5 Skiing Essentials

Don't get caught on the mountain without everything you need! Make sure to bring these five essential pieces of gear with you.

A skier in grey pants and a turquoise jacket races through the snow
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With the temperatures dropping and snow in the forecast, it’s time to unpack the winter boxes and prepare for the upcoming ski season! Whether you already have your system dialed in, or are looking to upgrade this year, there are a few essentials that you can’t go without. (Not including the skis and boots themselves, of course!) We’ll look at five essentials below that can make or break your day on the mountain.

A young girl on skis catches air

1. Quality Base Layers

Clean, dry base layers are the foundation for a comfortable day outside, and when you’re choosing your layers there are a few things to consider: weight, material, and fit.

The weight of a layer is going to generally fall into one of three categories: lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. This is an indicator of how warm a layer will keep you, but it’s not entirely dependent on the temperature outside. Consider the level of exertion you plan on for your day, and take that into account as well. A day of entirely downhill when it’s 20 degrees out? Consider a heavier layer. A 0 degree day where you plan to hit that new hike-to terrain a few times? A few lightweight layers that you can shed easily will suit you better.

When it comes to the material of base layers, there are a couple options to consider as well. The most common and affordable option is going to be a synthetic blend. While synthetic layers are not great at odor control, they make up for that with their durability and ability to wick moisture away from your body incredibly well. The other great option for winter activities are merino wool base layers. These layers won’t wick water away quite as well as synthetic, but they offer fantastic odor protection and can be worn for much longer before needing a wash.

The final thing to consider when you’re picking out your base layers is the fit and cut of the piece. When skiing, you want to choose layers with a slim athletic cut that will sit up against your skin with little empty space. The layers need to be right up against your skin to do their job!

2. A Jacket

Not only does a waterproof jacket provide protection against falling snow, keeping your base layers nice and dry, it also acts as a barrier against the wind. There are as many jackets as skis to choose from, so consider the options and take your time finding one that best fits your needs. The most popular jackets on your typical mountain fall into one of two categories: a shell or an insulated jacket.

A classic shell is a great option for many people, and will give you the option of layering as much as you want (within reason) as shells themselves are uninsulated and have a slightly larger fit. On particularly cold days, you can add a mid layer between your base layers and the shell, and on warmer days you can use the vents that most shells have to regulate your temperature. While all shells offer some level of water protection, you’ll want to check out a particular jacket’s unique specifications to find one that’s waterproof enough for your adventures. The best of the best shells will be GORE-TEX and have fully-taped seams to keep the elements out.

Another option when it comes to picking a jacket is the warmer yet bulkier insulated jacket. These jackets can be a great choice for those who plan to ski in more frigid conditions regularly, as they have two major components: an insulated inner layer, and a more weatherproof outer shell. This inner insulation will either be synthetic or down, with synthetic being the most popular, and these jackets will come in different levels of insulation. When choosing an insulated jacket take into account the conditions you will be skiing in most often and err on the side of being slightly too warm.

A woman in a white jacket and black pants smiles as she skis

3. Protection for Your Extremities

When dressing for a day on the mountain, you can’t forget about the importance of keeping your hands, feet, and face comfortable as well. There are hundreds of styles to choose from when picking out gloves, mittens, socks, and face protection, so a lot of it will come down to personal preference. Two important things to keep in mind when picking things out, though, are the conditions you’ll be using your gear in most often, and the fit of your new pieces.

If you’re out in sub-zero temperatures regularly, you’ll want heavy-duty gear that can handle the cold temperatures, and vice versa if you prefer balmier, sunny days. Either way, make sure that you are choosing items in the correct size! No one wants empty space in their gloves or socks that bunch up in the middle of a run.

4. Goggles

Once you’ve figured out your clothing, it’s time to add a sweet pair of goggles to tie everything together. A few things you’ll want to consider when picking out the perfect pair are the tint of the lens, the level of UV light protection, and proper fit.

Lens tint is important, because it will affect how well you are able to see in different light conditions. Goggles with interchangeable lenses in different tints are becoming more popular, but if you decide to go the traditional route, you should consider your most common ski conditions.

Will you be in cloudy, low-light conditions more often than not? Consider warmer tints like rose, amber, or yellow. These lower-light colors will help give you as much definition and clarity as possible on cloudy or foggy days.

If you spend most of your ski days in a place like sunny Colorado, consider a darker lens tint like gray, dark brown, or green. These darker tints will have a lower visible light transmission value and keep your eyes from getting too much sun. Finally, if you’re looking for a pair of goggles exclusively for night skiing, go with clear lenses that offer you protection without color distortion.

When it comes to UV light protection, your eyes will be happiest if you go with goggles that block 100% UVA and UVB rays. Keeping your eyes healthy and happy will allow you to make the most of your ski season!

Finally, choose goggles that will fit your face well and be comfortable to wear throughout a long day. While many goggles only come in one universal size, if you know your head is a bit narrower or wider, you can find goggles specifically designed to accommodate this!

A skier looks out at the view with light reflecting off of their goggles

5. A Helmet

Once you have your layers taken care of, the final step before heading outside is investing in a quality helmet. Of all things to splurge on and purchase new, this it by far the most important. While you can find a helmet with any accessory you could ever want, the two most important things to consider are proper fit and actual protection.

To buy a helmet online, or without trying it on in person, your best tool is a simple tape measure. Measure around your head, slightly above your eyebrows, then check a brand’s sizing chart once you’ve decided on a particular helmet. When it fits properly, you should be able to shake your head back and forth without causing the helmet to shift or move around. The chinstrap should be snug but not uncomfortable.

As far as protection goes, all good helmets should come with a certification (either ASTM F2040 or CE EN1077), and you shouldn’t consider anything without this label. Additionally, certified MIPS helmets hit the market in 2007 and can provide even more protection than the traditional models. MIPS is short for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, and helmets certified with MIPS do a better job of protecting your head for certain types of angled impacts. Many different brands sell helmets equipped with this technology, and they are often only slightly more expensive than their non-MIPS counterparts.

A man holds skis over his shoulder. He is wearing a jacket, mittens, goggles, and a helmet.

Got all that? Or maybe you still need some help finding the right gear. If so, chat with a Curated expert!

Meet the author
Camping & Hiking Expert Olivia Whitehead
Olivia Whitehead
Camping & Hiking Expert
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Written By
Olivia Whitehead
Olivia Whitehead
Camping & Hiking Expert
Hello! My name is Olivia, and I have five seasons of experience working as an overnight river guide on several different rivers in the Southwestern US. I also enjoy backpacking as often as possible, and I have been lucky enough to chase this sport everywhere from the Southeastern US to the Candian R...
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