How To Layer for Skiing and Snowboarding: A Guide (With Examples)

How To Layer for Skiing and Snowboarding: A Guide (With Examples)

With winter approaching, snow sports and activities will attract numerous enthusiasts up high on beautiful mountain peaks and resorts.

Snow sports are not like most sports. While they share similarities in that you are better off being experienced, and having the proper clothing to wear for a comfortable experience, there is a major difference that greatly affects how you should prepare for partaking in these activities. That is, the risks.

Snow sports will not challenge only your athletic ability, but they will also put you in adversarial conditions that can prove to be far more challenging than balancing on the snowboard or skis.

Low temperatures are not the safest conditions to be in, especially if you will be sweating and spending quite some time outdoors, and mountain terrain is not the most friendly either.

That is why safety is of the highest priority in these circumstances.

Hypothermia is a major concern and you are not at risk for it solely for not having a warm outfit, but also because of a too warm and not breathable outfit. The latter will leave you at a much higher risk from the cold because you will be both wet and exposed to below 0 temperatures.

For that reason, our focus for today is learning the proper ways to layer for sports like snowboarding and skiing for a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience.


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1. Base Layer

While the jacket may be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of cold weather, in the case of sports like snowboarding and skiing, the right base layer is essential, which is why we are starting with it.

A base layer is the garment closest to the body and its main purpose is moisture-wicking, which helps keep you dry as you sweat from exertion.

Base layers are made of either natural materials, such as merino wool, which is regarded as the best, or synthetic materials, such as polyester.

Base layer - pants

Merino wool is the most expensive of the options and it provides great comfort, moisture-wicking, and insulation. Synthetic base layers dry quicker and are also good at wicking moisture away from the body.

They also come in a variety of thicknesses, and, depending on how heavy the mid or outer layers will be, the thickness of the base layer should vary accordingly.

You can choose a lightweight base layer for its thinness and high breathability, a middleweight base layer for its added insulation which is very well balanced with the ability to breathe and, lastly, a heavyweight base layer if you are only looking to be extremely warm in extreme temperatures.

Regarding fit, base layers come in regular fit, fitted or compression fit, which is the tightest option the one closest to the body.

Types of Base Layers

By types of base layers we mean the cut and design. There are top, bottom, and long johns available as base layer options to wear.

Socks are also part of base layers, so keep that in mind when considering your outfit.

Separate base layers work just as well as long johns, the only difference being that long johns may be more comfortable as they won’t move up and down like a separate top might, but, on the other hand, they are not as practical as separate base layers are.

Which Baselayer Should You Choose?

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Base Layers that We Recommend

Three popular base layer choices we would recommend include:

Minus33 Merino Wool Chocorua Men’s Midweight Base layerCheck it out on (paid link)

Meriwool Women’s Merino Wool Midweight Base Layer Thermal PantsCheck it out on (paid link)

Meetwee Men’s Compression Fleece Long JohnsCheck it out on (paid link)

2. Mid Layer

Next come mid layers, which, as the name dictates, are layers worn between the outer and the base layers and they are made to be easily removable.

The purpose of mid-layers is to insulate, i.e to keep you warm.

Mid-layers are quite versatile when it comes to the options available because, sometimes, it might not even be necessary to wear an outer layer. This is for other sports, mostly, as the temperatures when skiing and snowboarding are too cold to allow for only two layers.

Regular mid-layers are sweaters and jumpers, for example, whereas in terms of sports, they come in more advanced designs in order to ensure both insulation and some degree of breathability.

Mid-layers come in different thickness levels, just like base layers, but the ones most recommended are those that can either pack into small size or options that are designed to be thinner but insulate just as well as a thicker option would.

Which Midlayer Should You Choose?

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Types of Mid Layers

Typically, mid-layers are made of fleece, which is also the most versatile of the options as it can work on a variety of settings.

Insulated jackets are the “heavier” options, as they are made to provide the highest level of warmth. Of course, down jackets are the best in this regard, but down’s susceptibility to moisture is a no-go for most sports, especially those that require very close contact with snow, such as skiing and snowboarding.

To make up for this issue that down presents, synthetic insulation was created, one of the most popular options being PrimaLoft. We have reviewed and compared a number of different types of insulations, both synthetic and natural, which you can find here on our site.

Smocks are another mid-layer option that is quite popular and preferred. Usually, these come with either a synthetic upper fabric or are completely made of polyester.

These include soft shell jackets, for example, which are renowned as being great for snow sports due to their ergonomic designs, good breathability, and comfort.

A Softshell Jacket by Geographical Norway

Mid Layers that We Recommend

Our recommendations would include:

Little Donkey Andy Men’s Softshell JacketCheck it out on (paid link)

Camel Crown Women’s Polar Fleece JacketCheck it out on (paid link)

3. Outer Layer

The outer layer is the outmost garment you will wear, that is the waterproof jacket and trousers.

The base layer covers moisture-wicking, the mid-layer is responsible for insulation, thus it is necessary for a layer that will protect the two from the elements. This is what outer layers do.

Waterproof and, depending on the design, windproof, too, outer layers serve as a barrier against rain and snow.

This is all the more important when it comes to skiing and snowboarding, where you will be in frequent and close contact with the snow. By ensuring that the rest of your outfit remains completely dry, the outer layer keeps you safe from the increased risk of hypothermia caused by wet conditions.

Outer layers come in two main options as far as our topic is concerned, that is a regular waterproof jacket, which may or may not have additional features, or a ski jacket, designed specifically for protection in cold and wet conditions, as well as for agility and comfort.

You might also like: Ski Jacket vs Winter Jacket: What’s the Difference?

Windproof jackets are essential when it comes to these two sports as you will be moving at high speeds and the cold alone can pose a problem, windy conditions will potentially ruin your entire experience if you are unprotected.

man skiing on mountain

A quality outer layer will come with features that help with breathability, ensuring that you remain dry both on the inside and outside. Typically, these involve ventilation areas, usually under the armpits, on the sides or on the back of the jacket.

Pockets for ski passes, or goggles are another feature almost exclusively present in ski jackets, and they are quite useful for easy access of these two essential items.

Lastly, a ski jacket will also feature a powder skirt, which helps protect you from underneath by preventing snow from getting inside the jacket from the bottom.

As for trousers, these must also be waterproof. There are designs made specifically for skiing and snowboarding, too, but you can get away with waterproof options, as long as they are lightweight and comfortable.

You might also like:
How To Choose the Best Ski Jacket
Ski Jacket vs Snowboard Jacket: What’s the Difference?

Outer Layers that We Recommend

The following are some options that we would recommend:

Camel Crown Men’s Mountain Ski JacketCheck it out on (paid link)

OutdoorMaster Men’s 3-in-1 Ski JacketCheck it out on (paid link)

Arctix Women’s Insulated Snow PantsCheck them out on (paid link)

4. How To Properly Layer for Skiing and Snowboarding

Now that you are acquainted with the different types of layers and their function and characteristics, it is time to learn how to best utilize them, in order to be fully protected against the elements while you ski down the slopes.

While ski and snowboarding clothes share some similarities, we would advise you to opt for ski garments for skiing and snowboarding ones for snowboarding.

They can work if you were to swap one for the other, but ski products are more versatile in this regard than snowboarding ones, which tend to fit looser and may not be as well-suited for a speed-based activity like skiing.

With that being said, layering is not simply a matter of wearing garment after garment.

Here Are a Few Quick Tips:

1) As we said earlier, depending on how thick and heavy each layer is, your layering will vary. Wearing all bulky options may seem the coziest and warmest thing to do, but it will become an issue within a short time as you won’t be able to move as easily and will start to sweat… profusely.

Be aware of the temperatures you will be exposed to. The colder the weather, the warmer the layers. With that in mind, wearing more or less than three layers is not a good idea.

2) Make sure that your base, mid and outer layer are of good quality and that their purpose is specified. Is it insulating or waterproof or both? Is it a compression or a regular fit? Does it breathe well? Does it wick moisture away?

Going for layers made for these purposes is the smartest and safest thing to do.

man skiing on snow

3) Wearing regular clothes may seem like a good and money-saving idea, but please refrain from doing so as it will not only prove to be counterproductive to your performance, but will put you at considerable risk from not having adequate protection.

4) Avoid cotton or highly absorbent materials. They will increase the risk of hypothermia regardless of how good the rest of your layering is. Dry clothes are also a must!

Read also: Cotton vs Polyester: Differences and Comparison

5) Don’t forget socks and gloves! Ski socks will work best and waterproof gloves, preferably made for skiing, are the ones to go for.

6) Goggles and helmet should not be optional! Really, they will protect the head and face from both the cold and should you get into an incident.

7) Lastly, make sure everything is secured and in place. Cuffs tightened, skin fully covered, buttons and zippers done and shoes properly on.

That concludes our tips on how to use layering the best way and have a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable time out on the slopes.

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