Must-have ski clothes and gear for first-time skiers

Skiing can be a lot of fun. But if you aren’t dressed for the occasion, skiing can also be cold and miserable. The first time I went skiing, I was 21 years old, and borrowed an old ski outfit from a friend. Not knowing anything about skiing and what I needed to wear, I was totally unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the cold temperatures. I instantly hated skiing. Eight years later, when my husband, Damon, and I started dating, I tried skiing once again. Damon is an avid skier. He even proposed to me on a ski trip. I knew if we ever got married ski trips would be a large part of my life, so I gave the sport a second chance. Except this time I was much more prepared and better dressed. And that made all the difference. If you are new to the sport, this article covers everything you need to know about what to wear skiing. We’ve also included some gear and accessories you will want to invest in if you continue with skiing or other mountain sports.

Parenthood and Passports - Skiing in Steamboat

How to look the part on the slopes

It’s no secret skiing is an expensive sport. So if you aren’t sure you will continue with it, I recommend renting ski gear, borrowing what you can from friends, and rummaging through your closet for pieces that will work on the mountain. You will likely still have to buy a couple of things, but you won’t be dropping a grand on ski clothes and gear right out of the gate.
Before we get to the gear and clothes you need to wear skiing, first let’s cover some dos and don’ts on the mountain.
Ski Gear Dos
  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear a helmet!
  • Rent what you can unless you know 100% you will be skiing a lot more in the future.
  • Invest in quality pieces.
Ski Gear Don’ts
  • Don’t wear denim. Just don’t. It looks ridiculous.
  • Don’t skip the helmet. It’s dangerous and a sure-fire way to tell someone is a rookie.
  • Don’t go crazy on expensive gear and clothing. No one needs to look like a Bogner ad their first day on the mountain.

What to wear skiing

The key to staying warm while skiing is to dress appropriately. That means wear the right gear and dress in layers. I’m one of those people who is always cold so I typically always wear three layers when skiing. My husband can often get by with two layers, or a thin outer layer or shell. But especially for women or children, I recommend wearing three layers to stay warm.

  • Base layer
  • Mid layer
  • Thick, waterproof outer layer

Now let’s cover the basics on what to wear skiing.

Here are few reasonably affordable ski brands that we wear and recommend

Spyder
The North Face
Obermeyer
Columbia
Marmot

What to wear skiing: Ski Pants

Chances are if you are going skiing for the first time, you will fall a lot and spend a lot of time on your butt. So keep your butt warm and dry, even when sitting in the wet snow. A quality pair of ski pants are a must on the mountain. Look for an insulated, waterproof ski pant that fits over your ski boots. You also will want something that is a bit looser than your typical pants. You will have a base layer underneath, and you want something that is easy to move in.

Of the brands mentioned above, Spyder and The North Face are our go-to brands for ski pants.They are, in my opinion, the best quality for the money.

Cost-saving tip: if you are a petite woman, look at buying your pants in the girls’ section instead. The North Face pants I’m wearing in the picture below are actually a size 14 in girls, and cost about $30 less than the same pants in a size 1 in women’s.Parenthood and Passports - Skiing in SteamboatA few of our favorite ski pants for men, women, and children:

North Face men’s ski pants
Spyder women’s ski pants
Spyder ski bib for kids and toddlers

What to wear skiing: Ski Jacket

Equally important as the insulated ski pants is a warm, and waterproof ski coat. A lot of skiers, myself included, love the variety you find in ski apparel. It’s rare you ever see two people on the mountain wearing the same jacket. While there are so many brands to choose from, I would caution you not to just buy the cheapest jacket you can find. You get what you pay for in ski apparel, and you want to stay warm or you’ll be miserable.

A few of our favorite ski pants for men, women, and children:

Men’s ski jacket
Women’s ski jacket
Kid’s and toddler’s ski jacket

What to wear skiing: Gloves

This was one of the investments I didn’t make for a couple of years. My first ski gloves were inexpensive and low quality. My hands stayed cold on the mountain, but I knew no different. After a few seasons, I finally invested in a high-quality pair of ski gloves, and it made a huge difference. For toddlers, I would recommend mittens. They are easier to put on and help to keep their fingers warmer. Since little ones typically don’t ski with poles yet, the mittens work well for their needs.

A few of our favorite ski gloves for men, women, and children:

Men’s gloves
Women’s gloves
Toddler gloves

What to wear skiing: Goggles

Goggles are a skiing must for several reasons. They protect your eyes from UV rays bouncing of the snow and keep the wind and snow out of your eyes. They also help to balance out the lighting, making it easier to see the snow conditions and changes in the mountain.

A few of our favorite goggles for men, women, and children:

Men’s ski goggles
Women’s ski goggles
Children’s ski goggles

What to wear skiing: Base Layer
Parenthood and Passports -What to wear skiing - Ski apparel and gear guide
Base layer and mid layer

Your base layer is the first layer of clothing you will put on. It should be lightweight, somewhat snug to the skin, breathable, and wick away moisture. Your base layer serves as added thermal insulation. You will want to invest in both a top and bottom.

A few of our favorite base layers for men, women, and children:

Women’s base layer top
Women’s base layer bottoms

Men’s base layer top
Men’s base layer bottoms

Kids/Toddler base layer set

What to wear skiing: Mid Layer

You likely have something that will work for a mid layer in your closet. My mid layer is usually a fleece sweatshirt. This is worn between your base layer and your jacket. If you don’t already have one, you can find one relatively inexpensive just about anywhere. These are great pieces to have in your winter wardrobe, as they can be worn on or off the mountain.

A few of our favorite fleece, mid layers for men, women, and children:

Women’s mid layer
Men’s mid layer
Toddler/kids mid layer

What to wear skiing: Helmet

Your helmet will serve two purposes when skiing. Most importantly, it is there for safety. Even expert skiers who never fall wear a helmet for safety. If you are a first-time skier, a helmet is a must. It will also keep your head and ears warm while on the mountain. If you aren’t sure whether you will ski again, you can always rent a helmet along with skis and boots. But if you plan to ski more than once in your life, it’s cheaper to buy one than to rent.

A few of our favorite helmets for men, women, and children:

Women’s ski helmet
Men’s ski helmet
Toddler/kids ski helmet

What to wear skiing: Ski socks

To keep your feet warm and comfortable in your boots, you’ll need a good pair of ski socks. Ski socks are longer and warmer than typical socks.

A few of our favorite ski socks for men, women, and children:

Men’s ski socks
Women’s ski socks
Children’s ski socks

Items to purchase if you continue skiing

After you fall in love with the sport, you’ll eventually want to purchase your own skis, polesboots, and a good ski bag and boot bag. If you know you plan to ski at least once a year, I would definitely recommend buying a fitted pair of ski boots. Rental ski boots are incredibly uncomfortable. You will have a much better time on the mountain once you are in boots fitted for your foot. You’ll also want to invest in some winter boots to wear in the evenings when you aren’t skiing, and a few winter accessories like a hat or beanie, and a neck gaitor for the really cold days.

Are you a skier? Leave us a comment and let us know your go-to mountain brands, apparel, and gear.

Parenthood and Passports -What to wear skiing - Ski apparel and gear guide

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3 thoughts on “What to wear skiing – a first-time skier’s guide”

  1. This is such a useful post! Thanks for sharing – I can imagine that if you haven’t skiied before, it would be super useful to read something like this before you go.

    1. Thanks, Agness! I learned to ski as an adult, and we are now teaching our 2-year-old. I remember being so clueless about what to wear and what I needed to stay warm and safe on the slopes.

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