What to pack for the slopes? We'll start from the inside and work our way out.
Base Layer Tops
- For cold weather skiing, a superfine merino wool base layer works well (Icebreaker makes good ones) and is more odor-resistant than polyester. But if you have sensitive skin, polyester fabrics (like (Patagonia Capilene) might suit
you better. Look for a top long enough to stay tucked in; a dropped back hem is good if you are tall. If you will be carrying a backpack, raglan sleeves will be more comfortable. Have a couple to alternate so you can wash them.
Ski Socks - Merino-blend socks offer excellent performance and resist odor, but synthetic blends work fine too. Look for knee-length ski socks, not hiking socks which are too short. Ski-specific socks have thicker padding along the front of the shin and sole. Smartwool, Fox River, Wigwam, Lorpen and Rohner are a few brands that make quality ski socks. Tip: easier to put socks on before your base layer bottoms.
Base Layer Bottoms - Long johns or lycra-enhanced leggings - your choice, though I like the slight compression that leggings provide. If you don't want the leggings ending inside your boots, look for 3/4 length. Fabric with a brushed inside surface will be warmer. I like a higher waist, flat lock seams and slim clean leg openings so I don’t feel them in my boots. Hot Chillys are my favourite.
Once you have your base layers and socks, get the right combination of layers for your conditions. What you wear depends on your outer layer:
Ski Jacket vs. Shell? - Traditional ski jackets are made of a waterproof outer "shell" fabric, an insulation layer and lining. As outdoor brands started making snowsports gear, separating the shell and insulation became more popular, leading to more 3 in 1 jackets and shells worn with insulators or other layers.
The right choice depends on what type of skiing you are doing. For skiing in colder resorts where you’ll be on the chairlifts a lot, an insulated ski jacket works well. But if you’re skiing a big mountain with gondolas/trams and lots of vertical (eg. less time on a lift and more time in motion), spring skiing, or doing ski touring or a bit of hiking, then a shell is a good option.
Either way, some things to consider:
- A powder skirt (an elasticised inner hem with grip tape) keeps wind and snow from getting up your jacket or down your pants.
- Lycra inner cuffs, if you get cold easily. Not all shells have these.
- Tall collar to block the wind. Shells often have an attached hood which may or may not stand up well as a collar when the hood is not in use.
- Accessible pockets including a mesh pocket for bulkier items. A left sleeve pocket is ideal for the ski pass scanners used in Europe. (Fera's Bella Jacket
pictured in the suitcase has all these features!)
Waterproof Ratings - People often think they need a Gore-Tex jacket, but many technical fabrics will keep you comfortable and dry. The degree of waterproofness required depends on where you ski. The water content of snow varies from place to place, just like humidity. Places like the US Pacific Northwest and British Columbia tend to have wetter snow, and lower elevation resorts sometimes get rain. The Rockies usually are blessed with dry snow that just brushes off. Some resorts have bubbles on the chairlifts which protect you from the elements while at others you are sitting on snow-covered seats getting pelted with snow. Laminated waterproof membranes offer more comfort and less noise than cheaper coated fabrics.
Breathability - Breathability is just as important as waterproofness. You can work up a sweat skiing and if your jacket isn't breathable you'll end up clammy and cold when you ride the lift back up the mountain. FERA jackets all have high breathability ratings.
Durable Water Repellency (DWR) - This fabric treatment causes water to bead and roll off, improving the weather protection. It wears off with repeated washings, but can be reapplied using spray-on products like Grangers and ReviveX.
Mid-Layer Top - A lightweight down or polyfill insulator jacket, fleece layer or wool sweater. Look for a collar and zip opening so you can regulate your temperature. Packing a couple options gives you options to suit the conditions and your activity level.
Snow Pants - Ski pants are all about FIT and FEEL. FERA pants come in numerical sizes (instead of S/M/L) and Regular, Short and Long lengths to give you the Perfect Fit. Pants should be waterproof breathable and have inner snow cuffs to keep the snow and wind out. Elastic or adjustable tabs at the waist provide flexibility should you put on some vacation pounds. You'll want at least two pockets to stash things. Insulated pants keep your leg muscles warmer, reducing the risk of injury and FERA's Slimline bonded insulation eliminates bulk, giving you the most packable, light and comfortable ski pants around.
is our bestselling women's ski pant. Niseko
offers the added convenience of waist tab adjusters. For the snow fashionista, the Heaven
is a sleek yet warm and waterproof 4-way stretch pant with an amazing fit. Another option is a ski bib which has an upper to keep snow out even if your jacket is short or doesn't have a powder skirt. Our Women’s Stowe Bib
in four-way stretch fabric also happens to do wonders for your waistline!
For men, Ascent
is a lighter weight yet insulated snow pant with a straight leg cut. Bourne
features waterproof zip accents. Odyssey has suspenders for a secure fit. Freeski
offers a roomier leg ideal for snowboarders and skiers alike. Grenoble
utilizes four-way stretch fabric for a slimmer silhouette.
Ski Gloves or Mittens - These are an absolute must for snowsports. Look for leather or reinforced palms/fingers and wrist tabs for a good closure. Gloves with trim wrists go inside your jacket cuffs, while gloves with longer wrist gaiters go over your jacket. If you have long arms, a glove with gaiter will make up for sleeves that might be short. My preference is for gloves with a removable lining that can easily dried overnight. Some gloves have pockets to insert hand warmers into, a nice feature if you get cold fingers. Hestra makes excellent performance gloves.
Helmet - Besides protecting your head, helmets keep your head and ears warm - sometimes too warm! Look for a helmet with vents. The lighter the better, both for packing ease and comfort. Giro, Smith, Anon and POC are popular snow helmet brands. In very cold weather, you might want a stretch fleece balaclava or beanie to wear under the helmet.
Goggles - Look for a goggle that provides a wide field of vision and has lenses that increase the snow definition/texture in flat light and have good UV protection (not all do). Make sure they fit your nose/face profile without gaps, and interface well with your helmet. Smith I/OS goggles have interchangeable lenses and look great.
Neck warmer - If you don't like the feel of snow spray down your collar, a fleece or knit neck warmer will do wonders keeping you warm and blocking wind.
Sunblock - The UV radiation in the mountains is very strong so a good water-resistant facial sunblock is essential! Don't forget to apply it at the bottom of your nose and jawline which catch reflections off the snow. Winter facial sunblocks are thicker and more protective.
Lipbalm - Avoid chapped lips and sunburn by liberally applying a moisturising sunblock lip balm.
Tissues - The cold outdoor air tends to trigger a runny nose, so have a pocket pack of tissues in your pocket.
Boots, Skis, Poles
Afterski footwear - If you’ll be walking around to/from the slopes and have a locker or car to stash them in, a comfortable pair of water-resistant slip-on boots with good non-slip soles are a joy to have. Make sure they fit when you’re wearing ski socks.