The Best Base Layers For Skiing And Snowboarding

Published by Harry Sowers on

Ski and Snowboard Base Layers

Peaceful, serene mountaintops, lovely blankets of snow, unique and awe-inspiring animals, and exciting adrenaline-pumping activities are just some of the marvelous aspects of the winter. It is surprising how a single layer of snow can improve the scenery and make you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, with the snow comes freezing temperatures and the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite. If you truly want to experience wintertime in all its glory, you need to properly layer high-quality winter clothing all over your body. This includes your head, neck, hands, eyes, lips, and feet. No one wears sandals in -15 degree weather. And that’s if you just want to hike in the snow. What should you wear if you’re a snowboarder or skier? In this in-depth guide, I will educate you all about layering clothing and the best base layers for skiers and snowboarders so you can stay warm while you carve your way across the slopes and mountain tops.

What Is A Base Layer And How To Use It?

When dealing with winter’s freezing cold temperatures, there’s only one rule to follow: you must wear layers on top of layers with one more layer of winter clothing if you want to stay warm. There’s no perfect jacket or long sleeve shirt that will completely keep you warm so you won’t have to wear anything else. Many people who don’t visit the snow often are caught off guard by the freezing temperature and their clothing’s thinness. Most people usually wear an undershirt and a shirt, a jacket, a pair of pants, and tennis shoes. Because their clothing is so thin, they must cut their trip short and head back home. But if you either are a skier or snowboarder, you know exactly how cold the winter can be. But you might be fooled by the myth that regular winter clothes can keep you warm. But this isn’t true. You need to layer your clothing appropriately in order to stay warm and prevent frostbite. But your clothing should also be able to absorb the excessive sweating from your skin and keep you warm and dry. In order to dress properly for the cold, you need to know all about layering. This guide will teach you all about the first layer of clothing known as the base layer.

When it comes to winter clothes, the base layer is the article of clothing that is closest to your skin. It lays right on your body, and because of the close contact, the material needs to absorb your sweat and dry quickly. By absorbing your sweat, you will stay dry and not suffer from rashes that would usually form from the layers of material rubbing against your sweaty skin. 

Layers of Winter Clothing And How to layer

The Base Layer- this is the topic we will be covering in this guide. You’ll learn all the different types of materials usually used in snowboarding and skiing, and how a base layer can affect your movement and heat retainment. You can even wear base layer clothing by themselves if it is a little cold, and you want to go outside to jog, run, bike, or play different sports. Most base layer clothing does well in chilly weather and will keep you warm even if it is windy or rainy. Base layer clothing can either be lightweight or heavyweight, depending on the level of cold it is made for. Your base layer clothes must not obstruct your movements or make you feel stuffy and hot.

The Middle Layer –  The main purpose of the middle layer is to retain as much of your body heat as possible. It is also called the insulating layer. Unless it is extremely cold, most people don’t have a mid-layer on their bottom half. But there are mid-layer pants in case two layers does not keep you warm.

The Outer Layer – Also called the shell layer, the outer layer’s main purpose is to protect you from the outside weather such as a cold or the wind. Outer layer clothing has to be waterproof, so the middle and base layers don’t get wet, and your body isn’t in danger of hypothermia. Because of it’s complicated task, outer shell clothing is more expensive than the middle and base layers. You may only need to wear a base layer and middle layer on certain mountaintops to keep you warm and a thin outer layer to protect you from the wind. But if you are in Sub-Zero temperatures, the outer layer also acts as a body heat retainer.

Features To Look For In A Winter Base Layer

Anti-odor material

Many people forget that they sweat profusely when they are skiing or snowboarding. And with all that sweat comes strong body odor. If you don’t wear clothing that isn’t anti-odor, your clothes will stink at the end of the day.

Flexibility and movement

Even though you’ll be wearing three to four different layers of clothes, you still need to move, twist, and bend at the waist. Clothing that keeps you warm but obstructs your movement is not good to wear. When you pair the correct pieces of clothing, you should be able to raise your arms without exposing your skin, then forward and touch your toes, and twist from side to side. You should also be able to lay your arms down. 


The material is what makes your base layer shirt or pants effective at keeping you warm and dry. It must retain warmth, absorb excessive sweat and moisture, and dry quickly to prevent rashes and blisters. There are many different types of materials you can choose from, but here are some of the more popular materials.

Merino Wool – This type of wool is more expensive than most of the fabric on this list, but merino wool does its job well. Merino wool will retain all of your body heat so you can stay warm even in Sub-Zero temperatures, and it will pull all of the moisture off of your skin no matter how much you sweat. 

Polyester – Cheaper than Merino wool, clothing made out of polyester is surprisingly resilient to moisture. The material allows the moisture within the garment to dissipate quickly, so both it and you stay dry.

Nylon – Winter clothes usually aren’t made out of 100% nylon, but a blend but are usually blended together with other materials. When nylon is blended into a piece of clothing, the material makes the clothing breathable, so you don’t feel hot, just warm. Nylon also retains moisture and keeps you dry.

The Best Base Layers For Skiing And Snowboarding

The following items are some of the best winter clothing products that not only keep you warm, but they will get rid of moisture and prevent your body odor from building up all day long. If an item is fitted, it will be tighter than other non-fitted clothing because it contours itself to the body. You may need to order an article of clothing a size up more than your average clothing size if you have a thicker stomach or bigger arms around the shoulders. 

Men’s Tops 

Cabela’s E.C.W.C.S. Heavyweight 1/4-Zip Top

As a heavyweight base layer, this pullover long sleeve t-shirt design retains a lot of heat and prevents it from escaping, so the wearer will stay warm while in the middle of sub-zero temperatures. In addition to warmth, the material can hold a lot of moisture so the body can stay dry. One small but excellent detail this long sleeve t-shirt has is thumb holes on both of the sleeves. So when the wearer wears this heavyweight top, they can slide their thumbs through the holes, so their sleeves don’t roll up and bunch as they add extra layers on top. Like other base layer items, This heavyweight tee comes with anti-odor technology, so your clothes last longer and won’t be affected by the wearer’s body’s odor. This piece of clothing is fitted so it will contour its fabric to the muscles and waistline of the wearer. If you are a bit thicker around your torso, you will need to purchase the next size than what you usually wear.

Women’s Tops

Hanes Sport Women’s Cool D.R.I. Performance Long Sleeve Tee

Hanes Sport Women's Cool DRI Performance Long Sleeve Tee

The material is 100% polyester, so it quickly dries if it gets wet, and the material is tough and durable. Not only that, but the polyester material also contains anti-odor technology so you can continue to wear this long sleeve tee over and over again without permanently ruining it’s material. If you need to take all of your layers off for any reason whatsoever, this base layer t-shirt is not see-through in any way. It is made from a solid polyester material that is not sheer or thin. It is machine washable, but if you need to wash in the sink, are strong enough to handle scrubbing around and on the seams too. Unlike other types of women’s base layer tops, the Haynes sport Performance Tee has a feminine cut, so it is not baggy, and the T-shirt conforms to the female body. It comes in eight different colors so you can find a T-shirt that coordinates with your outer layer of clothing. A few users say that this long sleeve t-shirt runs small because it is too small for them when they order their usual size. It is not fitted, so if you purchase a bigger size, the material could be loose and bunch up.

Men’s Bottoms

ClimateSport Pant

ClimateSport Pant

The silky smooth pair of pants can hold moisture very well, and they also have fast-drying technology, so your excessive sweat dissipates in the air leaving you feeling dry and warm. The material that makes up these pants gives it the perfect fit, and you feel like you’re wearing a perfectly tailored pair of pants. Not only does it have quick-drying technology, but it has anti-odor technology as well. 

There’s nothing worse than peeling off sore close after a hard day of snowboarding and skiing, and you are bombarded with a terrible stench. But you won’t be in danger of bad odors when you wear these pants. Just like the feel of these smooth pants, the construction of this material emphasizes a flat seam, which means the seam will not show through the outer layer of clothing. Reviews say that you can easily handle freezing temperatures and a snowy environment. The wearer’s body heat stays close to them because it is trapped by the material, so they stay warm all day long.

Women’s Bottoms

Terramar Women’s Thermasilk Pointelle Pant

Terramar Women's Thermasilk Pointelle Pant

One of the most complicated aspects of picking out a base layer is finding a material that is comfortable on your body and won’t cause you to feel hot and stuffy. But when you choose this women’s thermasilk pant, you feel as if you have no clothes on at all. Created from a derivative of silk, The material is extremely soft and smooth to the touch. The pants material has thermoregulation technology within it that adjusts itself to the amount of body heat you produce. Even though these pants are made from a type of silk, after you’re done with your vigorous activities on the slopes, you can throw it in the washer and wash it with cold water. These pants are not fitted so they should fit your regular clothing size, but many wearers like to order one size up, so the material is baggy and flows around their body.


Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks

Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks

As a mix of polypropylene and nylon, these socks are guaranteed to keep your feet dry even after hours of hiking, snowboarding, and skiing. The material is extremely absorbent, so you won’t have to wait long for your feet to become dry again. The company Fox River designed their socks to quick-dry so their customers wouldn’t develop blisters on their feet. The seams are integrated into the sock’s construction, so you won’t experience any irritation while wearing them. Despite all of these benefits, this type of stock is very thin and is not bulky in any way, so it can’t prevent your foot from slipping into a shoe or boot. Unfortunately, these socks do not come in a pack, just as a single pair. But it has many long-lasting benefits that will keep you healthy and safe.

Under Armour Adult Hitch Heavy Boot Socks, 1-Pair

Under Armour Adult Hitch Heavy Boot Socks, 1-Pair

If you’re skiing or snowboarding in Sub-Zero temperatures, then you need to go with a heavyweight base layer socks, and the Under Armour Adult Hitch Sock is just what you need. A combination of acrylic, nylon, and wool, these socks have extra padding around the ball and the heel of your foot to cushion your steps and prevent muscle tiredness. No matter how much you sweat, the anti-odor technology in these socks will prevent your foot from stinking after a long day. Another benefit of the heavy petting in the sock is that it prevents blisters from forming and is able to absorb more moisture into its material than other types of socks. The only downside is that these socks are not seamless. So if you are easily irritated with seams, then these socks are not right for you. But if you don’t mind, then you can enjoy the many benefits and advantages the Under Armour brand develops in its clothing.


Winter only comes once a year, so unless you have the money to travel, you have to wait until wintertime comes to enjoy skiing and snowboarding again. But if you don’t wear the right type of clothing and layer them properly, your skiing and snowboarding season can be cut short because you develop pneumonia or even frostbite. Every person who travels into freezing temperatures needs to wear three layers of clothing. The base layer is the one that is closest to the skin, the middle layer, and the heavyweight layer, which is an outer jacket or coat. With proper layering, you can stay warm even through the coldest of temperatures. When looking for base layer clothing, the three most important features that are absolutely necessary are quick-drying, heat-retaining, and it absorbs moisture. 

During the fall or even summertime, shop around for base layer clothing so you can be ready for the winter. Be sure it fits you, contours to your body, and is not difficult to move with. Your clothes should also repel odors. You don’t want to wait till you’re on the slopes to realize that you are freezing because it is not properly retaining heat. Also, your body feels sleek and sweaty because your clothing is not absorbing your sweat. If you need extra advice, check out snowboarding and skiing forums experts can provide you with second opinions and even refer their favorite brands to you. And never forget that while you’re having the time of your life on the slopes, always carry water with you as well as sunscreen.


Harry Sowers

Harry grew up outside of Denver Colorado and has been skiing and snowboarding since he was 3. He is most passionate about skiing and when he was in college at UC Boulder he even participated in the olympic trials for the USA Olympic Downhill Ski team.