What to wear skiing
Are you heading out skiing for the first time and wondering what you should wear? Most importantly you should optimize for comfort, especially for warmth and dryness. You also do not want to look like a complete beginner, so let’s be honest that fashion probably matters to you as well.
You also do not need to spend $500 on top of the line ski equipment and gear in order to have a great time out skiing. Too many people do not start a new sport or hobby because they assume it will cost them a lot of money to get started, when they are not even sure if they will enjoy it!
Within this post we’ll cover the main pieces of clothing you need to have a comfortable, warm, and dry day out skiing (or snowboarding!) while not looking like a complete beginner.
Gear list for skiing
If you’re heading out skiing, you will need the following pieces of clothing.
- Warm jacket (like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but whatever puffy jacket you have will work. Uniqlo has some warm cheap ones as well);
- Windproof/waterproof shell jacket (like the Arc’teryx Alpha AR, but there are many cheaper options)
- Waterproof pants (ideally ski pants, but windpants will work in a pinch. No jeans!!)
- Warm base layer top and bottom (Marmot and Hot Chillys are our brands of choice, but you can get warm Long John’s as they are often called at Walmart or your local ski shop)
- Warm socks (we like SmartWool, but you can also get cheaper brands)
- Warm waterproof ski gloves (can be found at any major outdoors store like REI)
- Warm hat (any beanie will do)
- Ski helmet (you can rent these at the resort usually. NOT a bike helmet!)
- Ski goggles/sunglasses (goggles on snowy days, sunglasses other times)
You probably noticed that we haven’t listed skis, ski boots, and ski poles. You shouldn’t forget those either!
A word on layering for skiing
When skiing, you need to keep your core as warm as possible without overheating. We cover layering at the bottom of this post, but I cannot overstate that you will be just as uncomfortable if you are too warm as when you are cold. Dress appropriately for the weather, and remember that if you are at altitude and it is a sunny day the sun can be quite warm. You will be able to get away with fewer layers than on an overcast/snowy day, but don’t forget your sunscreen! We’re big fans of the Banana Boat Sport SPF50 sunscreen.
When skiing, you need to keep your core as warm as possible without overheating. So dress for the weather, but most days you are going to want a warm mid-layer jacket (my choice is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, which I got on mega sale) underneath your water/windproof shell.
Find something that has a fill of at minimum 600 and maximum 800, but you will not want a super puffy version. Find something light like that Ghost Whisperer, and remember that Uniqlo has some great cheap ones too. You probably already have a puffy jacket around somewhere. In a pinch, something like a fleece from LL Bean can also help, but you will want to wear a long sleeve and a base layer underneath that as well in almost all cases.
Stay tuned for our article on the best puffy jackets for 2017/2017
Waterproof shell jacket
When you’re out at the resort, sitting on the chairlift can become super cold because of the wind. And if it’s snowing (or dios forbid starts to rain) you will want a windproof and waterproof jacket. It’s also a good idea to wear it on sunny days because you may be spending a decent bit of the day on your butt if it’s your first day out or you are not very good yet.
I use the Arc’teryx Alpha AR, but am looking for a new one this year as my jacket is almost 10 years old.
Stay tuned for our recommended shell jackets for 2017/2018
You’re going to want waterproof pants. Please, no jeans on the ski slopes! #nojeanswhileskiing
You can go to any major outdoors store like REI and find a pair that is discounted, or if you plan to do a lot of skiing and things in the outdoors in the winter in the future I’d recommend investing in a good pair of pants. You get what you pay for.
That said, ski pants can be very expensive. If it is your first day out, a pair of wind pants (NOT the side buckle kinds) can work in a pinch as long as you properly layer underneath with a good thick base layer.
Also remember: you can always borrow ski clothing from friends if you do not own it. This is often the best way to go at the start! Also, some ski resorts will rent you ski pants/jackets.
Stay tuned for our best ski pants for 2017/2018
Warm base layer
If it’s an especially cold day out, or you get cold quite easily, then you are going to want a good warm base layer on both top and bottom. My favorite brand for base layers these days is Marmot, but you can find much cheaper options at places like Target or Walmart to get you through your first few times.
Stay tuned for our recommended base layers for 2017/2018
While the rest of your body is in constant motion while skiing, your feet are not! Hence, they tend to get very cold.
You need to invest in a good pair of wool socks, which can also serve you well if you enjoy other kinds of outdoors activities like hiking in cooler weather.
You don’t need to get dedicated ski socks, as some might tell you. A good pair of Smartwool wool socks will run you about $12 and are more than worth it! Though of course, if you want dedicated ski socks I recommend these from Smartwool.
Stay tuned for our recommended ski socks for 2017/2018
Waterproof ski gloves
Your hands will likely get cold while out skiing, but what will make your day miserable will be if your hands get wet. When you’re first learning to ski you will spend a lot of your time on your side or butt and then picking yourself up from the snow. Since you’ll be in contact with the snow a lot, your gloves could get very wet.
There are many good pairs and brands of ski gloves out there. Because I have been skiing for a long time I rock a pair of Hestra Heli gloves, but have been through many brands such as Dakine and Duck.
Stay tuned for our recommended ski gloves for 2017/2018
I always recommend a good beanie or warm hat when you’re out in the cold. While we also recommend that everyone wear a helmet while skiing/snowboarding, you might also want to tuck a thin beanie into your jacket pocket to put on when you take off your helmet and are sitting outside at the lodge enjoying a beverage on a ski break.
As someone who has experienced four concussions (two from skiing), I religiously wear a helmet while skiing. My personal preference is the Giro Edit helmet, which is very warm, has top vents to cool yourself off when needed, has a goggle strap in the back, and a GoPro camera mount up front.
If you’re just starting out, you can usually rent a helmet at the ski resort. Just please do not wear a non-ski helmet like a bike helmet!
Stay tuned for our best ski helmets for 2017/2018
It is very important that you protect your eyes while outside skiing. On very sunny days, you could cause damage to your eyes if you do not protect them sufficiently.
Thus, we recommend that you always wear sunglasses or ski goggles while out skiing. You can pick up a good pair of Peppers at any ski shop for around $20, and if you have the cash then a good pair of Polarized Oakleys or Smiths (or other brands depending on your preference) can be had for around $100 (or more).
Above all, have fun!
Remember, skiing and other outdoor sports are supposed to be fun more than anything. So get the right gear and get out there!