Who is excited for ski season?! Whether you’re just learning this year, or have been skiing since your parents had a leash around your waist, it’s probably time for some fresh gear. I’ve compiled a full list of items you’ll need to stay warm on the slopes, from base layers to the finishing touches, and tested a bunch of the pieces linked below on my recent trip to ski in Zermatt, Switzerland — a total bucket list trip for me!
One of the things about skiing is that, frankly, it isn’t known to be a cheap sport. Even the cost of proper apparel can be a barrier to those looking to get into, or get back into, the sport. Good news, if you look hard enough, you can find gear that will make your next trip to the mountains warm and comfy. I’ve done my research, and partnered with Sierra to find all of the top active and outdoor brands at great prices – 20%-60% less than department and specialty stores. Now, staying warm on the slopes doesn’t have to break the bank.
When packing for a ski trip, there are a few core items that you’re going to need in your arsenal…
Whether you’re using this as your ski jacket in the Spring, or a mid-layer for chillier days, a fitted down jacket is a must. One of the things I look for is a high neck. Hard to tell in the above photo, but this jacket zips all the way up the base of my chin, which will keep my neck warm on even the coldest of days. I also prefer a jacket that has stretchy underarm panels to give me maximum movement. The best part about this item is that it is super packable – it will usually get down to the size of a water bottle if folded properly.
Another mid-layer is a wool sweater that you can take from the slopes to après. Some synthetic fabrics are okay, but I recommend wool/cashmere blends because they are better at wicking away moisture. You can’t go wrong with a fair isle print, and try to find one with a drop tail hem for a little more coverage out in the elements.
Snow Pants (or bibs)
One of the pieces that you really want to invest in a great pair of snow pants, or bibs. First let’s talk about the difference between pants and bibs. I’m personally partial to a pant for most ski days because, let’s face it, taking off several layers to go to the bathroom is a pain. However, if it is a particularly cold day, or if there is lot’s of powder that might make it’s way up into your coat, bibs are going to keep you warmer and dryer. Bibs are also great in the Spring when it’s far too warm for a jacket, but you want to ensure your midriff stays covered. Another thing to consider is the difference between a soft shell material, or a shell. I prefer soft shell because they generally hug your body (like leggings), are fleece lined, and require less layers underneath. Shell material is great, too, just know you might need to invest in a couple of base layers for your legs on cold days.
There is no better feeling than putting on a pair of comfy winter boots after a day in ski boots, amiright?! Go for ones that are waterproof, lace-up, and lined. These will probably be your most worn item on any ski trip, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck out of this purchase, not just on the slopes, but on all of your winter adventures.
Shell or Insulated Jacket
There’s a lot of debate about which is better, a shell or an insulated jacket. I have both, but probably get more use out of my insulated jackets. It really comes down to preference and what you’re most comfortable in. This will likely be your most expensive purchase, but you will use this for years, if not a decade, so it is worth it. I’ve linked to a few options available now below.
So you’ve got what you need on the outside, but what about what’s underneath? Some would argue that your base layers are more important than anything on the outside, and on very cold days…. I’d agree.
On particularly cold days, you can find me wearing no less than two long sleeve tops before my mid-layers. I recommend going merino wool, one with a crew neck, and another that has a higher neck. Merino wool, as mentioned above, is moisture wicking, it is also odor resistant.
Oftentimes, newer skiers/boarders make the mistake of wearing spandex under their snow pants. I’m here to tell you merino pants are the way to go. Sadly spandex doesn’t keep your warm, and isn’t nearly as good at wicking away moisture. One thing that I look for, particularly in pants, is flatlock seams that reduce chaffing. If the pure merino are a little out of your budget, try for ones that are a polyester-merino blend to still get some of the benefits. Also, keep in mind the type of waistband; I generally prefer one that is thicker because it is more comfortable, but some of the slimmer ones work well, too.
My toes are usually the first thing to get chilly, so having good socks is key. Much like everything else in this section, merino is my preference. I prefer mine with some padding in the toe, and that come up to my knee (above my ski boot). If you are a snowboarder, you might not need something so high up your leg, but may still find them more comfortable.
Now, let’s talk about the neck up. One of the biggest mistakes I see riders make is dressing warmly from their shoulders down, but their forgetting to protect their noggin…
I don’t care if you ride in jeans and a t-shirt; first thing first is you need a helmet. I prefer one that has hard sides over the ears to help protect better from the wind, but those options can be a little pricier. At the end of the day, any helmet is better than no helmet, so whether you buy or rent at the slopes, it is a necessity.
Sunglasses can work fine on warmer days, but goggles help with visibility and keeping your face warm. I prefer a pair that allows you to swap lenses for different types of light and conditions, but starting with a pair that has a lens good for partly cloudy conditions, and then you can invest in other lenses in the future to swap out.
Last but not least, keeping your hands warm. Having both mittens and gloves is ideal. Gloves won’t be as effective for cooler days, but on warmer days, mittens will be too warm and your hands will start to sweat. It is a delicate balance, but generally I say anything above 15 degrees (F) is best for gloves, while mittens are good to go well below that. The mittens pictured above were perfect for a 10 degree (F) day, and were good from first chair all the way to après.
So, there you have it, all the necessities for a day out on the slopes. I highly recommend checking out Sierra for all the essentials, they carry awesome brands that I have worked with and shared in the past, and these are going to be pieces that last you for a long, long time. If you’re investing in your favorite outdoor activity this winter, Sierra has you covered, literally!