What to Wear Skiing & Snowboarding: Essential Clothes for the Slopes
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated July 17, 2023
Ski season is always a big affair – you’ve got weekend trips to plan around resort openings, transportation to organize, and packing to do with all of the most important clothing and gear. For first-time skiers or riders, it can be even harder to figure out what clothes you need to wear to stay comfortable and safe on the slopes. If you’re trying to figure out what to wear skiing and snowboarding, we’re here to make that process much, much simpler. Read on for our complete guide to the essential snowboarding and skiing clothes you should have on hand before you hit the slopes!
Snowboarding & Skiing Base Layers
For warmth and comfort underneath your waterproof outer layers, a durable set of base layers under your skiing clothes is an absolute must. A typical set includes a pair of long underwear/leggings and a short- or long-sleeved top, and there are different types of organic and synthetic material that are commonly used for high-quality base layers. You’ll want to be covered with warm layers head-to-toe when you’ll be out in the snow all day!
Base layers are the clothes that sit closest to your body while you’re out on the slopes, so you’ll want to invest in a pair that’s warm, comfortable, and sweat wicking. The best material for base layers is Merino wool, which is a special kind of wool that’s soft, breathable, and odor-resistant. However, you can also find base layers in a variety of synthetic materials that also work very well. Either way, avoid cotton or cotton variants at all costs, or you may be swimming in your own sweat by the end of a full day on the slopes.
In addition to base layers, you may also want some additional layers underneath your outerwear for additional warmth. We’ve included all of our favorite recommendations for base layers and mid layers below.
Base layer shirts
Our favorite base layer tops for skiing, hiking, and any outdoor activity are Smartwool’s Merino wool collection. They’re super soft, moisture-wicking, and come in a bunch of fun colors. We’ve hiked for days and skied for hours in our Smartwool layers and they still don’t stink or feel damp at the end of the day!
Generally, we recommend having a long sleeve base layer for skiing. Our favorite cold weather long-sleeve layer is the Merino 250 Active Crew (women’s & men’s versions); we love it so much that it’s our go-to for all cold weather outdoor activities.
If you’re looking for a short sleeve option, Smartwool has a great lightweight t-shirt base layer – the Merino 150 T-Shirt(women’s & men’s versions) – that’s perfect for layering during warmer ski days or underneath a fleece or down jacket. We can’t tell you what to wear skiing, but between the long- and short-sleeve options, Smartwool’s got a good choice for anyone.
If you’re spending a day skiing or snowboarding, you’ll want to make sure you keep your legs warm and comfortable. Luckily, Smartwool makes corresponding base layer bottoms that have a similar texture and weight to its tops.
We’d recommend the warmer version of Smartwool pants – the Merino 250 Base Layer Bottoms (women’s and men’s versions) – for long days on the slopes or warm nights by the fire. These pants are thick, warm, and soft, and they’ll keep your legs dry even if you wipe out once…or twice…
We’re a big fan of fleece for an extra layer of warmth underneath ski outerwear, and there’s no fleece we love more than the jackets from Patagonia. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than other brands, but Patagonia’s mission of sustainability, reuse, and conservation paired with its excellent quality clothing is a great reason to support this conscious brand.
Durable, cozy, and warm, Patagonia’s fleece jackets and outerwear are second to none for chilly temperatures. If you’re wondering what to wear skiing so you don’t freeze your arms off, the Patagonia Better Sweater (women’s & men’s versions) is a fabulous option.
When you’re out on the slopes, you’ll want a thick pair of socks to go underneath your ski or snowboard boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Wool is our go-to fabric for cold weather socks, although there are several synthetic fabrics that will get the job done.
Darn Tough makes our absolute favorite socks for all kinds of adventures, and their ski socks are fantastic for protecting your feet while skiing or snowboarding. Plus, they come in all kinds of fun colors and patterns, which is one of the best things about skiing clothes, right?
If your feet tend to stay freezing cold even in thick socks, you may want to consider getting a pair of heated ski socks. Hotronic Heated Socks – although expensive – are the best on the market for durability and sweat wicking while out on the slopes, and we’d recommend making the investment if warm and dry feet are a top priority.
A thermal neck gaiter (or neck warmer) is a critical part of your base layer kit, and it’s often forgotten when deciding what to wear skiing and snowboarding. This circular piece of fabric will keep your neck and face warm throughout the day, which is especially helpful when it’s actively snowing out. The best neck gaiters are made of warm fabrics like merino wool or fleece and are long enough to cover your nose, mouth, and neck.
Our favorite neck gaiters for cold weather are made by Smartwool. These warm, breathable, and lightweight neck gaiters are helpful in most outdoor situations, but we love them especially for neck and face protection in the snow. Grab a Smartwool Unisex Merino 250 Neck Gaiter for extra thermal protection as you hit the slopes.
Having a warm, waterproof outerwear is an absolute must for skiing and snowboarding, and this is one area we’d recommend investing in a high-quality piece of clothing over something cheaper and flimsier. There are a lot of great brands that make skiing jackets in all different styles and colors, and it can be overwhelming to decide which one to purchase. We’d recommend trying out a few to find one that fits you well and feels comfortable.
With all of that said, there are certain jackets that stand out for skiing and snowboarding that offer incredible warmth and weatherproofing.
The #1 best women’s ski jacket, in our opinion, is the Helly Hansen Powchaser Lifaloft Jacket. It’s an incredible value for the money and provides top-notch warmth, weatherproofing, and breathability without sacrificing comfort or style. With a tough outer shell featuring high-quality synthetic materials and Durable Water Repellency (DWR) treatment, it’s designed specifically to keep the elements out and heat in. Lightweight, functional, and well-insulated, this jacket offers the best for resort and backcountry adventures in the snow.
As a budget option, we recommend the Burton Women’s Prowess Jacket, which is a durable, warm outer shell that will protect you from wind and snow all day. There are tons of internal and external pockets in this jacket, perfect for storing the essentials, while lots of elastic bands, closures, and snaps provide flexibility in the fit of the coat while keeping out the cold stuff.
For men, the Burton Covert Jacket is an excellent choice for skiers or snowboarders. With a loose fit, this jacket provides the flexibility needed for movement in the snow. The multiple internal and external pockets are fantastic for storing your phone and other essentials.
Just like jackets, there are a ton of choices for ski pants, but some of our favorites are by The North Face. As one of the most reputable outdoor gear manufacturers in the world, you’re guaranteed great quality and top-of-the-line materials when you buy any clothes from The North Face.
For skiing and snowboarding specifically, we use and love The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants. Beginners and snowboarders will especially appreciate these pants because they’re insulated and waterproof, great for when you’ve fallen in the snow on your butt and are taking some time to get your bearings.
The gloves vs. mittens debate is like the “toe-MAY-toe” vs. “toe-MAH-toe” debate…and the answer is up to personal preference. Gloves provide more dexterity and mittens provide more warmth. There’s even a debate between members of our team as to which is better!
If you’re on Team Mittens, Burton also has a set of Gore-Tex insulated mittens (women’s and men’s versions) that’s basically the same thing as the gloves but in mitten form. (Note: Kay, the author of this article, is #TeamMittens…)
A helmet is a must for skiing and snowboarding, as you never know when or where you might take a tumble. Protecting your head – and the heat that comes from it – is essential for staying safe and warm while skiing and snowboarding.
Smith, the ski optics manufacturer, makes the durable and comfortable Vantage MIPS Helmet for a day out on the slopes. While this is a high-end model, it’s one of the best in the market in terms of versatility, comfort, and fit. If you’re looking for a good budget helmet, we’d recommend the Giro Ledge MIPS or the Wildhorn Drift.
A good pair of ski goggles is essential for maintaining visibility when there’s snow or ice flying through the air. These usually sell for super high prices at the ski resorts, so we’d strongly recommend ordering a pair online before you hit the slopes.
We’re a big fan of Smith Ski Goggles, as they’re one of the premier brands and their goggles are durable, scratch- and fog-resistant, and comfortable. They make unisex goggles in tons of fun colors and lens types, so you can customize your pair! The Smith Drift for women and the Smith Range for men are excellent choices that are reasonably priced.
If you’re out on the slopes for hours, your hands will get COLD. Hand warmers will help you keep your fingers nice and toasty in the sub-freezing temperatures of the snow. You can buy traditional hand warmers, or opt for a more savvy option: electronic hand warmers.
Additional Resources for What to Wear Skiing & Snowboarding
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