Brighton Ski School Class

Learning to ski: Dress for success on the slopes

Brighton Ski School Class

This class at Brighton’s Snow Sports School is dressed for comfort. Photo by George Osmun

No one learns well when distracted by shivering and numb fingers. Clothes can make a difference between enjoying the experience and being miserable. This post is a companion article to my Learning to Ski post published a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, the original post got too long so I had to chop this section out. However, clothing is a critical part of your first skiing experience and needs to be discussed, so here are some pointers.

Most important things first: Leave the cotton at home and stick to wool or synthetic fabrics. Once cotton gets wet, either from sweat or snow, it won’t dry out, leaving you damp and cold.

Think in layers

Base: Your base layer should be wool or synthetic. A mid- to heavy-weight is good depending on the rest of your gear. I wore a heavyweight Capilene Patagonia base with my ski pants and stayed toasty and warm without a mid layer. On top, I used a synthetic base plus a mid layer.

Mid: You may or may not need this layer depending on the rest of your gear. Fleece works well. On top, I use a zipped jacket that I can open when I get too warm.

Outer: This includes your ski pants and jacket. Make sure this layer is waterproof because, as a beginning skier, you will spend time on your butt in the snow. Ski pants and jackets are insulated to varying degrees, which will influence which other layers you choose. My jacket isn’t insulated so I really layer-up on top, sometimes using two light base layers and a mid layer underneath. My pants have some insulation built in so I only need the Patagonia bottoms.


In addition to your layers, you’ll need gloves, ski goggles or sunglasses, a neck warmer such as a buff, a cap or beanie that will fit under a helmet, and ski socks. Quality ski socks fit snuggly and are taller than regular socks making them a good choice with ski boots. Trust me; you don’t want socks bunching up inside of your ski boots, ouch! Why did I say “quality ski socks”? You also want them to keep your toes nice and warm. Quality performance fabrics, often wool, are key to warmth.

And don’t forget…

To and from the ski resort, wear comfortable shoes that can withstand walking in shallow snow across the parking lot. I’ll confess, I wore cheap sneakers and didn’t worry about the snow. A few more items you shouldn’t forget: sunscreen, snacks, and water.

If all of these new clothes and accessories sound expensive, read my post: Dressing for cold weather travel on a budget.

Don’t be the person who shows up in jeans and ends up miserable two hours into the lesson. Make time to “beg, borrow or steal” some decent clothes so you can focus on learning to ski, not trying to stay warm and dry so you can have fun.

Comments 5

  1. I’ll be completely honest. I just came here to get see those green pants again 🙂

    Dressing in layers is key during winter. When I was in Yosemite a couple of weeks ago, snow was on the ground and it was cold. However, I had on 5 layers and was comfortable. Finding the right amount of layers if key. If you get too hot, it may be difficult to take off extra layers and have somewhere to store them. Always remember three key areas – hands, head, and feet. For the other layers, use stuff that zips. If you can’t take it off and store it, at least unzip it.

    1. HAHAHA! I knew it! You DO have a thing for my green pants! I have a couple winter posts left so you get a few more chances to see them…:)

      Well said about the key areas and zippers, thank you!

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  3. Hi,

    I know this post is quite old, but I ended up here looking for downhill ski boots online.

    I don’t know if you could help me, but I will give it a try.

    While looking online, I have found these Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 Men’s Ski Boots (number 3 on this list:

    I like the overall looks and the reviews say it is very comfortable. I have tried some of those rental boots and they are a nightmare.

    Is my choice OK or should I consider other options as well?


    1. Hi Arnold,

      There is no substitute for a professional boot fitting. A boot that’s perfect for one person could be awful for you. I suggest finding a good fitter near you or wait until you will be near one. Get recommendations from local pros such as ski instructors or ski patrol. Do this even if it costs you more. Your feet, and a small business, will thank you.



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