How to Layer for Skiing: A Beginner’s Guide to Stay Warm

We use affiliate links, and may receive a commission if you purchase a product through our links. Learn more

Layering clothes is the most common way to regulate your body temperature by adding and removing pieces.

When skiing, the layers should be flexible and lightweight. The best way to layer for skiing is to wear a fleece, a midweight wool sweater, and then a waterproof shell with a hood.

The order in which you apply the layers is very crucial. Your first layer should be a wicking layer, followed by a mid-layer, and then an outer layer.

Secure Layering System

Layer 1Base layer/Wicking Layer: A thin, lightweight layer like a fleece will help keep you dry and will keep you warm in case of a sudden drop in temperature

Layer 2- Midlayer: This layer should have insulation properties to help keep heat inside but be waterproof and breathable. A mid-layer may also make the wicking layer less necessary.

Layer 3- Waterproof Layer/Shell: This outer layer protects you from falling snow or ice. It should also be waterproof so that it won’t become saturated like your mid-layer

Base Layers

Your base layers should be snug against your skin in general. Merino wool is an excellent base layer material because it is both warm and wicks away sweat.

Moisture-wicking synthetics such as nylon and polyester are also effective at keeping moisture away from your skin.

Base layers come in three main thicknesses that are suitable for different skiing temperatures depending on how cold the weather is:

  • Lightweight

These are the thinnest and lightest base layers, similar to running and jogging leggings. They provide minimal insulation while allowing for maximum breathability.

The thinnest base layers wick away moisture the fastest and thus dry the quickest.

  • Middleweight

If you’re looking for something a little warmer and plan to ski in colder temperatures, a middleweight provides an excellent balance of warmth and breathability.

  • Heavyweight

These are intended to provide complete insulation in extreme cold. Thicker, heavier, and takes longer to dry. Heavyweight thermals are an excellent choice for extreme cold.

Base Top

The base top is essentially a long, tight-sleeved t-shirt that traps body heat and wicks moisture away from your skin to keep you warm and dry.

The base should be insulating but not made of fibers that absorb water quickly.

Even in cold weather, you will constantly be sweating, and the fiber-like cotton that absorbs your sweat will make you wet, sucking away warmth and leaving you cold.

Base Bottom

One Pair of Thick Socks

Instead of layering socks, always wear one pair of high-quality socks. You’ll avoid painful lumps in your stockings, which can lead to blisters and ruin your entire week!

Check that your socks are long enough to cover your ski boot and prevent uncomfortable rubbing.

Thermal Leggings

Like your top, you want a fitted pair of leggings made of a breathable fabric. 

Typically, you can buy a matching top and bottoms set. Also, remember to tuck your top into your bottoms. 

The last thing you want is snow sneaking up your waist when you fall.

Mid Layer

Mid-layers are the removable layers between the base and outer layers. Popular mid-layer material is microfleece. A thin down jacket or a thin merino wool sweater are also options.

Mid-layers should be light and breathable since you want to leave room for your outer layers. And also that it doesn’t interfere with your movement or breathing.

Long-sleeved Mid Layer 

Fleece is the most commonly used material for mid-layers. This layer should keep your body heat close to you. A thin down jacket or a thin merino wool sweater are also options.

These are typically designed to be as warm as possible. Cotton hoodies are not recommended because they absorb and retain moisture, causing you to become chilled.

These knitted layers are essential for staying warm in cold temperatures, which are almost certain to occur while skiing.

The various styles allow you to choose what perfectly suits you, while they all serve the same ultimate goal of keeping you snug – often in a lightweight and flexible manner, so that your performance on the slopes is not hampered.

The mid-layer is available in various fits ranging from tight to lose, depending on the skier’s preference.

If it is too tight, it may restrict your movements or make you feel uncomfortable. If it’s too big, it won’t be as warm or fit as well under your ski jacket.

Choose a thicker and warmer mid-layer in colder weather (below -5°C / 23°F).

A thinner fleece will be more comfortable in warmer weather (-5°C to 5°C / 23°F to 41°F).

Above 5°C / 41°F on a still sunny day, three layers may be too warm, and you can sling your fleece in your backpack. It’s always better to have it than not to have it!

mid layer skiing

Outer Layer

Your outer layer will be your ski jackets and salopettes, which come in various styles.

There are a few things to remember when shopping for an outer layer, whether a ski jacket or a traditional waterproof.

After layering your base and mid-layers, the outer layer is responsible for being waterproof, breathable, and windproof.

outer layer for skiing

Waterproof Salopettes

Look for waterproof salopettes with zippers inside or outside the leg. This is a massive benefit as the weather warms up.

Some are just a shell, while others have insulation; choose what works best for your body temperature, and the time of year you’ll be skiing.

Waterproof Jacket

Thanks to advancements in ski gear technology, you can now find a super lightweight and breathable waterproof shell jacket that will keep you warm.

Again, there are jackets with insulation available. Most modern ski jackets should have plenty of zippered pockets for phones, piste maps, lip balm, and a few mini chocolates.

Waterproof Gloves or Mittens

Cold and wet hands can ruin a ski day! Invest in some high-quality gloves or mittens that are both comfortable and well-fitting.

Technology is here to help those of you who have icy fingers. They now make heated gloves that can keep you warm for up to ten hours.

Charge the battery overnight, and then select the desired temperature.

Look for vent zips under the arms and breathable shell fabric. These work in conjunction with your other layers to allow moisture to escape while keeping you dry.

Snow skirts are among the extra features available for skiing. These will keep snow out of your mid and base layers. Lift-pass and goggle pockets may also be found, making life easier on the slopes.

You should also make sure that your trousers are waterproof. You can also choose a shell or insulated option. 

gloves for skiing

Major Issues With Too Many Layers For Skiing

Don’t wear too many layers or the wrong type of clothes if you are beginning to learn how to use your body heat. If you have too many layers, you can overheat or underneath.

You will also become heavier, and moving around while wearing all these layers will be challenging. And then you will get dizzy and possibly faint because it is harder to breathe.

Just remember that if you have too many layers, it is hard for your body to regulate the temperature.

Check out the below list for more do’s and dont’s of layering.

The Do’s of Layering

In colder weather, wear a thicker base layer or mid-layer.

  • Wear an outer shell that is both breathable and waterproof.
  • Wear a thick insulated ski jacket in cold weather.
  • Each day, air out your ski clothes.
  • Wear dry clothes.

The Don’ts of Layering

  • Wear no more than three layers.
  • Wear no wet clothes.
  • You should not ski in your regular clothes.
  • Avoid cotton and sweat-absorbing materials.

Additional Important Do’s For Skiing

Correct layering is only one way to stay warm on the slopes. Here are some essential things to remember when skiing.

  • Put on a neck warmer, ski goggles, and a helmet.
  • There should be no exposed skin, so seal your edges and tighten your cuffs.
  • Bring a flask of hot beverages to keep your core and hands warm.
  • Wear ski gloves inside, and don’t take them off.
  • Grip your poles lightly, clenching your toes so that it doesn’t lower blood circulation
  • Make use of rechargeable hand warmers.
  • Check the weather beforehand to avoid getting stuck in a snowstorm and putting your life at risk.
women in skiing clothes
  • Carry a reliable backpack that can store everything that you could need.
  • Wax your skis every time you go skiing in the snow to help them last longer.
  • Purchase clothing that is both comfortable and well-fitting. Try on the gear and make sure it’s the right fit and style for you. Using equipment that is too small or too large for you will limit your movement on the snow.
  • After skiing in the snow, always thoroughly dry the skis by wiping them down with a towel.
  • Purchase boots that are soft and comfortable on the inside.
  • Always ensure your toes are touching the end of the boots and your heels fit snugly into the heel pocket.

Final words

The layering system varies according to what kind of activity you are doing. It is best to make the first layer your wicking layer for skiing.

The subsequent two layers should be water-resistant and have insulation properties to keep heat inside them.

Finally, you can put on your warmth layer if it starts to get cold.

Have any more questions on how to layer for skiing? Leave a comment below, and we will get back to you asap!

Photo of author


Thomas Miller
Thomas is an adventurous man from Colorado. He likes to ride snowmobiling in the harsh cold weather. Along with snowmobiling, he is also involved in the combat sports like boxing.

Leave a Comment