A skier comes down a steep powdery slope with sunlight in the background. 
SKI & SNOW

How to Stay Warm Skiing and Snowboarding

Our tips for staying warm in cold weather
BY TROY ASPLUND
For many, winter means skiing and snowboarding. But both of those activities require snow. And snow requires cold. And whoever said heat rises has never been stopped on a mountain chairlift in subfreezing conditions. So to help you thrive in the frigid mountain conditions of your favorite ski resort this winter, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you make the most of your day on the slopes. With our guidance, you’ll be piling up runs down the mountain rather than running for the warmth of the lodge.
A skier takes off his blue Columbia Sportswear jacket, exposing his winter layers. 

1. Know how to layer

Whether it’s skiing or any other outdoor activity, the secret to staying warm, dry, and comfortable is knowing how to layer. Layering allows you to add or subtract pieces, so you can easily adjust to the conditions and your activity level, ensuring you always have the perfect amount of warmth and protection. There are three elements to proper layering: baselayer, midlayer, and outer layer.

The baselayer, which some think of as thermal underwear, sits against the skin, wicking away sweat to keep you warm and dry. The midlayer, typically a fleece or puffer, provides an added layer of insulation between your baselayer and outer jacket. And the outer layer, which consists of your ski jacket and snow pants, is the waterproof, windproof barrier between you and any snow, sleet, ice, and wind that comes your way.

The baselayer, which some think of as thermal underwear, sits against the skin, wicking away sweat to keep you warm and dry. The midlayer, typically a fleece or puffer, provides an added layer of insulation between your baselayer and

2. Understand your gear

The features of ski jackets and other gear don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t know they exist. So be sure to talk with a salesperson so you fully understand how your technical apparel is designed to work—they can also help you find the best fit for everything from jackets to baselayers. If you are making a purchase online, read the descriptions of each feature thoroughly. Special jacket features may include hoods designed to work with a ski helmet, powder skirts that block snow, pockets specifically for ski goggles, and pit zips to help you keep from overheating.

3. Invest in a good ski jacket

When it comes to staying warm, your ski jacket is key. It’s your own personal basecamp while on the slopes—where your warmth begins and ends. So be sure to invest in a high-quality option. Insulated jackets are typically the warmest, but outer shells can work great too if you have solid midlayers, especially those with extra warming technologies like Omni-Heat™ Helix. You can also opt for 3-in-1 interchangeable ski jackets. Those feature an insulated layer (natural down or synthetic), along with an outer shell which can be zipped together to form one jacket or worn separately, giving you three different wearable options.

4. Don’t forget your ski pants

Your ski jacket is a critical piece of keeping warm, but don’t overlook your ski pants, as they are important too. If your lower half isn’t warm and dry, none of you is going to feel warm and dry. It’s especially important for less advanced skiers and snowboarders to have a pair of warm, waterproof pants since they’re more likely to spend time on the snow-covered ground. That said, even expert skiers need good snow pants to protect them from icy chairlift seats and frigid conditions.
A skier covered in snow looks at the camera smiling.

5. Cover your face

When temperatures are cold, you need to do everything you can to prevent the icy air from reaching your skin, and the more coverage the better. Ski goggles offer protection for your eyes and the skin around them, but a balaclava will help keep the cold off the rest of your face. It will offer added protection when it’s cold, and can be easily stored in your pocket if the wind dies down or temperatures rise a bit. For extra warmth, look for options made with thermal-reflective Omni-Heat™Infinity.

6. Fuel your warmth

While clothing and gear are most important, nutrition can also play a significant role in staying warm on the mountain. Complex carbs like grains and oatmeal provide sustained energy to help maintain warmth. Healthy fats from things like nuts, seeds, and avocados are also excellent energy sources that will help maintain body temperature. High-protein foods like meats and beans keep you feeling both full and warm. And easy-to-carry snacks like trail mix and energy bars can provide a quick burst of energy that also helps your body maintain warmth while on the go. For a little extra boost of body heat, try adding spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne to your food and drinks. Of course, make sure to stay well hydrated—warm liquids like broths, teas, or hot chocolate are great for warming yourself from the inside.

7. Avoid cotton

If there’s one universal law that applies to pretty much all outdoor activities, it’s no cotton allowed. This is because cotton provides almost no warmth and if it gets wet, it takes forever to dry. Instead, opt for quick-drying, moisture-wicking synthetic baselayers made from polyester, nylon, or merino wool. Skiers in extra cold regions may want baselayers that use Omni-Heat™ technology to maximize body heat by reflecting it back at you.

8. Keep your feet warm

How to keep toes warm while skiing isn’t really a secret—the answer is obviously socks. Without the right socks, misery will start in the feet and work its way up. The perfect ski socks need two things to keep you going all day long—warmth and comfort. They should be longer in length (just below your knee) and fit snugly but not be overly tight. Ski socks should also be seamless and not overly thick, which will make your boots fit too tightly. Most importantly, never wear cotton socks. You need moisture-wicking materials to keep your feet dry, which also helps prevent blisters. It’s always a good idea to bring along an extra pair of socks so you have the option of changing into a fresh, dry pair should snow find its way into your boots. And never underestimate the feeling of putting on a warm, comfortable pair of winter shoes after wearing ski boots all day long.
A skier takes off her jacket on a bright, sunny day on the mountain.

9. Use reflective gear

The most powerful weapon you have in your fight against the cold is your own body heat, so make sure you’re making the most of it. Rather than settling on a regular jacket that simply traps body heat, choose a ski jacket and snow pants with reflective technology like Omni-Heat™ Infinity. These feature special linings that reflect your body heat back at you, keeping you significantly warmer on the slopes.

10. Wear a neck warmer

The cold never stops looking for a way to get to you. And if there’s a space between your face covering and jacket, that’s all the cold needs to send chills through your entire body. Many jackets or fleece offer neck protection when zipped all the way up. Otherwise, you can either use a scarf, which can be a bit bulky, or try a lighter-weight neck gaiter that can also be pulled up over your face for added warmth.

11. Choose the right midlayer

We discussed the importance of layering when it comes to keeping you warm and comfortable on the mountain. Your midlayer is vital when it comes to skiing comfortably through plummeting temperatures. That’s because this is your insulation layer. The best choices for midlayers are fleece jackets or puffers worn between your baselayer and ski jacket. For maximum warmth, look for options with Omni-Heat™ Helix which uses tiny heat cells to trap body warmth. Or choose a puffer jacket with Omni-Heat™ Infinity that uses a NASA-inspired liner to reflect body heat back at you.
A skier adjusts his winter gloves on the mountain. 

12. Splurge on nice gloves

Ten things can turn a good day of skiing bad: cold, achy fingers. So make sure to protect them with a good pair of gloves that are both warm and waterproof. For those with fingers that are always cold, consider the added warmth of a mitten-style ski glove. While you sacrifice a little grip and finger dexterity, you’re still able to hold a ski pole and you’ll benefit from the extra insulation and the shared body heat between fingers that a mitten-style glove allows.

13. Never ski in wet clothes

Nothing will set you up for a day of cold misery like putting on wet or damp ski gear from the day before. So as tired as you may be when you peel off your ski gear, make sure to take the time to hang everything up, preferably in a warm room, so you’re starting with fully dry gear the next day. Boot warmers can help ensure the inside of your boots get dry. And turning your gloves inside out can help them dry faster. Overall, make sure nothing is balled up or left in pockets. If you’re headed on a multiday ski trip, it’s always a good idea to bring extra gear like socks and baselayers that you can rotate so you always have dry options for the day.

14. Don’t skimp on your gear

When it comes to snow gear, you get the warmth you pay for. Think of it as an investment in your cold-weather comfort. Cheap winter clothing might look fine, but when it doesn’t perform fine, you’ll be heading for the lodge early—cold, wet, and miserable. And what little money you saved on gear will be lost on an underused lift ticket. Of course, you certainly can find good deals on high-quality clothing and gear, especially around the holidays and during end-of-season sales.
Ready to hit the slopes in warm, dry comfort? Here’s the gear for you.