The elements can be unforgiving when you’re out on the slopes. Wind, snow, and freezing temperatures can put a damper on your fun if you’re not appropriately dressed. That’s why it’s important to know what to wear skiing and snowboarding. This guide will cover the best clothing to wear skiing and snowboarding, how to layer your clothing and give you an idea of what clothing you to pack for your ski trip.
The cold isn’t the only factor. Many people don’t realize how active you are when skiing and snowboarding. You’ll be burning a lot of calories, so you need clothing that can wick away sweat and keep you comfortable.
Before getting your ski boots on and deciding the best skis and poles, you need to think about getting dressed for skiing. It’s about staying warm on the lift and not too hot on the way down the hill.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What To Wear Skiing and Snowboarding
- Ski and Snowboard Base Layers
- Ski and Snowboard Mid Layers
- Ski and Snowboard Outerwear
- Gloves and Mitts
- Ski Goggles
- Ski and Snowboard Helmet
- Neck Gaiter / Face Mask
1) Ski and Snowboard Base Layers
Base layers add insulation and ensure a comfortable body temperature under your outer layer. The best base layers trap the heat close to your body and wick away sweat. Base layers come in various materials and thicknesses to suit all conditions. Fabrics such as wool, fleece, and cotton will help keep you warm on the slopes.
For a first layer, look for moisture-wicking materials that will keep you dry and comfortable so you can focus on enjoying your time in the snow!
Cotton Base Layers
Cotton is not the best base layer. It is soft and comfortable but absorbs moisture. You will be cold on the slopes if you sweat or the base layer gets wet.
Wool Base Layers
Wool is an excellent material for base layers because it is soft and warm and wicks moisture away from your skin. Wool also helps regulate your body temperature, so you’ll stay comfortable even as you get hot on the slopes. Merino wool is a popular choice for skiwear because it is soft and naturally anti-microbial.
Synthetic Base Layers
Synthetic fabrics like polyester are breathable and comfortable. Synthetic base layers also dry quickly, making them excellent for skiing and snowboarding. Look for materials like polypropylene that wick away sweat from your skin to keep you comfortable as you ski down the mountainside.
Fleece Base Layers
Fleece is a warm and comfortable material for both base layers and mid-layers. Fleece is breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin, making it an excellent material for skiing or snowboarding.
Ski and Snowboard Socks
Cold and uncomfortable feet are standard when skiing, but they don’t have to be. A good pair of ski socks is the first step to keeping your feet warm and comfortable on the slopes (ski boot heaters are the second). Ski socks have several features that make them better suited to the conditions.
Ski socks will have a padded shin and compression around the arch. On the slopes, you use your shins to control your board and skis. The padded area on the front of ski and snowboard socks helps to protect your shin.
Skiers and snowboarders want tight-fitting boots. The tighter the boot, the more control you have. Ski and board socks are ultrathin to give you the best fit and are made from materials that keep you warm.
2) Ski and Snowboard Mid Layers
An excellent insulating layer will help to keep you warm and comfortable on the slopes. Mid-layers trap a pocket of heat between your base layer and the outer shell. Popular mid-layer fabrics include wool, fleece, polyester, and down.
Depending on the weather, your mid-layer may get wet. I have an excellent outer shell, but even the best will eventually let moisture through. (As an instructor, I often ski and teach on days when intelligent people are sipping hot chocolate by the fire). I prefer a fleece mid-layer because it doesn’t soak up water.
Wool Mid Layers
Wool is an excellent material for mid-layers because it is an insulating layer even when wet. It also helps to regulate your body temperature to stay comfortable as you ski or snowboard.
Fleece Mid Layers
Fleece is ideal because it wicks moisture and dries quickly. Look for mid-layers designed with breathable fabrics to keep you comfortable even as you work up a sweat on the slopes.
Synthetic Mid Layers
Synthetic fabrics like polyester are also great for mid-layers because they insulate, wick moisture away, and dry quickly.
3) Ski and Snowboard Outerwear
Good outerwear should be waterproof, windproof, and keep you warm. How warm depends on how you layer and where you ski. I wore a heavily insulated ski jacket and ski pants when I lived in Canada. Canada was cold; I used to ski in minus-30 weather and needed as much insulation as possible. However, since moving to Japan, I’ve ditched insulated outerwear. I wear a gore-tex shell and insulate with mid and base layers. The insulation you need will depend on how cold it gets where you are.
Ski jackets have some features that make them better for the slopes. Here are some things to consider.
- 3-in-1 design – A 3-in-1 jacket with detachable insulation is the best of both worlds. The temperature is much colder in the depths of winter than in the spring. Removable insulation can easily adjust your coat to suit the weather.
- Lots of pockets – The right pockets can make all the difference in a ski coat. I like a dedicated cell phone pocket and two waist pockets that I can access if I wear a pack.
- Specialized pockets – Lift pass pocket, clear watch pocket, internal goggle pocket.
- Powder skirt – A good powder skirt is a must. Not only does it keep the snow out, but it also stops the wind from coming in, keeping you much warmer.
- Specialized hoods – If the jacket has a hood, it should be large enough for a helmet. You may want the hood to be removable or have a pocket to stow it away when you aren’t using it.
- Zippered vents – This is another must for me. Zippered vents allow you to regulate your body temperature. Be sure you can easily unzip the vents; I’ve had several super awkward jackets to zip and unzip. I also recommend vents with mesh, as they stop snow from getting into the jacket if you fall.
Like a good ski jacket, ski and snowboard pants have unique features specific to skiing and snowboarding.
- Bib styles – Some people like bib pants. They do keep you warmer and prevent more air from getting in. However, you will have to take your jacket off to go to the washroom. I prefer non-bib pants.
- Snow gaiters – Snow gaiters fit over the top of your snowboard boots to keep the snow out. I would not buy a pair of pants without this!
- Ankle Zippers – Ski and snowboard pants will have a zipper at the ankles to give you access to the gaiter and allow you to buckle your ski boots. Don’t buy a pair of ski pants without this. I also recommend zippers or buttons. Buttons tend to break.
- Thigh vents – Vents will help you cool off when you are too hot. I prefer inner thigh vents, but outer thigh vents work well too. Ensure vents are larger enough with two zippers so you can open them from the top and bottom. I don’t recommend full-leg zippers, I have had these in the past, and they were more problematic to use.
- Reinforced inner ankles – These patches protect your pant. While not as crucial for snowboarders, they are essential for skiers. Without patches, this area will wear out quickly. While walking and skiing, you will knock your ski boots together.
4) Gloves and Mitts
A good pair of ski mittens or snowboard gloves are an essential piece of ski gear.
Mittens or Gloves?
Mittens are warmer, but they have limited dexterity. I use a three-finger mitt with an inner glove. I find it the best of both worlds.
Below are some features to consider when looking for ski gloves.
Your gloves must be waterproof; this is non-negotiable. I can’t count the number of times kids have been dropped off for lessons with bad mitts. Halfway through the lesson, the kids are crying, wearing my gloves, and I’ve opened up the hand warmers. They must be waterproof!
Removable liners are nice because you can wash the gloves. I also like them for backcountry tours when I’m skinning up.
Heat Pack Pockets
Heat pack pockets are a nice-to-have feature. I prefer them to be on the back of my hand, so they don’t interfere when holding ski poles.
I hate dropping my gloves when I’m on the lift. Yes, I look like a little kid, but it’s way better than having to go for a walk under the lift.
The cuff is where your jacket meets your gloves. Choose a cuff that integrates well with your coat. A poor coat glove cuff will let in air and snow. My jacket cuffs go over the top of my gloves, so I ensure that any glove I buy fits inside my jacket sleeves.
Touch Screen Compatible
Touchscreen compatibility may or may not be necessary for you. If you use your phone on the slopes, it could be an essential feature. I prefer touch-screen-compatible gloves when taking photos or filming on the hill.
5) Ski Goggles
Ski goggles are essential ski gear and come in various styles with various lenses. Your choice will depend on what type of skiing or snowboarding you plan to do. Choosing a good pair of ski goggles is the first step to keeping them from fogging up.
When choosing ski goggles, you should consider the following factors:
Different types of lenses are suited for different lighting conditions. For example, mirrored lenses help reduce glare on sunny days, while photochromic and polarized lenses automatically adjust to light levels and reduce haze.
Goggles should fit comfortably on your face without being too tight or loose. When trying on goggles, make sure you can move your head around comfortably to test for a good fit.
Ski goggles with vents allow air to circulate and help prevent fogging. Look for vents placed strategically to provide optimal ventilation, such as along the top and bottom of the lens.
Ski goggles, like ski helmets and sunglasses, should provide UV protection to minimize your exposure to harmful UV rays. Look for goggles labeled as providing 100% UVA/UVB protection.
Goggle Helmet Fit
Avoid the dreaded goggle helmet gap. A gap between your goggles and your helmet means snow and cold air on your forehead.
6) Ski and Snowboard Helmet
Bring on the helmets. A high-quality helmet is a must for skiing and snowboarding. Not only will it keep you safe, but it can also help protect your head from the cold. Unlike goggles, which you can remove as needed, your helmet is what stands between you and the snow all day long.
When choosing a helmet, you should consider the following factors:
A good fit is essential for comfortable and safe skiing or snowboarding experience. Make sure to try on different helmets and choose one that fits snugly and is not too loose. You should be able to comfortably turn your head in any direction without the helmet moving or feeling too tight.
A good ski helmet should protect from impacts, especially at higher speeds or on more challenging terrain. Look for a helmet designed for skiing and snowboarding and approved by safety organizations like ASTM. MIPS is a particularly effective type of impact protection that helps reduce the risk of concussion in a fall.
A well-ventilated helmet will help keep you cool and prevent overheating on the slopes. Look for helmets with ventilation channels or removable liners to allow air to circulate freely and reduce moisture and heat buildup.
7) Neck Gaiter / Face Mask
When the temperature drops and the wind picks up, you may want to add an extra layer with a neck gaiter or face mask. These versatile accessories can help keep your head and neck warm while protecting your face from wind and cold air. For optimal comfort and warmth, look for gaiters or masks made from breathable materials like fleece or merino wool. Some gaiters also feature windproof panels to help reduce the risk of windchills.
How to Layer Clothing for Skiing & Snowboarding?
Generally, a skier dresses in 3 layers: a base layer, a middle layer, and a shell. They all perform different duties. The base layer traps heat next to your skin and wicks away sweat. The mid-layer keeps a pocket of the warm area around your body. The outer layer blocks the wind and keeps you dry from the elements. Together these three layers keep you dry and happy on the slopes.
Adjusting to Different Temperatures
The beauty of layering is that you can easily add or remove a layer of insulation depending on the weather. If done correctly, you can ski in almost any climate and still be comfortable.
What wear skiing the first time?
If you are new to skiing, choosing clothing that will keep you warm and comfortable on the slopes is essential. For your base layer, look for moisture-wicking materials like synthetic or wool fabrics, which will help keep you dry and comfortable. You may also want to consider a neck gaiter or face mask to protect your face and neck from the cold and a ventilated ski helmet for optimal protection.
What should you not wear while skiing?
A couple of absolute no’s keep appearing on the slopes.
- Jeans – You are not at a bar, don’t wear them!
- Wool Mitts – Wool is an excellent insulator, but it gets wet when you touch the snow. You need waterproof ski gloves!
Are jeans OK for skiing?
No! Jeans are horrible for skiing; you just read the article above, don’t make me chase you down.
Why should you not wear cotton when skiing?
Cotton is not a good choice for skiing, as it does not offer the same level of protection or insulation that other materials like wool, synthetic fabrics, and thermals. Cotton can quickly become cold and wet, making it a poor choice for ski clothing. For optimal comfort and safety on the slopes, always choose high-performance materials like wool, fleece, and synthetic fabrics designed to wick away moisture and keep you warm and dry in all types of weather.
Should you wear sunglasses or goggles for skiing and snowboarding?
Yes, for three reasons.
- They protect your eyes from the sun.
- They protect your eyes from the wind.
- They protect your eyes from snow and rain.
Sliding down a hill at 10 – 20mph while squinting to see is an excellent way to get hurt. You have a windshield driving a car; you need goggles when you ski!
What is the difference between ski and snowboard clothing?
There are only two differences. The first is style. Skiers and snowboarders have very different cultures, and the type of clothing reflects this. Second, movements are a little different for skiing and snowboarding. I have found that when I wear my ski suit while snowboarding, The jacket is too tight at the waist, and the pants limit mobility a little.
What Equipment Do You Need For Skiing?
Whether a novice skier or snowboarder, choosing the proper clothing is essential to ensure that you stay comfortable and protected while enjoying your time at the ski resort. When layering your clothes, it’s necessary to choose quality materials that are breathable and moisture-wicking so that you remain warm and dry throughout your day on the mountain.
See you on the slopes!