What to Wear When Skiing

December 12, 2013

When deciding what to wear when skiing, the same common sense applies as to any other outdoor activity, but with a few additional items that you need for the ski slopes.

What Not To Wear

First, what not to wear:

  • Jeans – If you’re used to any outdoor activities you will know not to wear jeans.  The reason is that the cotton traps moisture next to your skin.  This cools your body temperature down rapidly.  Many hypothermia cases from outdoor activities have been due to people wearing jeans.   Also, if you wear jeans on the slopes, no matter how ‘designer’, you will not look cool – you’ll just be seen as someone that doesn’t have a clue.
  • Designer ‘Ski’ Jackets – Over the years wearing a ‘ski’ jacket has come into fashion, or if not a ski jacket, clothes styled from outdoor gear, such as large oversized puffer jackets.  These are not designed for the slopes, and only designed for the high street.  They will typically not have sufficient thermal insulation or waterproofing/resistance, and oversized clothing is no good for layering clothes as they don’t retain your body heat efficiently.

Layering the right way

Layering your families clothes is important.  This is an effective method for keeping warm, but if you get too warm, simply remove a layer.

“But surely there’s no problem in being too warm on the ski slopes?” Well yes there is.  Everyone needs to be comfortable, but not too warm, despite some people liking to be as hot as possible.  This is because if you are too hot you sweat, and that moisture next to your skin, just like wearing jeans, can be a contributing factor to hypothermia.   If you exert yourself and get really hot in all your layers, and then suddenly stop exercising, your body temperature can fall dramatically on a windy mountain side.

Fortunately there are some sensible choices to make.

The First Layer

Base Layers

Baselayers for Kids - Keep them Warm

A good thermal base layer will keep you warm, and also help remove moisture away from your skin if you overheat (and sweat).  Look for fabrics that incorporate wicking.

As well as modern man-made fabrics, silk and Marino wool designs are available too, and work extremely well as base layers.

The base layers for skiing should be lightweight and easy fit under existing clothes.

If it is very cold, doubling up on base layers can be more effective than additional mid-layers.

However good the ‘stay fresh’ and wicking ability of your chosen base layer, remember that you will be exerting energy when skiing, so you might want to take a few pairs each anyway (unless you want to do dirty laundry during your skiing holiday that is!).

There are some excellent high tech base layers available.  You just wouldn’t believe that a fabric so thin can be so effective.  However, cheaper base layers tend to do a reasonable good job, but make sure they fit well.

You can often find mesh areas, and even zips, on some more expensive models to help get rid of moisture and control body temperature better.  (Yes, it may be cold outside, but overheating can be a problem with too many layers).

“Can’t I just use my cotton T-Shirt as a base layer?” No.

Cotton is unsuitable as a base layer as it can soak up moisture from your skin and doesn’t dry out easily.  This can soon make you cold, and on the slopes in bad weather, this could be a serious mistake.

You can more about base layers for kids here.

Ski Socks

Ski Socks

When skiing, don’t be tempted in wearing multiple pairs of ski socks.  This will make your feet very uncomfortable in the solid ski boots.

Instead wear a pair of good ski socks (or winter walking socks also work well).  The socks should come up to your knee to prevent the firm ski boot rubbing your shins.

As with base layers, socks that incorporate wicking are ideal, and as with jeans, avoid cotton.  Select some good quality soft wool socks (alpaca wool is meant to be good – though haven’t tried it yet), or some modern designed fabrics specifically for skiing.

To avoid getting your ski socks wet, don’t put them on until your at the slopes and about to put your boots on.


Mid-Layers for Skiing

With a pair of good base layers, you should not need to go overboard on mid-layers, as the outer layers designed for skiing are very efficient.

Remember you need to avoid sweating and avoid cotton.  Fleece works well, as does wool too – though wool can be more bulky and therefore reduces the number of layers you can have.

Micro Fleece

A micro-fleece is an ideal mid-layer for keeping your body warm.

Body Vest

If you want an additional mid-layer to keep the core of your body warm then look for a gilet (body vest).

These will leave your arms free under your ski jacket.  Look for breathable ones.


Outer Layers

For your outer layer when skiing: think waterproof for your legs (….snow is wet don’t you know), and windproof for your jacket (mountains have cold winds, especially when sitting in a chair lift!).

Ski Pants, Trousers, and Salopettes

Ski Pants and Salopettes
Waterproof and insulated trousers for skiing, Ski Pants, also known as Salopettes, should ideally be breathable and with ventilation zips.


Ski Jackets

Ski Jackets
Your ski jacket forms your main outer layer, providing you with a wind and waterproof barrier agains the snow and the cold.

Read more about Ski Jackets and what to look for when buying >

Completing your skiing outfit

Ski Gloves

Gloves are another essential when skiing.  Again, these must be waterproof, and ideally breathable.

Here are some additional things to look for:

  • Gloves with different material for gripping in the palm give you extra hold onto ski poles.
  • Wrist cuffs to help keep the snow out.
  • Ability to tie to your wrist to avoid loosing them if (when) you fall over.
  • Some gloves come with goggle and noise wipes built in!

Ski Goggles

Googles have too many purposes:

  1. Protect your eyes from snow glare
  2. Prevent your eyes from drying out (which is not very comfortable when going down a run)

Sun glasses may help with glare and are perfectly acceptable when travelling to the slope, but they won’t help with protection from the wind.


Hats and Ear Protection

When skiing it is advisable for you and your family to wear a helmet.  Unfortunately not all helmets protect your ears sufficiently, which can be at risk from minor frost bite when skiing down a cold mountainside.  Here, earmuffs are a god send.

Alternatively select a hat that covers your ears, and one that can be worn under a helmet (i.e. no bobble on top!).   Hats also provide you with extra insulation, and so if you only have muffs for the slopes, wear a hat when going to and from the slopes.


Getting to and From the Slopes

Day Sack

At some ski resorts you may be lucky in not having to travel far from your ski lodge, and you won’t need to carry much.  However, that isn’t always the case, and as you know, when you have a family in tow a lot of stuff is needed: additional drinks, snacks, carry your ski socks, hats, etc.

A day sack we recommend is the Deuter Speed Lite 20, which has great toggles on the zips so that you can open it without taking your gloves off (you can also secure ice axes… though something you won’t be needing for family skiing).

Snow Boots

Most people, except those that ski often, will hire their ski boots.   If you hire your boots at the slopes then you’ll need to get there, and even if you have a package where you’ve have your boots all week, you will not want that to be your only footwear! (Ski boots aren’t the most comfortable).

We recommend you take a pair of snow boots, especially for the children.


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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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