Layering for Cold Weather: How to Dress for the Slopes

The three main layers to wear and extra essentials you’ll need for your next snow adventure.

When prepping for a trip to the slopes, it’s important to remember all the essentials, including packing and dressing in layers.

You may already be used to dressing in layers during the winter months, but how many layers do you need when skiing or snowboarding? Ski Guide Brent Phillips of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides explains the necessities you should have next time you venture up the mountain, including three key layers: a baselayer, mid-layer and an outer layer or shell.


  • Baselayer: For your baselayer, aim for a natural or synthetic layer such as a long-sleeve compression shirt or a long-sleeve thermal. A thin, light baselayer will help wick away moisture when you start moving. This is why you should stay away from cotton, which will instead pin moisture to your skin.
  • Mid-Layer: Your mid-layer is worn directly over the baselayer and creates more warmth without extra bulk. It is vital for retaining heat and acts as an insulator from the cold. A great mid-layer option is a fleece or long-sleeved shirt made of natural fibers. Insulation is key, so you want to make sure your mid-layer is up to the task of keeping you warm.
  • Outer Layer or Shell: Finally, your outer layer, or shell, helps fight against elements like wind, snow or rain. In these conditions, the shell is your best friend. Look for a waterproof, breathable option for winter activities like skiing and snowboarding. Another factor to keep in mind is size. Your outer layer must fit comfortably over the rest of your layers.



A snow hat, insulated pant, snowshoes and gloves can make or break a snow-filled adventure.

  • Snow hat: Heat can escape if your head is not protected. Even if some skiers and snowboarders tend to forgo their snow hats underneath a helmet, it’s good to have one on your head when taking a break from your activity. Your ears and scalp can get cold fast, so whenever you’re not moving, make sure to have your hat nice and snug.
  • Insulated pants: To keep warm, yet nimble, you’re not going to want to have a lot of layers covering your legs. Instead, aim for some compression leggings as a baselayer underneath your insulated pants. Your insulated pants should combine both weather resistance and cold resistance since you’re sacrificing layers for more mobility.
  • Snowshoes: Since mountain weather can be difficult to predict, have a pair of snowshoes on you in case your lodge or cabin is surrounded by large amounts of powder. You don’t want to wade through heavy snow in your ski boots on your way from the lodge to the slopes.
  • Gloves: Help keep your hands and fingers protected with gloves and hand warmers. They are designed to keep your hands toasty and comfortable when on the slopes or after your winter activity. Hand warmers are air activated and most last up to 8 hours, allowing you for a full day warmth.



Brent also urges the importance of packing three vital necessities: sunblock, lip balm and sunglasses. They may be small items, but they are mighty with benefits.

  • Sunblock: Even though you’re far from the beach, it’s important to always wear sunblock when skiing or snowboarding. Long exposure to the sun’s rays can be poisonous, so sunscreen is a must-have.
  • Lip balm: People succumb to chapped lips often during the winter months thanks to a lack of humidity. Chapped lips can worsen when on the mountain, so make sure to pack lip balm. Trust us. Your lips will thank you later.
  • Sunglasses: Never leave home without your sunglasses. Mountain weather is dynamic and ever-changing, which means it can be overcast one minute and cloudless the next. Sunglasses may also help prevent snowblindness, which typically occurs at high altitudes on reflective snow patches. This can lead to tearing, headaches and red, swollen eyes, among other symptoms. Remember, if you can’t see, you can’t ski.