How to Layer for Skiing – Staying Warm on the Slopes

Updated August 27, 2023 by Brianna Lee. This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost.

In order to have a great day out on the slopes, it is important to know how to layer your clothing. If you’ve been skiing, you probably have had one of those days where you wished you had warmer clothes on. We’ll break down how to layer for skiing so you are never freezing out on the slopes again.

full gear girl skiing downhill

Why are Layers Important for Skiing

When you’re out on the slopes, it’s important to stay warm so you can have a fun day. A fun ski day can quickly be ruined when you have a weather system blow in, dump powder on you and you are unprepared. That’s why layers are important for skiing.

Wearing layers helps trap heat close to your body, so you stay warmer. It’s also easier to take off a layer if you start to feel too warm. You should be in a position to add layers if you need to or take them off if you get too hot. I personally ride with a backpack and sometimes keep a mid-layer or shell layer in it. If you buy the same backpack as me to stay warm or any other gear I recommend in the post through a link then not only will you look cool but I may get a small commission which I’ll spend on gas to the slopes. Anyways back to it.

Not familiar with a mid-layer? There are three main types of layers: base, mid, and outer. Base layers are next to your skin and help wick moisture away. Mid layers provide insulation, and outer layers protect you from the elements like wind and snow.

Combining these will help you stay warm in the cold weather and be ready for any type of skiing.

How to Layer for Skiing

Although it may seem like you can just throw on any old clothes and hit the slopes, there is an art to layering for skiing. Layering correctly will help you stay comfortable and dry while you ski, no matter what the weather conditions are.

Start with your base layer. I usually wear an Under Armour cold gear top and leggings or some sort of thermals. Wicking away sweat is important and you can always go with merino wool if you want something more natural.

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The next layer is the mid layer, which provides insulation. I often go with something that zips on top of the base layer. I know a lot of people like to wear hooded sweatshirts as a mid-layer but I always found myself cold with these.

This can be a thin fleece sweater or jacket. The final outer layer is the shell layer, which protects you from wind and precipitation.

When layering for skiing, it is important to use multiple layers. This will help you regulate your body temperature better than if you just wore one thick layer.

Start with a Base Layer

Underarmour Smartwool and Lifa Merino wool base layer

When it comes to skiing, layering is key to staying warm and dry. A good base layer is essential to starting off your layers. The base layer should be made of a material that will wick away sweat and keep you thermal. Merino wool and synthetic materials are both good options for a base layer.

Some options for base layers include-

Add on a Mid Layer

When you are hitting the slopes, adding a mid-layer is always a good idea. A mid-layer is a piece of clothing that you can put on over your other clothes to add an extra layer of warmth.

Mid layers come in all different types of materials, but they should always be lightweight and easy to take on and off. A good mid-layer should also have a zip so you can adjust how warm you want to be.

When picking out a mid-layer, it’s important to find one that will fit well under your ski jacket or coat. Here are a few choices for mid-layers.

Put on the Outer Layer

The last layer you really need is the outer layer. This outer layer should be water-repellent so that you stay dry in the snow. It should also be breathable so that you don’t get too hot while you’re skiing.

And finally, it should be windproof, so that the cold wind doesn’t make you cold. I’m big on Helly Hansen ski jackets for my outer layer but as long as you get something waterproof then you’ll be in a good direction.

How Clothing Material Matters

teen group skiers

When it comes to skiing, the type of clothing material you wear can make a big difference in your comfort and performance. Waterproofing and insulation are the two things you’ll need for a fun ski day.

Otherwise, you’ll turn into a snowman out on the slopes and be freezing. Wearing a waterproof jacket will not only help protect you from the elements but it will keep the snow off you if you fall.

When it comes to pants, many skiers prefer materials that are both lightweight and durable. A good pair of ski pants should be able to move when skiing, be warm and still be comfortable to wear.

Since ski pants can take a lot of abuse from falls and scrapes, it’s important to choose a pair that won’t tear easily. You don’t want to knock a shin on a park rail and have it go through your pants. I’ve seen it happen.

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Don’t Wear Too Much Clothing

One thing many new skiers do is wear too much clothing. I’ll admit there is a fine line between how much to wear and layering on too many clothes for skiing. A good rule of thumb is to only have one to two insulating layers. Any more than that and you might overheat out on the slopes.

The goal is to stay warm on the slopes and not overheat with too much clothing. Prepare for your temperature to fluctuate as you ride up the ski lifts in the wind but then use a lot of energy and build up heat skiing down.

If you are worried about keeping your face warm on those lift rides then don’t forget a ski neck gaiter as well.

Layering Your Ski Gloves

One of the most important parts of layering for a day on the slopes is to make sure you have the right gloves. Depending on the weather conditions, you may need to layer your gloves or just wear one pair.

If it is very cold out, you will want to start with a base layer glove. This can be a thin pair of wool gloves or even just some hand warmers.

Once you have your base layer on, you can put your regular skiing gloves over top. If it is not too cold, you may be able to get away with just wearing one pair of gloves. However, if it is below freezing, it is best to layer up. You don’t want your hands to be cold and stiff while you are trying to enjoy your day on the slopes!

I like to wear base-layer ski gloves that can still work my phone. That way I can pop off my ski gloves and not go down to my bare hands on cold weather days.

If you don’t wear a base layer ski glove and are skiing in super cold temps then good luck warming up your hands and holding your poles if you take your gloves off to get on your phone.

Layer Those Ski Pants Too!

skiing at Alps Zermatt

Wearing thermal pants under your ski pants is a must for any skier. Not only will it keep you warm, but it will also help you wick away moisture from your legs. Inevitably you will sweat out on the slopes.

When layering your pants, make sure to start with a thin pair of thermal leggings. Choose a pair that fits snugly, but isn’t too tight. You don’t want your thermals to be constricting or you will just find them uncomfortable all day. That’s not the goal. The goal is to be the first insulating layer on your legs.

No One Loves a Frozen Butt

Make sure you have thermal leggings for the season.

Once you have your thermals on, it’s time to layer up with your ski pants. Again, make sure they fit well and aren’t too tight. You want to be able to move freely while still being protected from the cold.

Final Thoughts on How to Layer for Skiing

Layering for skiing is key to staying warm and dry on the slopes. It will help you make the most of your lift ticket and day on the slopes if you are comfortable with the temps. Don’t overlook your layering and you’ll be just fine.

Get out there and I might just see you on the slopes!

Brianna Lee writes for Proper Peaks and lives in Duluth, MN. Her favorite thing about skiing is glades. If you want to find her out on the slopes then that is the first place you should look for her bright pink helmet.

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