Skiers Ultimate Guide to Staying Warm

snow trees

Skiing is an outside winter sport and it’s usually pretty cold in the mountains at this time of year. Be prepared for the cold and you’ll make your time skiing much more enjoyable. Follow this guide to stay warm on the slopes this winter.

Know the weather 🌨

Always check the weather before you head out into the mountain. This will help you pick the right clothes for the temperature.

Depending on what time of the season it is and where in the world you are the outside temperatures could range anywhere from -30°C to 12°C (-22-50F). Knowing the outside air temperature, and the snow forecast will give you a clear heads up of what to expect and how to prepare.

Always overprepare. It’s common for shade and sun temperates to fluctuate wildly. The top of the slope on an exposed ridge could be 10 degrees different to the sheltered valley below.

On windy days, windchill is the most common reason that skiers get cold. When possible ski on calm days and always avoid storms.

warm skier

Start the day warm 🌡

It’s no fun putting on frigid boots and ski clothing. Don’t store your gear in the boot of a car or anywhere with low temperatures.

Keep it at least at room temperature or warmer. Then when you go to put on your boots and gear, you’ve already got a headstart.

Once you’ve got the gear on, stay inside for 5-10 minutes and warm up your core temperature (but don’t get too hot that you sweat – more moisture can make you colder outside).

Always fuel up 🍌

Hungry people often feel colder until they replenish their food reserves.

Don’t go out on an empty stomach. Not only do you need the calories for hours of exercise in the mountains, but you’ll also benefit from starting the morning with a hot nutrition meal. Aim for a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

I always bring high-calorie snacks in my backpack to stay fueled throughout the day and they’re a great backup for emergencies, in case you get stranded on the mountain due to a fall or poor weather.

Likewise, stay hydrated throughout the day and carry a reusable water bottle (I recommend Tree Tribe)

ski snacks

Keep equipment dry 🎿

Wetness drains aways heat. The wetter you are and the windy it is, the more deadly this can become.

Always wear dry socks and step into dry boot liners. Put on dry thermals, dry jackets, and dry ski trousers.

Shake off snow from any gear at the end of each day and hung it up to air and dry in room temperature. Take out boot liners and put them near heaters or use boot dryers if they need an extra boost – (I reviewed the best boot dryers.)

Start the day dry and you’ll stay warm for much much longer. Wet ski clothing is a losing battle that you can’t win and you’ll end up miserable.

If you’re walking around town in trainers, then you’re feet are likely to get wet or cold. Choose sturdy hiking boots – Best Off-Piste Boots.

Keep your feet warm

Sometimes you can be fine everywhere except on your feet. Feet are the furthest part of your body from your heart and they tend to have a micro-climate all on their own.

There’s no need to suffer from cold feet anymore, I’ve battle-tested my way to reach the most effective way of keeping feet warm.

1. Wear thin ski socks

It’s counter-intuitive, but thicker socks are not necessarily warmer. Choose ski specific socks that are breathable and lightweight. Thinner socks allow moisture to escape and are more effective at keeping your feet warm.

The PureAthlete ski socks are the perfect thickness for most temperatures and have 400+ 5-star reviews. Check the price on Amazon.

Ski-specific socks made from wool or a synthetic blend are the best at wicking away moisture and keeping your feet dry.

Dry feet stay warmer.

Don’t be tempted to wear two pairs of socks, they won’t allow your feet to dry and your feet won’t be warm for long.

ski socks

2. Don’t overtighten lower buckles

The most common reason for cold feet is overtightening the lower buckles.

Boots are designed to be worn snug. Precisely it’s most important that your heel is locked into place and cannot move. The rest of your foot does not and should not be compressed by the contours of the boot.

Do up the lower buckles to get your heel lock strap locked into place and then loosen them off again, so there is no pressure on your toes. (Read my guide on how tight ski boots should be)

When the lower buckles are too tight, it restricts blood flow to the toes and they’ll get progressively colder throughout the day.

ski boot optimum buckle

3. Don’t clench your toes

Clenching your toes may seem like a good idea, but it actually restricts blood flow to your feet and makes them colder.

If you want to increase circulation to your feet, swing your feet back and forth while you’re on the lift. (Be sure your skis are attached to your boots securely).

Bonus: Use ski boot heaters

Ski boots heaters are battery powered insoles that heat up your foot. After researching many of the options available, I found the Hotronic footwarmer came highly recommend.

It’s rechargeable and comes with three different heat settings and a blast mode. It will last most of the ski day and fits all boot sizes. 40 5-star reviews. – Check the price on Amazon.

ski boot foot warmer

If you want more on keeping feet warm, read my in-depth guide: Keep Your Feet Warm While Skiing

Keep your hands warm

burton ski gloves

Cold hands are common for skiers who wear cheap gloves. Invest in a quality pair of gloves that are insulating and fully waterproof. You’ll want gloves that are insulated but allow you to comfortably hold your ski poles.

Aim for a close fit, so the gloves don’t have air pockets or come off your hands easily.

Long cuffs make for greater wrist protection and warmth. Look for ski gloves with loops (that wrap around your wrist so the gloves can hang without holding them) and straps for tightening the cuffs.

I’d highly recommend investing in gloves that come with either Gore-tex or Thinsulate.

Further reading: 11 Incredible Ways to Warm Hands While Skiing

Best Heated Ski Gloves
Outdoor Research Lucent Glove
Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Glove
ActionHeat 5V Premium Heated Gloves

I reviewed each one in depth over at: Best Heated Ski Gloves.

Best Ski Gloves
Burton Men’s Gore-Tex Gloves
Burton Woman’s Gore-Tex Gloves
Difference between gloves and mittens?

gloves vs mittens

Both gloves and mittens are great for skiers and snowboarders. Gloves have individual pockets for fingers and provide the most dexterity and for doing up zips, handling gear and holding poles. Mittens, on the other hand, have one pocket for all fingers which allows them to share internal heat. With all things equal, mittens are warmer but sacrifice dexterity.

I discuss all the pros and cons of each over on Gloves Vs Mittens.

Wear base layers

Base layers are essential to preserve warmth and fight cold.

Thermal base layers are a body-hugging layer (base layers should be form fitting but not too tight or baggy) than sitting below your ski clothes. They insulate body heat and wick away sweat.

If you wipe out and fall a few times or if it is heavily snowing your outer layers are likely to get wet. A base layer will help keep you dry and push away sweat.

The best materials for base layers are polyester blends or Merino wool because they’re great at wicking away rather than absorbing moisture.

Aim for a long-sleeved top and a full-length pant, so you’re covered from your neck to your ankles. Base layers should be light, comfortable and breathable.

Avoid cotton or thick materials which will retain moisture and weigh you down.

ski base thermal
The author’s Helly Hansen baselayer that’s lasted 10+ years!

Read my full guide on how to layer for skiing.

Best Ski Base Top 2019
  • Helly Hansen Men’s Lightweight Baselayer – Check Price
  • Under Armour Women’s 3.0Base Crew – Check Price
    Best Ski Base Pants 2019
  • Under Armour Men’s Base 3.0 Leggings – Check Price 
  • Under Armour Women’s Base 3.0 Leggings – Check Price

Wear quality ski clothing 

Ski jacket

The ski jacket, perhaps the most important part of a skiers outfit and central to a warmth strategy.

There’s more to it then choosing the coolest looking ski jacket. Look for warmth, breathability, and waterproofing.

Ski jackets come in a range of thickness from ultra-thin shells, to super thick highly insulated (and heavy) jackets.

A thicker jacket will be warmer, but its ability to guard against the elements (waterproofing) and its ability to wick away moisture (breathability) is just as important as its overall insulation.

A thick jacket that has a low breathability rating (under 8k mm) and a lower waterproofing (under 10k mm) will be wet after a few hours.

ski jacket

Choose high breathability 😅

The breathability of a jacket refers to its ability to allow water vapor to escape through the fabric.

Even when you’re cold you sweat and a jacket that doesn’t properly allow moisture to leave will feel clammy and wet.

The more vapor droplets that pass through the fabric the higher its breathability rating and the better the jacket will be at keeping you warm on the slopes.

NOT Recommended Breathability Rating ❌:

2-5,000mm is a baseline for on-piste skiing in cold but dry weather with regular breaks. Cheaper options but they are not very comfortable for long days of moderate skiing. I wouldn’t recommend jackets within this range.

Recommended Breathability Rating ✅:

10-20,000mm is ideal for wetter, snowier climates and for increased snow contact like backcountry and off-piste skiing. Recommended for most skiers

Choose high waterproofing 🌧

If you get wet on the slopes, you’ll be cold in minutes. If you buy cheaper poorly waterproofed fabrics, snowfall will seep through to the interior of your clothing and quickly cool your core temperature.

ski snow storm in trees

 

Ratings 💦Water Resistance 🚫
0-5,000mm
No resistance/Little resistance
6,000-10,000mmSome resistance
11,000-15,000mmNormal resistance
16,000-20,000mmHigh resistance
20,000mm +Highest resistance
NOT Recommended Waterproof Rating :

10k or lower won’t provide must resistance to snow contact and will be soaking wet after a heavy snowfall.

Recommended Waterproof Rating ✅:

Look for ski jackets with a minimum of 10k mm and go as high as you can afford.

The 20k-28k is optimum for all day snow conditions.

It’s better to invest in a ski jacket that will last you over a decade than one that rips in a few seasons and doesn’t even do its job properly.


If you want a more detailed guide, check out my full ski jacket guide

Ski trousers

You’ve got your ski jacket sorted, but a poorly fitted, low-quality pair of trousers will let you down.

Ski trousers like ski jackets should have high breathability (over 8k mm) and high waterproofing rating (over 15k mm).

Don’t wear normal trousers or jeans, but wear ski specific trousers which are waterproof provide a looser more comfortable fit over base layers and crucially are wide enough at the bottom to come over your ski boots.

Use the velcro straps, salopettes or a one-piece combo for a snug and gapless fit.

Once your ski trousers are on, pull down them down over your boots so that your legs are insulated and snow doesn’t ride up from the bottom as you’re skiing.

ski trousers

Mid-layer

A fleece mid-layer is the crucial intermediary between your thermal base layer and outer waterproof shell (ski jacket).

The fleece layer insulates your core temperature and can be used to regulat your temperature in colder or warmer weather (by adding a thicker or thinner mid-layer).

Choose synthetic blends or merino wool (Merino Wool Men’s Denali Expedition) which whick saway moisture and rather than absorbing them.

North Face fleece comes highyl recommended, Check price on Amazon.

Ski helmet

Ski helmets help prevent injury and insulate your head with a waterproof shell and a warm lining.

Not only are ski helmets safe than hats, but they’re also warmer too. Especially so when it’s snowing.

Heat rises and most body heat escapes from the top of your head. Wear a quality ski helmet and insulate the most important part of your body.

After a lot of research, the Salmon ski helmet offers an awesome combination of comfort and weight – Check the price on Amazon.

salmon cruiser ski helmet

Ski goggles

Skis goggles not only protect your eyes against the harmful effects of UV rays and snowblindness but crucially ski googles insulate the air around your eyes.

Skiing downhill at speed into snowfall can sting. Ski goggles cover about a third of your face and block snow, wind and cold from hitting your eyes.

Ski goggles are an essential defense in staying warm on the mountain.

If you want to know the best tint color to wear in bright light or flat light conditions.


If you want a more detailed guide, check out my full ski goggles buyers guide:

ski lift
Your author skiing the first run of the day.

Accessories

Neck gaiters

Neck warmers, balaclavas or gaiters protect your neck & lower face from the elements. They sit around your neck and you can pull them up and under your helmet and tucked under your goggles for a full face covering.

Ideally, in cold windy weather, you don’t want any exposed skin. The more of you that’s covered the warmer you’ll be.

Turtle Fur Original Fleece Neck Warmer
Turtle Fur Original Fleece Neck Warmer
Best Neck Gaiters & Warmers for Skiing

Read my full reviews of the best neck gaiters.

Hand warmers

Hand warmers are a great backup to have in your backpack if you need a boost of warmth.

This Zippo Refillable Hand Warmer from Amazon is my favorite because it’s alot warmer than disposable ones and much better for the environment.

 Zippo Hand Warmer
Zippo Hand Warmer

No gaps 💨

Gaps between your layers can make a crucial difference, especially on a windy day.

For cold or windy days wear a balaclava or neck gaiter. I love this merino wool one on Amazon. It’s made from super warm fibers and is lightweight, which means it will dry much faster and keep your neck and face really warm.

On your ski jacket, do up your zip to the top and tighten your powder skirt – the elasticated band at the base of the jacket.

Wear Salopettes or ski trousers that fit properly. You’ll want to wear them high up on your waist and pull you ski jacket down over your trousers to keep cold air out.

Wear your gloves under your jacket cuffs and do up the cuff adjusters for a snug fit. This will prevent snow or cold air from rushing up your arm and cooling your core.

Hot flask ☕

A hot drink on a cold day! That’s the benefit of packing a flask of hot coffee or tea in an insulated bottle.

Get a high-quality flask and you’re drink will stay warm in your backpack to enjoy at any time on the slopes, without having to ski back to the resort.

After a lot of research, my top pick is the Zojirushi stainless mug which will keep your drink hot for 6 hours or more and comes in three sizes (check price on Amazon). It has over 4k 5 star reviews.

thermal flask

Take a break 🕒

If you’re feeling cold and miserable. Take a break. Head back to the resort or an inside heated space and warm your core.

Sometimes all you need is a break to warm yourself. If it’s cold and you notice a friend mumbling, slurring their words or acting strangely. Get them warm quickly, they may be suffering the effects of hypothermia

One of my wilderness medicine instructors described a person in the early stages of hypothermia as having the “umbles”—he or she mumbles, grumbles and fumbles.
Caroline Gleich, Professional Skier

Hot lunch ♨

Just like carrying a hot drink with you, a hot lunch will fuel you for the afternoon session, warm your core and give you the calories you need.

Snacks are great, but there’s nothing like a steaming hot lunch to warm you up.

Don’t overlayer

You might be under the impression that the more layers the better. While it’s true you need a thermal layer, a mid-layer, and a waterproof shell, but there’s no need to layer more than this.

Layers of clothing will trap in moisture and sweat, weighing you down and making you colder.

When moisture can’t escape it makes you wet and more susceptible to windchill and heat loss.

Avoid pure cotton layers as the fibers absorb sweat – choose wool or synthetic blends.

Wear three high-quality breathable layers.

What not to do

  • ❌Don’t eat cold food.
    ❌Don’t clench your feet.
  • ❌Don’t wear thick sick socks.
    ❌Don’t over-tighten lower buckles.
    ❌Don’t wear wet socks, boots or clothes.
    ❌Don’t wear clothing with low breathability.
    ❌Don’t wear more than three/four layers of clothing.

What to do

✅Wear dry socks, boots, and clothes.
✅Fuel up on hot food.
✅Wear thin ski socks
✅Don’t clench your toes.
✅Wear high quality Gore-tex or Thinsulate gloves.
✅Wear ski jackets with high breathability (over 8k mm)
✅Wear 3 layers: a base form-fitting base layer, a fleece mid-layer, and a waterproof (over 10k mm) jacket.
✅Wear a balaclava (or neck gaiter), ski helmet & ski goggles.
✅No exposed skin, tighten your cuffs and seal the edges of clothing.
✅Bring a thermal flask of hot drink to warm yourself on the slopes.

Final thoughts

Staying warm is important. Invest in quality ski clothes and reap the rewards for many ski seasons to come.

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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.