What to Wear for Snowboarding & Skiing

Get the latest in Adventure

KINGS OF ADVENTURE COLOUR LOGO

Choosing the Right Snowboarding & Skiing Gear

Snowboarding is a fun winter activity that people of all ages can enjoy. It’s not just for the kids anymore! There are some key factors to think about before looking cool with the right gear, most notably; safety. Putting safety first does not mean that you have to look like the world’s biggest nerd however, we’ve snowplowed through the cool and the practical to bring you the best snowboarding and skiing gear out there!

SAFETY FIRST!

Wear a Helmet

Snowsports are pretty unforgiving, with snowboarding being right up there on the list for frequent injuries. Wearing a helmet is pretty much the most important part of snow sports gear. A helmet will not only protect your head from falling objects, but it also protects against skull fractures and brain injuries should you hit your head on something like a tree or rock.

You must bear in mind that snowfall covers the terrain which can lead to hidden dangers. Rocks can be just below the surface, and if you’re traversing across virgin snow, you’ve no idea which is the safest route down the slope.

Wearing a helmet gives you that extra bit of confidence in knowing that your head is well protected should you take a tumble.

Choosing a helmet with a good quality insulating liner will help in keeping your head warm as well as protect it.

Things you should look for in your helmet:

  • Meets necessary safety standards
  • Adjustment system
  • Good ventilation
  • Removable liner
  • Earpads (your ears will thank you if the wind is howling)

We recommend: WildHorn Outfitters ski-Helmets Drift

**This helmet is US made (suppliers to the USA ski team) with some outstanding reviews for comfort and performance.

If you’re shopping for children you might want to read our review of the best snowboard helmets for kids

Wrist Guards

Due to the nature of the falls, the wrists are the most commonly injured body part when snowboarding. Not everyone likes to wear wrist guards but if it’s your first time or you’re just starting off, they’re your best friend.

You can check out our in-depth wrist guard review or just jump straight to our favorite below:

We recommend: Burton Wrist Guards

Knee pads

Snowboarding or skiing on compacted snow can be a bit hazardous if you take a tumble. If you smack the snow with your knees it can feel like concrete. I personally don’t wear these anymore as I’ve got more experienced, but they were a godsend when I was learning. Admittedly I looked like an armored truck when I was hurtling down the slopes but I rarely got hurt.

This made learning much more fun, as I just got back up and carried on. There’s a lot to be said for not being put off with pain and being able to push on with your training.

Here you can read our full review of the best knee pads.

Padded Shorts

Falling forward, falling backward, if you’re a beginner to snowboarding let’s just say you’re falling! I remember wanting to be wrapped in a mattress when I first started. Luckily for us, manufacturers have got wise to this and developed protective pants to minimize the impact of falling on your hip or butt.

Go for material that won’t let you overheat and provide maximum comfort. Finding suitable protective clothing is a fine line between feeling protected and feeling immobilized by too much kit.

We recommend: Bodyprox. You can read our full review of padded impact shorts.

Okay enough with the safety gear, let’s move into the cool stuff that we know you wanna talk about.

Goggles

Ski and snowboard goggles have come along way in the last 10 years and it’s not just about style. They offer fantastic protection for your eyes from the wind and glaring light reflecting off snow, which can be a problem when you’re speeding down slopes or heading up mountains on ski lifts.

Key advancements in goggle technology are increased visibility in low light conditions, anti-fogging technology, and improved lens ventilation.

If you intend to ski or snowboard at night you may want to look at googles that have interchangeable lenses. Being able to swap out the lens for something that allows for maximum light through might be preferable. Some people prefer orange or yellow lenses in these circumstances as they feel they offer greater contrast in low light conditions.

Things you should look for in your goggles:

  • UV Protection
  • If you wear glasses you’ll need an OTG (Over The Glasses) Design
  • Good Ventilation
  • Good adjustability to ensure compatibility with a variety of helmets.

We recommend: OutdoorMaster Ski Goggles PRO

Gloves or Mittens

Let’s jump in, digits first, into the great glove vs mitten debate! For me, there’s simply no argument. I’ve tried both, and mittens are by far and away toastier for my paws. Yes, I lose the dexterity of fingered gloves but warm hands more than make up for this. If I need to use my fingers I simply slip off my mittens and put them back on afterward. Back into the oven whence they came!

Your extremities are the first places to start feeling the cold and I like to extend my slope time as much as possible. You need to be comfortable to be able to do this. Being cold is a quick way of feeling discomfort and encouraging an early search for the nearest hot chocolate.

Things you should look for in your gloves/mittens:

  • High quality materials to ensure warmth and durability.
  • Water resistant
  • Ventilation options during warmer periods
  • If you want to use your phone without taking off your gloves, they’ll need touch screen capabilities.
  • A high insulation value will keep hands warmer than low-level ones that are designed more for dexterity.

I thought that I’d have to forego the touchscreen option for my mitts until I found these beauties:

We recommend: Burton Gore-tex Touchscreen Mittens

OUR TOP 3 TIPS:

Use a Recco Rescue Reflector

A small price to pay for something that could save your life. These clever little gadgets should be attached to an item of your gear that’s not going to potentially get stripped away from you in the event of an avalanche or similar event. A rescue team carrying a Recco detector will be able to quickly locate you.

Use Hand and Feet Warmers

In very low temperatures, having freezing cold fingers and toes can be frustrating and really distracting, so much so that it can seriously detract from your fun on the slopes. We (and many others) swear by these little beauties that can stay warm for hours.

We recommend: HOT HANDS

Use Sunscreen & Lip Protection

Being out on the snow during strong sunshine is like being in the ocean, you get the sun bouncing off the surface as well as directly. To protect exposed areas of your face such as cheeks and lips, you should invest in a good screen.

We recommend:

Neck Gator / Balaclava

Having an exposed neck while snowboarding can be pretty chilly, even worse is taking a tumble and a dumper truck sized snow load shoots down the top of your jacket. To avoid this you can wear a neck gaitor or in times of extreme cold, we like a good warm balavlava.

Our top picks:

Socks

Let’s stick with extremities and think little piggies! Very cold toes can actually be so uncomfortable that it’s painful. To avoid this and prolong your time on the snow, you’ll want to keep your plates of meat (feet) toastie!

Choosing the right socks can seriously assist in this process. You want socks with an ankle cuff on them too, this will help keep snow out of your boots and ensure a snug fit around your entire foot.

Look for material that wicks and keeps moisture away.

Nice-to-haves include padding to protect you from shin bangs and bumps in the snow, and waterproofing for those just in case moments where you find yourself knee-deep.

You’re aiming to keep your feet warm and dry as the alternative is utter discomfort.

We recommend: WEIERYA Ski/Snowboarding Socks

Thermal Base Layers

Base layers are designed to trap air next to your skin and use this as insulation. This means you stay warmer for longer by producing less moisture (sweat) than if you were wearing something like cotton, trapping it against the outside surface of clothing instead.

Thermal tops and bottoms are designed with this in mind so they’re a no-brainer when it comes to being warm!

Personally, I can overheat and get itchy as the day progresses and the sun gets to its peak in the middle of the day. At lunchtime, I may take off this thermal base layer and finish the day on the slopes without it, but this is all down to personal taste and the weather conditions.

First thing in the morning I’m always grateful for my thermals.

We recommend:

Women: Little Donkey Andy Women’s Soft Thermal Underwear

Men: Under Armour Men’s Packaged Base 3.0 Crew Neck T-Shirt

Mid Layer Garments

Mid-layers are the go-to when it comes to versatility. They’re designed for warmth during winter activities like snowboarding and can be worn on their own in milder conditions.

You’ll want something that’s breathable enough so you don’t overheat (which would defeat the purpose of wearing them!) but also not too thin.

The best way to figure out what you’ll need is by looking at your activity level: are you going on an hour-long trek or a day of snowboarding? How cold will it be (exposure protection)?

Layering is mainly targeting the upper body. Leg warmth is managed by wearing thermal leggings with waterproof outer pants. Any more layers on the legs would prove restrictive and if you’re anything like me you’d overheat.

Layering the upper body allows you to add and subtract to accommodate the environmental temperature. If you used just one thick layer, you’re limiting the incremental difference you can make by changing it.

Fleeces are ideal as a mid-layer, as they will provide that extra bit of insulation, and help to keep you warm on the mountain.

Jacket & Pants – Outer Layers

First and foremost you want to be warm and dry.

Choose a waterproof jacket that will keep you dry and protect against the wind. A good quality outer shell is essential to protect from any wind or flurries during your day on the slopes.

You should look for a jacket that fits you properly but is not so tight that your layers would make you feel dense, restricted, or stuffy. Having full range of motion is critical and protects you from the cold wind as you’re hurtling down the slopes.

Snowboarding pants should fit you in a similar fashion to your jacket. It should be slightly looser, but not too loose that it becomes baggy and uncomfortable while snowboarding.

You should think of the outer layers as wind and snow/rain barriers. You don’t want the outer layers to be full of insulation as this will tend to make them bulky and restrict your movement. The majority of your insulation and warmth should be provided by your base and middle layers.

We recommend Burton as it’s a brand that’s synonymous with snowboarding.

Things to consider when choosing snowboard & ski clothing

Breathability:

Snowboarding and skiing can be very strenuous, so it’s important to wear layers that are breathable. Cotton clothing should not be worn because it holds moisture and makes you colder when wet.

Functionality:

There is no need for snowboarders to look like they just came from a fashion show! Instead, focus on warmth and safety first, then consider your style secondarily. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, as long as it’s functional. You may look like the coolest person on the slopes but if you’re freezing cold your whole experience will be ruined and you’ll want to quit and get back to an open fireplace!

Warmth:

There is nothing worse than freezing while snowboarding! You should plan to layer your clothing so that you can adjust the amount of insulation depending on how cold it is outside. A good rule of thumb is to dress in layers with a base layer made from synthetic material, followed by an insulating mid-layer and topped off with water proof outerwear if necessary. Be sure to cover exposed skin like face hands or feet when out in very cold weather conditions for prolonged periods of time.

Protection:

The last thing you want while riding down the mountain is for some part of your body (fingers n toes) getting injured due to frostbite. Be sure that when choosing your clothes to keep this in mind and add appropriate gloves or socks if needed!

Accessibility:

Snowboarding can be very difficult if you have a ton of extra clothing layers slowing down your movement, so it’s best to choose pieces that are easy to take on and off as needed for maximum comfort! Remember though not to give up warmth at the expense of accessibility- always make sure the item is functional before considering how accessible it will be.

Insulation:

Insulation is the amount of heat generated by a material. For example, down insulation keeps you warm because it traps air in tiny pockets that are extremely effective at keeping body heat close to your skin.

Weather Conditions:

Snowboarders should aim to dress for appropriate weather conditions so they don’t overheat or get cold and can therefore enjoy their time on the slopes! If snowboarding outside when temps are very low choose warmer layers like fleece or wool rather than cotton which holds moisture closer to your body and will make you colder once damp. Be sure not to overdress either though if the temperatures are less extreme as too much clothing may cause overheating if out in sunny conditions for an extended period of time or prevent proper movement while riding down the mountain if outerwear is particularly restrictive.

Snowboarding can be very strenuous, so finding clothing that is breathable, warm, and functional will make all the difference between an enjoyable time on the slopes versus being uncomfortable throughout your whole journey down from top to bottom. Layer clothes as needed using fabrics such as synthetic materials.

Waterproof ratings explained

Waterproof Rating (mm)Water ResistanceSuitability
0-5k mmNil to Low ResistanceLight Rain / Dry Snow
6k-10k mmWaterproof under low pressureLight Rain/Average Snow
11k-15k mmWaterproof Excl High PressureModerate Rain/Mod Snow
16k-20k mmWaterproof Under High PressureHeavy Rain/Wet Snow
20k+ mmWaterproof Under Very High PressureHeavy Rain/Wet Snow

Fequently asked questions

The primary goal of a base layer is to wick away any moisture your body generates while snowboarding, keeping you warm. Synthetic materials (such as Nylon or Polyester) excel at this, but avoid cotton since it traps moisture and makes you feel chilly when worn.

For a more comfortable performance, polyester may be blended with other fibers such as stretch materials like Spandex. Polypropylene has been worn by skiers and snowboarders for decades because it is light, breathable, and dries quickly.

Polyester is the most popular fiber in base-layer clothing because it is inexpensive and performs well in several categories, thanks to its capacity to be knit into a very light fabric that is yet durable.

The 10,000mm waterproofing is a good grade and the minimum you should wear for many hours on the slopes each day. In the event of snow, ski clothing with this rating will keep you dry for approximately 2-3 hours.Can I snowboard in jeans?

We understand that getting a whole new wardrobe for a snowboarding holiday can be too expensive for some. It’s not a good idea though to snowboard in jeans. you don’t have to invest in all new layers though, you can budget and wear your sweatpants beneath your snow pants if the weather is particularly chilly. Never put on jeans because the cotton content will make you cold and damp.

You might also like: