Ski Clothing Tips

Being properly dressed for a ski outing ensures you can readily adapt to the rapidly changing conditions you’ll likely encounter on the slopes. A proper layering system will keep you comfortable whether you’re producing a lot of body heat as you move up the slopes or zipping downhill, and whether you find yourself adventuring in sun, snow or windy and overcast conditions.


Dress in multiple light layers. This is the equivalent of a personal climate control system; you can add or remove layers, as necessary, so that how much insulation you’ve got on suits your activity level and the prevailing weather conditions.

In general, you’ll want to remove layers before you start sweating due to activity and put them on before you get uncomfortably cold; try to pay close attention to what your body is telling you and work proactively to stay comfortable.

A good layering system will consist of at least a base layer–usually a thin, wicking material that helps keep your skin dry–and an outer shell that provides a firm barrier against the elements. You can add other insulating layers between the base and shell layers as needed.


Avoid cotton, especially in your base layers and socks; some skiers even take this as far as wearing non-cotton underwear on the slopes. Not only does cotton absorb water and hold it next to your skin, cotton also loses much of its insulation value when wet. Wool or synthetic materials–there are a number of branded polyester blends on the market, like Capilene, that perform well–make a much better choice for base layers. Wool and fleece both make good insulating layers between your base layer and shell.


Select outerwear–both jacket and pants–that is waterproof, windproof and breathable. This means they’ll keep the rain, wind and melting snow outside, while still letting moisture from condensation and perspiration from inside your layering system get out. This helps keep you dry and comfortable.

Most waterproof garments will come with their waterproof rating on the label; these numbers may range from 500 millimeters to 30,000 and the higher the number, the more waterproof the garment is.

Look for outerwear with vents: Armpit and thigh zippers that can be opened to supply extra airflow to help keep you cool and dry during periods of exertion, then closed again for extra warmth.

Headwear, Gloves and Socks

Some skiers apply the layering principles to their headwear, gloves and socks; you can use thin, wicking liners against your skin followed by a medium-insulation outer layer.

If you wear a helmet while skiing, keep in mind that any headwear you choose to use must fit underneath it. Test your helmet-hat pairings before hitting the slopes to make sure the helmet doesn’t push the hat down over your eyes.

For gloves, choose articulated fingers to give you both better mobility and better insulation. If your hands tend to get very cold, however, use mittens instead of gloves, with a liner glove beneath, so that your fingers aren’t completely bare if you should happen to need to remove the mitten to handle something that requires finger dexterity.

For both socks and gloves, avoid the temptation to add so many layers that you pinch off circulation to your fingers or toes; this decreased circulation will leave you colder, not warmer.

About this Author

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics at the University of Alaska Anchorage and contributes regularly to various online publications. Print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.