What To Wear Skiing

What To Wear Skiing

A day on the mountain can be full of surprises. With the potential for changing weather conditions, it’s good to be prepared before you head out onto the hills, especially if it’s your first time skiing.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what winter ski clothes to wear and what “Pro Tips” to consider when putting together your skiing outfit.

Ski Outfit Checklist

  • Ski jacket
  • Ski pants
  • Layers
  • Snow gloves or mitts
  • Balaclava or neck gaiter
  • Socks
  • Helmet
  • Goggles
  • Beanie

Ski Jacket

Among the pieces of ski attire needed for a comfortable day on the mountain, your ski jacket is the foundation of your skiing outfit.

Ski jackets come in a variety of styles and offer a wide range of technical features which determine your warmth and comfort throughout the day. It comes down to balancing insulation, breathability, and waterproofness based on weather conditions and your activity level.

Snow jacket features to look out for:

  • Insulation (shell vs. insulated)
  • Waterproofing & breathability
  • Seams (fully taped/critically taped)
  • Fixed powder skirt
  • Ventilation
  • Other features:
    • Helmet-compatible drawstring hood
    • Adjustable and stretch cuffs with thumb holes
    • Data card pockets
    • Internal and goggle pockets

what to bring skiing

Ski Pants

Ski pants share many of the same technical aspects as ski jackets and are a necessary piece of skiing gear.

Look for quality ski pants that have the proper balance of insulation, breathability, and waterproofness, along with technical features that may come in handy on the mountain.

Snow pant features to look out for:

  • Insulation (shell vs. insulated)
  • Waterproofing & breathability
  • Seams (fully taped/critically taped)
  • Ventilation
  • Other features:
    • Adjustable waist construction
    • Zippered pockets
    • Articulated knee construction
    • Reinforced scuff guards around bottom hem

It’s important to plan what to wear under ski pants, as well. The next section will discuss what layers to wear when skiing for the first time.


Waterproof Ratings

Waterproofing Level

Description K Rating Ideal Conditions


Basic protection against light rain and snow. 0 - 10k Dry and light snow conditions
Waterproof Higher protection against moisture, including moderate snowfall and wet conditions. 10 - 20k Most snow sports in various weather
Waterproof and Breathable Highest level of waterproofing with breathability for intense activities. 20k+ Wet and snowy conditions, avid skiing

Insulation Types

There are three main insulation types when it comes to ski clothing:

  • Down – Uses feathers for excellent warmth, but does not dry quickly. Ideal for cold and dry conditions.
  • Synthetic – Uses synthetic fibers for good warmth that dries quickly. Ideal for varying and wet weather conditions.
  • Hybrid – Uses a combination of both for excellent warmth that dries quickly. Ideal for all-purpose use, especially high-performance skiing.


Proper layering means knowing which clothes for skiing to choose to keep you from overheating from physical activity or feeling the chill because of trapped humidity or cold weather.

A simple way to plan your layering is to follow the “3-Layer Principle.”

1. Base Layer

  • Your base layer is the clothes that sits directly on your skin, which serves to wick away moisture.
  • Synthetic materials, such as polyester, provide good breathability.
  • An important consideration in choosing base layers is the structure of the fabric – look for fabrics with a good range of movement.
  • Seam stitching, such as flatlock seaming vs. plain seaming, is another important base layer feature. Flatlock seams or a seamless construction are ideal for physical snow activities.

2. Mid Layer

  • Your mid layer is the garment that sits between your jacket and base layer. Mid layers generally include fleeces or lightweight down jackets for extra cold days.
  • Ideal fabrics are synthetic materials that offer a balance of breathability and insulation. Features to look out for are brushed microfiber on inner collars for comfort, and stretch knitting for ease of movement.
  • Mid layers are worn to fine-tune the insulation from your ski jacket and double as something to wear in the lodge or on the patio after your ski session. They often come with zippered pockets and can be worn in place of jackets in warm spring conditions.

3. Outer Layer

  • Your outer layers, typically your ski jacket and pants, are worn on top of your base and mid layers, and are your final layer of protection against the elements.
  • Outer layers should be waterproof and breathable. Some outer layers are simply shells (i.e., they have no extra insulation) and some are insulated.
  • Most, if not all, outer layers are made from synthetic fabrics and have a variety of technical features, including zippered pockets, fully taped seams, and ventilation systems.


ski layers

Snow Gloves or Mittens

Protecting your hands from the elements is essential for safety and comfort, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned skier.

Gloves and mittens both offer the necessary protection and choosing between them is a matter of personal preference. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • They are made of waterproof materials, such as nylon or polyester, or treated natural leather.
  • They have features to keep snow out, such as cuffs with hook and loop or drawcord closures.
  • They provide enough grip to help you hang onto your ski poles.

Gloves and mittens offer a spectrum of insulation to match varying weather conditions on the mountain. Glove liners, thin gloves which are worn under your snow gloves or mittens, can be used to fine-tune your insulation needs and often come with conductive material on the fingertips so you can still use touchscreens.



ski gloves

Balaclava and Neck Tubes

Balaclavas and neck tubes are common on the mountains. While similar in design, they come in a variety of colors and graphics to match your ski outfit.

They are worn around your neck and can be pulled up to just under your goggles to provide protection from the sun or cold. They also act as neck gaiters for skiing that prevent snow from entering your jacket on powder days.

Neck tubes can be pulled up to the crown of your head, allowing the neck opening to sit just under your chin while the tube covers your ears. For added warmth, they can be paired with a thin microfiber beanie designed for under-helmet use.

Balaclavas are the go-to choice for colder days, as they have an integrated beanie to provide extra under-helmet insulation.


ski neck tubes


Dedicated ski socks are an often overlooked piece of ski gear. While it is possible to wear normal warm socks, ski-specific socks offer a number of benefits which will keep you comfortable and skiing longer.

Some of the features include:

  • Articulated design to match the forward leaning posture used in proper ski technique.
  • Flatlock seams to reduce rubbing inside the ski boot.
  • Padding and compression in key locations to protect shins and maintain blood flow.
  • Moisture-wicking materials to keep feet dry and warm throughout the day.


ski socks


Wearing head protection is important on the ski slopes for beginner and expert skiers alike.

Modern helmets provide protection, insulation and ventilation, and clips to secure your goggles. They come in a variety of colors and styles and should be tried on with your goggles to ensure there is minimal gap between the brim of the helmet and the top of your goggles.

ski helmets


Goggles are essential for multiple reasons, including safety from impacts and UV protection.

They do a good job of keeping your face warm while protecting your eyes from glare. There are a variety of colors, opacities and category levels, and here are some general rules:

  • Dark or mirrored lenses are worn on sunny days to protect from the intense luminosity.
  • Orange or pink lenses with lower opacity are worn on lower-light days to help pick out details in the slope.
  • Clear lenses are worn for nighttime skiing.


ski goggles


Keep a beanie in your pocket for lunchtime or post-ski relaxation and activities. They come in different styles and which is best is a matter of personal preference. To avoid extra bulk in your pocket while skiing, a low-profile beanie is a good choice.



ski beanies

What Shoes Do You Wear To Ski?

Skiers wear ski boots when on the mountain and often wear a good pair of easy-to-slip-on, waterproof, insulated winter boots when walking from the car/hotel to the lodge/ski lockers.

What Shoes To Wear When Not Skiing?

It’s a good idea to bring a pair of waterproof, insulated winter boots for when your day of skiing is done. Tennis shoes won’t provide the insulation needed to keep your feet warm and dry.

Wearing proper footwear is a lot more comfortable than wearing ski boots.

If you do wear ski boots, be sure to use a pair of slip-on treads to give you grip on non-snow surfaces and protect your ski boots from wear and tear.

shoes after skiing

Tips for First Time Skiing

Research the Weather

Knowing what temperature and weather conditions to expect is key to choosing what to wear for your first day skiing.

On colder days, you’ll want to wear a warmer mid layer than on warmer days. Keep in mind that skiing is a physical activity that will keep your body temperature warm.

If you’re a beginner, a good rule of thumb is if you’re feeling a little chilly when you step outside, you’re probably wearing the right combination of layers. If you’re feeling very cold or too warm, you’ll want to adjust your layering before hitting the slopes.

Knowing if it’ll be sunny or snowing is also important because it affects your choice of goggle lenses and neck tube/balaclava.

beginner ski tips

Wear Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential when skiing. The snow reflecting the sunlight combined with the high altitude of mountains makes sunlight more intense than in the valley.

Apply sunscreen in the morning and reapply at lunchtime, regardless of the air temperature.

Don’t forget to apply lip balm with an SPF rating of 30+ throughout the day. If it’s extra sunny and you want to avoid a goggle tan, you can pull up your neck tube to just under your goggles.

breathable ski jacket

Importance of Waterproofness/Breathability

Waterproofness relates to keeping moisture out of your skiing gear, and breathability means getting water out. This is called moisture regulation, and it’s important for warmth on the mountain.

If sweat doesn’t have anywhere to go, it can get your base layers wet and then begin to freeze and make you cold.

Likewise, keeping moisture out through waterproofness is essential for staying warm. Snow will quickly melt if it enters your jacket or pants and leave you feeling soggy and cold.

Choosing good ski clothing for moisture management is key to staying comfortable so you can focus on skiing.

waterproof ski jacket

Invest in Quality Ski Garments

Good ski clothing is a smart investment. Not only will it perform well in terms of waterproofness, breathability, and insulation, it can help you better your skiing – quality ski garments are built for movement through their articulated design, fabric choices, and stitching methods. When you're comfortable, you can focus on your skiing technique.

After reading this article, you should feel confident in knowing what to wear when skiing. Having the right skiing gear is key to your comfort, enjoyment and progression.