Editor’s Note: Need more help dressing for the slopes? Check out our updated Ski Gear Guide for Beginners.

In this edition of the Liftopia blog, I’m gonna help all of you first-timers gear up from the feet up so you’ll be able to spend more time on the slopes and less time worrying about wet, frozen clothing or ice-burned/sunburned skin. Here are a few tips to help you blend in on the hill.

Socks. Okay, let’s start with your feet. You’re gonna want to look for an acrylic/nylon blend ski sock with some elastic or spandex to keep it snug above your calf. There’s nothing worse than having to mess with your socks and boots all day, so keeping your socks above your boot line is a must. When socks like to drift down your leg and start to bunch up in your boot, your feet will fall asleep and then stop working… which is terrible because you need them to control your skis or snowboard. Next, you should know sheep are cool. I love sheep. Unfortunately, their wool has no game when it comes to making socks for our sports. Wool gets wet. Really, really wet. And it stays that way until you throw it into a dryer.  Wet feet start to prune and smell terrible and that’s just not cool.

Bonus points: Socks with odor guard.

Penalty: Taking your socks off in the lodge to dry your feet by the fireplace, heater, etc.  No one wants to see your feet.  Especially if they’ve been in sweaty boots all day.


Acrylic/Nylon Blend Ski Socks


Pants. Next up is arguably the most important piece of your outerwear. Yep, I’m talking about your pants.  Some suggestions: Find a friend or family member who skis; borrow a pair of his or her old pants. Find a shop that rents outerwear for the day; rent some pants. Find a second hand/used gear store; buy some pants.  Unless you never fall, we don’t recommend wearing jeans, sweatpants or warm-ups on the slopes. Why?

Jeans: They get wet the first time you fall, and when it’s 25 degrees, they’ll freeze stiff.

Sweatpants: See above. They also breathe really well, so if you plan on skiing faster than 1 mph, you’ll definitely feel the bite of cold air.

Warm-ups: Super cool for breakdancing, pretty worthless on the hill for the same reasons listed above.

No one likes spending $100+ for a day on the slopes only to end up shivering in the lodge for most of the day. Think of this as an investment, more fun for your buck. Your pants should fit comfortably for maximum movement and should not be too snug over your boots.

Bonus points: Investing in a moisture wicking base layer.

Penalty: Tucking your pants into your boots.


Ski Pants


Jackets. This brings us to your torso. This is a little tricky because it is the temperature/weather dependent part of your get up. On 40+ degree sunny days, I always go with a base layer, T-shirt and a hoodie or flannel. When it dips below 40 degrees or there is any sign of snow, wind or rain, I always go with a jacket that has at least 5,000 mm water/weatherproofing. Again, this will keep you warm, dry and on the hill for longer periods of time.

Bonus points: Something with vents so you can dump body heat if needed.

Penalty: Unless you and your sports team jackets have weathered a Vikings game in the dead of winter, we don’t recommend wearing them on the slope.  We know you love your team, and that’s totally awesome. However, these jackets aren’t built to handle the elements. They get wet, they freeze, you end up stuck in the lodge eating chili fries and drinking coffee to try and warm up.  That’s just a bad combo.


Holden Coaches Ski Jacket


Gloves. Dudes and dudettes, listen to me when I tell you that you absolutely need some decent gloves when it’s cold, windy and/or snowing. Frostbite is a legitimate problem, and it will probably hurt like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Insulated gloves that are made of treated leather work best. There’s a reason ski patrollers across the board wear them. I know not everyone can afford to purchase these for a casual hobby, so something made of gore-tex is almost as good and should run you around 25-40 bucks. You should be able to find them at any ski shop in town. Trust me on this.

Bonus points: Leather mitts for added style.

Penalty: Gloves made out of nylon.  They’re basically the aforementioned sports jackets for your hands.


Gore Tex Leather Mitts


Helmets. Let’s talk about your dome. Do you like to see? Do you like to hear? Do you like thinking thoughts? I thought so. So let’s protect your head from the elements and the inevitable fall. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey Taylor, I’m pretty coordinated and athletic and stuff. I probably won’t fall.”  If you’re a beginner, you’re probably going to fall.  Even if you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder, there’s a chance you’re going to fall at some point.  A helmet is a great way to make sure you don’t do any serious damage when you ring your bell. Most resorts will rent you one with your hardwear for about $5 a day. If it’s cold, try your helmet on over a beanie so you make sure you can keep your ears warm at the same time.  Put on a helmet. No questions about this one.

Goggles. Next, snow blindness isn’t a joke. Sunglasses work on a warm sunny day, but I always prefer the complete protection that a decent pair of goggles provide. Goggles are super awesome. Aside from the fact that they shield your eyeballs from the sun, they also keep the wind out. Once you start to move at a decent speed, cold wind will cause your eyes to tear up. Frozen tears on your eyelashes hurt and they make your eyelashes break off. No bueno! You can typically find a basic pair of goggles at a local ski shop for $20 or $30. You can also hit up your friends or family members for an old pair as well.

Bonus points: APPLYING SUNSCREEN LIBERALLY ALL DAY! Goggle tans are cool, but they need to be developed over time. It looks weird when your face starts to peel from the cheeks down.

Penalty: A baseball cap and sunglasses when it’s windy or snowing.

Ski Helmet

Rain. Now let’s talk about that thing we all hate, but is unavoidable. Rain. Rain is the worst, but we here at Liftopia have a tried and true solution. Suit up exactly as I mentioned above. Walk into your kitchen (or a convenience store if you’re traveling) and find some trash bags. Proceed to cut a head hole in the bottom of the bag and arm holes on the sides. Climb into the bag and pull your hood up and out of the top. Voila! It’s ugly as sin, but don’t worry about that because when you walk into the lodge for that hard-earned beer, everyone will look at you and think, “Wow, what a die hard.” Trust me on this one.

One last thing!  You can typically find last season’s outerwear on closeout via the interwebs. And when I say closeout, I mean up to 80% off. Really guys, if you follow my simple tips above you’ll spend more time on the hill and keep your body in tact, even on a budget. We love our sport, and with a bit of planning before the journey it’s a helluva lot more fun!

You’ve heard my list.  What suggestions do YOU have for beginners suiting up?

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Sub-Categories Clothing and Gear / Equipment & Gear / Guides / Ski

19 responses to “How to Suit Up for the Hill: A Beginner’s Ski Gear Guide”

  1. Kate's mom says:

    Oh Taylor, haven’t spent much time on Eastern mountains, have you? A neck warmer is de rigeur. It keeps your neck, chin, cheeks and sometime nose warm and not frostbitten. Base layer? You mean layers, right? Is is a one or two pair long underwear day? What about hand warmers and foot warmers? They’re chemical packets which go inside your gloves and boots. Or better yet electric boot warmers built into some boots. Skiing/riding in the rain? Child’s play. We have to choose what to wear in the blizzard if the lifts are even running. . . but maybe that’s not for beginners.

  2. TJ Seitenbach says:

    I’ll 2nd the hand/toe warmers, and since I’m a Colorado skier, and it’s dry as hell here, add a hydration backpack. Not everyone in the group needs one, but at least one for every other person keeps people from dehydrating.

    I also carry a face mask thing, but that only comes out on days when it’s windy, especially in blowing snow. Or when the temperature drops below 0F.

  3. nico says:

    Another bonus for gloves are the snot rags. Sounds gross but they really are a game changer on the nose! Just be sure to wash them when you can 🙂

  4. […] break your early ski experiences, which is why it’s important to check out Darren’s advice and Taylor’s gear guide for beginners to save yourself time, frustration and money.  You never know, the gear hunt might even be fun!  […]

  5. ole' sarge's exgirlfriend says:

    does my belly have to be exposed when I wear those ski pants?

  6. Heir Plugs says:

    my friend tony says i’m too old to ski

  7. jamesdd9302 says:

    I really really like this guide because it focuses on what’s really important vs. things that are nice to have. Especially for beginners, it’s not always realistic to have such a long shopping list! Here’s another guide that goes into a bit more detail on what you definitely want to have vs. can try to make do with.

  8. Jay says:

    Hey, that was a great write up. Appreciate the info

  9. A very good beginner guide to ski gears. You have covered all the important point that should be noted by a beginner. You can look into for some good deals on winter jackets.

  10. […] Snowboarding is demanding for legs, expect to have decent inflammations after a long ride. Furthermore, your joints and lungs will have a proper test as well; snowy slopes have less thick air, which will train your lungs. To start snowboarding, you’ll need a proper board and some protective clothes. […]

  11. […] Snowboarding is demanding for legs, expect to have decent inflammations after a long ride. Furthermore, your joints and lungs will have a proper test as well; snowy slopes have less thick air, which will train your lungs. To start snowboarding, you’ll need a proper board and some protective clothes. […]

  12. […] sure you being your complete skiing gear to ensure that you are properly insulated all the […]

  13. […] about the trousers. They should also be breathable and waterproof, as well as the jacket. So, avoid wearing jeans, for instance. They get wet and are inflexible, especially when it’s really cold […]

  14. GearTrade says:

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  15. Christopher O'Dalaigh says:

    Re: Ski bibs.
    Do you wear JUST a base layer under a ski bib or another lighter pair of pants?

    • Mike says:

      It depends on how warm you run and how cold it is out. I never wear more than a base layer, but I also have a couple different weight options.

      Also, the advise on socks is dead wrong. Buy a pair of light or ultralight merino wool over the calf socks. The socks from Ice Breaker are perfection. I have also had good luck with Darn Tough and Cabela’s. Being very light weight is the key.

      • Christopher O'Dalaigh says:

        New years @ Camelback was brutal. Stuck with merino base layer top and bottom plus a turtleneck, then the acterix bib and. 3 in one omni heat jacket. Was fine. Used to run a Columbia one piece. Always felt the need to wear a pair of sweats too. The bib is a bit more snug.
        Love my darn tuffs too. Cant sing their praises any higher.

  16. Nanny's mom says:

    $20 are a joke. why waste dumb money on something cheap. I bought a pair of goggles for $15 and ended up ripping halfway. Wrong advice to give. Just get some really good goggles that can last you forever for $60 bucks more

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