Balaclava Vs. Ski Mask: What’s the REAL Difference? (Which One Is More Comfortable)

by Alaina Johnson | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Buying Guides

When you first look at them a balaclava and a ski mask may seem to have a similar style and function. So, when you're picking one out for your next winter vacation, which is best?

Balaclavas and ski masks are designed to keep your face warm while you're braving the icy blasts during winter. Ski masks offer more coverage, while balaclavas give you a bit more breathing room. Depending on your personal preferences, you may find that one is more suitable than the other.

ski mask

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What Is the Difference Between a Balaclava and a Ski Mask?

The main difference between balaclavas and ski masks is the amount of face coverage they provide to the user. Ski masks usually have three individual cutouts, two for your eyes and one for your mouth. The nose remains covered.

With a balaclava, there is usually just one large opening for your whole face. The rest of your head and neck are kept covered in order to provide warmth.

Key Takeaway: However, they both provide the same function — which is to keep your face and head warm and protect your skin from the harsh elements outside.

Personal preferences are usually determined by style and comfort when it comes to choosing.

Both balaclavas and ski masks are relatively inexpensive so that for the extra comfort and warmth they provide on very cold and windy days they are well worth the expense.

If you're looking to narrow down the choices so you can make an informed decision, the pros and cons of each type of mask are discussed below. For newer skiers, this can provide you with the opportunity to choose the option that best suits the conditions you plan to ski in, as well as the comfort that you're seeking.

Pros and Cons of Balaclavas and Ski Masks

Chloe Kim
Photo by Francisco Seco - United States' Chloe Kim competes during the women's halfpipe qualification round at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China.

If you're planning on skiing high up on very cold days, where it might be windy as well, you will most likely want as much face coverage as possible. In this case, your best option would be a ski mask. It'll keep your nose protected, as it remains covered.

Your nose is a vulnerable part of your body when it gets down to subfreezing temperatures. You'll want all the protection you can get from a ski mask in these conditions.

If you're going to be skiing in regular conditions and you're not worried about frostbite or getting cold, then balaclavas can provide much more comfort. Some people find that they can breathe easier in a balaclava, where their nose isn't covered with material.

Key Takeaway: Another benefit of a ski mask is that your mouth is left uncovered, which some people like because it's easier to drink water, have a snack, or just talk to their ski partners.

With a balaclava, your mouth may be covered, which forces you to pull the mask down to gain access to your mouth.

Balaclavas often feel less confining, so they're a popular choice amongst many skiers. Balaclavas are also versatile in the way they can be worn, which allows the wearer to vary the coverage they want.

To some, wearing a ski mask may look a bit threatening. With a balaclava, you may find that you look more approachable since the majority of your face is visible to those around you.

Top 3 Balaclavas Available for Purchase

If you have an upcoming ski trip and you want to try out a balaclava, these are the best options available for purchase. Most of them are affordable, so you can choose the one that best suits your style.

1. Fuinloth Balaclava Face Mask

This basic style of balaclava provides functionality as well as a sleek style. With a variety of colors to choose from, skiers can pick the option that matches the rest of their ski gear. The Fuinloth balaclava offers UV protection, as well as sweat absorption and quick-drying technology.

For under $10, this is a great option that provides you with an optimal amount of coverage for a casual day on the slopes. You can wear the balaclava in a variety of ways, such as using it as a neck gaiter, a scarf, and even a bandana or a headband!

2. Achiou Balaclava Face Mask

The Achiou balaclava is sold in a variety of color styles, such as camouflage and a pink option for women. With over 20,000 reviews, this is a tried and tested product that is sure to serve its purpose out on the slopes this winter.

This balaclava is made from a mix of polyester and spandex, making it fit snugly for all-day comfort.

3. Nike PRO Hyperwarm Balaclava

With a name as big as Nike, you can hardly go wrong with their version of the balaclava. While it's one of the more expensive options, you'll have a strong brand name with top-quality materials to keep you warm this ski season.

This balaclava covers both your nose and your mouth, with a pull-down feature that allows you to speak and eat freely. The design extends down to your neck, offering coverage that will keep you warm all day on the slopes.

Top 3 Ski Masks Available for Purchase

If you prefer to try a ski mask, these three options are suitable options. Many come in sets of multiple masks, offering you plenty of color choices for your ski vacation. You can switch out designs every day to keep your style fresh.

1. Satinior Full Face Ski Mask

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The Satinior ski mask comes in a wide variety of color options, many of which are bright and will easily stand out on the ski hill. This can make it easy to spot those in your family, even from a distance apart.

Made from 100% polyester, the mask will fit comfortably and keep your face warm. With holes cut out for both eyes and your mouth, you'll find it easy to see through your goggles and stay hydrated while skiing.

2. Geyoga 6 Piece 3-Hole Ski Masks

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If you're looking for a set of ski masks for the whole family, the Geyoga package is a great deal. You will receive six masks in a variety of colors, so everybody can choose their favorite. You can also choose an all-black set.

These masks are made from acrylic fibers, making them a comfortable addition to your ski gear. The fabric is elastic enough to provide a snug fit on anybody's head.

3. Blulu Full Face Cover Knitted Mask

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Another great ski mask set is the Blulu 3-pack. You'll receive three ski masks in colors of your choosing, with all-black options, as well as a pastel-colored set.

These ski masks are windproof and the knitted material provides extra warmth for all-day comfort. The polyester material feels soft on your skin, so no worries about an itchy mask.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you're still having trouble deciding between a balaclava and a ski mask, below are some frequent queries concerning the two options.

Which Is Better: Balaclava Vs. Ski Mask

Depending on the weather, one or the other may be more appropriate for the conditions. On super windy and cold days, ski masks are the superior option as they provide greater protection. On a regular skiing day, with no harsh weather, balaclavas may be more comfortable and less confining.

Which Is More Comfortable?

Key Takeaway: Generally, skiers prefer the comfort of the balaclava. They are generally more versatile and can be worn in a variety of ways depending on the activity at hand.

If you head into the lodge for a quick break, you can easily leave your balaclava on and form it into a neck gaiter while you're indoors.


In the end, choosing between a balaclava or a ski mask generally comes down to personal preference. The only time the ski mask is the clear winner is if the weather is going to be particularly chilly and windy.

You can switch between a ski mask and a balaclava to determine which one you prefer. With so many options on the market, you could easily buy both a ski mask and a balaclava for under $20 total if you're on a budget, giving you choices for your next ski vacation.