Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, wearing proper ski gear is necessary in order to stay warm and dry throughout the entire day. I worked for a major ski company for 10 years where I was able to learn about and test every type of ski gear known to man. So I’ve put together a women’s ski gear starter guide to share everything you need to get started!
Those who prefer to be warm and shed layers as needed, and those who would rather wear minimal layers and let the activity warm them up. Personally I am the latter of the two, because once I get sweaty I’m wet and grumpy.
I actually worked for a ski company for many years and have had tons of first hand experience trying out different pieces and materials. This is a comprehensive gear guide of the apparel and accessories that I wear and recommend for a day on the slopes!
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Like I mentioned above, the base layer of a women’s ski gear is meant to keep you dry. This is arguably the most important layer, because being wet can easily lead to a miserable day. You want to make sure that all of the fabric in this layer is lightweight and moisture wicking. I generally use fleece for this layer, because it is warm, moisture wicking, and dries fast if it gets wet. It is also the least expensive option.
On days where it’s colder or if you have a slightly higher budget, I recommend a wool-synthetic blend of fabric, like Merino wool. The wool keeps you warm, and the synthetic material keeps you more dry when doing high intensity activities in the snow such as skiing and snowboarding. If you have a lower budget, wearing fleece will keep you plenty warm and dry, it’s just not as breathable as the synthetic blend.
Top: I always use fleece for my top layer. I have a couple of fleece tops that I switch between. My favorite (and the one I’m wearing pictured above) is the Nike funnel neck sportswear fleece. It is lightweight, breathable, and keeps me warm and dry all day.
Leggings: The fleece leggings I wear most are by 90 degree, and I bought them on Amazon. The merino wool leggings that I wear are REI’s smart wool base layers. I love both, but definitely find the merino wool leggings to be more breathable during intense activity.
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For your bottom half, the fleece or merino wool will keep you both warm and dry, so you won’t need a mid-layer. On warmer days I just wear a pair of light Oakley ski pants that are wind and water resistant over the leggings and skip the shell layer.
In the winter time at a ski resort I usually just wear a Patagonia sweatshirt or something similar, and I find that that provides adequate insulation. If it’s colder or you’re going backcountry riding, I recommend a synthetic material such as a fleece blend or PrimaLoft. Just make sure you pay attention to the warmth to weight ratio and breathability factor so you can choose the material that best suits your needs.
I find something light-mid weight to be best most days at the ski resort. When the sun’s out and you’re riding all day it’s easy to get sweaty if you’re overdressed.
Tip: Too many people tell me they wear down material when skiing. Do not do that! Keep in mind that down is less effective when wet, so it’s a great way to stay warm if you won’t be sweating, but should not be used when you’re doing higher intensity activities such as hiking or skiing where you’re going to sweat a lot. This is essential to know when starting your women’s ski gear collection.
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I’ve gone through a few shells over the years and to be completely honest as long as your shell is wind and waterproof, the actual brand of it doesn’t make much of a difference. The current shell I use is by a brand called Russell that I got in Interlaken last year just because it was a cheaper option, and its insulation is just as high quality as some of the more expensive ones I’ve bought in the past.
However I will say that the Oakley ones I have are much more fashionable and they always help you out if something tears or whatnot. No matter what shell you buy I definitely recommend sizing up to accommodate for all of your layers underneath.
There are a couple different types of ski pants. Gore-tex pants are waterproof, but don’t provide much insulation, so they’re great for deep powder or if you fall a lot (like beginners or myself).
If you’re looking more for insulation, then I recommend a pair of softshell pants. They’ll still keep you dry, but they’ll also keep you more warm than gore-tex will.
You also have the option of skipping the pants, and going for a bib instead. Bibs are overalls but the ski gear version. I love them in theory because nothing is more annoying than getting snow up your clothes and onto your skin. But I just can’t get into it for how difficult it is to go to the bathroom. If you can deal with that though, I highly recommend them!
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It’s not a debate anymore whether helmets are necessary or not. Helmets are extremely important! If you crash, they protect your brain from injury. Wear your seatbelts, and wear your helmets.
If you’re renting equipment you’ll be able to rent a helmet at the ski shop. I would highly recommend buying one though if you go skiing or snowboarding often. I use the Oakley Mod 3. They have another one, the Mod 5 but I chose to go with the Mod 3 because it fit my head/goggle integration better, so that was completely up to personal preference. Both helmets have a lot of the same key features, but the Mod 3 is better suited for comfort while the Mod 5 is better suited for performance.
Both helmets have interchangeable brims for seamless integration between the helmet and goggle, BOA adjustable fit system, ventilation, and MIPS technology. MIPS is a multidirectional impact system that reduces impact on the brain, and it really comes in handy if you’re like me and have a habit of crashing into trees every once in a while.
For a higher performance aspect, the Mod 5 has adjustable ventilation and an additional thermoplastic shell layer.
Goggles are my favorite thing to talk about, and I have a whole post about goggles coming soon. I will never use anything other than a pair of Oakley goggles. The technology is unparalleled and there is nothing that can compare to Prizm lenses. All goggles and sunglasses are made out of Plutonite, which is a shatterproof Z87 standard lens, and all goggles have an anti-fog coating so your lenses don’t fog up while you’re riding.
The goggles I use are the Oakley Flight Deck XM. They’re small enough to fit my lady face and have excellent field of view. I generally keep my sapphire lenses in them, but switch them out depending on the light conditions. On really sunny days I like to use the Prizm Jade lenses, and on cloudy days I use the Prizm Hi-Pink lens.
A good pair of warm socks are so important. You definitely want to make sure that your feet stay warm, dry and protected against blisters. Most socks for skiing are going to be made of Merino wool, which is the fabric I’d recommend. If you’re not willing to spend that kind of money on socks though (I totally understand), REI makes a similar fabric called Coolmax, which is a recycled material meant to keep your feet just as warm and dry.
You’ll want to wear two layers of gloves whenever you’re skiing or snowboarding. I ski so I like gloves with fingers, but most snowboarders prefer to wear mittens. Whichever you prefer, your first layer of gloves is going to be the same, which is meant to keep your hands warm. I use the Oakley diamondback fleece gloves and LOVE them.
The top layer is meant to keep your hands dry and protected from the elements, and I definitely recommend gore-tex gloves for this layer. I use the Burton gore-tex gloves. Gloves can be pretty pricey, but I found them at an REI garage sale once for only $20!
You’re not really supposed to wear a beanie with a helmet. But I find it necessary to keep your head and ears warm throughout the day whenever you’re not on a run. The Oakley helmets have a lining you can take out if you are planning to wear a beanie with your helmet so I’d recommend doing that. If you do wear a beanie, be sure that it fits snug to your head. You do not want any loose fabric.
While a scarf will keep you warm, they are not made for physical activity. Don’t forget, we want everything that touches our body to keep us dry. Balaclavas are more breathable, so you could use a balaclava in the early winter and transition to a neck gaiter when it gets colder. I personally like to use my neck gaiter year round because I don’t like when my neck is cold. Just depends how much warmth you’re looking for! I use a Carhartt fleece neck gaiter, which I just got on Amazon.
Hot hands are an essential ski gear item everyone should pack. You should always carry and have in your gloves. I recommend toe warmers too as it gets colder. I recommend buying a large value pack of each now and keeping it in your car for the winter. It’s the item most often forgotten, and will run $10-20 a piece in mountain towns. They’re nice to have on hand for winter activities anyway!
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