An Expert Guide to Powder Outfits: How to Choose

Published on 06/02/2023 · 10 min readDon't let snow get in your pants and jacket when riding through the deep stuff this season! Check out what to look for in a powder outfit in the guide below!
Gaelen Mast, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Gaelen Mast

Photo by Kevin Cass

While having powder-specific outerwear isn’t necessary for every skier or rider, you can elevate your powder days by buying specific helmets, jackets, gloves, goggles (and more) that have special features that make them ideal for powder.

Hello! My name is Gaelen, and I’ve spent over half my life snowboarding! Over the past 11 years, I’ve had the privilege of snowboarding in some very snowy places, such as northern Vermont, Oregon, Alaska, and, most recently, for a whole season in Colorado. During this time, I’ve had more than my fair share of powder days, even a handful of those legendary powder days where it snows multiple feet!

Through these experiences, I’ve been able to hone my powder day outfit to make the most of these powder days, and I’ve been able to share this knowledge with hundreds of customers on Curated through the gear I’ve recommended to them. Today though, I hope to help you also build the ultimate powder day set-up, starting with the most important part: your powder outfit!

What Is a Powder Outfit?

Your powder outfit is a building block for the ultimate powder day; it’s your ticket to pow-slaying greatness! Okay, but in all seriousness, a powder outfit is a bunch of different pieces of gear, each with its powder-specific advantage, that all come together to form your “powder outfit” and give you the best chance for success on a powder day.

You can’t Google “best powder outfit” because it’s not an actual package or set you can buy. But most skiers or snowboarders who ride a decent amount of powder will have the specific gear they wear on powder days. Myself included!

What to Consider When Choosing a Powder Outfit

What Makes a Powder Day Outfit Different From a Non-Powder Day Outfit?

A powder day outfit has gear with features designed with powder skiing or snowboarding in mind. We’ll get into these actual features later in the article, but in general, a powder outfit is one you’d only break out when there’s fresh snow on the ground and lots of it!

Do I Really Need a Powder Outfit?

There isn’t a definitive way to know if you do or do not need to go out and buy gear specifically for a powder day. That will largely depend on what your current skiing/riding outfit looks like, as well as how often you ride fresh powder. If you plan on spending a winter in Colorado (like I did), where it snows every other day, it’s probably worth getting gear to improve those powder days. However, if you spend most of your time in the Midwest, where it doesn’t snow a ton, you can probably do without a separate powder outfit.

Does a Powder Outfit Cost More Than a Non-Powder Outfit?

A powder outfit will not always cost more than a non-powder outfit, but it has the potential to because there are specific features you’ll want to look for in your powder gear. Unfortunately, not any old snow jacket on clearance at the local REI will work, and you may have to spend a little extra to get the right equipment.

Different Components of a Powder Outfit and Their Powder-Specific Features

Days like these in Winter Park, CO, made me thankful that I had a powder-specific outfit! Photo by Gaelen Mast

Okay, let’s talk gear! I’m not going to get into nitty-gritty details like fleece base layers or ski socks or anything like that, as those are items you should have for any sort of skiing/riding conditions. Rather, I want to highlight the most important gear and features you should consider having, specifically on powder days.

Please note you do not have to buy all of this gear at once. Just keep these features in mind the next time you upgrade your outerwear, as many of them could also benefit your life on non-powder days!

Helmet

If you choose to wear a helmet, consider getting one with vents in them (bonus points if they’re adjustable vents that can be opened and closed). Anyone who’s ridden a lot of powder can tell you that it’s a ton of work, and even if it’s the dead of winter, it’s not uncommon to get hot and even start sweating on a powder day (been there many times). A helmet with good ventilation will help keep you cool and help avoid overexertion or dehydration so you can enjoy the powder for longer.

Benefits:

  • Helmet vents can help you from overheating on a powder day.
  • Adjustable vents make a helmet suitable for all riding conditions.

Be Aware:

  • Helmets with vents (especially adjust ones) can be more expensive.

Goggles

One of the trickiest parts of a powder day can be visibility, especially if it’s snowing. Choosing not to wear goggles during a powder day means you’ll be blinded every time snow is sprayed into the air, and you won’t have a good time. Investing in a good pair of goggles is perhaps the most important part of a good powder outfit (and just an everyday ski outfit).

It’s important to ensure you get both high-light goggles for those bluebird days after a snowstorm and low-light goggles in case you can ride fresh snow as it’s falling from the ski. Trust me, having high-light goggles on a cloudy, snowy day is almost as bad as no goggles!

Benefits:

  • Provides visibility when the snow is flying

Be Aware:

  • You get what you pay for, so avoid budget options

Balaclava/Ski Mask

Photo by

This one feels like a no-brainer, but I wanted to include it anyway, in case you usually ride somewhere warmer. Put it this way, even if you have goggles, the rest of your face is still exposed without a balaclava or ski mask, and when you take a good fall (because you will on a powder day), a face full of snow on your exposed skin isn’t going to be pleasant. Ideally, you should have a balaclava/ski mask for any day when it’s cold, but it’s especially crucial on powder days when snow is flying everywhere!

Benefits:

  • Provides extra warmth and extra protection from wind

Be Aware:

  • Can cause goggles to fog if there isn’t proper ventilation

Powder-Specific Ski Jacket

You don’t need to go out and buy the most expensive backcountry jacket you can find. But when choosing a jacket that’s good for powder, there are a few key things to look for.

Firstly, ensure it’s an insulated jacket (protect your body heat)! Secondly, ideally, it goes below your waist, lessening the chances of powder going up your jacket. Thirdly (and most importantly), ensure it has a powder skirt!

Some jackets come with non-removable skirts, whereas others have a zipper closure or snap closure system. Make sure your powder skirt is properly attached and snug around your midsection. This will be your saving grace when you fall and snow tries to fly up your jacket. Although they can be bulky, the seal snow skirts provide between you and the outside world is a game-changer.

Benefits:

  • Powder skirt keeps you dry under almost any circumstance

Be Aware:

  • Powder skirts can feel bulky or awkward
  • Well-insulated and waterproof jackets can cost more

Ski Bib/Snow Pants

I will take a stand and say that having bibs is far superior to ski pants on a powdery day. They keep you warmer as there isn’t a gap between your upper body and lower body, and they further eliminate the risk of getting snow up your torso. That said, regardless of which one you choose, make sure they’re waterproof, insulated, and, in a perfect world, have lots of pockets that zip up. Many skiers and riders like to carry items like wallets, keys, phones, etc., when on the slopes; eliminate the risk of these falling out of your pockets by only using zipper pockets, as trying to find them on a deep powder day is a hopeless rescue mission.

Benefits:

  • Bibs limit snow getting under your outwear
  • Zipper pockets eliminate the risk of losing personal items

Be Aware:

  • Well-insulated and waterproof bibs/pants can cost more

Gloves or Mittens

Photo by Taras Hipp

There are two important things when it comes to gloves or mittens. Firstly, make sure they’re waterproof (GORE-TEX is king); having wet and, therefore, cold hands is one of the fastest ways to ruin what would otherwise be an amazing pow day (been there). Secondly, get gloves/mittens that go well past your wrists and can be cinched if possible. Doing this will help limit snow down your gloves or jacket sleeves.

Benefits:

  • Wrist cinches limit snow getting into your gloves/sleeves

Be Aware:

  • Heavy-duty gloves may be too warm for spring weather conditions

Building the Perfect Powder Outfit

Below are examples of several skiers with their specific needs and wants for a powder outfit. For each scenario, I describe what the customer should look for and possible products that would work well for them. So let’s put this newfound knowledge into action!

Jessie

Jessie is from the East Coast and usually just skis in a hoodie. They’re heading out West for the first time and are super pumped, but they know they’ll need a jacket that can handle the snowy conditions.

Features Jessie should look for:

  • An insulated and waterproof jacket for comfort in the cold and fresh snow
  • A jacket with a snow skirt to avoid getting snow under their outerwear
  • A jacket that is meant to be worn long to avoid further getting snow up the jacket
  • A jacket with zipper pockets to carry personal items securely

Possible Jackets: Burton Men's [ak] Cyclic GORE-TEX 2L Jacket The North Face Men's Sickline 2L Insulated Jacket Helly Hansen Men's Powdreamer Insulated Jacket

Bradley

Bradley is a die-hard sunglasses shredder, but since moving to Colorado, he realizes he’ll need to invest in goggles to see properly when the snow is flying. If he invests in goggles, he wants to get the best possible goggles for shredding in the deep stuff.

Features Bradley should look for:

  • Goggles with adequate ventilation so they don’t fog up
  • Goggles from a reputable brand to ensure quality and durability
  • Goggles that have detachable lenses to switch lenses when needed
  • Goggles with a wide field of view for maximum visibility

Possible Goggles: Smith Squad MAG Goggles Anon M3 MFI Goggles Giro Contact Goggles

Dave

Although he never wore helmets growing up in the ‘80s, Dave now wants to wear a helmet to set a good example for his kiddos. He’s interested in getting one that’ll work for any conditions, from the warmer days in spring to the freezing days in January. He also wants the safest possible helmet that also looks somewhat stylish.

Features Dave should look for:

  • A helmet with adjustable vents for comfort in any temperature
  • A helmet with MIPS technology for optimal safety
  • A helmet with removable padding with a sleeker look/comfort

Possible Helmets: Smith Mission MIPS Helmet Giro Neo MIPS Helmet K2 Diversion MIPS Helmet

Choose the Right Powder Outfit With Confidence

One of my favorite backcountry runs on a fresh powder day in CO! Photo by Gaelen Mast

Now that you know what to look for when building a powder outfit, it’s time to build your own! I wish I could have included more detail on the exact brands and products to explore. However, besides already exemplifying what to look for in your gear, adding a whole additional section on specific brand picks would have made this a never-ending article!

Fret not, though! You see, here at Curated, dozens of Snowboarding Experts are ready to help (myself included)! You can message them in real-time (totally free) and get unbiased and experience-based advice on specific items for whatever snowboard gear you want. The process takes only a few minutes and is the easiest way to avoid analysis paralysis and buyer’s remorse when choosing your next snowboard!

Curated experts can help

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!

Shop Skiing on Curated

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