What To Wear Skiing & Snowboarding Clothing Guide

snowboard and ski clothing and equipment laid out on a plank floor
James Shaffer
By James Shaffer
Last updated on August 9, 2022
Table of Contents

If you're not sure what to wear skiing or snowboarding, buying the right gear for an upcoming session may seem like a daunting task. This is true whether you're a complete beginner or an old hand that's just a little rusty.

This guide will outline everything you need to stay warm on the slopes, from socks to goggles! Look no further for all the must-know information about what to wear skiing or snowboarding, compiled by our team of winter sports experts.

The Difference Between Ski And Snowboarding Clothing

what to wear skiing vs snowboarding fit

You're probably wondering- do skiers and snowboarders wear different clothing when they take to the slopes? The short answer is no, although there are some aesthetic differences to be aware of.

To ensure skiers reach high speeds, ski clothes were originally designed to be streamlined and sleek. In contrast, snowboard clothing is baggier. This reflects the sport's history as a counterculture.

Though these styling differences can still be noticed today, the clothes themselves serve the same purpose. You can wear skiwear to go snowboarding and snowboarding gear to ski.

What Clothing Will You Need For Skiing Or Snowboarding?

When you're determining what to wear skiing for the first time (or snowboarding), it's important to have a list of all the items you need to ensure you don't miss off anything important. Luckily, we've compiled this list for you!

Before heading out to the resort, here are 9 essentials you'll need to wear skiing or snowboarding:

  1. Long underwear: This layer - which should be made from merino wool, silk, or synthetic fabric - keeps you warm. Choose between light or mid-weight, depending on how much you feel the cold. More advice about underlayers can be found here.

  2. A wool or fleece top: This is worn over your long underwear and underneath your jacket as an extra layer of warmth.

  3. Snowboard or ski socks: These come up higher than your boots and are padded but not too thick (as this can make your feet colder). They are usually made from wool or synthetic fabric - cotton should be avoided because it takes too long to dry when wet.

  4. A snowboard or ski jacket: A good skiing jacket is insulated and waterproof/water-resistant, with handy pockets. Though a waterproof rain jacket over your fleece would do the job as an outer layer, its slippery material won't stop you from sliding if you fall.

  5. Pants or bibs: Ski or snowboard pants are also insulated and water-resistant. For an extra layer of warmth, fleece pants can be worn underneath. Browse our top picks for women here.

  6. Gloves/mittens: You can choose any waterproof and insulated gloves- but ski-specific gloves or mittens come with some handy features like goggle wipes and long cuffs to stop snow from getting in. Mittens are generally warmer than gloves, but it depends on the level of dexterity you're looking for.

  7. A snowboard or ski helmet: As well as protecting your head, a helmet keeps your ears dry and warm. You won't usually have to buy a helmet in advance because most ski resorts offer them to rent.

  8. Goggles: Goggles keep your eyes protected against snow, wind, and bright glare. They need to fit without gaps, so it's important to ensure they fit well with your helmet and over your glasses (if you wear them).

  9. A balaclava or neck gaiter: While it primarily protects your neck against the cold, a neck gaiter can be pulled up to your nose to keep your face warm. A balaclava provides even better coverage.

Before making a purchase, be sure to weigh up your options. There are many different brands out there with products that offer varying levels of warmth and water resistance.

For a comparison of the best ski and snowboard clothing on the market, browse our product lists. These include:

Top 7 Tips For Dressing To Ski Or Snowboard

So now you know what to wear skiing or snowboarding- but there's more! To ensure you get the most out of your trip, here are our top tips for dressing for the slopes.

1. Layers, layers, and more layers!

Layers are key to comfort. If it gets warmer throughout the day, you'll need to be able to remove some of your mid-layers. On the flip side, you'll also want to add more layers if you get too cold.

2. Consider the climate

Different areas have different weather conditions, and you should dress accordingly, with temperature and wetness in mind. For example, while the Pacific Northwest is slightly warmer, you'll want to wear more layers if you're skiing in one of the dry and cold Rocky Mountain states.

3. Rework items you already own

If you're putting together your outfit on a budget, there's no harm in using outdoor wear that you already own. Though it'll lack the special features of skiwear, it will certainly do the job.

4. Rent, to begin with

If you're not planning on becoming a regular on the slopes, it'll be a waste of money to buy every item of clothing you need. For your first trip, it's a good idea to rent gear before investing in your own.

5. Remember sun protection

All areas of exposed skin will need to be protected with SPF. This includes underneath your chin, your nose, and even your ears. Because sunlight is brighter at high altitudes, you risk sun damage if you forget the SPF.

6. Look for waterproof & synthetic

Although it may seem confusing to work out what to wear skiing, it's simple! To ensure that you always stay both warm and dry, opt for jackets, pants, and gloves with a combination of waterproof protection and synthetic insulation. If you look for these features, you can't go wrong.

7. Consider hand and footwarmers

A chemically-activated handwarmer or footwarmer provides an extra boost of warmth when you're out in the snow. If your gloves and socks have gotten wet, you'll certainly be thankful for including these in your ski outfit.

More About Ski and Snowboard Pants

Snowboard or ski pants are one of the most important items of clothing you'll need before taking to the slopes. You can choose between regular pants and bib styles, which fasten with suspenders to keep out snow.

We've compiled lists of the best men's ski pants, the best men's snowboard pants, the best women's ski pants, and the best women's snowboard pants- be sure to read our top picks before purchasing pants or bibs.

Here are some features you'll find in a good pair of skiing or snowboarding pants:

Things to look out for

  • Bibs: As mentioned above, bib-style pants are high at the front and are fastened with suspenders. They keep snow out more effectively and are generally warmer. They take longer to get on and off, however, which is certainly something to remember.

  • Suspenders: If you want to hold your pants up without choosing a full bib, you can add suspenders to your existing ski pants. Though some ski pants will come with these included, you'll probably have to buy them separately.

  • Gaiters: Snow gaiters are internal cuff gaskets, which help to seal snow out of your pants.

  • Thigh vents: These handy features allow you to adjust the ventilation let into your pants depending on the temperature and your body heat.

More About Ski and Snowboard Jackets

Winter ski sports jacket on hanger in store

As an essential part of your outer layer, your ski/snowboard jacket can make or break your snow outfit. A good jacket will keep you warm in the winter weather while providing the water resistance that you need.

When browsing for ski or snowboard jackets, consider our top picks. We've compiled lists of the best ski jackets, the best women's ski jackets, and the best snowboard jackets.

Things to look out for

  • 3-in-1 feature: 3-in-1 jackets come apart, meaning you can remove the outer shell from the inner layer of insulation. This provides you with maximum versatility as you choose how much warmth you'll need day by day.

  • Specialized pockets: While most jackets will have some kind of pockets, the best ski and snowboard jackets will have pockets designed especially for the slopes. You'll have somewhere visible to store your lift pass and even a lined inner pocket for your goggles.

  • Adjustable vents: Zippered vents allow you to adjust ventilation and control your body temperature with ease.

  • A powder skirt: Like cuff gaskets, this gasket around your waist keeps snow out in the event of a fall.

More About Ski and Snowboard Gloves/Mittens

man trying on different snowboard gloves

Being out in the snow for long periods puts your extremities at risk. Though they're often overlooked, gloves or mittens are an essential part of any skiing or snowboarding outfit. The last thing you need on the slopes is cold hands!

While mittens will keep your hands warmer by grouping your fingers, they don't provide as much dexterity as gloves. For a happy medium, consider hybrid designs that are part-mitten and part-glove.

Be sure to read our pick of the best snowboard gloves before making a purchase.

Things to look out for

  • Removable linings: Being able to remove the thin liner glove will come in handy when needing to dry your gloves or when you need more dexterity.

  • Pockets for heat pads: These are designed to accommodate hand warmers, though they also act as vents in mild conditions.

  • Screen compatibility: Some gloves are designed with touchscreens in mind. So if you think you'll be using your phone or device out on the slopes, consider gloves with screen-compatible fingertip pads.

More About Ski And Snowboard Socks

man putting on thermal socks over his ski underwear

To get the most out of your skiing or snowboarding experience, foot comfort is key. It's crucial to ensure your ski or snowboard socks feel comfortable inside your boots before embarking on a session in the snow.

Things to look out for

  • Flat or integrated seams: If you're prone to irritation or blisters, sock seams can cause a nuisance. A flat or integrated seam will prevent this discomfort from affecting your session.

  • The level of cushioning: There's no one-size-fits-all for sock cushioning- it depends on your unique needs. Snowboarders often opt for thicker cushioning than skiers because some snowboard boots fit looser than ski boots, leaving more room for thicker socks. Lightly cushioned socks will feature shin padding and reinforcement in the toes and heel.

Snowboard And Ski Clothing: Final Thoughts

snowboard and ski clothing and equipment laid out on a plank floor

Hopefully, you'll now have a clearer idea of what to wear skiing or snowboarding. Although there are lots of things to think about when choosing your gear, there's no need to stress about your ski wear. As long as you've got the essentials covered, you're in for an amazing session!

Here are a few key points to take away from this guide. Be sure to bear these in mind when preparing for your next trip so that you can stay warm and comfortable on the slopes.

Layering is key

We've said it before, but this bears repeating. Constructing a comfortable and functional snow outfit is all about layering. Layers give you the versatility to adapt your gear throughout the day, ensuring that you never over-heat or freeze as temperatures change.

The most effective way to layer is to wear three main layers- a base layer, a mid-layer, and a shell or outer layer.

  • The base layer generally consists of moisture-wicking undergarments, made from wool or synthetic, that draw moisture away from your skin.

  • The mid-layer is designed to keep you warm and insulate the top half of your body against the cold. Fleeces and puffy jackets are commonly used as mid-layers.

  • The shell consists of a specialist winter jacket and pants designed specifically for skiing or snowboarding. This layer uses specialist technology to be both breathable and waterproof.

Dress for the climate

Even the best snow outfit will be impractical if it's not suited to the specific conditions it's being worn in. Across different resorts, there is a lot of variation in temperatures and climates, so it's important to consider the weather when packing for your trip.

Remember that renting is an option

You won't be surprised to hear that buying an entire skiing or snowboarding wardrobe at once will be very expensive. From insulated socks to bibs and jackets, the technology that goes into winter sportswear can make it pricey.

If you're new to skiing or snowboarding, there's no need to break the bank by buying the clothing you need. You can rent, to begin with, while you're still trying the sports out for yourself. You can purchase gear once you've decided to become a regular to avoid wasting money on an outfit you may only wear once.

Remember, it's common practice to rent boots and helmets from the ski resort you're staying at. So while you'll need to show up with your warm clothing, you won't need these pieces of equipment.


What should I wear for my first time skiing?

For your first time on the slopes, make sure you employ a layering system with a base layer, mid, and shell.

  • Your base layers should consist of moisture-wicking wool or synthetic undergarments. Whether or not you wear anything underneath them is a personal choice. You'll also need long socks with shin protection.

  • Your mid-layer can be made up of a fleece or puffer jacket- depending on what you have and how much insulation you'd like. This versatile layer can be added to or taken from if the temperature on the slopes changes.

  • Your outer layer- or shell- should consist of ski or snowboard pants or a bib and a jacket. Though there are many types of jackets out there, look for one with adjustable vents and a powder skirt to prevent snow from getting in.

How should you dress for skiing?

The best way to dress for skiing is by layering. That way, you have the versatility to adjust your outfit according to the weather and your body heat- all you have to do is add or remove layers.

While your choice of undergarment and insulating layer depends on your preference, a good snow jacket and pants are non-negotiable. Your outer shell must be water-resistant and breathable.

What should you not wear while skiing?

There are a few things you should avoid wearing on the slopes. These are:

  • Cotton clothing. When worn in direct contact with your skin, cotton absorbs your sweat, making you cold or clammy. It will also become wet if it comes into contact with snow, so it's important to steer clear of cotton undergarments, socks, and outer layers.

  • Very thick socks. A common misconception is that sock thickness translates to warmth. The opposite is true, as thick socks can restrict blood flow and leave you with colder feet. Resist the urge to double-up on socks and stick to a single pair of thinner socks instead.

  • Jeans. A surprisingly common mistake is for newcomers to wear jeans skiing. Jeans will absorb moisture and leave you very cold- so they should be avoided at all costs.

James Shaffer

James Shaffer

James is a veteran snowboarder and skier. His passion for snow sport dates back to his early life growing up in Colorado. He spent his early adulthood as a ski instructor around popular locations in Europe but is now back in Colorado.
Published August 9, 2022
Last updated August 9, 2022
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