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    What To Wear Skiing Or Snowboarding (& How to Pack for It) | GORE-TEX

    Team Gore
    Team Gore

    So you’re headed for the slopes and starting to think about what to wear skiing or snowboarding. Regardless of whether you’re taking your own gear or planning to rent on the mountain, it’s important to pack for varying temperatures and weather conditions while also considering your own body temperature.

    A lot of skiers and snowboarders make the mistake of overdressing and therefore overheating. It may seem counterintuitive because when it’s cold outside we’re inclined to bundle up. But when you’re active and working up a sweat throughout the day, having too much clothing on can cause excessive perspiration, which can then make you even colder. 

    And we can’t emphasize it enough: Comfort while skiing and snowboarding is all about layering, starting with breathable, moisture-wicking material against your skin. Then build up layer by layer from there. You can always take layers of clothing off if you’re too warm, but if you’re too cold and not dressed appropriately, it’s tough to warm up. 


    Remember the layering effect. Wearing heavy materials that cause you to overheat will lead to more sweating - which only makes you more wet and cold on the mountain. You’ll want to have a high-performing outer jacket that accommodates layers of undergarments. 


    When it comes to ski and snowboard jackets, there are generally two types of outer jackets: shell jackets and insulated jackets. Jacket quality and performance on the slopes are critical because you need to feel comfortable whether you’re riding on the ski lift or skiing down the mountain, plus you may be faced with sudden changes in weather conditions. A good jacket can keep you warm and dry all day. A poor-quality or ill-fitting one can ruin your run. Whether you rent a premium ski jacket or pack one from home, here’s what to keep in mind.


    Shell jackets are outer ski jackets designed for layering. They may be softshell or hardshell. Softshells are generally lighter jackets that provide water and wind resistance; however, they’re not as durable for weather extremes. Most skiers and snowboarders opt for hardshell jackets that are made of high-quality, breathable, waterproof and windproof material.


    An insulated jacket is, as the name suggests, designed for greater warmth. These jackets help trap body heat to help you stay warmer in cold mountain conditions.


    There’s all this talk about layering, but what exactly are you supposed to layer yourself with? Think moisture-wicking fabrics like merino wool or synthetic T-shirts or long-sleeved athletic shirts. Avoid cotton at all costs. When cotton gets wet, it takes a long time to dry - and it’ll make you cold quickly.

    Take a 1-2-3 approach to layering:

    1. Your moisture-wicking base layer
    2. An insulating layer like a fleece pullover or down vest
    3. Your ultimate outer layer (e.g., shell jacket) that protects against the elements



    Your snow pants need to keep you dry if you fall in the snow. They also need to have secure zippers, seams and cuffs to ensure snow doesn’t get in around the edges. And finally, just like ski jackets, ski pants need to be of breathable fabric. That way as your body produces heat and you begin to sweat, the moisture can escape from the fabric rather than getting trapped inside and causing you to feel cold and damp. 

    Some skiers and snowboarders prefer renting snow pants to avoid having to pack bulky snow clothes in their luggage. Whatever your preference, be sure to opt for pants of breathable, waterproof and windproof material - and stay away from denim. Jeans will make you feel cold, wet and heavy in no time!


    The layer closest to your skin should be something like “long johns,” but fitted rather than loose on the legs. There are many thermal legging products for all genders, some with fleece linings for extra warmth and comfort. Decide on your own temperature needs and bring a pair or two of thermal leggings along. Keep in mind that synthetic fabrics or merino wool are the way to go here. Cotton should be avoided. 


    Since your feet are doing a lot of the work skiing or snowboarding, in addition to trudging up and down the mountain, it’s imperative to wear good foot gear, starting with comfy socks.


    Socks should fit well but not too tightly so as not to cut off circulation in your legs. You may also want a little extra room in the ball of the foot for a foot warmer if you’re planning to use one. Sockwear follows suit with synthetics and wool being the best fabric options since they’ll dry more quickly and whisk away moisture from your feet to keep you comfortable. 


    Boot manufacturers and brands may vary so boot sizes may as well. When you’re trying on a snow boot, make sure:

    • You can wiggle your toes comfortably
    • Your heels don’t lift off when you lean forward 
    • There’s plenty of space between your foot and the boot liner


    Skiers and snowboarders have different needs when it comes to managing equipment on the mountain. Some skiers prefer gloves because they provide greater dexterity for handling ski poles, for example, while some snowboarders like the fact that mittens may keep their fingers warmer than gloves. You also may want to think about whether you need room or the ability to hold hand warmers. 

    Whichever hand-warming method you opt for, also consider glove liners for an added layer of warmth. 


    Layering applies, to some extent, to ski headwear as well, from face, head, and neck coverings to eye protection, and ultimately helmets.


    You'll likely be wearing a helmet or hat, which is crucial to stay warm (and safe, in the case of the helmet) since much of your body heat escapes through the head. Wearing a hat while skiing can help hold the warmth in. So think in terms of thin, breathable fabric like polyester and spandex that still keeps your head warm. Many skiers opt for a beanie-style cap or a balaclava that covers the face and neck. Of course, avoid hats with pom-poms or tassels. Your hat needs to fit well and securely under your helmet to ensure both the effectiveness of the hat as well as the safety of the helmet.


    Whether you prefer a balaclava that covers both the face and neck or you prefer a gaiter (a one-piece warmer that fits around the neck), keeping your neck protected when you’re skiing or snowboarding is important. Not only do face and neck coverings keep the chill out, they also protect your skin from sun and windburn when you’re on the slopes. Depending on the temperature, altitude, and weather conditions, you may opt to wear a gaiter and face protection or keep these items in a coat pocket in case conditions change. 


    Wearing ski goggles or sunglasses serves multiple purposes. First, the sun can be blinding on the mountain since you’re at a higher altitude and the snow is casting bright light on your face all day. If you’re going for goggles, make sure they have UV protection for your eyes and that they fit well around your head. The last thing you want to deal with is ill-fitting goggles that you’re constantly having to adjust or rearrange. Goggles are useful as well for preventing eye damage from tree branches or ice particles that may fly up into your face.

    Sunglasses can give you the necessary UV protection but don’t necessarily have the “wraparound” eye protection that goggles provide. You’ll have to decide whether ski goggles or sunglasses are right for your ski needs and behavior.


    Whether you’re purchasing a ski helmet unique to you or planning to rent one on the mountain, the goal is to protect your head from injury. Ski helmets should be comfortable and fit well. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing one. 

    Ski helmets:

    • Should fit snugly on your head but not be too tight. It should sit evenly on your head and should also cover your forehead. When you shake your head, the helmet should stay in place.
    • May vary in size depending on different brands. Be sure to get your head measured and refer to the manufacturer’s sizing chart for an accurate fit.
    • Should be adjustable. Most helmets have a dial or straps to help you custom-fit the helmet to your head.
    • Should have good ventilation. This is critical to prevent overheating. Look for helmets with adjustable vents that you can open or close during intense skiing or snowboarding and depending on weather conditions.
    • Should be the right weight and material. Helmets come in different materials, including in-mold (generally lighter), hard shells, and hybrid constructions. Many skiers and snowboarders prefer the comfort of lighter helmets for extended wear.



    Handwarmers and footwarmers for ski and snowboard trips are optional, of course, but they’re nice to have. If you’re bringing hand warmers, consider how they might fit in your mittens or how they could be used as an alternative to glove liners.

    With footwarmers, you’ll want to choose the kind made for skiing rather than a gel warmer product that could burst inside of your boot and burn your foot. To wear footwarmers with ski boots means first putting your socks on and then positioning the foot warmer under your toes or the ball of your foot, between your foot and your boot. 

    Some types of footwarmers may be used inside your ski socks and even wrapped around your toes. Keep in mind the length of time footwarmers stay warm vs. how long you estimate being on the mountain. The warmth may wear off well before you’re done skiing or snowboarding for the day. 

    Some people also find that having something under their toes or the balls of their feet can be a bit distracting and uncomfortable after a while.


    For higher altitude sports activities like skiing and snowboarding, you’ll want to choose an SPF sunblock of 30 or higher. Keep in mind, “sunblock” is what will give you high protection by "blocking" the sun’s rays vs. “sunscreen,” which still allows some of the sun’s rays to hit your skin.

    Lather up your face, especially your nose, ears, and even under your chin, before putting your hat, goggles and helmet on. Reapply sunblock any time you wipe your face or after several hours have passed (and you’ve been perspiring).

    Also use an SPF 15 or higher lip balm to protect your lips from powerful UV rays at higher altitudes to protect against cold, dry air. 


    Seasoned skiers and beginners alike often opt for renting ski clothes in advance or when they get to their ski resort. This saves a lot on packing space, plus it allows you to wear premium ski gear and return it when you’re done, with no hassle. 


    If you’re planning to rent your ski jacket and pants, here’s a short list of what to pack in your carry-on. This way, if something happens to your checked luggage, you can still get onto the slopes without delay.

    • Ski clothing, like base layers and socks
    • Ski gloves, mittens, glove liners
    • A face covering like a balaclava or neck warmer 
    • Goggles and/or sunglasses
    • Sunblock and lip balm
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste


    • Extra pairs of pants
    • A few extra shirts
    • Socks and underwear
    • Beanie or hat
    • Swimsuit (for the jacuzzi!)

    Of course, if you’re bringing your own ski jacket, pants and boots, you'll want to pack these items, but they may be heavy and bulky for your suitcase.

    Be sure to optimize your travel outfit to minimize the need to pack more in your bags. Wear your nice jeans or aprés ski clothes en route, or layer an outfit on top of those thermal leggings. Skimp on the overpacking of heavy, bulky items, but don’t underpack your undergarments! You’ll be glad to have plenty of extra warm, dry socks and underwear.

    Looking to rent your next ski outfit? Explore GORE-TEX outerwear rental options.

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