Wondering what to wear on your next (or first) ski holiday? Look no further. Our guide is sure to help you nail down your layering, your packing, and probably help your riding, too!
There’s no quick and simple answer to this question. Know that before we begin. Riding Livigno in May will feel like a different world from a Lapland trip in February. And on every ski holiday there’ll be sweaty days at the side of the piste where you’re ripping off layers, and cold ascents on lifts where you’re shrinking into your jacket like a tortoise into its shell, clamouring for warmth.
So how do you strike a balance, prepare for the heat and the freeze, feel light and nimble, but ensure that you’ve not ventured out without enough clothes? Well, it’s somewhat of an art, and its one you’ll dial in over the course of a few trips. But for now, here’s some of our best advice on what to wear skiing for getting that recipe right!
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Layering is essential when it comes to what to wear when skiing. It allows for great versatility as your outfit will be able to keep you cosy and comfortable in variable weather conditions. There are basically three types of layering that every snowboarder or skier should know about:
This is the first layer – also known as a base layer or the next-to-skin. It refers to outfits that are closest to your skin. The primary purpose of the wicking layer is to wick — that is, move, sweat away from your body so that you don’t get too cold when you stop for a rest or when the sunlight disappears. Imagine, you stop for a mountain beer and as you cool down you get super cold! The most commonly used materials for the wicking layer, which mostly consists of long underwear, are fabrics preferably athletic or thermal ones made of synthetic fibre. You can also use silk, but avoid cotton materials as they will merely absorb most of your sweat and end up really cold. Think merino wool, or synthetic treated fine wool products.
This is the second middle layer whose main purpose is to trap heat and keep off cold. The insulating layer mostly consists of vests, pullovers, sweaters, and sweatshirts. Fleece, which is one of the most popular insulation materials is recommended for this layer. Wool is also recommended because of its high wicking performance. When in doubt, go for a fleece jacket, sweater or any other pertinent synthetic fabric. Cosy, cosy!
Remember that the thinner your insulating layer is, the more flexibility you will enjoy. If the temperatures are friendly, the wicking and insulating layers are all you need, but if you are snowboarding or skiing in the dead of winter, a third layer is recommended.
This is the outermost layer and is meant to protect you from such elements as water, wind, rain, and snow, I mean who wants to be sopping wet and riding, errr no-one. The protection layer mostly consists of winter shells or jackets and pants that offer adequate protection while allowing for seamless evaporation of moisture wicked from your skin. Depending on your preference, you can opt for a heavily insulated jacket or a lighter shell with matching pants.
We recommend having your wicking and insulation layer on when shopping for the protective layer to ensure that whatever you get does not restrict your mobility.
This isn’t a mind, body soul rant, we literally mean, protect your head! You should never take the safety of your head for granted while skiing or snowboarding. Here is a quick guide on how to choose the right kind of headgear to wear for the slopes:
Helmets get top priority when it comes to headwear. They offer better protection, and the right kind will keep you warm and comfortable. An ideal snowboarding or skiing helmet should be able to fit well with your goggles and allow you to breathe normally. There are even those that come with removable ear pads to protect your ears from cold.
The weather is every changing on the hill, one minute you can barely see your hand in front of your face and the next you are blinded by the sun! That is why it is vital to give eye protection top priority by getting the right kind of eyewear. The most logical option, in this case, is snowboarding or skiing goggles for colder weather or sunglasses when the sun is out but if you have sensitive eyes perhaps ski or snowboard googles are a better choice no matter the weather.
The goggles or sunglasses should fit perfectly with your helmet so that they can offer full protection from wind, snow or UV rays. If the day is too cold, we recommend a face mask or neck warmer that can extend the protection to your neck.
Every part of your body needs a particular type of clothing all of which contribute to your general safety and comfort whiles skiing or snowboarding. We recommended the right kind of attire to wear for the different parts of your body below:
In general, the upper body attire should allow you to breathe easily and protect you from the wind, water and other malicious elements that you may come across. You have many options here, one of the popular ones being the snowboard jacket or ski jacket. It is essential that you keep in mind the three layering techniques as mentioned above when dressing your upper body.
Your lower body should be accorded the same kind of protection as the upper body, that is, easy breathability and protection from water and other weather elements.
Go with snowboard trousers / ski trousers that are waterproof and preferably cover your boots so that water doesn’t find its way in. For this purpose, you will need pants that have zips on the sides which extend up past the boot. Stay away from jeans as they significantly hinder your flexibility and make you feel stiff.
Keep your hands warm and dry by wearing a pair of your favourite snowboard gloves or waterproof mittens. For a better experience and added safety, go with durable gloves that have synthetic leather palms. You should, however, stay away from wool and cotton gloves which absorb moisture and keep your hands cold.
The best type of ski or snowboard gloves should have long cuffs designed in a way that they can either fit over or under your jacket sleeves.
For your feet, get durable snowboard or ski boots and a pair of warm socks. The socks should allow for easy and unrestricted movement of your toes to ensure proper blood circulation. They should also be able to minimise friction around the ankles which could lead to the development of uncomfortable blisters. When buying snowboarding or skiing socks, go for those that perform exceptionally at wicking away sweat from your feet so that you stay warm down there.
Cover your snowboard or ski boots with the pants to ensure that water doesn’t get into your feet. Plus is just looks cooler, pants tucked into your boots is a big fashion no no!
Minding the temperature when dressing up for snowboarding is very important. Here is how you should dress for different temperatures:
This is the most common temperature in spring.
If running hot - Don’t overdress and risk being too sweaty. Instead, go with a simple T-shirt and hoodie.
If running cold - Replace the T-shirt underneath your hoodie with average-weight thermal fabric.
This is the most common temperature in winter.
If running hot – If you don’t plan on making too many stops, go with a shell jacket and an average-weight thermal fabric underneath it.
If running cold - Include a well-fitting thermal vest underneath the thermal fabric with a shell jacket on top
The mountain will mostly be cold at this temperature.
If running hot – Get a single piece of a thermal jacket and don’t stuff yourself with too many clothes. If the weather is chillier than you expected, go with a slightly weightier jacket.
If running cold - When the temperature gets below zero, add a hoodie into what you already have or switch the shell with a better-insulated jacket.
This is where the real cold kicks in. Usually, every day in mid-season and calls for proper, but not overdone, layering.
If running hot – Get a slightly insulated shirt for the insulation layer. Keep the wicking and the protection layer in-check using the layering techniques described above but don’t overdo it.
If running cold - Substitute the ski or snowboard hoodie with a well-done insulation layer. Don’t forget to add some comfortable and warm gloves or mitts into the mix.
At this temperature, the weather will be freezing cold and concrete protection or outer layer is very important.
If running hot - You can leave it as in the -5 to -8 Degrees Celsius temperature bracket or throw in a one-piece thermal underneath a well-done insulation layer.
If running cold - The temperatures here have become insanely cold. You can either go with triple thermals beneath the insulation layer and shell or replace the shell with an insulated jacket if the cold is more than you can bear.
At this temperature, consider not even bothering. Its Apres ski temps, stay indoors if it is not absolutely necessary that you go snowboarding or skiing.
If running hot – Ensure that you do the layering correctly, but don’t overdo it to the point of feeling stuffy or sweaty.
If running cold – Forget about snowboarding and stay inside.
Although skiing and snowboarding are very different, there is only a subtle difference concerning clothing. For instance, jackets that are worn while skiing is slimmer-fitting than those used in snowboarding since more speed is employed in skiing as compared to the latter.
It is the same case with pants. Those used in snowboarding are baggier than skiing to allow for varied leg movement while those used in skiing are slimmer-fitting.
Why is layering so important for skiing and snowboarding?
Layering is crucial because it allows for versatility to adapt to the changeable weather conditions on the slopes. Three types of layers work together: wicking, insulating, and protection. This system helps move sweat away from your body, retains warmth, and shields you from the elements.
What key features should a good ski or snowboard helmet have?
Ideally, your helmet should comfortably accommodate your goggles without obstruction, provide adequate ventilation for easy breathing, and, if possible, include detachable ear pads for optional extra warmth during harsh weather conditions. A balance between comfort, safety, and adaptability are key.
Snowboarding (and skiing) is undoubtedly a fun sport, but without the right kind of clothing, it can go messy real quick. We advise that you invest in good snowboard or ski outfits that will not only ensure that you are comfy, cosy but also warm and dry. That’s it that’s all folks! See you on the mountain, stay safe and most importantly – enjoy!