What do you wear when skiing and snowboarding?
Noone, beginner or advanced, wants to spend a day on the slope focusing on how cold they are. It can ruin a day if your fingertips are freezing, your toes are cold, or your bum is wet from that one epic fall.
You also never know what can happen!
Take it from someone that got stuck on a chairlift for over an HOUR due to lift malfunction.
Conditions on the mountain can change fast, and you need to be prepared for anything from high winds and low temperatures to sun and wet slopes.
This post will help you answer the question: What to wear when skiing and snowboarding?
It will explain the difference between skiing wear and snowboarding apparel, explain layering and the best base layer for skiing, talk about ski clothing for beginners, what not to wear, and how to dress by temperature.
Instead of worrying about comfort and warmth, spend your time improving your techniques, enjoying the view, and having fun in the snow!
Stay with us and get all the practical information on dressing appropriately for a fun day on the mountain.
- The most important thing about ski clothing
- How to layer for skiing and snowboarding?
- Best base layer for skiing
- What to wear skiing?
- What to wear snowboarding?
- What to wear cross country skiing?
- Ski socks
- Ski Helmet: Do you have to wear a helmet skiing?
- Ski gloves
- Ski Goggles
- What to look for in ski goggles?
- Ski mask for skiing and snowboarding
- What to wear skiing first time?
- Common questions from first time skiers?
- What should you not wear while skiing?
- What to wear skiing by temperature
The most important thing about ski clothing
When dressing for skiing and snowboarding, the most important thing is to start with a good base layer then build your layers for the conditions. This is called ‘Layering’. The main things your ski outfit needs to deal with are cold, wind, and moisture; snow and rain from the outside, and sweat from the inside.
How to layer for skiing and snowboarding?
The best way to layer your clothing for skiing and snowboarding is to have three high-quality layers. Start with a warm base layer, an insulating mid layer, and a shell for the outer layer.
This is how you can layer your clothing for skiing and snowboarding:
- A body-hugging warm base layer, typically wool or synthetic materials that wick away moisture.
- An insulating mid-layer that traps body heat. Typically a fleece.
- Followed by a waterproof outer layer. This is your ski jacket and pants and your defence against the elements.
This is generally how you’d layer your clothing for skiing and snowboarding. However, your layers are not set in stone. You can ditch the mid layer if it is warm outside and just ski in a base and outer layer. Then if it is cool and calm and you are sure to stay dry, you can always leave the shell behind.
We cover more about What to wear skiing by temperature later on.
Best base layer for skiing
A base layer is the first thing you need to think of when wondering what to wear when skiing.
It is the first layer you put on, after your underwear, unless that’s not your jam.
No judgement here.
Even though it is cold outside, your body will respond to the exercise by cooling down, and it does so by sweating. That’s why the purpose of a base layer is to protect you from your perspiration. As the sweat cools down on your skin, the base layer will pull moisture away from the body and regulate core temperature.
A base layer for skiing and snowboarding will usually consist of a long sleeve shirt and long pants that sit close to your body.
Some of the best base layers for skiing are made of:
- Merino Wool
Both types have their pros and cons. Synthetic materials like polyester tend to be quick drying, lightweight, and will wick away moisture from the skin to keep you dry. Usually, synthetic materials are cheaper, making them a more budget friendly option when purchasing a base layer for skiing or snowboarding.
The Merino wool is a more expensive option however it is known to regulate body temperature better and do a better job of repelling odour. That means fewer trips in the washer.
Something to think about when choosing what to wear when skiing.
Sustainability and base layers
Less time in the washing machine is one of the reasons a Merino wool base layer for skiing is a more sustainable option. Synthetic materials often rely on fossil fuels for production and leach plastics into the water with each washing.
If you are going with a polyester base layer, you can choose garments made of recycled materials for a more environmentally friendly purchase.
As skiers, we want to protect our environment at all costs. That’s why many skiers consider sustainability when choosing what to wear when skiing.
What is the best base layer for skiing?
So, what is the best base layer for skiing?
Merino Wool is the best base layer for skiing. For moisture-wicking properties, regulating body temperature well, repelling odour, and scoring high on sustainability.
What to wear skiing?
Choosing what to wear when skiing follows the rules of How to layer for skiing. That is, layering with three quality layers. Follow the recipe of a warm base layer and insulating mid layer. Followed by a waterproof outer layer.
Layers to wear when skiing
An outer layer specifically designed as skiing wear will have unique functionality for the sport.
Skiing clothes are designed to complement the movements of skiers. The main focus in skiing tends to be speed. You’ll be doing uniform movements and more subtle than snowboarders, so as a result, ski jackets and ski pants tend to be form-fitting to support aerodynamics. The tighter fit also adds heat retention by trapping air close to the body.
Ski pants also tend to have reinforced material at the ankle to prevent ripping in case your opposite ski cuts into it.
If you have chosen skiing as your primary winter sport, choose the right pants for the activity as these patches will prolong the life of your ski pants.
What to wear when skiing?
A warm base layer and insulating mid layer. Followed by a waterproof form-fitting outer layer designed for speed, subtle movements, and heat retention.
What to wear snowboarding?
The guide on what to wear snowboarding will follow the rules of How to layer for snowboarding. That is, layering with three quality layers. Follow the recipe of a warm base layer and insulating mid layer. Followed by a waterproof outer layer.
Layers to wear when snowboarding
An outer layer specifically designed as snowboarding apparel will have special functionality for the sport.
Snowboarding clothes are different from skiing wear. The main difference being the fit. Snowboarders’ movements vary more, meaning they need more room for their movement than skiers, resulting in more loose fitting design.
As a snowboarder, you keep your balance by staying low, knees bent, hips centred, and arms out, while switching the balance between a toe and heel stance.
This movement has made it more important for snowboarding clothes to stay loose. That’s why snowboard pants tend to be baggier to allow crouching and varied leg movements, and snowboarding jacket design is looser-fitting to cater to more movement.
Snowboarding jackets are also longer, particularly at the back, as it’s often necessary to sit while stationary. At the same time, there is extra padding in snowboard pants, primarily at the knees and rear, as these are the places likely to cushion your land if you fall.
What to wear snowboarding?
A warm base layer and insulating mid layer. Followed by a waterproof loose-fitting outer layer designed for varied movements and heat retention.
What to wear cross country skiing?
What to wear cross country skiing will follow the rules of How to layer for skiing. That is, layering with three quality layers. Follow the recipe of a warm base layer and insulating mid layer. Followed by a waterproof outer layer.
However, the breathability of the layers becomes a top priority, making warmth a secondary concern.
Layers to wear when cross country skiing
Cross country skiing is different from downhill skiing and snowboarding as it is a more aerobic activity that can generate a lot of body heat.
Unlike skiing and snowboarding where the main focus is warmth, breathability becomes the key functionality to look out for.
When cross country skiing, it is better to wear multiple lightweight layers of clothing for warmth and versatility. As with skiing and snowboarding, layering is essential to add or remove layers for optimum body temperature during your winter activity.
Winter running and cycling clothes often work well for cross country skiing. Especially for high intensity training and milder conditions. Whereas low intensity workouts and cold conditions call for soft shell cross country ski pants.
Cross country ski pants, unlike ski or snowboard pants, are not as warm and also tighter as they don’t require to fit over bulky shoes.
If a single base layer is too cold for your upper body, add a light, breathable cross-country ski jacket that will also protect you from the wind. In colder conditions, add a vest or breathable jersey between your base layer and your jacket.
A good practice for cross country skiing is to have a warm jacket such as down for when you finish your session. This will help you keep from getting too cold when you have stopped.
Your ski gloves and thick hat will likely be too warm for cross country skiing. Wear light gloves and a thin headband to protect you from the cold.
What to wear cross country skiing?
A warm base layer and a light windproof outer layer that is breathable for the highly aerobic activity of cross country skiing. For colder temperatures add a lightweight mid layer.
One of the most crucial pieces of your outfit is the ski socks you wear while skiing or snowboarding; we recommend investing in thin, moisture-wicking ski or snowboard socks. Not only will your socks determine how warm your feet stay, but they will also determine how comfortable your boots are. One of the most common mistakes made by newcomers is picking the wrong ski socks.
When choosing ski socks, make sure they are the right fit.
If your socks are too tight, they can affect your circulation, keeping your feet cold. However, if your socks are too loose, they can wrinkle in the boot and create increased pressure on your feet or shin, which can be uncomfortable.
What is special about ski socks?
Ski socks are a special type of moisture-wicking socks designed to be worn with ski and snowboarding boots. They are long and usually reach right below the knee with extra cushioning on the toe and shin to protect against boot pressure.
Ski Helmet: Do you have to wear a helmet skiing?
When skiing or snowboarding, you should always wear a ski helmet.
We want you to enjoy and have fun, not get hurt.
If you don’t trust us, trust researcher Jasper “Jake” Shealy, Ph.D. that has been researching ski related injuries for over 40 years and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles on the subject. In 2011 he reported
“From 1995 to 2010 ski helmet use increased from 5% to 76%. Over that period, the rate of serious head injuries dropped by about 65%. From 1 injury in 8,775 skier days to 1 injury in 25,690 skier days.”SkiingHistory.org
You never expect to crash. Perhaps you believe that if you simply avoid circumstances where you might be involved in an accident, you can escape having to wear a helmet.
You might be right…
Slowing down and being more cautious can help lessen the danger of an accident, but you can’t control the conditions on the slopes or how careful everyone else is.
There are a lot of elements on the mountain that are beyond your control. Other skiers, poor visibility, uneven ground, and trees to name a few.
So, for the unpredictable elements, we encourage you to wear a ski helmet.
Ski helmets protect your head by absorbing and diffusing the energy of an impact. Ski helmets may not completely prevent concussions or serious injuries, but they do a great job absorbing impact and providing protection.
What should you look for in a ski helmet?
Modern ski and snowboard helmets are light, comfortable, and provide excellent protection.
Fit: A good fit ski helmet should sit firmly on your head with no gaps between the helmet liner and your head. Nor should the back of the helmet touch your neck. A helmet that is too wobbly is too big and a ski helmet providing pressure on your head is too small.
Foam Lining: Helmets for skiing and snowboarding have a foam lining on the inside. The goal of the foam liner is to lessen the severity of head and brain injuries by absorbing the impact when you fall.
Ear Pads: Ear Pads are a fantastic feature to keep your ears nice and warm. Some helmets even come with removable ear pads and style options for different weathers.
Moisture Wicking: Some ski helmets have a removable moisture wicking fabric lining. These linings are great for reducing odour by wicking the sweat away from the skin and keeping your head warm. These linings are easily removed and washable.
Helmet Brim: A relatively new feature is the ski helmet brim. This is a small brim, similar to a cap, at the front of a helmet to prevent snow and sun from reaching your face.
Ski Helmet Strap: The chin strap on your ski helmet should be comfortable. The clip style comes in different forms, so make sure to choose the one you are most comfortable with and can easily get on and off.
Goggle Friendly: Your ski helmet should have a small clip on the back to fasten your goggles to prevent the the goggle strap fro moving over your helmet.
It’s no fun to have cold hands, so keeping them warm and dry is a must. To keep your hands warm, you need to keep them dry and that means dry from outside moisture and internal (sweat). Most cold hands come with clammy fingers and that moisture will cool you down if not dressed properly.
This is something to look out for, especially for people with poor circulation (we relate!).
Watch out for the common misperception that Thicker is Warmer!
A very thick glove but not moisture-wicking can warm your hands until there is internal moisture in the glove. Your hands will then start to cool down as they soak in the moisture and get uncomfortable.
In that case, you are better off with a pair of moisture wicking mittens.
So, what are the best ski gloves for cold hands?
What are the best ski gloves for cold hands?
The best ski gloves for cold hands are a moisture-wicking merino wool glove for the inner layer, combined with a Goretex glove for the outer layer. The inner layer will keep you warm even after your hands get clammy, and the breathable Goretex will protect your hands from outside moisture.
Ski Gloves vs. Ski Mittens
Let’s get into it!
They both have their pros and cons.
Ski mittens are more likely to keep you warmer than gloves but at the cost of having a more difficult time using your hands. For example, getting your phone out, using a zipper, or adjusting your goggles is a struggle in mittens.
But they are so cosy!
On the other hand, Ski gloves have the opposite characteristics: they are better equipped for using your hands on the slope but less warm.
So, what about combining the two?!
A liner glove inside mittens can also be used to increase warmth and dexterity. This allows you to remove your larger mittens to perform more detailed work while remaining warm and protected.
What to look out for in Ski Gloves?
- Merino Wool (or similar) moisture-wicking inner layer to keep you warm
- Gore-Tex (or similar) outer layer to prevent outside moisture from seeping in
- Long Cuffs to avoid a cold open space between your glove and jacket
- Wrist straps to keep your gloves snug to your hands
- Touchscreen Tips so you can keep your mitten on for the mountain selfies
Ski goggles are essential when skiing and snowboarding. Whether you are a beginner just testing the sport or advanced skier goggles will keep your eyes and face safe and improve visibility.
The lens of the ski goggles protects your eyes by filtering 100% of UV rays. They also protect your eyes from wind and snow while skiing not to mention tree branches in case of a ski mishap.
Your goggles are important for safety and will help avoid eye damage.
What to look for in ski goggles?
Ventilation: Most ski goggles will have a ventilation system, just not created equal. Having an excellent ventilation system is great to avoid fogging up if warm air gets into your goggles.
Anti-fog coating: Will also help with avoiding fogging up due to warm air inside the goggles. Most goggles have anti-fogging coating on the inside of the lens which makes it super important that you never dry the lens on the inside! It will decrease the anti fog coat and can scratch your lens.
Lens tint: Choose the right lens tint. Lenses come in a wide variety of tints that filter colour and light in different ways so you can see ‘what’s up’ on the slope. Some tints work best on bright days while others sharpen contrast on overcast days when it’s harder to pick up shadows and contours.
Goggle Fit: Choose a pair you are comfortable with (duuh!). Consider the padding, the area of the goggles that touches your face. Going for a cheaper option can result in less padding. Not only that, but with more layers, the air circulation in the goggles improves and therefore helps against fogging and sweating.
Interchangeable lenses: These lenses are becoming more common in ski goggles and they let you switch lenses in your goggles when light conditions change. Just make sure your goggles are made for that.
Helmet Compatibility: Avoid the mistake of walking in a store and grabbing a pair your like. Make sure it’s compatible with your helmet to avoid exposing your skin to the elements.
Ski mask for skiing and snowboarding
Considering that at this point, you should be well covered from head to toe, you might want to add just one more layer to the mix.
A ski mask or buff of some sort.
This final layer can make all the difference. On a cold day, it will protect your face from biting frost, and on sunny days make sure you don’t burn. If you don’t your ski mask covering your face, it is also great for closing the gap between your jacket and helmet and keeping your neck warm.
What to wear skiing first time?
What to wear skiing first time?
Now you might be a first time skier or snowboarder and asking yourself what you can get away with for your first time on the slope.
You might not want to invest in the whole package of skiing wear or snowboarding apparel before knowing if you even like the sport.
So what can you get away with for a first time skiing?
Think about following the rules of layering for skiing and snowboarding. You don’t want the cold to affect your first try. So search your closet for warm layers or maybe borrow from a family member or a friend.
The differences between skiing and snowboarding wear can be fairly subtle; both styles have clear benefits for their specific sport. Skiers wear more form-fitting outer layers, while snowboarders need more loose-fitting apparel to accommodate varied movements.
You might want to consider choosing your outer layer to accommodate the sport you decide to try.
However, for a beginner who wants to attempt a new snow sport, any clothing that provides warmth, comfort, and safety will suffice. As previously said, the differences in clothing are minor, and both give warmth and protection, so you may easily swap one for the other.
What to wear cross country skiing first time?
When choosing what to wear when skiing, the real difference is if you are going cross country skiing. Beginners should especially be aware of the difference.
Cross country skiing is a more aerobic activity which is why some clothing you might be considering won’t work as well as you think for this activity.
Clothing that WON’T work well for cross country skiing:
- A downhill skiing jacket and pants will be too bulky and warm for cross country skiing
- Everyday tights and leggings lack wind protection and are less suited to wick away moisture
Clothing that WILL work well for cross country skiing:
- Winter running clothes
- Winter cycling clothes
- Baselayers from downhill skiing
- Everyday tights and leggings on a very mild day or under windproof pants
For your first time cross country skiing, choose a warm base layer, and add a lightweight, breathable outer layer. Add a mid layer for colder temperatures.
What to wear skiing first time?
Think about layering for warmth and comfort. It’s perfectly fine to wear any gear as long as it provides warmth, comfort, and protection.
- Skiing: Warm base layer, insulating mid layer, and form fitting waterproof outer layer.
- Snowboarding: Warm base layer, insulating mid layer, and loose fitting waterproof outer layer.
- Cross country skiing: Warm base layer, and light breathable and windproof outer layer.
Common questions from first time skiers?
Do I really need ski socks?
No. Pick a pair of fitted over-the-ankle socks for your first time on the slope that will keep your toes warm. Cotton socks are not ideal.
Do I really need ski pants?
Yes. However, you do not need to invest in a pair of ski pants specifically designed for the sport. Any snow pants that will protect you from the elements are essential on the slope.
Do beginner skiers need goggles?
Yes. It’s recommended to wear ski goggles. Ski goggles are specifically designed for visibility and to stay on your head. Making the experience for a beginner much better than say sunglasses.
Should I wear a helmet when skiing?
Yes, Absolutely! If you don’t have one, borrow one, rent it, or buy second hand. A helmet will protect you from head injuries in case of a fall, a collision with another skier, and even rogue tree branches.
Can I wear jeans for skiing?
No, absolutely not. Stay away from any cotton clothing when skiing. Cotton absorbs moisture, meaning that it will not keep you warm as a base layer. If you plan on skiing in jeans, consider the fact that your pants will absorb water from the snow then freeze in the cold air while snuggling up to your skin.
What to wear under ski pants?
A warm base layer that wicks moisture to keep you warm and dry. Add a mid layer like fleece to insulate warmth on colder days.
Should I wear a ski mask when skiing?
Yes. At least take it with you. Consider that you feel the wind more when skiing downhill, even on a calm day. A ski mask can protect you from the cold as well as strong sun. If you do not feel the need on a sunny day, remember to apply strong sunblock.
What should you not wear while skiing?
The big thing to avoid with any layer when skiing is cotton. Cotton is absorbent, meaning it will not wick away moisture and it also takes a long time to dry.
A base layer of cotton will absorb your sweat and let it sit on your skin and make you cold.
Maybe great for warmer climates, but not for a cold day on the slope.
As an outer layer, cotton clothing like jeans or sweatpants will absorb water from the snow. If it’s snowing, you fall, or even just when you sit on the ski lift, cotton will absorb all the moisture. The wet cotton layer will then freeze in the cold air, keeping you cold and uncomfortable.
What not to wear while skiing?
Cotton clothing! It absorbs moisture, and takes a long time to dry once wet.
What to wear skiing by temperature
When it comes down to it, dressing up for the slope will depend on the temperature the day of. Wearing the same thing in minus three or minus 15 degrees will likely result in your discomfort for one or the other.
What to wear when skiing in very cold weather
Wear ski socks and long underwear made of wool, a fleece mid layer to insulate or a light puffy jacket, and finally waterproof and windproof ski pants and jacket. Add a thin layer under your helmet, a ski mask, thick warm gloves, and goggles with no gaps to your helmet.
When we say very cold weather, we are talking anywhere below 15 degrees celsius (5° F). That’s when it gets crucial to add extra layers for warmth. This can result in a thicker mid layer or even an added fourth layer. However, do not add a layer of ski socks as that can cut off your circulation and make you colder. Instead, choose a pair with a higher percentage of wool for added warmth.
What to wear when skiing in warm weather
A light base layer, and a mid- or outer layer to protect you from the wind and slush. Keep your helmet on, your goggles for sunny days, and light gloves. Then add a lightweight ski mask or sunscreen to protect you from the sun that reflects off the snow.
Some days, especially during spring skiing, you’ll see some people in singlets and even bikinis. We don’t encourage stripping down to bare essentials as your clothing will protect you from the sun, wind, and from nasty snow burn if you fall. Snow crystals are surprisingly sharp and can cut your skin.
On those beautiful sunny days, you can drop some layers and enjoy the breeze. Just remember to take extra layers with you in case the wind is cold as you speed down the hill and for swift weather changes.
Don’t miss a day cause you were ill-prepared.
We hope we’ve been able to provide you with practical information for your ski trip.
What you decide to wear when skiing or snowboarding will depend on the conditions on the day. Stick to the three layers recipe to keep warm, and you should have a good day.
Depending on the activity you choose your layers’ functionality might differ, especially if you plan on going cross country skiing; look for breathability.
Choosing the proper ski clothing will make your day even more enjoyable.
So, stay dry and warm, enjoy and have fun!
The Ratoong family.