What to Wear Skiing

Kathryn Walsh
- July 28, 2017

Everything You Need for a Family Day on the Slopes

What to Wear Skiing

It's got to be warm, but not too warm. Waterproof, but not suffocating. Streamlined, but supportive. Choosing ski clothes might seem daunting if you're heading to the slopes for the first time. There's a huge industry around skiing, though, so finding plenty of options is never a problem. Focus on fit and function when choosing a ski wardrobe for you and your kids. Every member of your crew should dress in layers, layers and more layers.

First Layer: Long Underwear

Yup, the garments that you might associate with the Little House on the Prairie era are still useful today, at least among the skiing community. Your first layer of clothing should be thin and made of fabric that wicks sweat away from the skin. Long underwear fits the bill, but you can also swap in any pants and shirt made of thin, synthetic fibers, like clothing you might wear to the gym. These are the clothes you'll walk around in before and after you ski, so choose things you're comfortable wearing in public.

If you're planning a long ski vacation, bring multiple sets of first-layer clothing for yourself and your kids. Skiing is hard, sweaty work. You can wear your top layers several times between washings, but the inner layer can get pretty gross after a single wearing.

Second Layer: Insulation

For skiers, the second layer of clothing is used to stay warm. Think fabrics that are cozy without being bulky, like fleece and wool. Wear a long-sleeved pullover and add a pair of wool or fleece pants if it's really cold or windy out. Many skiers wear only an insulating layer on top and stick with just long underwear and ski pants on the bottom. You may want to start the day wearing insulating pants, and pop into the lodge to remove them if you get too hot.

Third Layer: Protection

Your top layer should consist of a jacket and ski pants. These pieces are designed to keep out water and snow (very important for new skiers who fall down a lot) and to protect you from wind. You don't want to wear a bulky parka or fashionable winter jacket. A jacket and snow pants designed for winter sports are your best option, because they're made to be both protective and thin, which is important. Minimal bulk allows you to move your arms freely.

Overall-style ski pants are great for kids, because they stay in place, even through many tumbles.


Ski clothes take up a lot of space, even when you buy streamlined pieces. That means flying to a ski vacation requires lots of luggage. Tightly roll up jackets and pants and stuff them into small packing cubes, or secure them with rubber bands or bungee cords to keep them contained. Your ski resort may also rent out jackets and pants in addition to skis, boots, helmets and poles. Check their policies before buying new pieces or hauling your gear onto a plane.

Fourth Layer: Accessories

A hat, gloves and neck gaiter made of fleece or wool and a pair of goggles are essentials for both safety and comfort. Make sure your kids have all these accessories, too. Kids are prone to losing gloves and hats, so bring at least one extra set of extras for each kid. Remember, though, that every member of your group should wear a helmet, so you may not end up wearing the hat onto the slopes, depending on how snugly your helmets fit and how warm they are.

Each of you also needs tall socks made of wool or synthetic fibers.

Never Wear: Cotton of Any Kind

Jeans, cotton socks, cotton T-shirts—all no-gos when it comes to skiing. Cotton acts like a sponge, soaking up sweat and melted snow. It stays heavy, wet and cold for a long time, which can be distractingly unpleasant.

Never Wear: Extra Socks

If one pair of socks is good, three must be better, right? Wrong—at least when it comes to skiing. Ski boots are thick and hard, so your toes shouldn't get cold in them. Furthermore, they should fit snugly to your feet for optimal safety and control, so bulking up your feet with several layers of socks isn't a good idea. And finally, wearing multiple pairs of socks increases friction, and friction causes blisters. Stick to one pair.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.