What is the Difference Between a Balaclava and a Ski Mask?

Published by Harry Sowers on

Balaclava vs Ski Mask What is the Difference?

Masks, in general, don’t have a very colorful past and that is why they remain mysterious even when worn in broad daylight. In the past, warm face clothes were adopted for rituals and ceremonies, but with time developed countries found masks convenient for use by surgeons. The symbolic meaning of masks is the representation of supernatural beings among other fanciful imagined figures, and that is why anyone in a mask always gets a spooky stare, as people struggle to figure out the face behind it. 

Enter the 19th century and the Uhlan cap (headgear) is introduced thanks to the Crimean war of 1854 (Balaclava war), where the British troops had to wear knitted headgear, to protect themselves from frostbite. A Balaclava goes by varied aka’s such as Bally, ski mask, or the Balaclava helmet and has been designed to only leave parts of the face exposed, and these are the eyes and the mouth. 

There is no difference between the balaclava and the ski mask; it is one and the same thing only that you can use the names interchangeably. Wearing the ski masks while on the slopes is normal but when off the snowy terrain then you will be a suspect, so you might want to be careful with where and when you put on the headgear. 

Types of Balaclava 

Convertible Balaclava 

These types of balaclava double up as a neck warmer, as they are designed to provide that extra warmth. Convertible balaclavas are versatile and can be adopted for use around the yard, or on the ski mountain thus a reliable ski mask. 

Important to note is that if you want a balaclava that can comfortably fit under the helmet then you will have to sample the various thicknesses. 

Solid front balaclava

solid front balaclava

Well apart from the aesthetics derived from the solid front balaclava, this unit is specially designed for people who cannot withstand fabric on their nose and mouth. The stiff construction at the front gives the mask structure and normally incorporates a wire mesh that prevents fogging or moisture. 

Hoodless balaclavas


You are probably wondering where you are going to need this type of balaclava, well for people who wear helmets, you know how uncomfortable it can get at times. The hoodless balaclava is your solution and you can, therefore, wear your motorcycle or snowboarding helmet with ease. Besides they are very convenient when it comes to putting on or taking off at least with regards to the weather pattern. 

Tips on Buying a Balaclava 

It is one thing to stay warm and quite the other to suffocate yourself in the name of keeping warm. You, therefore, want to find a ski mask that is breathable and can wick moisture from your skin. Whether you are wearing the hoodless or the convertible balaclava it, has to offer an ergonomic fit, let it not be too tight or too loose. 

Need a list of our recommended gaiters or balaclavas? Check out our list of the Best neck gaiters and balaclavas for skiing and snowboarding.

If you are planning to get one to wear inside your helmet, check on the density of the material used for construction, or better yet settle with the hoodless. Also, ensure that the inside part of the balaclava has a seamless finish; you don’t want unfinished threads and material rubbing over your skin when you are engaging the switch stance. 

Looking for other ski gear to keep you warm this year? Check out our buying guides below:


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.