How to layer for a day on the slopes

Top Tips to Stay Warm While Skiing

Use strategic layering techniques to improve your comfort skiing and riding.

Man shopping for gloves at Epic Mountain Gear

How To Layer and How to Stay Warm Skiing and Riding

Good snow and solid equipment are both essential on the mountain, but you can’t take advantage of either unless you know how to layer your clothing for skiing and riding. The key to unlocking an enjoyable skiing and riding experience comes down to how much time you spend on the slopes and what you wear while you’re out there. Effective layering is the cornerstone of staying warm when you ski or ride, and a few simple concepts will help ensure you are well-prepared and ready for action. 

How To Layer Clothes for Skiing and Riding

The standard approach to knowing how to layer properly for skiing and riding is pretty simple. Start with a base layer, put a mid over that, and cover everything with a quality shell (outer layer) that protects from moisture and wind. Just doing those quick steps will have you ready for most ski and ride days. But it’s worth breaking down each of these aspects and throwing in a few more to maximize warmth, comfort, and attention to detail on a cold day. 

Base Layers

Choosing the right base layer is crucial. This layer sits against a large area of bare skin, so moisture-wicking properties are essential. Merino wool or synthetic fabrics that pull sweat away from the skin will keep you dry. Avoid anything made of cotton, as it will hold moisture and lower your body temperature. 

A good base layer should fit snugly without being too tight to limit circulation or restrict movement. You want it to be comfortable and stay in place while you ski and ride. Your base layers are what many people refer to as “long underwear.” 


Mid-layers provide insulation and help retain body heat. A lightweight and comfortable fleece or down jacket is a popular choice for many skiers and riders here, and these types of garments trap warmth while remaining breathable. A good wool sweater can also function as a very effective mid. 

Having several mid-layers of varying thicknesses will help you be ready for variable conditions. A thinner, lighter mid is good for warmer days, and a thicker, heavier option will keep you warmer when the temps drop. You always want to shoot for ample insulation without hindering mobility in your mid-layers. 

Outer Layers

The outer layer, or shell, serves as a protective shield against the wind, snow, and moisture. The standard ski jacket and snow pants are your outer layer, and an extremely wide range of options are available to meet any stylistic or performance preferences. Waterproof and windproof capabilities are a must, but you also want your shell to be breathable to let body heat and sweat escape when skiing or riding hard. Look for features like ventilation zippers to help regulate body temp and airflow. Other features like a hood, snow skirt, and pockets can help you block out heavy snow and carry extra equipment.  

How To Layer for Cold Skiing and Riding

Cold-weather skiing and riding can mean light powder and excellent conditions, but it also presents a number of challenges – staying warm top among them. Layering also comes into play here, and some additional factors should be on your radar. 

Wind chill is an often uncomfortable and sometimes downright dangerous element when skiing or riding in cold weather. Wind can significantly impact perceived temperatures on the slopes. You need to ensure that your outer layer is windproof and should consider wearing a neck gaiter or balaclava to protect your face and neck from biting breezes. Any exposed skin in severe wind chill conditions could lead to frostbite. 

Even without added wind, extreme cold and sub-zero temperatures require extra attention to layering details. Consider adding an extra insulating layer, such as a thicker mid and outer layer, to buffer your body from the outside world. 

Practical Advice on Layering for Optimal Warmth

Layering and dressing warmly isn’t rocket science. Still, some practical advice will help you decide what to wear skiing or riding by temperature, wind speeds, or other weather conditions and related factors. 

1. Base Your Outfit on the Temperature

Tailoring your skiing or riding get-up to the specific temperature on the mountain is always sound advice. On warmer days, you might be able to skip the mid-layer or remove your shell. If it’s really cold, you’ll need to be strategic about your layering with a good base, mid, and outer, with particular considerations for material and thickness. 

2. Ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential to prevent overheating during heavy-duty ski and ride sessions. Look for outer layers with ventilation zips, and be mindful of adjusting layers as your activity level changes. Some mid-layers also come with ventilation zips, as do ski pants. 

3. Mittens vs. Gloves

Mittens generally provide better warmth by keeping fingers together to trap body heat. Gloves offer better dexterity. Mittens are a better choice on extremely cold days or for anyone who struggles to keep their hands or fingers warm. Gloves work well in milder conditions or for skiers or riders who run hotter in general. 

4. Moisture Management 

Sweating is inevitable during physical activity, even snowsports in sub-zero temperatures. Choose moisture-wicking base layers to help limit dampness and keep you dryer. If you sweat heavily, consider bringing a change of base layer–especially if it’s a really cold day. 

Putting It All Together

Mastering layering for skiing and riding is important for all people, regardless of your ability level or how hot or cold your internal furnace runs. By understanding the layering system, knowing how to choose a base layer, and addressing specific challenges of cold weather skiing and riding, you can easily put together a comfortable and versatile outfit that enhances your skiing and riding experience. Remember that the key is finding the right balance between warmth, breathability, and mobility to ensure you stay warm and agile all winter.