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Skiing & Snowboarding Complete Outfit Guide: What to Wear, How to Dress & Layer

What you wear skiing or snowboarding in one location isn't drastically different from another. Do research on the specific conditions of your destination. Focus on layering for versatility; adjust based on temperature and weather conditions.

Cold Weather (Below 15 degrees Fahrenheit) Warm Weather
Base layer Base layer
Fleece or sweater Shell jacket
Puffy jacket Consider wearing a face mask to protect from sun and snow burn.
Shell jacket
Warm gloves
Face mask
Avoid adding extra or thicker socks, as they can cut off circulation and make your feet colder.  

Properly dressing for skiing or snowboarding can significantly enhance your experience on the slopes. Beginners, in particular, should focus on being properly prepared to ensure comfort and enjoyment. Weather conditions on the mountain can change quickly, so it's essential to be prepared for various conditions. Starting with a good base layer, then layering up depending on the conditions is key. Skiing and snowboarding gear can be expensive, but you may already have suitable layers in your closet. The three main elements to consider when dressing for skiing or snowboarding are cold, wind, and moisture, both from the outside and from perspiration. This guide provides higher-level concepts behind mountain dressing and specific guidelines for dressing for a day on the hill.

Layering Tips for Skiing & Snowboarding

Layering is the most efficient way to stay warm and dry while skiing or snowboarding for the first time. The three main layers are a base layer, mid layer, and shell, each with its own important function. Embracing modularity allows you to adapt your kit to changing weather conditions. You can swap out layers to ensure comfort, such as skiing in just a shell and base layer on warm, snowy days. On calm, cold days without precipitation, you can ski in your base layer and insulating layer, leaving your shell in the lodge. Doubling up on insulating layers on cold days is an option for extra warmth while still using the same shell and base layers. The key to layering is staying flexible and adapting to the weather conditions, adjusting your layers like ingredients in a recipe to keep you comfortable and dry.

Base Layer

The base layer is what you wear first, setting the base for everything else you wear. It includes underwear, long underwear, and a long-sleeved top. The primary goal of base layers is to protect you from the moisture of your own perspiration. Ski and snowboard base layers are designed to wick moisture away from your body, typically with synthetic or wool fabrics. Avoid wearing cotton as it doesn't wick moisture away and can make you cold and clammy. Look for wicking long johns and a long-sleeved top that are comfortable and fit well under your other layers.

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Mid Layer

The insulating layer's goal is to keep you warm and deal with the cold, so it doesn't need to be waterproof or wick water away. It should have insulation that traps air to keep you warm. The insulating layer is adjustable; you can switch to a thinner layer or add more insulation as needed. Avoid using cotton as it can get wet and lose its insulating properties. Some people use sweaters or fleeces as insulating layers, but they can be bulky. When shopping for an insulating layer, choose between down or synthetic insulation based on your climate. Down offers excellent warmth-to-weight ratio but loses its insulating properties when wet, while synthetic insulation retains its warmth when wet. Ensure that the insulating layer fits comfortably over your base layer and isn't too bulky to fit under your shell. It should also not restrict your movement.

Outer Layer

The shell is the outer layer of your skiing or snowboarding outfit, typically consisting of a jacket and snow pants. It is the most expensive layer due to its waterproof and breathable technology, but it is also the most important for protecting you from the elements. Shell jackets and pants protect you from moisture from the outside and from the cold brought by gusts of wind. They should also allow vapor to escape from your body without letting moisture or wind in, working in tandem with your base layer to keep you dry. Shell jackets and pants are rated based on their waterproofing, breathability, and insulation. Look for jackets and pants with waterproofing and breathability ratings between 10k and 30k, with higher ratings providing better protection. Insulated and shell jackets are both great options, with shell jackets allowing better temperature control by layering underneath, while insulated jackets might eliminate the need for a mid-layer. It's important to have a waterproof and breathable jacket even when it's not snowing, as you can still get wet from falling down or changing weather conditions.

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Pants & Bibs

Ski and snowboard pants follow the same guidelines as shells, with the choice between bibs and pants being an additional consideration. Bibs stay up more easily without a belt and better protect your backside from wet and cold snow. Bibs can be more comfortable and warmer since they don't have a waistband and have more material over your core.

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Gloves & Mittens

While it's possible to wear other types of gloves on the mountain, ensure they are both waterproof and insulated for protection and comfort. Keeping your hands warm and dry is crucial for an enjoyable skiing or snowboarding experience. Mittens offer the most warmth but may make it hard to do certain things like using your phone or adjusting goggles more challenging. Gloves provide more maneuverability but less warmth compared to mittens. Liner gloves can be added to mittens for added warmth and dexterity. Ski and snowboard gloves and mittens often feature waterproof fabrics like GORE-TEX or treated leather to keep hands dry.

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Beanies & Ski Masks

Wearing a light liner beanie underneath your ski or snowboard helmet can keep your head warmer and more comfortable. Ensure the beanie doesn't have any big seams, a pom pom, or a cuff that could interfere with your helmet. Alternatively, you can wear a combination mask and hat, such as a balaclava, to keep your head and face warm.

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Wearing a helmet is essential for skiing or snowboarding to protect your brain in the event of a crash. Modern ski and snowboard helmets are light, comfortable, and effective at protecting your head. The first key to choosing a helmet is ensuring it fits properly. Helmets are sized traditionally from Small to Large, and you can measure your head and reference a size chart if you're unsure. Most helmets come with an internal fit system to help dial in the fit. Fit with your goggles is important for comfort; ensure there are no gaps between your goggles and helmet, and that your helmet doesn't push your goggles down into your nose or face. Adjust your goggle strap if needed. Advanced safety technologies like MIPS, helmet weight, and audio integration are important considerations when choosing a helmet, but they can add to the cost. Choose the features that are most important to you.

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