to them, I say hats are where functionality is the most important. Since heat rises, you’ll want full protection to keep the warmth. This dapper capper is from one of my favorite winter brands. Plus, it’s made from recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly choice for shoppers.


11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Charmast Portable Charger 

While there are smaller options out there, this sleek and thin option should fit into your jacket or snow shell pants pocket. It can charge up to four devices at once. This means your group will never be without power for awesome action photos and videos. Plus, the charger plugs directly into the wall, meaning you have one less cord to untangle.

11 Items You Need for Winter Sports Spectating

Barkley Sunglasses

I’m notorious for losing my sunglasses, so I don’t normally opt for anything more than $10, but these shades are so worth it I’ve held on tight. As a brand, you can’t go wrong with Warby Parker’s support and durability. Plus, you can go for the regular lenses (I wear contacts) or get yours with a prescription. Throw in a scratch-resistant lens with UV protection, and you’re golden, like an athlete on top of the podium.