What to Wear:
Skiing and Snowboarding
Know before you go
- Check the forecast. Weather conditions can vary greatly throughout the season. You won't wear the same thing on a 38° and sunny day as you would when it's 29° and snowing or 17° with heavy winds.
- Prepare for being unprepared. If you're expecting variable conditions—or just not sure what to expect—it's better to pack more than you'll need. Bring extra layers in a backpack or stash them in your car. You can also rent a locker in most ski area lodges.
- Do you run hot or cold? You might need a different approach than your buddy who routinely wears a down jacket in July. If you're toasty riding the chairlift you're likely going to be too hot on the slopes. Be ready to shed—or add—a layer to strike the just-right balance.
There are four basic elements to snow gear: baselayer, midlayer(s), outer layer, and accessories. Let's begin from the inside out.
Whether you choose wool or synthetic material is a personal preference—just avoid cotton! It tends to get wet and stay wet, making for an uncomfortable day.
You might not even need a midlayer on your lower body, especially if you have a warm baselayer and insulated snow pants. You could add fleece or down pants in between if it's seriously cold.
- Shell jackets and pants are highly durable yet lightweight with little-to-no extra insulation. They protect you from the wet and wind but won't add much warmth. Though, their streamlined versatility is an asset in variable conditions.
- Insulated jackets and pants keep elements out and warmth in with (often synthetic down) insulation. Although an insulated outer layer will keep you warmer, it will add bulk and give you more limited layering options.
If you tend to "run hot," shells might be a better choice while insulated could be the way to go if you "run cold." Either way, many snow jackets and snow pants feature zippered vents to release excess heat without shedding a layer.
Top it off (accessories)
- Gloves typically are made with synthetic materials or leather. More insulation typically means more warmth but potentially less finger dexterity. On cold days, mittens can help keep hands warmer while having extra gloves on rainy days will help if your first pair soaks through. Also look for gloves with an adjustable wrist gaiter to keep snow out.
- Socks should be wool or synthetic (avoid cotton) with midweight-to-heavyweight thickness, though some experts prefer a thinner performance sock for better feel and movement. Avoid wearing two pairs of socks to prevent bunching and blisters.
- Goggles are essential, even on dry days. Different lenses are tailored for specific light and weather, but an all-purpose tinted lens will protect your eyes from sun and wind.
- A helmet is always a good idea and strongly encouraged as the majority of skiers and snowboarders now wear them.
- A neck gaiter or balaclava can help protect areas around the head, neck, and chin susceptible to icy blasts of wind and snow.
- A backpack or hydration pack can be useful for intermediate and expert skiers and boarders to stow extra gear or snacks without renting a locker or going back to the car.
- Sunscreen is a must for much of the season. Rays are stronger at higher elevations and reflect off snow for double exposure and surprise sunburns (like under your chin).