What to Wear Downhill Skiing

Credit author Kelsey Begg

Anon, Arc’teryx, Burton, Norrona, Patagonia, Salomon, Ski & Snowboard. What to Wear Downhill Skiing

Whether you stick to the groomers in the resort or you’re out shredding the back-country lines, your ski wear needs to be reliable. Stay warm out on the hill this winter with this ski apparel guide; because you payed big amounts of money to shred snow all day, not count the marshmallows in your hot cocoa. 

A Day In The Mountains

Dressing for a day on the hill is all about staying warm. You want to be able to enjoy your day in the mountains and get the most of it so if you’re running to the lodge after every run to warm up, you may not get the full ski day in the mountains experience. Continuously having cold feet, cold fingers or even just being cold all over, it isn’t enjoyable and it can be dangerous if you choose to ignore it.

Winter temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day and even change drastically within minutes. For this, it is crucial to be aware of the weather in the mountains at all times. You may be dressed appropriately for the morning’s weather but after lunch it can take a solid dive for the worse.

Some resorts will have lockers where you can store bags for easy access during the day. These lockers are great for stashing a few extra layers so that you can layer up if the weather gets colder. If the temperatures have warmed up and the snow falling in the morning has turned into rain, having a dry pair of mitts or gloves to throw on will make your day!

Start With A Base Layer

This layer is the first layer you put on; top and bottoms. It is worn close to your skin and should be a form fitting, snugger fit. Avoid picking a base layer that is baggy and too big because this will create open, drafty space where cold air can travel and stay.

Your base layer should be made from merino wool or a moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric like Patagonia’s Polartec® Power Grid™ fabric or The North Face’s FlashDry™ to name a few. You do not want to pick a cotton base layer because when wet, it does not dry fast and will leave you feeling cold.

Insulate With The Mid Layer

Like a house or a sleeping bag, we need insulation especially when we’re playing outside. This insulation is the mid layer. It can be a range of garments and will most likely vary depending on the temperatures you are out in. Nowadays, the most common garment used for a mid layer is a down or synthetic jacket.

The North Face is popular for their Thermoball series which are made with PrimaLoft® synthetic insulation. Patagonia has their few garments using FullRange™ Insulation, Arc’teryx is using a Coreloft™ insulation and Norrona is another brand using PrimaLoft™ insulation. These products are ultralight, warm and hold up in damp weather thanks to their DWR coatings.

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Since they made their way into the industry, these products have become increasingly more popular due to their packable and lightweight properties, not to mention, they pack a lot of heat as well! Ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skiing in the resort and especially for back-country skiing, these garments are a great piece to add to your winter and fall wardrobe.

Different Discipline, Different Style

With the different disciplines of skiing comes different styles and designs; free ride garments are generally a longer, more relaxed or baggy fit, downhill skiing is all about aerodynamics and spandex and your basic weekend warrior may go for the standard fit. The mid layers listed above are more technical garments and are ideal for a range of activities but are especially appealing to technical skiers. These skiers are often venturing out into the back-country and slack-country and need the right gear to keep them safe. But hey, if you stick to shredding the groomers at the resort, who says you can’t rock the technical gear too?

If technical gear isn’t your thing, some brands such as Burton carry casual alternatives that balance technical with casual producing garments that look great on the hill and headed to the bar with some friends. Burton is known as a snowboard brand but who’s policing what you wear? When you’re wearing your mid layer under your outer layer, no one sees the garment let alone the brand anyway.



These particular garments are made with DRYRIDE Ultrawick™. They are not down or synthetic, but are a different style of garment that can be used as a mid layer. If you’re looking for a more casual layer, Burton has some great pieces to choose from.

   Protect Against The Elements With An Outer Layer

Your third layer is your outer layer and it is known as your climate shield. This is the layer that fights the rain, snow, sleet and whatever other type of weather Mother Nature will throw your way. It will ideally be durable, waterproof, breathable and the cherry on top of your layering sundae.


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The outer layer includes your ski pants and your ski jacket and both come in a variety of styles to cater to your particular look. For ski jackets, you have short, fitted jackets, there are the long, down-to-your-knees-mad-swag jackets and of course, the standard fitting jacket.

*For more tips on finding your perfect winter coat, read our guide to choosing the right winter jacket.


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For ski pants, you have tight, form fitting pants for more of the snow bunny look, relaxed fitting cargo pants, overalls which are ideal for back-country terrain or deep pow days and even skinny leg and skinny leg with a boot flare. Whatever style you wear, there’s something for you.

*For more information on layers check out our how to layer for outdoor activities guide

Outer Layer Technical Features

When it comes to technical features, we all have our priorities. I personally look for a ski jacket that has an internal media pocket where I can leave my phone for the day and some larger hip pockets on my pants. (I usually choose to put my ski pass on a hip pocket zipper so it’s not flapping in my face and I don’t have to worry about losing it if I were to wear my ski jacket out).

  • Other important features that may be essential for some skiers are a removable hood and powder skirt. I personally prefer an attached hood but for some people, they like to have the option. Having a removable powder skirt allows you to wear the jacket for other things than just skiing without having the bulk of it or having to do it up.
  • Toggles on a hood allow you to tighten it should the winds pick up. This is great if you’re on the chairlift on a breezy day, you can keep as much of your body heat in and the cold breeze off your neck. It’s also beneficial to have a helmet compatible hood on your ski jacket. Most people on the hill are wearing and helmets, and if you aren’t already, you should. Although it may not seem very dangerous because snow is generally soft (this depends where you ski of course), anything can happen. Protect your melon and wear a helmet.
  • The number of, style and placement of pockets are important as well. Whether they zip closed and have a storm flap or just a velcro closure, these small details are important. Even the direction the zipper closes; I like my pocket zippers to close zipping up. (I feel this is more secure and I have a less chance of dropping things when zipping the pocket up.) Think about the gear you bring along with you when you’re out on the hill and where you’re going to put it. If you’re a back-country skier, a pair of overall ski pants with a chest pocket is ideal for a transceiver. 

Accessories & Safety Gear

To top of your ski look, you need the basic ski accessories. Do you get mitts or gloves? The toque with a pom pom or no pom pom? The helmet with the visor or the helmet with the ear muffs? It’s all about comfort and comes down to the look you’re going for as well.

Gloves vs Mitts

When it comes to the choice between gloves or mitts, I say mitts all the way. They’re warmer because all your fingers are hugging in one small place and share body heat as opposed to gloves where each finger is on its own. It’s a personal preference for sure. If you prefer gloves, wear gloves and if you like mitts, well then rock some mittens. There’s no right or wrong choice, it’s always what works best for you.

When you’re looking at mitts or gloves, look for a pair that has a wrist strap. These are actually really handy! If your hands get warm you can pull off the mitts or gloves and they just hang down by your wrist. You don’t have to worry about stuffing them in your pocket or accidentally dropping one off the chair lift.


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Helmets & Toques

As for headwear, I’m a strong believer that everyone should wear a helmet on the hill. It’s a double win, the helmet keeps your head not only safe, but warm too! If you start every ski morning choosing between the pom pom toque or the regular beanie, get a helmet instead. With only one option there’s no decision to be made so you can spend less time deciding what looks better and more time on the hill.

Anon and Salomon are just a few of the brands we carry that sell ski helmets. There are many different styles and patterns to choose from so you can let your personality shine on the hill.


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When it comes to picking ski goggles you’re going to feel like there is an unlimited number to choose from and guess what? You’re right, there are loads! There are different styles, different brands, different sizes and all the different lenses so it can be a challenge. If you like a specific brand, you can at least narrow down the search slightly and if not, well you’ve got plenty to choose from!

The most important thing while picking ski goggles is getting the proper lense tint and size. Of course the mirrored lenses look super awesome and flashy but if you’re skiing in a region where you experience more overcast days than bluebird days, well you aren’t going to see much on the slopes.

When it comes to size, if a goggle is too big on your face, you may have difficulty breathing and paired with a helmet, you may find either the helmet sits too high or the goggles are nearly on your top lip. In either case, you need to keep looking. If the goggle is too small on your face, you’ll have a very limited field of vision and probably a cold forehead because of a gap between your goggles and your helmet. Try on your goggles and make sure they fit properly. Don’t just buy a pair because they look cool.


Lense Tint Tips

Navigating lense tints can be tricky but there are always ways to make tricky things easier! For starters, lense tints are actually graded into four categories, 0-4; the higher the number, the darker the lense will be.

  • The most common lense found on a mountain is between the 1-2 category. These goggles are mostly used for snowy conditions where there is low light and more light transmission is need in order to see well. The lower number, the more sunlight that transfers through the lense. Because of this, these lenses would not be ideal on a bright sunny day because the light would be too strong.
  • If you are skiing in variable weather conditions where you’ve got a mixed bag of everything, the 2-3 category is what you need. These are very popular because they perform well on greyish days and brighter days. Having said that, they aren’t ideal for very gloomy, grey days or very bright, sunny days, so pick these goggles if you’re skiing conditions that are right in between the extremes.
  • Bright, weather calls for category 3 lenses. These are made for bright conditions where the sun isn’t necessarily shining but the sky is bright. These lenses will also have some definition making them slightly versatile although suited best to bright weather conditions.
  • When the sun is shining and the snow is beaming, a pair of category 4 lenses are what you need. These are similar to sunglasses with a darker lense to block out most light transfer to protect your eyes. If you ski where there are a lot of sunny, blue bird days, you need a category 4 lense.

Goggle lenses can be confusing and make the shopping process a challenge so I hope this lense guide will shed some light on the topic. 

See You Out On The Hill!

Once you’ve got all your gear,you’re ready to hit the hill! Always remember to to lather on some sunscreen to avoid sweet, goggle tan lines and stick some lip balm in your jacket, you need know when you’ll need it. Enjoy a fun day shredding the slopes.

Comments Tagline One Comment 1 Comments Tagline Two Comments Comments Tagline Three Comment “What to Wear Downhill Skiing”.

  1. Great tips. Thanks for the article. My best recommendation to every skier is merino wool. It is thermal and regulates body temperature. You don’t sweat in it and still feel warm.

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