What To Wear When Skiing – Your Definitive Guide

Whether it’s your first time skiing or you’ve skied many times before, it’s always difficult to decide what you need to take on your ski trip and what to wear when skiing.  The weather in the alps can change dramatically and extremely quickly so even if you are skiing late in the season when it’s renowned for being warmer, you can get caught out if you don’t pack for all weather conditions.

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What do you need for skiing?

We have put together an ‘Essential Ski Kit List‘ to help you pack for your trip and to make sure you don’t forget anything.  You do not have to buy everything – a lot of kit is available to hire – so don’t use up all your money as you’ll need it in resort!  Most people hire their ski equipment including skis or snow board, poles, boots and helmets.  Many places also offer clothing to hire such as ski jacket, salopettes and other accessories.  Or if you are on a tight budget see if you can borrow any items from your friends or family.

Essential Ski Kit

What to wear when skiing?

It’s important to get your outfit right so that you are comfortable for your day out in the mountain.   We recommend three layers; a base layer (wicking), a mid-layer (insulating) and an outer layer (protecting), plus a number of essential accessories such as good socks, a warm pair of gloves, helmet & goggles.

Staff Day Off

Base Layers & thermals (wicking)

Start off with a full base layer with long bottoms & a top.  Sitting directly in contact with your skin this is the layer that should stay dry and keep you warm any day you are out skiing.  Both items should be breathable, wicking, fast drying and should fit comfortably under your mid-layer.  Skiing and snow boarding are energetic and athletic activities which will make you sweat so a wicking layer will make sure the moisture is drawn away from your skin which then evaporates keeping you warm & dry.  Base layers are widely available from most outdoor retailers, we like the reasonably priced selection at Mountain Warehouse for both adults and children.

Mid-Layer (insulating layer)

A soft shell or fleece is a popular choice to wear as a mid-layer.  Wear what you want to keep you warm and cosy, this is the layer between your base layer and outer jacket.  It does not need to be a really thick.  Polartec fleece (the most common brand of fleece used by many retailers) use a number rating for its weight from 100 (light weight for warmer days) to 300 (heaviest weight for colder days), so it is worth getting a fleece weight that is most suitable for the time of year you are skiing.  Although a safe bet would be to wear a mid 200 weight fleece as a good choice to use throughout the ski season.  Go Outdoors have a great range of mid-layers at fantastic prices.

Ski jacket & pants (protecting layer)

The outer layer is really important as it protects you from the extreme mountain elements such as high winds, snow & sleet and therefore needs to be windproof and waterproof so look for items that are made from Gore-tex (or equivalent).   It is useful (but not essential) to have a small zip pocket in your left jacket sleeve – this is where you can keep your lift pass which is detected automatically as you go through the ski lift barriers.  There is a huge variety of brands and retailers that provide fashionable & high tech outfits, check out our kit guide for a list of recommended retailers.

Ski socks

Your feet work hard all day on the slopes so it is worth investing in some good pairs of socks to ensure you stay comfortable.  We love ‘Smartwool‘ socks which are an american brand that are a popular choice to be kind to your feet.  They are made from Merino Wool which is a high performance fiber that is breathable, manages moisture, naturally resists odour and does not itch like traditional wools to keep you comfortable in a wide range of conditions.  You’ll need a few pairs to keep you going through the week!


These are essential items so again it is worth investing in a good quality pair that are well insulated.  Ski or snow boarding gloves are widely available through most outdoor retailers.  If you loose a glove in resort or don’t have time to buy a pair before you go, there are many ski shops which sell gloves and accessories in resort.


We highly recommend everyone to wear a helmet.  Most people do but it is only a legal requirement for children in France to wear one.  Whilst providing necessary head protection, it will also keep you warm.  It is easy to hire one along with your ski or snow board equipment with Tignes Spirit our recommended hire supplier.

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We have written a ‘Buying Goggles Guide‘ to help you – it is a minefield with so many different types, brands, sizes & lenses.  We hope you find this useful to find just the right essential pair for you!  It is important to protect your eyes in the mountain, googles give you the best protection from the sun and wind and make sure you have the ultimate visibility on any ski day.  Some people choose to wear sun glasses instead – a sporty pair may be just right on a bluebird day, but you will probably need goggles too just in case!


We recommend taking a small back pack with you so that you can carry all the necessary extra items for your day out such as a piste map, money, lip balm, high factor sun screen, camera, go-pro, selfie stick, snacks, chocolate, extra layers, sun glasses & water.  Cotswold Outdoor provide a wide range of ski accessories from goggles, helmets, clothing, sunglasses and lots of ski essentials.


It’s really important to wear a high factor sunscreen any day in the mountain.  At high altitude the sun is very strong which combined with the winds and reflection from the snow means you need to be protected throughout the day.  Buy a small pocket sized tube of high factor sunscreen (take from home as it’s really expensive in resort) for each member of the family to take out for a day on the slopes so they can reapply it regularly.  A high factor lip balm is also recommended and will stop your lips from cracking!

Are you ready to go?

So in summary there are three layers which you should think about when packing and deciding what to wear for skiing.  If you’ve checked the weather forecast, don’t forget it can change quite rapidly so don’t get caught out – it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!!  Remember that although the equipment and clothing we have mentioned is all pretty essential you don’t have to buy it all, a lot of equipment is available to hire and it’s always a good idea to see what you can beg, borrow or steal from friends and family!

Useful Guides & information

Tignes for beginners

Guide to Ski pass










Ski Goggles guide

Ski Hire with Tignes Spirit


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Becky Coates
Ski Bonjour Editor & Blogger

Becky would love to hear from you if you have any comments or queries about this content by email at ski@skibonjour.com

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