Suiting Up for the Slopes – What to Wear Skiing

Out on the slopes, you can always tell a first-timer from someone who takes it seriously. Spend a half-day in sub-zero conditions wearing your normal denim jeans and you’ll understand why they’re looked down upon by seasoned skiers and snowboarders – jeans are cold, wet, and entirely impractical.

But while jeans get a bad rep, they are far from the only impractical skiwear you’ll see on an average day at the slopes. To help correct those clothing missteps, and steer you in the direction of a functional, warm, and – dare it to be said – fashionable skiing outfit, this article will look at the basic tenets of suiting up for the slopes.

The most helpful way to look at skiwear is by layers – the base, middle, and outer layers. Each serves its function and each requires certain unique characteristics. Let’s take a look.

Base Layer

The base layer is concerned with two main things: warmth and breathability. You want a base layer that will retain body heat so that you don’t freeze during periods of inactivity, but also one that allows air to circulate and sweat to the wick.

Soft, stretchy tops allow you a good range of motion while skiing and thermal socks ensure that any trapped snow doesn’t freeze your toes off. If you’re shopping for someone else and want to know what thermal socks he will want to wear, check out that link – they’re an important part of any great ski outfit.

Skier and snowboarder

Middle Layer

The middle layer ought to be insulating, yet easily removable. In the event that you start overheating, the middle layer is often the first to go (you’re not going to ever remove the base layer, and removing the outer layer takes away too much wind and snow protection). A puffy jacket or fleece zip-up would be perfect here.

Outer Layer

The outer layer is comprised of tops and bottoms meant to keep you warm but also shield you from the whipping wind and skidding snow (because spills happen, even for seasoned skiers). Shell jackets protect from the elements without much-added warmth, which might be perfect for milder ski atmospheres, whereas insulated coats provide further heat retention. Snow pants are a great idea (certainly better than jeans) and, like jackets, can come thick or thin.


When the sun hits the blanketed white of a ski hill, it can be incredibly bright, so ski goggles are recommended. You also want a hat, one that covers your ears, and a good pair of thermal gloves. Depending on your experience level, as well as what types of runs you plan on trying, you might also look into renting a helmet.

As for non-clothing accompaniments, a stick of lip balm is never a bad idea, especially if your lips are prone to chapping.

While this might all seem like quite an investment, it will last you for years and can be used off the ski hill as well. Skiing and snowboarding are much more fun when you’re properly suited up and prepared to face the elements. Next time you reach for that pair of jeans, think twice and follow this article instead.

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