What to Wear: Spring Skiing and Snowboarding GearPublished on 05/30/2023 · 8 min readSnowboard Expert Gaelen Mast gives some tips and suggestions on what to wear on those warmer days of skiing and snowboarding in the spring!
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
For many avid skiers and snowboarders, spring is the best time to be on the slopes. While there may not be a definitive date that “spring skiing” begins, you can expect that any resort open in April or even into May will provide you with the full experience of slush laps in the sun!
As the temps rise and the snow softens, most people will begin to ditch traditional mid-season skiing/snowboarding attire for more lightweight gear. However, if you’ve never gone out on a mountain in spring temperatures (+50℉), it can be confusing to know what you should bring and leave behind. Luckily for you, after 10 years of spring riding, I’ve developed a pretty good system on the essentials for a spring day. So with that in mind, here is how to prepare from head to toe so that you can simplify packing for your next spring shredding adventure!
Let’s start at the top (quite literally in this case): your head! I’m sure the question on your mind is helmets. Should you continue to be responsible and leave it on, or ditch it and let your hair flow in the wind? Well, I’d be lying to you if I told you I always wore my helmet every spring day I’ve ever ridden. However, for safety’s sake, I’m going to recommend it. Luckily there are a few ways to make it more comfortable for those warm days.
Firstly, most helmets have removable earpads. Pop those right off! Secondly, some helmets have vents on the top that you can open to allow more airflow when you feel toasty. The Giro Union MIPS helmet is a great example of one with this technology.
Next, let’s consider eye protection. Many people wear goggles year-round, and spring skiing/riding should not be the exception to this. On those super bluebird days, you’ll be blinded by sunlight reflecting off the snow if you’re not prepared, so make sure you’ve got some goggles with lenses suitable for bright daylight. Some people may also opt for sunglasses in the spring to protect their faces when the cold is not as important. This is a personal preference. Darker goggles or sunglasses will do the trick. Make sure you’re ok with scratching them up if they come flying off your face.
Finally, as much as you might like to leave the face mask or balaclava behind, you might consider keeping it in your bag. After wearing a mask all winter, our faces are not accustomed to wind or sunlight, and it’s quite easy to get windburnt or sunburnt if you entirely ditch the mask for the whole day. Masks are small and generally easy to pack, so it’s best to keep a lightweight one with you just in case.
This is where things start to get fun! Choosing your “fit” is a great form of self-expression, and without the constriction of freezing weather, it’s much easier to get creative with what you wear!
There’s no reason you can’t keep things traditional and rock a winter jacket in the spring. It’s probably the most practical option out there and keeps things simple. However, I would avoid wearing your heaviest jacket (i.e., the same one you’d wear on a deep powder day) because you’ll find yourself sweating on the chairlift before you’ve even taken your first run. Instead, opt for a lighter option such as a shell jacket or windbreaker. If you can find one of these jackets with “pit zips” (zippers in the armpit crease), even better! Your goal here is to have the option for as much ventilation as possible to increase breathability.
Personally, my attire of choice on a warm slushy day is a sweater or a hoodie. These aren’t the most practical as they’re not waterproof and often made of cotton, but on a warm day, you can get away with it. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that whatever you wear might get dirty, stretched out, ripped, or otherwise destroyed, so your expensive Gucci sweater might not be the best choice here.
Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are taking snowboard laps in nothing but a T-shirt, but for reasons I’m about to explain, I don’t recommend this. First, wearing nothing but a T-shirt isn’t a great idea because getting windburn is a real thing if you’re moving fast, even on warm days. Additionally, even though soft snow is forgiving, it will scrape up your arms and leave you with scratches resembling road rash if you fall. So for these reasons, I wouldn’t advise bringing only a T-shirt, at least bring an additional layer covering your entire arms!
Gloves and Mittens
Gloves and mittens are a personal preference. Some people like keeping their hands nice and warm, and others hate getting them sweaty. I would advise you to stick with gloves or mittens specifically for skiing/snowboarding simply because of their waterproof properties, which are necessary for spring days. If you are worried about your hands overheating, you can get your hands on (pun intended) some lighter-weight options which will still keep your hands dry but not overly hot.
Torso Base Layers
Base layers can be tricky when it comes to warmer days, so here’s my advice based on experience: It’s better to err on the side of being overdressed than underdressed. You don’t need to have your full base layer set like you would in the dead of winter, but if you’re unsure, a light fleece undershirt will be your best option. Make sure whatever base layer you go with can wick moisture because you WILL get soaked on spring days. As a bonus, if you are overdressed, a wicking base layer will absorb your sweat and make you more comfortable. At the end of the day, it’s safer to be a little sweaty than to freeze, so I always advise a light thermal or fleece as a base layer, regardless of how hot it might be.
A Note on Cotton
You’ve probably heard the term “cotton kills,'' and there is merit behind that, especially when you’re exposed to freezing elements. However, in the right situations during spring skiing/riding, wearing something such as a cotton T-shirt or hoodie isn’t going to be a problem for your health or safety. Before choosing whether or not to wear cotton, I always consider four things:
- Is it going to be above 50℉ the entire day?
- Is the sun going to be consistently shining the whole day?
- Is the wind going to be minimal all day?
- Will there be easy and immediate access to somewhere to warm up (i.e., a lodge)?
While I don’t recommend wearing cotton most days on the hill, if these four criteria are met, it is not going to be overly dangerous to wear an article of clothing made of cotton. However, this is based on my personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.
Your Bottom Half
Choosing what sort of pants you wear is another opportunity for self-expression, although practicality is a bit more important here as your legs are the most likely to get soaked on a slushy spring day at the mountain.
I recommend keeping things simple and going with the same ski pants you’ve used all winter unless they’re incredibly heavy. Some people will wear rain pants or oversized track pants, which are also great options so long as they’re waterproof. The only thing to be mindful of is that they can fit over your ski boots or snowboard boots, so snow doesn’t get in.
Leg Base Layers
Similar to base layers for your torso, it’s also better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed when it comes to base layers for your legs. You’re unlikely to overheat as your legs aren’t as sensitive to the discomfort of being warm as the upper body is, so don’t stress about that. A simple pair of long underwear should be more than enough. I’d advise against sweatpants or joggers as they simply don’t have the wicking properties that long underwear does, and on a day where you’re going to get soaked from water and/or sweat, those wicking properties from your base layers are essential!
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: You’re going to want multiple pairs of wool socks, especially if you’re a snowboarder! Snowboard boots are typically less waterproof than ski boots, but both can become soaked on the inside on a spring day, so having an extra pair of socks for midday is a game changer! Wool socks are your best option as they hold up better against water and keep your foot drier and happier for longer.
After reading through this, if you realize you might not be as prepared as you thought for your first spring season, don’t fret! Instead, why not head over to Curated where you can chat with a Ski or Snowboard Expert, tell them what you need, and get personalized recommendations in minutes. It’s free and guaranteed to make sure you hit the slopes ready to rock ‘n’ roll!