Winter Sports

What to Wear Skiing: Complete Guide to the Basics

When picking out your clothing for your next ski trip, follow these guidelines to ensure you have all you need to have the time of your life on the slopes.

Heading out to an alpine location for a bit of skiing is a life experience worth living. Whether you’re taking to the slopes of Aspen or Telluride, you’ll need to ensure you dress for warmth.

There’s a strategy to dressing for cold weather on the ski slopes. Layering with thermal clothing that you can easily strip when you feel too warm is critical if you want to enjoy your time on the slopes.

Modern ski clothing is far different from the bomber jackets and puffy clothing of the 90s and early 2000s. Today’s gear is streamlined for aerodynamics and features design and manufacture with premium synthetic materials to keep you dry while you ski.

Gore-Tex and waterproof membrane technology ensure that you never have to deal with getting wet again. Your clothing is the only thing protecting you from the elements while you’re skiing, and it’s worth spending money on lightweight, premium clothing that offers excellent protection from the wind, rain, and cold.

When picking out your clothing for your next ski trip, follow these guidelines to ensure you have everything you need to have the time of your life as you whizz down the snow-covered slopes.

Ski Jackets

Your ski jacket is your first line of defense against the elements. Choose a lightweight coat, such as the Patagonia Stretch Nano-Storm, that offers you a good balance between comfort and lightweight materials.

Your jacket needs to be waterproof, as the snow that comes in contact with your body heat starts to melt, soaking the layer under your jacket if it’s not waterproof.

Select a jacket that has a light layer of insulation, allowing you to wear the jacket without any insulation layer on warmer days. Additional features like pit-zips also provide you with better ventilation on warmer days as well.

The 5 Best Softshell Jackets for 2020: Complete Buyer’s Guide

Ski Pants

Most brands of ski pants offer a loose-fitting, baggy design. The baggy pants allow you to add thermal insulating layers under the pants to keep your legs warm.

However, on warmer days, you won’t need the addition on an insulating layer under your ski pants. Therefore, if you don’t like baggy clothing, try to look for a pair of slimline insulted pants instead of regular ski pants.

How to Layer for Skiing

Before you head out onto the slopes, you need to understand the principles of layering your clothing for warmth and convenient removal when you start to warm up. The 3-layer strategy is a universal layering system that works. This strategy includes the following three layers of clothing for skiers.

  • 1st Layer – Keep Your Skin Dry with a technical base layer
  • 2nd Layer – Insulation
  • 3rd Layer – Water and windproofing

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these layers.

Layer 1 – The Base Layer

The technical base layer of your ski clothing makes contact with your skin. Forget about wearing any cotton clothing for your ski trip. Cotton absorbs your sweat, soaking your technical base layer. As a result, you’ll start to feel cold when you stop moving.

Look for base layers made from premium, synthetic materials that wick moisture away to the outside of the clothing. The clothing pulls the sweat to the exterior, where it dries without making contact with your skin, keeping you warm.

It’s also important to note that your base layer can be a t-shirt and leggings in most ski conditions. However, if you’re going skiing in freezing weather, then wear a onesie as your base layer for maximum warmth.

Technical base layer clothing consists of design and manufacture with synthetic materials. Wool is also an excellent option for skiing, and it doesn’t absorb moisture like cotton, keeping you dry. We love using wool socks on our ski trips.

Look for clothing featuring merino wool. This material wicks moisture away from your skin while providing a warm insulating base layer against your skin.

Layer 2 – Insulation

After taking care of your base layer, it’s time to start thinking about your insulation. This mid-layer helps provide the warmth in your layers. The technical base layer wicks away the sweat, while the insulation keeps you warm.

It’s important to note that the air pockets in your clothing trap the most heat. Therefore, choosing tight-fitting clothing won’t provide you with the same level of warmth as a loose-fitting top.

You can scale the 3-layer strategy to meet your environmental requirements. If you’re skiing in warmer weather, or your body runs hot when you exercise, you can probably get away with leaving out the insulation layer.

However, if conditions are cold or you have a sensitivity to cold weather, then you might want to add an insulating layer, such as a gilet. Some of the best clothing for an insulating layer include the following.

Lightweight Insulated Jacket

Your insulating layer doesn’t have to be thick and bulky. Most bulky, inexpensive jackets are less efficient than the modern kit available featuring synthetic fibers. Primaloft is an excellent example of a lightweight, insulating material that’s efficient at holding heat.

Lightweight Insulated Jacket with Down

Down jackets are warm, and they pack down easily into your daypack when you’re feeling warm. However, down doesn’t offer you a breathable jacket, and you’re more likely to sweat under this model. Down jackets also lose their heat-holding efficiency when you get them wet.

Best Selling Ski Jackets

SaleBestseller No. 1
MOERDENG Women's Waterproof Ski Jacket Warm Winter Snow Coat Mountain Windbreaker Hooded Raincoat Pink, X-Large
  • Waterproof Windproof Snow Ski Jacket, also can fights bad rainy or misty weather, Keep your body always dry and comfortable when you are outside.
  • Adjustable cuffs,stretchable glove hole help seal in warmth,windproof adjustable storm hood help to keep wind out,Wear resisting soft shell is highly wind resistant.
  • Professional water repellent coated, fluff lining and durable fabric guarantees the best heat retention, Relaxed-fit style with quick-dry material.
  • Multipurpose:Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowsports and other winter outdoor sports.
  • Size notes: Jacket offers a standard fit. Please choose by US size.
Bestseller No. 2
Wantdo Women's Warm Winter Coats Windproof 3-in-1 Ski Jacket Hooded Waterproof Rain Coat Ivory M
  • Versatile liner: The ski jacket with zip-in, 3-point interchange system offers you 3 options for wearing: just the waterproof shell, just the insulating liner puffer jacket, or both for maximum weather protection and warmth
  • Windproof: Detachable hood featuring adjustable drawstring, elastic cuffs, YKK zipper, and button to connect shell and inner jacket. The snow coat with unique material and design is suitable for outdoor performance in different winter weather conditions
  • Waterproof: The waterproof ski jacket with the technological outer shell and professional coating can work under over 5000mm pressure, enable to keep you dry and comfortable from the rain and snow fully
  • 5 pockets: Multi-pockets offer a stash for all your needs, containing 2 zippered hand pockets and 1 chest pocket outside, 2 warm hand pockets of the cotton padded liner
  • Best use: The winter coat can handle inclement weather easily, such as rainy, cloudy, or snowy. Perfect for downhilll skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, camping, and various outdoor sports

Fleece Jackets and Zip-Ups

A fleece-lined zip-up top that covers you up to your neck is an excellent option for a lightweight insulating layer. Polartec is a fantastic brand offering lightweight, breathable fleeces.

The thicker your fleece, the more warmth it holds. However, make sure you’re buying a premium brand, as the cheaper brands may be thicker, but hold less heat. Choose a lightweight fleece with top quality materials.

It’s important to note that the fleece will not protect you from the wind, which is why you need a final layer to protect you from the cold.

Layer 3 – Ski Pants and Jackets

Buying yourself a ski jacket doesn’t mean you need to hit the trail looking like a Michelin Man. Your layering strategy makes more of a difference to your comfort and warmth than a bulky, heavy jacket.

Your ski jacket should offer you protection from the snow, rain, and wind. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure you buy a breathable jacket with a waterproof membrane. Some jackets come with insulating layers that you can remove if the weather turns warm.

For those skiers that run hot on the slopes, there are shell jackets available without the insulation but still offer you excellent waterproofing and wind resistance.

Staying Comfortable While You Ski

Now that you know the layering strategy, it’s time to focus on your comfort on the slopes.

Newbies to skiing often make the mistake of focusing on their jacket, and they look for a thick model, without taking into account the insulation, waterproofing membrane, or wind-resistance features.

It’s a common newbie mistake to think that a good jacket is all you need to stay warm on the slopes. The layering strategy described earlier in this post offers a synergistic combination of layers that work with each other to keep you warm.

When purchasing your ski gear, read through ski forums and posts to find the best equipment to suit the environmental conditions. Wearing too many clothes on a warmer day will leave you sweating, especially if you enjoy being active on the slopes.

Ski Accessories

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from your layering technique, and the best clothes to suit your environment, it’s time to look at the ski accessories you need on your trip.


You might think that wearing a helmet looks goofy. However, you’ll understand the importance of this equipment if you ever take a fall. Frozen snow is as hard as concrete, and if you fall over at a decent speed and hit your head, it could lead to a severe injury if you aren’t wearing a helmet to protect you from the impact.

Some helmets have exciting technology that increases user safety. For example, the Smith Compass Snow Helmet features MIPS tech that minimizes the rotational motion to the brain during an impact.

Whatever helmet you settle on, make sure it has adjustable sizing for a snug fit, with or without a beanie. Your helmet should also feature air vents for additional airflow to keep your scalp dry while skiing.

Check the retailer guide to sizing to select the right helmet to fit your head. Some models also come with ports for your earphones, in case you want to listen to your favorite tracks to amp you up on the slopes.

Best Selling Ski Helmets

Bestseller No. 1
OutdoorMaster Ski Helmet - with ASTM Certified Safety, 9 Options - for Men, Women & Youth (Black,L)
  • ASTM CERTIFIED SAFETY - Ski helmet built for both comfort and safety. Equipped with REINFORCED ABS SHELL & SHOCK-ABSORBING EPS CORE.
  • CHOOSE BETWEEN 9 DIFFERENT COLOR OPTIONS - Sleek design available in 9 different color combinations for you to choose from. All in matte finish.
  • ADJUSTABLE SIZE - Size adjustment dial for a perfect fit. EASY TO WASH removable ear pads & inner fleece liner.
  • BEST-IN-CLASS VENTILATION - Equipped with 14 individual vents for next-level ventilation for HOURS OF COMFORTABLE SKIING.
  • WHAT YOU GET - 1 x OutdoorMaster KELVIN Ski Helmet, OutdoorMaster's friendly customer service.
SaleBestseller No. 2
OMORC Ski Helmet,ASTM Certified Safety Ski Helmet for Men,Women&Youth,Goggles&Audio Compatible and Lightweight Ski Helmet,Adjustable Venting,Dial Fit,Detachable Ear Flaps and Velvet Lining
  • ASTM CERTIFIED SAFETY:OMORC Ski helmet has undergone intensive safety tests.Fully complies with USA ASTM F-2040 safety standards for helmets used in skiing,snowboarding.EN1077 standards ABS and EPS material with strong impact resistance and protection.
  • WARMER COMFORTABLE DETACHABLE EARMUFF AND LINING: velvet earmuff and lining ski helmet helped keep your head and ear warm,which is suitable for skiing,snowboarding and winter sports.You can detach the earmuff lining and wash it, keep the interior clean.
  • FLEXIBLE ADJUSTABLE DIAL: The adjustable head circumference dial can control the tightness of the helmet according to different head sizes,providing more comfort for your head.Please choose the correct size based on your head circumference.
  • COMPATIBLE WITH SKI GOGGLES: Goggle loop on the back helps to keep the ski goggle in place when downhilling and at high speed.No more hassle to adjust the ski goggle and avoid any unexpected incidents.
  • WHAT YOU GET:Warm,Comfortable and durable helmet,suitable for skiing,skating,snowboarding,skateboarding.OMORC ensure every customer rest assured to by our products,If you have any questions about our products,please do not hesitate to contact us.


Today’s ski goggles have more in common with premium brand sunglasses than they do with older versions from the 90s.

When selecting your google, make sure you go with the same brand as your helmet. If you choose different brands, then you might find that there’s a gap between the edges of the googles and your helmet. The gap allows air to enter the helmet, leaving you with a freezing scalp, and a possible headache.

Most googles include two different lenses with your purchase. You’ll receive a lens for bright sunlight conditions, and another for low-light conditions. Make sure you select a polarized model, as regular lenses won’t cut out the glare from the snow.

Lenses also come in a range of colors, from fire-iridium to ice blue, and many more.

Neck Buff and Facemask

Most jackets come with a cuff to protect your neck. However, you’ll need a base layer to prevent the cold from getting to your skin. In cold conditions, you can wear a neck buff to ensure the wind stays away from your skin.

Some buffs come with a built-in facemask that keeps your cheeks and nose from feeling frozen in the cold weather. On warmer days, you won’t need the buff, but a facemask is a great idea to keep the wind off of your nose and cheeks.


You’ll probably find that your hands get freezing during your ski session. Frostbite is a real thing, and if you don’t cover your hands, then you run the risk of losing your fingers to the cold.

Buying a pair of insulated gloves is the best way to keep your fingers toasty.

For icy days when the mercury dips well below zero, we recommend using mittens over gloves, as they keep more heat around your hands. Chose gloves with a large cuff that fits around the sleeves of your ski jacket.


When it comes to skiing, we recommend you choose thinner socks over thicker ones. The padding and insulation in your boots will do wonders to keep out the cold.

All you need is the addition of a technical base layer to keep your feet dry and warm. Merino wool socks are our top choice to keep your toes toasty and dry.

The 5 Best Heated Ski Socks – Which Pair Is Really The Warmest?


We’re not talking about your ski boots in this section. No-one wants to spend a minute longer than they need to in their ski boots.

The inflexible nature of ski boots limits your ankle’s range of motion, making it challenging to walk normally. Keep a pair of Uggs or comfortable ankle-high boots handy for after your ski session.

Best Selling Ski Boots

Bestseller No. 1
Salomon X Access X60 Wide Womens Ski Boots Black/White Sz 7/7.5 (24/24.5)
  • Flex: 60
  • Last: 104
  • Shell: Polyolefin
  • Cuff: Polyolefin
  • Liner: Flex Comfort
Bestseller No. 2
Columbia womens Ice Maiden Ii Snow Boot, Black/Columbia Grey, 7.5 US
  • ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: This Columbia Women's Ice Maiden II boot features Techlite lightweight midsole for long lasting comfort, superior cushioning, and high energy return as well as Omni-Grip advanced traction rubber sole for slip-free movement.
  • HANDY FEATURES: This women's winter boot is crafted of waterproof leather and textile construction and 200g insulation to keep you warm and dry during the worst of weather.
  • ADJUSTABLE FEATURES: The Ice Maiden II winter boot features a lace-up closure for an adjustable, secure fit.
  • FEMININE STYLE: This women's waterproof winter boot delivers a lux, feminine look that's versatile and stylish. Fit tip-it runs true to size. Features seam sealed membrane bootie construction
  • This Columbia Women's Ice Maiden II winter boot is lightweight with a waterproof, insulated construction. It's perfect for winter's worst days.

Wrapping Up – Shop Around and Take Advice

When shopping for your ski gear, we recommend buying all of your equipment online. Online retailers offer the same products from leading brands that you find in stores, but you have much more selection on offer, and the price is usually at least 5% below what you pay in a store.

Some people might stress about ordering their gear online, as they don’t know how it will fit or look when they don the clothing. If this is the case, then visit a ski shop, try on all of the stuff you like, and then leave the store and buy it online.

If you’re struggling to decide on the best ski clothing, then look through forums and ask experienced skiers for their advice.

Adrienne is a traveller and blogger with many years experience of the outdoors life. An adrenaline junkie at heart she loves to try different sports and activities all year round. With a degree in journalism she combines her love of sports with writing here at Contact

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