How to Dress for a Day on the Slopes: A Layering Guide

January 4, 2020


Category: Outdoors

Functional and versatile clothing can make or break a good day on the slopes. Whether you’re battling low temperatures in January or basking in the late Spring sunshine, layering will keep your options open and your body warm (or pleasantly cool), and importantly, dry.

Although there are as many good solutions as there are good skiers, following a few simple rules is the start for creating a system that works best for your performance and comfort all day long: from catching the first lift to an apres-ski drink.

Base Layer 

Base layers for skiing primarily serve to wick moisture away from the body. Depending on your thermal preferences and weather, you can choose thicker or thinner blends of wool or synthetics. Thumbholes work well for those who hate their sleeves rolling up, but make sure they fit well with your gloves. Choose from a variety of cuts (low neck, turtle neck, etc.), but always keep your base layer snug and rather long so it doesn’t ride up. Seek flat seams that won’t chafe your skin even after many hours.

Skiing base layers are worn both on the top and bottom of the body and many manufacturers offer matching sets of long-sleeve tops and leggings.

Mid-layer

Designed to trap body heat, a skiing mid-layer has to provide warmth while not restricting movement. It has to fit comfortably under a hard-shell jacket but also perform well solo, should you choose to lose the outermost layer. A mid-layer is usually a fleece, a thin down or synthetic jacket, or a merino jumper.

On a warm but wet day, a sleeveless vest mid-layer will work well when worn under a jacket that can protect you from heavy snowfall.

It is impossible to reliably say what type of mid-layer is best, but it’s important to review the options that work best with thedestination and season. For extreme conditions, doubling up with one heat-trapping layer and one additional soft-shell jacket will keep you extra toasty.

Outer layer 

Oftentimes, the only outer layer you’ll need will be your softshell jacket. The outer layer you choose also depends on what’s underneath: if the mid-layers provide enough thermal insulation, the outer layer may just be a shell (a jacket that protects from wind and snow or rain but doesn’t keep you warm). On the other hand, if the mid-layers are thinner, an insulated jacket might be a better option.

Extremities cover

The last thing any skier wants is frostbite - and with wind chill, it can happen even on a seemingly warm day! Ski socks will keep your toes toasty while protecting your feet and shins from abrasion. Technical gloves designed especially for skiing are a must. A balaclava worn under a helmet will protect your head and face from the cold, and a neck warmer will prevent any unwanted drafts from stealing your precious body heat.

Remember that all of the above can be added or removed as required but better safe than sorry: gloves stuffed in the pocket on a warm day are way better than fingers lost to an unexpected temperature drop!

The Cliff Notes

There is no one answer to what layering configuration is best, however, there are some key rules to follow:

  1. Wick moisture away from the body with a snug base layer, a breathable mid-layer and an outer layer made with an appropriate membrane 
  2. Provide thermal insulation as needed by increasing or decreasing the thickness of the base layer, adding more on the mid-layer level, or by choosing an insulated jacket
  3. Don’t overdress. Causing excessive sweating will make your skin damp and your core temperature will drop

FOR A COLD DAY:

  1. thick merino base layer + down sweater + hardshell
  2. bamboo base layer + warm fleece + down vest + hardshell
  3. thin merino base layer + warm fleece + insulated jacket

FOR A WARM DRY DAY:

  1. bamboo base layer + fleece + softshell
  2. thin merino base layer + 3-in-1 jacket

FOR A WARM WET DAY

  1. synthetic base layer + thin down vest + hardshell
  2. thin merino base layer + 3-in-1 jacket

With a little bit of common sense and some experience, you will find your perfect skiing set-up for long, epic days on the snow.