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What To Wear Under Ski Pants or Snowboard Pants (Base-Layer Guide)

James Shaffer
By James Shaffer
Last updated on April 15, 2021
Table of Contents

When you're hitting the slopes, you have to dress sensibly. You don't want to underdress and run the risk of feeling the cold. But neither do you want to overdress and run the risk of being sweaty and uncomfortable. On top of that, the wrong layer can restrict movement.

You have to find balance. It can be challenging to do. Whether you're snowboarding or skiing, you have to take several criteria into the equation. I'm going to help you out here. Let's discover what to wear under snow pants.

Ski Pants vs. Snowboard Pants

Sports gear design leans toward comfort and movement. The big difference between pants you'd wear skiing or snowboarding lies in the fit. A pair of snowboard pants are more likely to be baggy. 

When you shred, you're going to be doing a lot more crouching and stunts that require broad leg movement. With the baggier fit, you have clearer options for what to wear under snowboard pants.

Skiing gear, on the other hand, leans toward more subtle movement. Equipment in this sport works for aerodynamic operation. The design retains heat by trapping air closer to your body. Salopettes will have reinforced material in the ankle to minimize a ski cutting into it. 

The extra padding is more likely to be in areas like the buttocks and knees on snowboard pants. In other words, insulation will be where the shredder is more likely to land when they fall.

important features of ski and snowboard pants infographic

What You Want to Consider

When choosing what to wear under ski pants or snow pants, a little due diligence might be wise. There are various features, fabrics, and styles that are better for a specific region, as well as for the type of activity you're engaging in.

Here are a few things you want to take into account.

1. Waterproof Materials

gore-tex 3d render illustration

Most winter sports pants use a waterproof rating, using a range of 5,000 to 20,000 mm. The water resistance is greater with higher numbers. Some materials, such as eVent or Gore-Tex, don't use ratings. But it's understood these high-quality fabrics make for superior clothes.

2. Breathbility

Just like it's important to keep water out, it's also important for the fabric to be able to disperse the sweat that inevitably builds up when you're active on the slope. When you sweat on the slope and it is trapped inside your clothes, you'll first get wet and then you'll get cold. Therefore breathability is extremely important. It also makes for a much more comfortable ride on summer days. It's very important that you layer yourself only with breathable fabrics.

2. Climate

Location is important. Areas like Oregon are well known for warmth and being wet. In this case, you need fully taped seams and a high waterproof rating to manage wet snow. In dry areas like Utah, you're fine with lower ratings.

If you spend a lot of time on the slopes, you want quality, highly rated gear. The occasional Sportster can go with a lower-rated, inexpensive pair of pants.

3. Warmth

I'm not talking about the region's climate; I'm referring to the warmth from the pants. Many manufacturers don't insulate winter sports pants with a lining. Some Sportsters go with the snow pants over a light layer, while others may go with several layers.

You can buy a pair that has insulation. But it's important to remember you shouldn't worry about your legs. To keep warm, you want to keep your core comfortable. That's why pants tend to have less insulation than ski jackets. Besides, once on the move, everything warms up quickly.

4. Other Factors

You can't wear just anything under your winter sports gear. Cotton will absorb sweat. Your under-gear won't dry fast, nor will it insulate you. You're having a great time, but you're feeling the cold.

It's a good idea to use a base layer. This layer should consist of these must-haves:

  • Insulation
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Never cotton

While weather conditions will vary, the base layer increases the possibility of staying warm.

I'd like to note that while it might seem the ideal choice for cold weather, stay away from denim. The material is not designed for the rapid movement you need on the slopes. Also, denim has no insulation. It holds the cold and, when wet, stays soaked.

Why Worry About That Base Layer

Fit woman in thermolinen base layer snow underwear

You want to enjoy your experience when you're snowboarding. That means finding a way to not worry about being comfortable, warm, and dry. Unfortunately, the weather fluctuates. It can be unseasonably warm or bitter cold. Choosing to wear the same clothes or even adjusting your gear can affect your adventure.

Base layers aren't about tees or an extra sweater. Here's what you can consider.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is best in colder temps. It optimizes warmth. The material's odor resistant and manages wicking sweat well. You could always use a mid-layer to help keep the chills away.

Synthetic

Wearing synthetics means sweat gets absorbed and dries up. This material is also flexible and durable. You ensure no liquid sticks to the skin, which can make you uncomfortable in the cold.

Choosing Your Base

The criteria for deciding what to wear under men's or women's snowboard pants should revolve around the base layer. I suggest you look at synthetics.

You may presume that snowboarding and skiing being winter sports; the clothes are interchangeable. The fact is snowboarding requires greater physical exertion. You're likely to sweat more. 

Synthetic layers better manage excess sweat. Thus, a synthetic base offers more moisture absorbency. Some gear's spun to enhance breathability.

Note ski pants are often shells, designed to go over layers. No lining means no protection. 

Dealing with synthetics, watch out for fibers that stick to wet skin or irritate the skin. Go with breathable, light fabrics for base layering. 

There are materials, like wool, that may be scratchy under your snowboarding pants. You might be better off with a nice built-in mesh. You can look at removable liners and a comfortable fabric like fleece. 

Talk with pro skiers or sports store reps to get a firm handle on how to wear snow pants.

Conclusion

man putting on thermal socks over his ski underwear

You may like snowboarding or cross-country skiing. But even if you prefer to walk or run in the cold and snow, you want to dress appropriately. Throwing on your sweats and thermals aren't the best ways to make the most of your snow and cold activities.

There are fabrics, including polyester blends, polypropylene, and quality materials that can make being outdoors comfortable even when it's freezing. It's all about knowing what to wear under snow pants.

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 April 14, 2021
Last updated April 15, 2021
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