What to Wear Under Ski Pants & More | A Beginner’s Guide

The crisp air imbedded the frosty sky. The soft swoosh surrounds you, stoking your excitement. Your heart jumps as you look down to the bottom of the mountain… Nothing beats a day on the slopes.

While you might want to jump ahead and research the best ski helmets and other protective gear, it’s easy to forget other types of essentials.

Whether you’re new to the exciting world of skiing or consider yourself a pro, one thing is for sure – no one is spared from the cold. The proper layering is required to brace you for these chilly conditions and allow you to have your best ski forward while embarking on this adventure.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the proper adjoining clothing requirements of skiing, a few basic questions to cover before we start:

What Are Snow Pants?


Typically snow pants are considered pants constructed to conduct winter activities efficiently in icy conditions. This would include factors such as water-repellent and insulated pant materials. Whether skiing, hiking, or snowboarding, if it takes place in the snow it can be identified as snow pants.

The real variance comes from the difference between ski pants and snowboard pants. While ski and snowboarding are both winter sports, their style of movement determines their fit.

Skiing requires agile movements and thus needs a slimmer, aerodynamic fit. The tighter-fitting pants style also acts as a buffer to keep heat close to your body. Snowboarding pants focus more on bigger movements so will be baggier in style.

Do You Wear Pants Under Snow Pants?

The layering system is the ultimate way to take on any adrenaline-fuelled frosty pastime in the most comfortable way possible. This often includes an outer layer for protection, a mid-layer for insulation, and a base layer to keep heat near your body.

How to Wear Snow Pants


The first thing to consider is what type of snow pants you are looking for. From fleece ski pants to waterproof snow trousers, there are various options to peruse. Primarily choosing a pair of snow pants should be determined by the type of protection you are aiming for and what type of conditions you plan to ski in.

The main types of ski pants are shell ski pants and insulated snow pants. If you’re looking for the best pants worn for skiing to protect you from harsh elements, shell pants are advisable. This type, however, does not provide insulation so a thick base layer is needed to get that much-needed protection from the cold.

The most popular type is the insulated snow pants. Not only do they provide some protection from various weather conditions, but also offer warmth. So if you run cold quite easily a good men’s insulated snow pants is definitely recommended.

Outer and mid-layer ski pants are known as the most basic snow bottom essentials, but it’s sometimes just not enough. What you wear underneath your ski pants can be just as important as your snow pants themselves.

Not sure what to wear under ski clothes? We’ve got you covered in this basic guide to base layering to add to your winter trip packing list. From the importance of layering to a breakdown of the various types of base layers, you’ll be ready to take on the glacial world.

What to Wear Under Snow Pants – The Basics


Forming a solid foundation is considered a vital start to any venture. The layering system is a tried and tested way for snow sports enthusiasts to provide a comfortable and warm ride. So the question stands – what do you wear under ski pants?

Base layer, long underwear, thermal underwear, leggings, long johns – these words all form part of the base layer genre. While it might seem self-explanatory, strategically choosing your base layer has the potential to make or break your ski experience.

Wearing “normal” pants as a base layer without considering how it will react to various elements, such as sweat and frigid conditions, is not advisable. Wearing a base layer not specifically constructed for tactical usage could leave you more uncomfortable than before.

There are a variety of factors to consider, such as the types of materials used to make up the base layer, to ensure you find the right fit for you.

Note: If you want to feel less constricted but still want to wear a base layer, then we recommend sizing up your snow pants to give you that extra wiggle room.

Why a Base Layer?

Wearing a base layer should be seen as one of the main priorities of preparation for any winter activity. So whether you are wondering what to wear under snowboard pants or for skiing, a base layer is an essential step. There is a variety of benefits that come from layering with a protective base as your foundation:

It Will Keep You Warmer

Nothing makes you feel the icy unforgiveness of the cold in your veins quite like a chilly breeze in unwanted places. The base layer allows you to get that much-needed barrier from freezing conditions. It also allows the warmth to stay in your winter apparel.

The main goal of a base layer specifically crafted for the cold is that these materials are usually made to regulate your body temperature as well.

It Wicks Sweat Away

If staying warm is the main objective of a base layer, does that mean any heat-inducing material will be efficient? Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. It’s not just about getting you warm, but also making your body stay warm by absorbing excess moisture.

Even in cold conditions, your body still sweats if you are moving. So, it’s important to purchase a base layer with material that is warm, but also wicks away sweat. Wicking fabrics are materials that move perspiration to the outside of the garment for a better chance of evaporation.

This not only keeps you dry, but also will keep your snow pants cleaner when you do not sweat directly onto and into them.

Base Layer Materials – Find your Fit


The main style types for base layers are full-length and a ¾ style base layers. Full-length offers full coverage protection and is the traditional choice when it comes to base layers. However, a ¾ length is perfect for skiers as the base layer doesn’t bunch up in your ski boots.

There are a variety of materials to choose from that specifically cater to your winter sports needs. Each option has positive and negative attributes to factor in when you make your final decision.

While it might seem daunting to settle on a choice, there is no wrong decision to be made, merely factors to consider to make an informed decision.


There are various types of synthetic fabrics, but the most popular by far is polyester. This could be due to its affordability while still offering a fabric that is prime for winter activities.

The breathability of polyester allows the moisture to quickly dry, which overall allows comfortable wear for the whole day. Its ability to wick away sweat fast and easily while guaranteeing durability makes this type a top pick. So, if you’re planning a rough ride then the synthetic option might be your best bet.

Note: Look for a polyester blend with spandex if you’re looking for an extra bit of stretch.

Merino Wool

If you’re looking to head to sub-zero surroundings, this material will get the job done. Merino wool tends to offer a warmer fit while still providing sufficient wicking fabric.

This option tends to be the expensive choice but offers a natural material alternative. Thus, sustainably and ethically sourced merino wool base layers add an eco-conscious flair to your skiing experience.

A natural fiber also allows an odor-free experience after a long day on the slopes, minimizing the regularity of washing this fabric type.

Note: If you’re having a hard time deciding, there are blended fabric options. This allows a healthy blend of the advantages of both types of material to get the best of both worlds.

Choosing the Weight of Your Base Layer


Picking the weight you want for your base layer is determined by what type of weather conditions you’re planning on skiing in. The weight options for your base layer include:


This option will almost feel like a second skin with its tight, but light fit. Lightweight base layers usually work best in mild to cold conditions. With the subtle, yet strategic movement of skiing this is a good choice for a less constricting base layer.


The midweight option is the most popular pick because it offers a middle ground. It provides great insulation and efficient breathability, this choice performs great in various weather conditions.


This weight class is a bulkier fit and is the best choice if you’re looking to ski in very cold conditions and need the extra warmth. The thicker density of the material, however, is less breathable and less focused on its wicking abilities.

Back to Base-ics | Final Thoughts on Base Layers

Whether you prefer hitting the sugar-dusted peaks in spring or the icy oasis of slopes in the dead of winter, dressing appropriately for skiing is essential. A base layer is the foundation of creating that extra protection from the elements.

Experience a sense of ease knowing you are correctly equipped and attired for your snowy adventure. Providing warmth, moisture regulation, and comfortability, a base layer will be your new winter best friend.