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

Bestseller No. 1
Wantdo Men's Waterproof Mountain Jacket Fleece Windproof Ski Jacket US XL Black XL
  • Waterproof: Water-repellent rain jacket can work under over 10000mm pressure head. Keep your body always dry and comfortable when you are outside, also can fights bad rainy or misty weather.
  • Windproof: 1) Adjustable hook & loop fastener cuffs and stretchable glove with thumb hole help seal in warmth. 2) Inside windproof snap skirt, internal drawcord hem, detachable and adjustable storm hood help to keep wind out. 3) Wear resisting soft shell is highly wind resistant.
  • Multi Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket (passport or cards stowed), 1 internal big mesh pocket, 1 internal secure media pocket, suit for keys, mobilephone, wallet and other accessories. An earphone line fastening and supporting fixture available inside the jacket.
  • Size notes: Jacket offers a standard fit. Please choose by US size.
  • Best use: This windbreaker ski jacket is an ideal outfit for downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowsports, hiking, rock climbing and other winter outdoor sports.
SaleBestseller No. 2
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.

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.

Helmet

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
Odoland Snow Ski Helmet and Goggles Set, Sports Helmet and Protective Glasses - Shockproof/Windproof Protective Gear for Skiing, Snowboarding, Motorcycle Cycling, Snowmobile,Black,XL
  • COMPLETE HELMET & SKI GOGGLES SET: Our ski helmet with detachable goggles is necessary for anyone loves snow sports. This set effectively provide complete protection to you head. You will have great fun when skiing, skating, snowboarding, or doing other snow sports!
  • Complete Protection: The helmet and the goggles are made of premium material. They all meet safety certification. The helmet is shockproof and penetration resistant. Neither the helmet nor the goggles will remove around, effectively protecting your head from getting hurt or injured.
  • DURABLE AND COMFORTABLE DESIGN: Built with 12 air vent holes for great ventilation. The goggles with Flow-Tech Venting Design not only reduces fogging but also optimizes the flow of air over the inside of the lens. Reasonable designed ventilation holes protects you from freezing wind and blurred fogging vision. Both helmet and goggles perfectly fit well!
  • FLEXIBLE & COMFORTABLE: The helmet has detachable lining, removable earmuff and soft chin band for warm wearing. The goggles also have easy-adjustable band. You can adjust the bands for perfect fit and ultra-comfort. Both of them are easy to adjust, put on and take off. They are light-weight, you will have less pressure to your head.
  • GREAT FOR ALL SNOW SPORTS: Bonus a carry bag for helmet, you can take it anywhere! Every winter sport lovers must have one Odoland Ski Helmet set with eye-catching goggles. It’s not only for skiing. You will get effective protection and ultra-comfort no matter you are skiing, skating, snowboarding or do other winter outdoor sports!

Goggles

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.

Gloves

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.

Socks

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?

Boots

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

SaleBestseller No. 1
Sukoa Ski and Snowboard Boot Carrier Strap - Men & Women - Shoulder Sling Tote Leash Also for Ice Skates & Rollerblades - Equipment Accessories for Bag, Kit and Gear Pack
  • 41” shoulder sling design lets you effortlessly take your boots anywhere at your convenience.
  • This option is for SKI BOOTS. Secure boots in place so you always have dry and toasty boots.
  • Folds easily to conveniently put in your bag or pockets. Enjoy the slopes without any extra weight.
  • Top quality stitching and strong nylon to survive multiple seasons and prevent costly replacements.
  • 1.5 “ sling width prevents the sling from digging into your shoulders. Order Now.
Bestseller No. 2
Apex Ski Boots Antero Big Mountain Ski Boots (Men's Size 27) Walkable Ski Boot System with Open-Chassis Frame for Advanced/Expert Skiers
  • EXPERIENCE A TRULY COMFORTABLE SKI BOOT: The Apex Antero Big Mountain Boot for men provides the comfort and warmth of your favorite pair of winter boots that you can ski in at the highest level all day long. The inner walkable boot is designed with superior 360-degree support (from the Boa Lacing System) for advanced to expert skiers and a full-traction Vibram IceTrek outsole for getting to and from the mountain in comfort and safety.
  • GET THE PERFECT FIT: Apex Ski Boots are the only boots that skiers can buy online with confidence because our boots fit more like shoes than ski boots, plus our time-tested sizing system enables us to dial in the right fit for each skier. In order to find your best boot fit, use our Apex sizing chart to match your average shoe size with the Mondo boot sizes, or watch our sizing guide video to see how to measure your longest foot length.
  • EXTERNAL FRAME & OPEN CHASSIS SYSTEM: The Open-Chassis external ski boot frame is a unique design that offers triple the lateral stiffness of conventional boots, creating superior stability and precise edge control and adjustable forward flex. The lateral stiffness of the frame provides a direct connection to your skis, unlike traditional skiing boots, allowing powerful energy transmission on modern side cut skis.
  • BOA LACE SYSTEM WITH 20 POINTS OF CLOSURE: The design of the Apex Ski Boot System incorporates the superior Boa reel and stainless steel cable lacing system to provide precise fit and custom comfort. Apex's patented Serpentine Lacing pattern wraps through the tongue and side panels to tighten around the foot instead of applying pressure down on the foot like conventional lacing patterns.
  • SAY HELLO TO HAPPY FEET: Apex is the first downhill ski boot designed to optimize the performance of today's modern-shaped skis and evolving skiing technique, emphasizing lateral or side-to-side stiffness. The Apex Ski Boot System was developed by industry experts who have extensive experience with ski boot design. The lateral stiffness found in Apex materials and design translates into incredible performance and ski edge responsiveness.

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

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 BeActiveOutdoors.com Contact adrienne@beactiveoutdoors.com

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