The REAL Difference Between Ski and Snowboard Clothes

ski vs snowboard risks
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If you own a jacket and trousers already can you wear them to ski and snowboard? What’s the main difference and do I really need a different kit for both sports! Good questions and here’s the answer:

Snowboarding jackets and trousers have a looser or baggier fit, for more time spent sitting on the snow and for style and comfort. Ski clothes are more traditional and have a tighter more refined fit for better aerodynamics and speed. Key point: It’s fine to interchange and wear a snowboard jacket and trousers while learning to ski and vice versa.

What is the difference between ski and snowboard jackets?

ski vs snowboard jackets

Ski jackets and snowboard jackets are similar but there are some small differences between the two.

Most noticeably, snowboard jackets are looser and baggier than the ski jacket equivalent in the same size.

Snowboard jackets are also longer in length and come down over your trousers more than a ski jacket.

The benefit being that snowboarders spend more time sitting on the snow to take their bindings on and off and so benefit from the extra warmth and protection.

Ski jackets, on the other hand, are more tailored in their shape. Ski jackets are still baggier than a typical winter jacket, but they do not come down over your trousers as much as a snowboarding jacket.

Ski jackets are still loose, but tighter than a snowboarding jacket.

The argument goes that snowboarders move their body more so need more room to move.

Both jackets use the same materials to insulate from the cold and stay waterproof. Typically a warm fleece lining sits behind a fully waterproof shell.

Both jackets are waterproof, windproof and designed to keep you warm and dry.

Both jackets will have internal and external zippers to store your belongings and usually an outer sleeve pocket to keep your ski pass.

Both jackets will come in a range of price points, features, and quality of build, from the beginner to the advanced mountain athlete.

Both ski and snowboard jackets are interchangeable and provide excellent protection in both sports.

There’s no reason you can’t wear a snowboarding jacket skiing and vice versa.

What is the difference between ski and snowboard trousers?

skis vs snowboard pants

Just like the jacket, the trousers or pants that snowboarders wear are baggier and looser than their ski alternative.

This baggier fit developed due to snowboardings cultural influences – from skateboarding to surfing. Baggy fashion crossed over into the snowboarding arena and became hugely popular.

This baggier fit is an aesthetic, a look and a style, rather than something that delivers a huge boost in performance.

It’s argued that the baggier fit provides more movement to perform tricks and jumps in the snow park.

Rather than being massively advantageous, the truth I suspect is that snowboarders simply prefer ‘the feel’ of wearing loose gear than most skiers do – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Skiing is an older sport, and the skier’s look has more traditional cultural influences.

Skiers typically wear a more tailored cut and ski trousers are tighter, more fitted and are often (not always) fitted with braces.

Braces are straps that extend from your trousers up to your shoulders. The braces provide greater support and help keep your trousers securely to your body – you can think of it like a more substantial belt.

Note: You don’t need braces if you have a good fitting pair of ski trousers with a velcro hip adjuster. 

Typically snowboarders don’t wear braces, but bib pants or overall trousers are very similar – and are popular among snowboarders.

The most famous of all ski attire, the shell suit is an all-in-one jacket and trouser combo. Like a jumpsuit, the shell suit was a popular way to stay warm and dry on the slopes, without the hassle of two separate garments.

While most young snowboarders would be too embarrassed to wear a shell suit while snowboarding, there’s no harm in wearing one if that’s all you’ve got to get yourself started.

There’s also no reason you can’t wear snowboarding trousers skiing and vice versa.

What is the difference between ski and snowboard gloves?

gloves vs mittens

Just like the other gear, you can wear both ski and snowboard gloves interchangeably, but there are some real reasons to choose a specialist pair for each sport.

Snowboarders don’t use poles and spend more time with their hands touching the ground. For that reason, it makes sense for them to have greater protection and warmth (more snow contact).

Snowboard specific gloves often have greater knuckle protection as snowboarders are more likely to touch the ground throughout the day.

Many snowboarders wear mittens instead of gloves (that have space for individual fingers). As a snowboarder, you don’t need to hold any poles but you still want cozy fingers.

Mittens are deemed warmer and better for cold weather, but they can give you sweaty fingers in warmer times.

You’ll also need to take them off to get into your rucksack and drink water or grab a snack.

P.S Mitten/glove hybrids also exist! 


I wrote a more detailed guide on the difference between ski and snowboarding gloves over here.

Key features to look for in ski and snowboard clothing.

Waterproofing: different price points will have different levels of waterproofing.

The waterproof rating is measured by how much water can be stacked on the fabric before it soaks through (ranges from 3k-20k ml). The higher the rating the more waterproof it is.

Breathability: Breathability is how easy water can evaporate off the surface and through the material. It is measured in grams of evaporation per 24hrs.

This is an important feature for sweatier people and for beginner skiers and snowboarders who spend more time touching snow. Less breathable clothing will take longer to dry and can mean wet and heavy clothing.

Most ski and snowboard trousers come with zip vents.  This allows you to set the breathability by opening or closing vents depending on the temperature.

Warmth: This depends on the amount of inner insulation that a jacket or trouser has and the quality of the materials used.

More insulation will be warmer and better for colder temperatures. For early season or warm weather skiing, you won’t want too much insulation or it will make for a clammy, sweaty feel. More insulation also tends to reduce breathability.

Skiing style through the years.

Over the years the attire that skiers have worn has changed drastically, from the woolen socks of the early skiers to the tight one-piece suit of the 80’s – much has changed. Here’s a small glimpse at all the variations we have seen in ski clothing.

ski attire

Final Thoughts

If you’re learning both spots, there’s nothing wrong with wearing the same clothing for skiing and snowboarding.

Choose snowboarding specific gear if you like the baggy feel and look or you prefer to have more movement inside your clothes.

Go less baggy if you want the same jacket and trousers to fit in whilst cruising on a board or a ski.

Enjoy your time in the mountains and be sure to invest in a quality outfit, no matter whether you ski or monoski!

 

Author: Simon Naylor

Hi – I’m Simon, I started NewToSki.com to write about everything I wish someone had told me when I started learning to ski.