4 Foundational Elements A First-Time Skier Should Know — Part 1: Dressing the Part

What First-Time Skiers Should Know: Clothing

So you’re finally taking the plunge and getting on skis this season! Get excited; instead of dreading the cold days ahead, this sport will have you loving winter and wishing for lots of snow — that is, at least, if you do it right your first time. The reasons people don’t give skiing a second try can usually be avoided with some easy prep. The following is part one in a four-part series of how to help ensure maximum fun without the blues (except those that are on the run).

Yes, it’s cold outside, but Jack Frost should only be nipping at your nose, not freezing your toes — or anything else. Skiing is only a cold experience for those who aren’t dressed appropriately; the trick to keeping warm is layering with the right fabrics.

Rule number one: Avoid cotton

What What First-Time Skiers Should Know: Clothing

Synthetic fabrics move moisture away from your body and help keep you dry while wool retains its insulating properties even while wet. Cotton is not capable of doing either and will leave you frigid (and possibly hypothermic). Fabrics to look for are wool, polypropylene, polyester, etc.

Next, layer up.

Wearing several layers of clothing rather than one heavy coat makes it possible to regulate your temperature as you go throughout the day. Here’s how to do it:

a) Your foundation, a.k.a. the “base layer,” will be a thin garment that sucks up moisture from your skin and moves it to the outside to keep you dry. Called “wicking,” use these garments right next to your skin; they are the foundation in your layering system.

b) The mid-layer is insulation. Wool and fleece are great choices, as they provide loft which traps heated air. These come in different “weights” which correlates to the density of the fabric; choose ones that will be appropriate for the day’s temperatures, with lighter fabrics being best for warmer ski days (think spring skiing).  

c) Your outer layer is the protective piece that guards the inner layers against the elements. Made of a tightly-woven synthetic fabric, it is usually just a shell but may have some very light insulation. Look for water-repellency, tapes seams (so snow doesn’t seep into the stitching) and wind-resistance; snow skirts on jackets and gaiters on the pants are extra helpful in powder situations.

When it comes to feet, ditch the layering system. Because ski boots fit snugly, adding any unnecessary bulk down there will only constrict blood flow, resulting in cold or numb toes. There are many socks out there that are ski-specific, constructed of a fabric which will provide warmth and wicking ability together.

Looking for more tips on layering and staying warm? Check out these articles about Winter Layers and Staying Warm.

You’re geared up! What next? Stay tuned for more tips on making the most of your first day on the snow.

About the Author


Gina Begin

Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Over the years, she has been consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.