Essential Tech in Your Ski & Snowboard Apparel

Published on 07/23/2022 · 8 min readNot sure what to look for when shopping for gear to wear on the mountain? We've got you covered! Check out these must-have features for ski and snowboard apparel!
Gaelen Mast, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Gaelen Mast

Photo courtesy of Lib Tech

When it comes to shopping for ski or snowboard gear, most of us will put a lot of time and effort into researching the big three: our ski/board, our bindings, and our boots. However, it’s also important to consider our apparel, as well as the less-thought-about items that can still very much affect the course of our next ski or snowboard adventure. In this article, I’ll cover some of the major pieces of apparel every skier or snowboarder needs, and discuss some of the top features you should look for when shopping for apparel. Let’s get started!

Helmets

Starting at the top (quite literally in this case), here are some of the key features you might look for when shopping for your next helmet:

MIPS Technology

MIPS or “multi-directional impact direction system” is a safety technology that has been implemented in many ski and snowboard helmets. Without going too far into the science of it, MIPS helmets have been shown to be safer than non-MIPS helmets, and one study even showed that this helmet tech can reduce the risk of brain trauma by as much as 42 percent. While these styles of helmets do tend to be more expensive than other helmets, when it's something as invaluable as your brain, you should consider adding a MIPS helmet to your shopping list!

Air Vents

Air vents on the Smith Mission MIPS Helmet

While perhaps less revolutionary as new safety technology, having a helmet with air vents can be a comfort game changer! Certain ski and snowboard helmets have several small vents on the top of them that can be easily opened or closed. In spring, opening up these vents and getting some airflow to your noggin is going to make those warm days so much more enjoyable!

Removable Liner/Earpads

Removable earpads on the Smith Mirage Women's Helmet

Similar to the air vents, a helmet with a removable liner and/or earpads is another one of those features that is more about comfort than anything else, but gosh do they make a difference on slushy spring days, when the temperature is well above freezing.

Jackets and Snow Pants

Since many of the features one might look for in a jacket and snow pants are the same, I’ll be lumping these together in the same category. If there’s a feature that is only specific to one or the other, I’ll be sure to specify it.

Pockets

When it comes to your ski jacket and snow pants, pockets are going to be your best friend. However, not all pockets are created equally and there are certain styles of pockets that are much more desirable when out on the mountain.

The first thing is zippers—you want as many of your pockets as possible to have zippers! It doesn’t matter if you lose your keys, your phone, or your chapstick, losing stuff sucks and zipper pockets are the best way to avoid this problem if you plan to bring personal items with you. On that topic, you should look for jackets and snow pants with deep pockets, because you can never have too much room, and the deeper the pocket, the less bulky your items will feel when you’re out skiing/riding.

Finally, you want to consider the pocket placement of your apparel. Pockets on the upper arms, front of your torso, or sides of your legs are great for storing things because they’re easily accessible and not places you often land when falling.

Waterproof/Breathable Fabric

The Dakine Men's Vapor GORE-Tex 2L Jacket, both waterproof and breathable

When you’re out skiing or snowboarding, you’re going to get wet, but that’s just part of the fun. If you’re not the biggest fan of getting soaked, I would advise you to strongly consider what sort of material your jacket and snow pants are made out of. Discussing the best waterproof material is a whole topic for another article, but a good place to start is looking for apparel that advertises “GORE-TEX” or other waterproofing equivalent technology.

High Collars (Jackets)

High collar on the Arc'teryx Sabre AR Jacket

Not having a high-collared jacket is something you don’t even think about until you’re getting blasted in the face with frigid wind on the chairlift. Having that extra little bit of fabric you can pull up over your chin, mouth, and nose isn’t essential, but it sure feels nice on those extra wintery winter days!

Air Vents

The North Face Women's Tanager Jacket has underarm vents to keep you cool on warm days

Certain models of both jackets and snow pants will have zipper vents that can be opened when you want to cool down on those warmer days. This is an awesome feature to look for if you’re trying to get versatile apparel that is going to work well in all sorts of conditions!

Large Hood (Jacket)

The hood on the Helly Hansen Men's Elevation Infinity 2.0 Shell Jacket has a large hood that can fit over a helmet

Having a hood on your jacket can act as another great layer of protection from precipitation and/or the cold. However, if it doesn’t fit over your helmet then it’s not going to do you much good. Make sure to check out the size of a jacket’s hood before purchasing if you intend to be wearing it while out skiing/riding.

Snowskirt (Jacket)

A snowskirt is a detachable piece of material at the bottom of the jacket that can be fastened around the hips (underneath the jacket) and prevents snow from going up your torso. These can be lifesavers if you plan on falling a lot, or if you ride in deeper snow often.

Kick Patches (Snow Pants)

This feature is for my skier readers! A “kick patch” is a reinforced area around the ankle cuff of your snow pants where your ski boots and ski edges often come in contact with the fabric. Having a reinforcement here slows the deterioration of your pants in an area that often sees wear and tear quickly.

Mittens/Gloves

There are two types of people in this world: mitten users and glove users. Regardless of which side you stand on, here’s some essential technology you might want to consider for your next pair.

GORE-TEX Lined

The Burton Men's Deluxe Gore-Tex Glove will keep your hands dry

Wet hands are not happy hands, enough said. This feature is fairly obvious, but make sure you’re purchasing mittens/gloves that have some sort of waterproofing applicant on the exterior, GORE-TEX is a great option here.

Wrist Cinches

Wrist cinch on the Hestra Gauntlet Sr. Glove

A built-in wrist cinch allows you to pull the opening of the mitten/glove tight to your wrist and create a barrier so that snow can’t enter as easily. It works quite similar to a snow skirt on a jacket and is a great way to keep your hands dry, seeing as the most common way mittens/gloves get wet is if moisture gets inside of them.

Leash/Wrist Cord

Wrist leashes on the Leki Xplore XT S Gloves

A leash or wrist cord is a strap that hangs to the outside of the mitten/glove (think Wii remote controller) that can help keep your mitten from going anywhere when you pull it off. This may seem like a minor feature, but I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful when pulling my mittens off on the chairlift.

Thumb Wipes

Thumb wipes on the Burton Support Glove

Some mittens/gloves will have a small area on their thumbs with a soft material specifically meant for wiping a runny nose on-hill. Kind of gross? Yes. Practical? Oh yeah!

Balaclavas and Ski Masks

Although a balaclava/ski mask is relatively small in size, having the right one can have oversized benefits. There’s a pun in there somewhere, but for now, let’s get started!

Materials

The Burton Heavyweight Neckwarmer is both warm and breathable, made from a moisture wicking and odor resistant fabric

You’ve got a plethora of options when it comes to what type of material your mask is made out of. In general, though, the best option is to find one made with synthetic fibers such as polyester. Ski masks made of these materials are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, which are essential attributes for a piece of apparel that’s going to consistently get wet from the elements, your breath, sweat, and everything in between. Finding a ski mask that is at least partially made with Merino wool is also a huge bonus, as it does wonders for fighting off odors!

High-Rated UPF Fabric

The Coal Shield Tube Balaclava is made from UPF 40+ material

UPF or “ultraviolet protection factor” is a measurement for how much UV radiation (sunlight) a fabric allows to reach your skin. Finding ski masks with a high UPF rating, ideally +50, will limit how much sun your face is exposed to.

Socks

Socks may seem pretty straightforward and for the most part, they are, however; some ski socks have added technology features you may not want to miss!

Materials

The Smartwool Women's Performance OTC Sock is made from merino wool

Much like your ski mask, you’re going to want to look for socks that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, so that whether it’s snow or sweat dampening your feet, the fabric of the socks deals with the problem effectively. Therefore you will want to look for socks that are a synthetic blend or wool. Just remember; thicker does not mean warmer, so prioritize breathability over the thickness of your socks!

Compression Paneling

Some ski socks will have tighter areas in various locations that are known as compression panels. These areas will squeeze your foot/leg a little tighter and stop the sock from sliding down in your boot. If you’re interested in ski socks with compression panels, looking for ones located in the foot's arch and right above the ankle is the way to go!

Cushioning Paneling

Extra cushioning on the Darn Tough Outer Limits OTC LT Sock

If you’re someone who frequently gets pressure points on your foot or leg from your boots, you might consider socks with cushioning paneling. These are socks with extra material, and therefore extra cushioning, in areas that are prone to hotspots. This extra material provides a more comfortable experience.

Get That Gear!

While it’s not crucial that you own apparel gear with every single piece of technology discussed in this article, you can now shop confidently knowing what features you want for yourself! Even better is the fact that you don’t have to begin this hunt for your new apparel on your own. Here at Curated, you can connect with a Ski or Snowboard Expert, let them know what you’re looking for, and get personalized product recommendations in minutes, all for free! It’s the easiest way to go from dreaming of your new gear to having it on your doorstep!

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Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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