What to Wear Skiing: The Ultimate Skiing Apparel Guide

What to wear skiing - the ultimate guide to skiing apparel so you have the right clothes for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes.


If you are new to winter sports, figuring out what to wear skiing is a process. Being prepared for the elements can make or break your experience, and without the right clothes, it can affect your desire to ski all together. The key is finding skiing apparel that will be warm, but not sweaty or stinky, and give you a full range of movement.

There’s no doubt that getting into skiing takes some investment. Skiing clothes are pricey, but once you buy the right stuff, it will last you for years.

If you are new to snow sports, this blog post has the basics about what to wear skiing, along with the list of skiing clothes that I’ll be wearing this season.

Already know what to wear skiing, but need to work on your skills? Check out my top 10 beginner ski tips!

What to wear skiing: OUTERWEAR

Wanna stay dry while skiing? Then you need a tough outer layer, and which outerwear you choose depends on what type of conditions you will be skiing in a majority of the time. The most important thing is getting an outer layer that’s waterproof. Look for Gortex or something similar that will stay dry when it’s snowing or if you take a spill.

Another major factor to consider with outerwear is breathability. While the technology is getting better every year, generally the more waterproof a jacket is, the less breathable it will be. I always ski in a jacket with pit zips, which are a quick way to let some air in if you are getting toasty in your jacket.

Next you have to decide if you want something insulated or a simple shell. A shell alone will not keep you warm and will require additional layers underneath. At the same time, shells or jackets with low insulation are going to be more versatile since you can adjust your temperature by throwing on or shedding a base layer. If you plan on skiing in relatively warm winter climates (spring skiing) or you are using your jacket for backcountry skiing, a shell or jacket with light insulation is the way to go. On the other hand, if you are mostly skiing in colder climates, a jacket with heavier insulation will be more appropriate.

Insulated Jacket: Patagonia Stretch Nano-Storm Jacket

This Patagonia Stretch Nano-Storm jacket is the best winter jacket I’ve ever owned. It’s very lightweight, and the stretch makes it very comfortable to move around in. I’ve taken spills in powder and the waterproof material performed well, and the pitzips allow for quick ventilation on warmer days. It’s also got a light layer of insulation, so it’s warmer than a basic shell, but you can also layer underneath for added warmth.  At 5’6” and 140 pounds, the medium fits perfectly.

 Recommended Ski Pants: Apex STH Soft-Shell Pants

Most ski pants tends to be bulky and baggy. I’m not too crazy about this look, so I searched high and dry for a pair of slim fitting ski pants. I couldn’t be happier with the fit and function of The North Face STH Soft-Shell Pants. Despite being slim through the leg, the waistline doesn’t dig in, and they are stretchy enough that I can still comfortably fit a pair of long johns or fleece leggings underneath. The soft fleece lining on the inside provides an extra layer that kept me warm during a bitter cold day of snowmobiling in Wyoming’s backcountry. And if you take a tumble, there’s no need to worry. The elastic ankle cuff is slightly loose but it unless you take a crazy powder spill, it keeps snow out of your boot. The pants also aren’t gortex-style waterproof, but the waterproof finish helps water roll off the pants. Finally, there are two small zippered pockets on each leg, perfect for holding your chap stick and other essentials.

What to wear skiing - the ultimate guide to skiing apparel so you have the right clothes for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes.

Get tips for choosing a new pair of skis

What to wear skiing: BASE LAYERS

Base layers are intended to provide added insulation and quality base layers will regulate your body temp by wicking away sweat. They come in different weights from lightweight to heavy weight and are intended to be combined depending on conditions.

Base layers are also made of a variety materials, and the key is to avoid cotton. Wool is a very popular material. In addition to being soft, it’s excellent at managing moisture, stays relatively odor free, and wool has a long lifetime. Base layers can also be made out of synthetic materials, like polypropylene or polyester. These tend to be both lighter and cheaper than wool. At the end of the day, everyone has their own personal preference. If you have a wicking workout shirt that you like, that also works as your bottom layer as long as you have warmer layers to put on top.

 Recommended Skiing Shirt: Nike Legend V Neck T-Shirt

The Nike Legend V Neck T-Shirt is my go to work out shirt and is also what I wore on the John Muir Trail. After several days of very active use, this polyester shirt still smelled ok. I’ve found they perform the same way when I’m out skiing, and I personally prefer a short sleeve shirt as my bottom layer because it helps with air flow.

Recommended Skiing Mid Layer: SmartWool Midweight Long-Sleeve Zip-T Top

This is another item I bought on my John Muir Trail backpacking trip, and I ended up wearing it all throughout the hike. If it got windy or chilly while hiking, I threw it on over my t-shirt to warm up. Then at night when the temps dipped, it kept me cozy in my sleeping bag. The SmartWool Midweight Long-Sleeve Zip-T Top is made from soft, slightly stretchy merino wool that wicks sweat and moisture, making it perfect for active snowy pursuits when you are all bundled up. I also love the neck zipper for when you need a little fresh air. What is really surprising is how durable this top is. After 22 days of non-stop wear on the JMT, dozens of day hikes, and now skiing, it still looks brand new.

 Recommended Heavy Layer: Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

On days that its cold, I wear the Smart Wool midweight top above and this Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket. This jacket is super warm for how lightweight it is and it provides an added layer against chilly winds. This jacket is also great for other activities like spring hiking, camping, and traveling abroad due to how packable it is.

 Recommended Pant Base Layer: SmartWool Midweight Long Underwear Bottoms

After being so stoked on my Smart Wool Long Sleeve Top, I decided to splurge and invest in a pair of SmartWool Midweight Long Underwear Bottoms. Ok. Yes, these are expensive. But they will be the last pair of long underwear you have to buy for a very long time. These things do a great job of regulating temperature, whether it be a spring day or an icy 10 degrees. My only complaint is after some wear, they get a little baggy in the butt, but as soon as you wash them they are back to normal.

What to wear skiing - the ultimate guide to skiing apparel so you have the right clothes for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes.

What to wear skiing: ACCESSORIES

 Recommended Ski Helmet:  Smith Allure Helmet

Get a helmet. All the cool kids are wearing them. In all seriousness though, nothing is going to ruin a good day on the hill (or your life) more than a head injury. The Smith Allure Helmet is so lightweight you won’t even know you are wearing it, and with its removable ear flaps and the internal lining, you can wear it with or without a beanie. The air vents near the forehead help prevent the dreaded goggle fog, and the Allure model comes in a variety of attractive colors. I have the white in size small. Before you buy, measure your head circumference and refer to this size chart to ensure a snug and proper fit.

 Recommended Ski Goggles: Smith I/OS Interchangeable Chromapop Goggles

Goggles have come a long way since I was a kid. I have very vivid memories of them fogging up so badly in snow storms that I couldn’t see a thing. Also, I always wore the same pair, no matter what the lighting conditions were.  Not anymore. The Smith I/O Interchangeable Chromapop Goggles come with two different lenses and are designed so you can easily swap out the lens depending on the weather. I’d recommend getting one lens for bright days – like the green mirror – and the other lens for low light/stormy days. For low-light I prefer Smith’s Storm Lens. The Smith lens use anti-fog technology to keep the lens clear. I did experience a bit of fogging up on a very cold day of snowmobiling when I was breathing directly into a thick face mask, but on most of my downhill skiing days, they’ve remained fog free. Finally, when picking your goggles, it’s not totally necessary, but it’s a good idea to purchase the same brand of goggles as your helmet, otherwise you could end up with a gap between your goggles and your helmet, resulting in brain freeze. No thanks!
What to wear skiing - the ultimate guide to skiing apparel so you have the right clothes for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes.

 Recommended Beanie: Coal Juliette Beanie ($13)

I never need a beanie under my helmet, but if you run cold, this super soft and thin Juliette Beanie from Coal is a great option. It’s also nice to have a cute accessory to cover up that helmet hair at the end of the day. I like the charcoal color because it goes with everything, but it also comes in blue, pink, and a vibrant neon green/yellow. Fun!

 Recommended Neck Gaiter: Polar Buff

A buff is always a good idea in order to keep the wind, cold air, and sun from hitting your neck and face directly. This Polar Buff is fleece lined and can be pulled up to cover your face when you get chilly on the chairlift.  It’s easy to breathe through and most jackets will zip up over the buff.

 Recommended Gloves: Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

My hands get really cold when I’m skiing, so I choose mitts over gloves since mitts are warmer. The Black Diamond Mercury Mitts are the only ones I’ve found that keep my hands toasty on the coldest days. They also have nice big cuffs that fit over your jacket, which helps prevent any airy gaps between your jacket and your gloves.

 Recommended Sock: Darn Tough Ultra-Light Ski Sock ($25)

Despite popular belief, thinner socks are better than thick socks when it comes to skiing. Darn Tough is another brand I fell in love with on the John Muir Trail. Two pairs of socks for 22 days. I came home blister free, and the socks had zero wear and tear. Turns out Darn Tough’s ski socks are just as good. Without unnecessary bulk, they are padded in all of the right places, like in front of the shin and the heel, and the lightweight merino wool stayed glued in place throughout the day. No shifting around in my boot. I am officially Darn Tough obsessed and expect these socks to last through the next several seasons.

 Comfy Boot: North Face Shellista Mid-Boot

No one wants to stay in ski boots a second longer than they have to at the end of the day, so it’s a good idea to have a cute and cozy pair of boots to change in to. I have the North Face Shellista Mid-Boots. They slip right on, are grippy on ice, and are chic and fashionable enough to wear around town.

Cute winter boots

Check out this post for more cute winter boots.

Cute winter boots
Hope this post about what to wear skiing helps you prepare for a great winter ahead!

 Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. An affiliate means that if you make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. I only recommend products that I truly love, and any purchases you make help keep this blog going. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen

There are 5 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

5 Comments on “What to Wear Skiing: The Ultimate Skiing Apparel Guide

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  1. Wonderful Post…!
    I like your ski wearing tips and ideas. This is very helpful Post for every ski beginners. Ski wear is most important for skiers because of its ride more easy and comfortable play. It’s protected from cold wheater. I love your Post. You are so creative.

    Thanks for sharing your Post.


    I am preparing for my first skiing season. I am 26-year-old women who is going to have her first skiing trip. We are going to Slovakia. At the beginning of December, I am going to the US and want to buy myself a good skiing jacket. I have done a little bit of research and found this “Arc’teryx Women’s Sentinel Jacket” (number 2 in this list: http://www.bestsnowgear.com/best-womens-skiing-jackets/). Actually, I have found good reviews on several sites, so I believe it is a good choice.

    First of all, I love the plain minimalistic design. I don’t like these colorful hip skiing clothes. Maybe they are nice, but not for me.

    Second, I trust the reviews, especially the ones on Amazon.

    The price is not low and I like it. A cheap thing can’t be well-made.

    Do you have any comments on my choice? Will appreciate any input. I am buying the jacket for at least 3-4 seasons, therefore I need to have a durable and comfortable piece of wear.

    Any input appreciated.

      Arcteryx makes great gear. The jacket you mention is a shell so you’ll need to layer underneath it since the shell on its own won’t be very warm.

      I currently ski in the Patagonia Nano Stretch Storm Jacket skiing and I love it. It isn’t quite as bombproof as the Arcteryx but it has a lighter layer of insulation so it will be a bit warmer. You can check it out here: https://goo.gl/iB7aqe

    Nice article. My best discovery was merino wool. Me and my family every year we go skiing to Alps. And we all wera merino wool clothes. We bought shirt and pants for my wife, kids and myself from green-rose.uk.com and the clothes are wonderful. They keeps us warm but does not let us sweat. I recomend merino to every skier 🙂

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