How To Dress for Skiing | Beginner’s Guide To Stay Warm & Comfortable

by Anthony Schwabe | Updated On: September 2nd, 2022
skier dress

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Your gear is one of the most important parts of your ski trip. This extends beyond just having a good snowboard or skis. The right clothing can elevate your experience, so what should you wear when you go skiing? 

The correct ski gear will make a huge difference in comfort and skill on the slopes. Beginners should prioritize a good pair of ski boots, as well as a good jacket and pants. Other great pieces of gear include a helmet, goggles, gloves, and a warm base layer.

skier in complete cloth

The Essentials

While some items of clothing might be optional, these are the ones that you will surely need when you hit the slopes. These items all provide protection against cold weather and unforgiving snow. 

1. Ski Jacket

One of the most important items for any skier is the ski jacket. Your upper body loses an incredible amount of body heat if not protected properly, so a quality jacket really makes a huge difference. 

ski jacket features

The main role of a good ski jacket is to keep the cold wind and snow out while keeping your body warmth in. This is done by good insulation, windproofing, and waterproofing.

A good ski jacket has to have all of these features. The construction of a ski jacket changes from brand to brand, but most jackets are either shell jackets or multi-layered. 

Another feature you should look out for is good ventilation. It might seem a little counterproductive to try to cool yourself down while skiing in the snow, but anyone that’s gone skiing in the sun knows it can be both too cold and too hot if they don’t have good ventilation. 

There are so many other features to look out for in a good ski jacket, but some of the best are things like useful pockets to hold things like cellphones and lift passes. 

Here are some of the best things to look out for in a ski jacket: 

Waterproofing
Insulation
Windproofing
Insulation
Ventilation
Powder skirt
Long sleeves and collar
Helmet-compatible hood
Waterproof inner pockets
Lift pass pocket

Best Ski Jackets

There are so many great ski jackets out there nowadays that it can almost be tough to choose. These are some of the highest-rated ski jackets out there at the moment: 

2. Ski Pants

Arguably the most important item of clothing for any skier or snowboarder. Because of the proximity between your legs and the snow, you really do want your legs to be covered and protected. 

ski pants

Some skiers will even forego their jackets on a warm sunny day, but the pants are almost always on. That’s how important they are.

Similar to a good snowboarding jacket, your ski pants need to be both windproof, waterproof, and insulated. This is even more true than for a ski jacket as your legs are going to come into contact with snow – bailing or not. Jeans don’t cut it.

A lot of good ski pants will have a suspender construction to help keep them securely fitting during even the most intense skiing. If your ski pants don’t have suspenders (known as salopettes), it’s not the end of the world. Other pants will simply have a combination of belt loops and adjustable waist tabs.  

Another feature to look out for is ventilation zips. These are usually found on the inside of the legs because of friction while pumping your legs. 

Along with ventilation zips, boot zips are very important. These let you tuck your boots inside the pants, helping to prevent snow from coming in through the pant leg. It’s a good idea to take your boots with you when you go pant shopping or to try on a similar pair at the store. 

These are some of the best features to look out for when it comes to ski pants. 

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Ventilation
Waterproofing
Pocket zips
Suspenders or belt loops
Boot zips

Best Ski Jackets

Our top picks for ski pants: 

3. Ski Boots

It can’t be stressed enough just how important good boots are, for both skiing and snowboarding. Your boots are where you feel your skis or snowboard, as well as most of the terrain you’re riding on. 

Boots

They’re also non-negotiable. Your boots are what connect you directly to your skis or snowboard, meaning you can’t really ski without them. Thankfully, most resorts offer ski boot rentals, but it’s definitely a good idea to get some of your own. 

Ski boots have similar requirements to both ski jackets and pants. Because of how much snow your boots come into contact with, they are always well-insulated and waterproof. 

Another important aspect of ski boots is comfort. An uncomfortable pair can take all the joy out of a ski holiday. This is always a risk that comes with renting ski boots instead of having your own. 

One of the biggest comfort factors is the flex rating of a given boot. Beginners should aim for boots with a flex index below 85 for men and 75 for women. From there intermediate ski boots have a flex index between 90 and 110 for men, and between 80 – 95 for women. 

I think it’s safe to assume that advanced skiers won’t be reading a beginner’s guide, so let’s not worry about the higher flex indexes. 

Anyone that is quite observant might have noticed that ski boots and snowboard boots are different from one another. They’re so different, that you can’t actually use one in place of the other.  Ski boots are much more of an extension of your equipment, rather than an item of clothing. 

That being said, there are some key similarities between both boots, because these are what make them great for the conditions on the slopes. These are things like: 

Waterproofing
Comfortability
Insulation
Removable boot lining

Best Ski Boots

Here are some of the best beginner ski boots available right now: 

The Highly Recommended

The other items on this list might not be absolutely essential for everyone wanting to go skiing, but they are very highly recommended and can make your ski trip safer and more enjoyable. 

4. Ski Helmet

There are plenty of hazards involved with skiing. All of these present the risk of injury to riders, so you do need to protect yourself. That’s where a good helmet comes in. 

ski helmet with snow

When it comes to a helmet, you really don’t want to skimp out. There are various features that can help you tell a poor helmet from a great one. The first thing you want to check is if the helmet has either an EN1077 or ASTM 2040-18 rating. Forget the rest.

The most important aspect of a good ski helmet is the fit. For a helmet to do its job, it needs to fit closely to the head, while staying comfortable. Lightweight fits are also best. After that, look out for good ventilation that will keep your head cooler for longer.

Another useful feature is goggle compatibility. Be sure to try your helmet on with your goggles before you buy. You want your goggles to sit flush against the top of your helmet, protecting your whole forehead and brow.

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There isn’t a single person on the slopes that haven’t fallen at least a few times. Accidents happen, so be sure to wear a helmet. Don’t be fooled by anyone that thinks it looks cool to not wear one. 

Best Ski Helmets

These are some of the best helmets available at the moment:

5. Ski Goggles

While some people will argue that goggles aren’t essential, we really think they should be. There are so many reasons to invest in a good pair of ski goggles. 

man wearing ski goggles

Ski goggles protect your eyes from the sometimes harsh weather found on the slopes. They can also protect your eyes from debris as you’re flying down the mountain. Glare from the snow is also a huge issue that can plague anyone not wearing the right goggles.  

An important part of choosing your goggles is the conditions you’ll be skiing in. Some resorts are notorious for sunny, bluebird skiing, while others are infamous for blizzard conditions.

The color of your goggle lenses plays a huge role in how well they work for you in different conditions. 

Again, the fit of your goggles and your helmet is quite important, so if you already have a helmet, be sure to look out for goggles that fit nicely with them. Avoid gaper gap.

Best Ski Goggles

Here are some of our recommendations for ski goggles:  

6. Snow Gloves

Proper snow gloves are an amazing asset for skiing, particularly in very cold weather. And for beginners, you’ll notice the benefits very quickly. 

ski gloves

When you’re just learning how to ski or snowboard, you will definitely fall. There’s just no way around it. Human instinct makes putting out your hands your first reaction to falling, so they will always be coming into contact with the snow. 

You might be wondering how bad can a little snow be. Anyone that’s innocently tried to make a snowball barehanded knows just how quickly the snow & ice can freeze and graze your fingers. 

Waterproofing and insulation are your best friends when it comes to skiing gloves. You also want to look out for gloves that have a way to help seal snow out. These are typically things like an elasticated wrist liner. 

Other than that, you do have some choice when it comes to your gloves. Be sure to try out mitten-style gloves and regular gloves that allow all five fingers to move freely. Mittens are usually warmer, but proper gloves offer better finger dexterity.

Extra grip on the inside of the gloves really helps when it comes to holding onto your ski poles, as well as giving your more traction to carry your gear when walking around.  

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Glove liners are also an awesome way to keep your hands that extra bit warmer in very cold climates. 

Best Ski Gloves

7. Base Layers

What you wear under your ski jacket and ski pants is often overlooked but can play a huge role in your comfort on the slopes. 

base layer polyester

Having the correct clothing underneath will really increase your breathability and insulation. This can help you stay warm without working up a huge sweat.

Best Base Layers

Good quality underwear can help wick sweat from your body which aids in ventilation. As we’ve said, going up and down the slopes for a whole day can be a tough exercise. 

You should definitely wear both long underwear tops and bottoms, including socks. Fleece and merino wool make for great choices as they can help keep you nice and warm. 

ski with socks

When it comes to socks, merino wool is an excellent choice. Here are our favorite picks, but you can’t go wrong with any good-quality ones. Be sure to get socks that are taller than your boots for comfort. 

Best Ski Socks

What Should You Not Wear Skiing?

The items above are what would make for a very enjoyable ski trip, but things like budget can always be a factor. For anyone wanting to skip out on a few items, definitely prioritize your boots, pants, and jacket – in that order. 

skiing-in-brown-jacket

If you have to, you could get away with substitutes. However, there are certain items you should absolutely avoid wearing. These items can make skiing less enjoyable or even be outright dangerous. 

The most dangerous items to wear are sunglasses and scarves (use these neckwarmers instead). In the event of a wipeout, your sunglasses have the potential to cause injury to your eyes. 

Scarves are also quite dangerous because of the way they hang from your body. There is a risk of catching them on a tree or worse, the ski lift machinery. These are both very dangerous hazards that you can avoid by ditching the scarf.

When it comes to items that will just make your experience unpleasant, avoid jeans and regular gloves. Neither of these items is waterproof and will make you extremely cold as soon as they are wet.  And as we said, your hands and legs are going to come into contact with the snow. 

Vail Skiing
Photo by jrm353 licensed under CC BY 2.0

Let’s Recap

Having the right clothing can really elevate the awesome experience of skiing. It will help with warmth and overall comfort, but can also make you a better skier. Beginners don’t have to splurge on the best gear straight away, but the quality is always important. 

Choosing high-quality gear from reputable brands will let beginners get the most out of their purchases for years to come. It might hurt the wallet initially, but it’s really worth it in the end. 

About Us

NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I founded this website so I could share everything that I wish someone had told me, when I started learning to ski in 2005. As seen in Yahoo, HowStuffWorks, MSN. Learn More

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