Layering up for the cold is always advised but is an absolute must when heading to the slopes.
Whether you prefer to ski indoors or outdoors, it’s in your best interest to wrap up suitably for the conditions. It is crucial for skiers to control their temperature and wear waterproof layers, and it’s simultaneously important to stay dry and remain as fresh as possible during the long days. It can be a fine balance to master, but we have created the ultimate guide to help you manage it.
How do base layers work?
The base layer is the layer closest to the skin, intended to act as a ‘second skin’ throughout the day. Base layers provide a layer of warmth, while wicking away your sweat to keep you fresh, warm and comfortable when being active in different climates, conditions and environments.
There are a few different types of base layers – and other essential layers – which should be kept in mind when choosing what’s right for you, as each are designed with specific purposes to suit everyone.
Thermal Base Layers
Base layers are designed to be tight-fitting in order to retain heat underneath other removable layers that can be added or taken off depending on your comfort.
You can wear a base layer on your top and bottom half to keep your entire body as comfortable and warm as possible. Base layer tops are frequently advised, but many can forget about the bottom half, which is just as important.
What should a base layer be made of?
There are two different types of base layers, each with notable differences.
Synthetic Base Layers
Base layers made with synthetic fabrics are the cheapest option, meaning they’re also the most common. Synthetic base layers have the benefits of being quick drying and high wicking so are well suited for intense activities like skiing or snowboarding, as the fabric will work to keep you dry.
These base layers are also super lightweight and flexible, making them perfect for skiing as they provide essential comfort.
Merino Wool Base Layers
Merino Wool fabric has a natural ability to regulate body temperature so can manage colder climates brilliantly, preventing overheating and thus keeps you dry, warm and comfortable.
Merino wool is also naturally antibacterial to keep you fresh, preventing any lingering odours. The natural fabric is also perfectly suited to sensitive skin that may be irritated by synthetic materials.
Rearing and shearing merino sheep is a labour-intensive process, so merino wool can be more expensive to buy.
What Are Mid Layers?
Mid-layers are the removable layers between the base layers and outer layers. Microfleece is a popular material for a mid-layer.
These are usually intended to provide optimal warmth. Our textured men’s fleeces and women’s fleeces come in a variety of styles, from pullover to full zip or a synthetic fleece hoodie, with many of them designed with Airtrap® fabric technology that locks in the heat. It is not advisable to wear cotton hoodies as they will absorb and hold moisture chilling you.
These knitted layers are essential for providing warmth in chilly temperatures, which you will most definitely come across when skiing. The various different styles allow you to choose what suits you best, while they all serve a shared ultimate purpose of keeping you snug – often in a lightweight and flexible manner, so as to not hinder your performance on the slopes.
What Are Outer Layers?
Whether you opt for a ski jacket or a classic waterproof, there are a few things to look out for when buying your outer layer. After layering up with your base layers and mid-layers, the outer has the main responsibility of being waterproof, breathable and windproof.
Our ski jackets can be waterproof up to 20,000mm and are commonly windproof, although it’s always worth checking. Wind-resistance will ensure that even the strongest of gales won’t penetrate the material. Furthermore, taped seams are an additional measure for waterproofing jackets, so this is also worthwhile double-checking when shopping for something suitable. If you have any more questions, check out our Guide to Buying a Ski Jacket.
Look for ventilation zips under the arms, along with a breathable shell fabric. These work in tandem with your other layers, allowing moisture to escape and keeping you dry.
For skiing, you will find additional features such as snow skirts. These will prevent snow from getting to your mid and base layers. You may also find lift-pass pockets and goggle pockets which will make life easier on the slopes.
For trousers, you similarly want to ensure that they are waterproof. You can also choose between a shell or more insulated options. Legs don’t tend to suffer as much from the cold, a lighter weight can provide for more flexible movement during a dynamic activity such as skiing. If you have any more questions, check out our Guide to Buying Salopettes.
How to Layer for Skiing in Cold Weather
When skiing during peak ski season, we would recommend layering up with all the above. The perfect layering setup should consist of: a close-fitting high-wicking next-to-skin base layer, then a good micro-fleece (or thicker if conditions dictate) mid-layer – which can easily be removed if the weather gets warmer. Finally the outer layer, sometimes a shell or insulated style if temperatures are really cold.
Beyond these layers, you should also keep in mind ski socks and gloves, as your hands and feet are both imperative to your comfort on the slopes.
Layering Ski Socks
When it comes to suitable socks to ski in, your best bet is buying ski socks.
Doubling up on normal socks – even the thickest pair you have – will simply not cut it, as they are not designed with the features or insulation that you will require when skiing. Ski socks tend to have padding and seams placed in just the right places.
One good pair of will be all that you require. Don’t wear more than one pair, as this can prove uncomfortable when wearing ski boots, and can also cause your ankles to lift inside ski boots.
Although, it is recommended that you buy more than one pair, as a fresh pair is recommended each day.
Layering Ski Gloves
There are two main kinds of ski gloves: the classic ‘five-digit’ kind and mittens.
The regular and reliable ‘five-digit version’ is the classic ski glove with individual fingers. Most popular for skiers and snowsports fans alike, they offer optimal mobility and functionality. They can have either short cuffs or long cuffs, which is important to note as everybody will have a personal preference when it comes to this.
Mittens were once associated with snowboarding, but more and more skiers have taken to them in recent years – preferring the superior warmth provided by mitts.
Due to a rise in popularity, mittens are not just excellent for warmth but have also been re-designed in ways to provide better grip to help skiers hold on to ski poles with less concentrated effort. If you have any more questions, head over to our How to Choose a Pair of Ski Gloves guide.
How to Layer for Skiing in Spring
When layering up for skiing in the springtime, we would recommend most of the same as skiing in cold. However, the different temperatures might mean that not all these layers need to be worn. Alternatively, we suggest choosing a thinner fleece or base layer.
Ski gloves and ski socks are vital, as always, with a base layer on both top and bottom is still advised. A mid-layer should be taken with you if it gets too cold for your liking but, of course, can be carried in your bag. The outer layers are still essential.
How to Layer for Off-Piste Backcountry Skiing
Whether it’s winter or spring, we recommend taking full precaution when backcountry skiing and wearing the most protective clothing possible. The most waterproof and breathable outer layers are advised, as are premium base layers and mid-layers. This is because skiing in a less confined and a controlled environment will make you more vulnerable to your surroundings, as your days on the slopes will be longer with fewer breaks. In the back country, away from the lifts, you will spend more of your time hiking. Even in very cold conditions, you can find yourself overheating, especially when climbing through deep snow. It is important that you are able to remove and add layers as needed. You will be sweating in order to earn your turns.
Beyond staying warm and dry, protective clothing is required because backcountry skiing means you will be skiing on different terrain, so any falls could be more dangerous depending on where you are. Avalanches are always a danger and considering a jacket with the RECCO® avalanche recovery system should be considered. This allows rescue services using the system to detect the wearer under the snow. This is not, however, a replacement for proper avalanche beacons, shovels and poles.