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Expert Shopper Sports & Fitness

What to wear skiing: A beginner's guide to ski gear

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Ready, set, ski

Skiing as a beginner is exciting, and you’ll need to prepare in advance for your first outing. Part of that preparation is dressing appropriately in the best ski gear. There are several ski essentials you'll need to stay warm and comfortable.

For skiing clothes, you’ll want to dress in appropriate thermal underwear, a light wool or fleece top, ski socks, a ski jacket, ski pants, a ski hat, a ski mask, gloves or mittens. You'll also need a ski helmet to protect your head and neck, as well as ski goggles for eye protection and visibility. Skis, ski boots and poles are classified as equipment, rather than gear.

Shop this article: Columbia Women's Heavenly JacketArctix Women's Insulated Snow Pants and ZIONOR X4 Ski Goggles

What to know about ski gear: layering

Layering ski clothing is a must. For your ski outfit, you’ll want a breathable base layer (thermal underwear) that absorbs perspiration, a mid-layer (fleece or wool top) to keep you warm, and an outer layer (ski jacket) that will protect you from the wind and snow.

Layering the lower body doesn’t require as much, and ski pants are usually lined already. Most beginners do great with just ski pants or long underwear underneath ski pants, depending on the weather conditions.

What to look for in quality ski gear

It’s important to wear gear designed for skiing, as this type of gear has specific features to protect you on the slopes.

Ski hats

You should always wear a ski hat under your helmet to keep warm. They also provide extra cushioning. Beanies are a particularly popular style. Ski hats are made from breathable and sweat-wicking materials such as cotton and Merino wool. If you're planning a ski trip somewhere that has mild weather, a thinner helmet liner, otherwise known as a scull cap, may be more comfortable.

Ski masks

Having a ski mask is crucial for very low temperatures and high wind chill. Some ski masks cover only the bottom part of your face, while others are designed to cover the entire head, except the eyes and sometimes the nose. Loose-fitting ski masks may be more comfortable or breathable, but they don't always fit well under a helmet. Snug options, on the other hand, typically offer more warmth.

Ski jackets

A quality ski jacket has accessories like a snow skirt to keep the wind and snow from blowing up into it, Velcro on the sleeves so you can tighten them around your wrists, ski cuffs that extend out from the sleeves to keep snow out of the jacket and an adjustable hood for different weather conditions. Pockets are handy, too.

Ski pants

Skiing pants should be two things: waterproof and warm. Look for pants that have a zippered vent that runs the length of your thighs to prevent overheating. Elastic, Velcro or zippers at the ankles should fit over your boots.

Ski goggles

Skiing goggles shield your eyes from snow, rain, the sun and glare. They’re more watertight than sunglasses, and if you should fall, goggles protect your face, while sunglasses may cause injury.

Ski gloves

Look for skiing gloves that are waterproof and not too tight. Many skiers prefer to wear thin inner gloves with mittens over them.

Ski socks

Thick ski socks promote precision when you’re wearing narrower ski boots. For optimum warmth and comfort, opt for thicker ski socks made of merino wool or synthetic fibers.

Ski helmets

A good ski helmet should have a moisture-wicking liner, ear protection and a comfortable chin strap. The outer layer of a good helmet is made of ABS high-impact plastic to protect your head.

Top entry-level ski gear to get you started

Best ski jacket


Columbia Women's Heavenly Jacket

What you need to know: This women's ski jacket is water-resistant, with a special moisture-wicking lining that retains heat. It features synthetic down-style baffling, a fleece collar and comfort cuffs for extra hand warmth. (For guys, the Columbia Timberturner Jacket uses patented Omni-Heat technology to keep you toasty.)

What you’ll love: The down insulation and fleece collar make it super cozy, and it comes in 12 flattering colors.

What you should consider: Some users complained that the jacket runs small.

Best ski pants

Gash Hao Men’s Snow Ski Pants

What you need to know: These men's ski pants are waterproof, insulated and light yet warm. They have three-dimensional knees for added comfort and flexibility.

What you’ll love: These have a breathable mesh fleece lining and zipper-bottom ankles, along with several zippered pockets and zippered vents at the thighs. They're also budget-friendly.

What you should consider: The zippered ankles may not zip completely over extra-wide men's ski boots.

Arctix Women's Insulated Snow Pants

What you need to know: These lightweight and durable women's ski pants will keep you warm at temperatures down to -20 degrees. Boot zippers make them easy to take on and off when wearing ski boots. Boot gaiters retain warmth while keeping moisture out.

What you’ll love: These women's snow pants are affordable. The waist is adjustable for a custom fit, and there's an O-ring for attaching keys, gloves or lift tickets. There are 37 color schemes and patterns to choose from, as well.

What you should consider: Limited users complained about the quality of the pants and/or sizing issues.

Best ski goggles

ZIONOR X4 Ski Goggles

What you need to know: These ski goggles are versatile, affordable and have a magnetic lens-changing system so beginners can try various lenses.

What you’ll love: The design fits over small-framed glasses and provides beautiful clarity with a great spherical panoramic view. They also come in a variety of cool styles.

What you should consider: The lenses can fog up with heavy use.

Best ski gloves

MoreOK 3M Thinsulate Thermal Gloves for Skiing

What you need to know: These gloves have a waterproof membrane, are insulated, moisture-wicking and highly breathable.

What you’ll love: They have an ergonomically designed palm coated with anti-slip nitrile. The gloves are warm but not overly thick or bulky.

What you should consider: These gloves may not be warm enough in extremely cold environments.

Best ski socks

PureAthlete High-Performance Wool Ski Socks

What you need to know: These ski socks are made of a blend of polypropylene and Merino wool and have a mid-weight thickness with an elastic arch support.

What you’ll love: The ski socks have advanced knitting for premium comfort and moisture-wicking functionality.

What you should consider: Each pair of socks has a specific right and left, so be aware of which one you put on which foot.

Best ski helmet

Vanrora Ski Helmet

What you need to know: This cost-effective skiing helmet has climate control venting, a dial fit, removable fleece liner and is safety-certified.

What you’ll love: It’s compatible with goggles and is comfortable for all-day ski trips.

What you should consider: The liner can be difficult to remove.

Best ski hat

Carhartt Men's Knit Cuffed Beanie

What you need to know: This beanie contains 100% acrylic fabric that's warm, stretchy and durable. It's also available in a women's style.

What you’ll love: The stylish design comes in 40 colors and can be worn throughout the winter, on and off the slopes.

What you should consider: It should only be washed by hand.

Best ski mask

Ergodyne Black Wind-Proof Hinged Balaclava Face Mask

What you need to know: This thermal fleece ski mask effectively blocks wind chill, with a snug fit that's still breathable. The mesh panel over the mouth means you get adequate airflow.

What you’ll love: This versatile accessory can be worn as an open-face balaclava, neck gaiter or full ski mask.

What you should consider: Some users found that it's a bit tight around the nose.

Other ski accessories worth checking out

  • This ski boot dryer will dry wet boots after you use them, cut down on foot odor and warm up your boots before you hit the slopes.
  • These adhesive toe warmers offer up to eight hours of heat, so your feet can stay comfortable throughout your ski day.
  • This storage rack fits onto most car roof racks, capable of holding up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards.
  • Attach this ultra-bright and waterproof LED headlamp to your helmet for safer night skiing.
  • This ski backpack has storage compartments for your ski boots, goggles and gloves, plus a strap for attaching your helmet.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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