What to Wear Under Ski Pants: A Guide for Beginner Skiers

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Winter sports are amazing. There is nothing quite as refreshing as having the cold air blow into your face, opening your lungs, and making you feel energized like never before. But there is an obvious aspect to consider: it is a winter sport.

Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t wear multiple layers of thermal clothes if you were heading out for a midsummer hike, and you certainly wouldn’t wear those same layers if you were surfing. The same goes for winter sports. But as much as it is about functionality and purely dressing for the weather, you also need to wear clothes that accommodate your movements and that are fit for purpose.

You can imagine how frustrating it would be to ski with a feather down duvet wrapped around you or a jacket that is so huge, you can barely move your arms and neck. So having movement and versatility is important when you are hitting the slopes.

Specific Pants For Skiing

Before we delve into what you should be wearing under your ski pants, let us look at what actual ski pants are. When you consider the conditions in which you are skiing or snowboarding, you need to consider wearing specific gear. These conditions are cold and wet. Ideally, you’d want to make sure that you don’t experience these undeniably uncomfortable conditions, but it may seem inevitable.

However, ski pants, or snowboard pants, are pants that are designed to be waterproof or water-resistant, and they are insulated or lined with fleece. In so doing, they mitigate both the problems that you may face if you spend hours in the snow – being wet and cold.

In some cases, you may not find ski pants per se, but you may have waterproof or rain pants at home. Not only will this save you a trip to the ski store to buy specific pants, but you could adapt it to make it fit for purpose. Let’s be honest, rain pants or waterproof pants on their own don’t seem like they could do much to fend against the cold, but you could add fleece pants or Long Johns, or long thermal underwear to add an extra level of insulation to these pants.

How To Layer Up

If only skiing and the snowy weather were as straightforward as just being cold. But when you throw in body movements, being extremely active, and the scorching sun, coming down the mountain can toss you back and forth between cold, and hot and sweaty. For this reason, it is often advised to avoid wearing cotton clothes under your ski pants. I know you probably thought you had it all figured out when you came up with the idea of wearing sweatpants under your ski pants to stay warm. But sweatpants and jeans (for those of you who considered wearing jeans under your ski pants) are not recommended because when you are active, despite the cold weather, you will begin to sweat. Because your ski pants are waterproof, there isn’t necessarily space for the moisture to escape. The water gets absorbed into your cotton clothes and it can make you even colder.

In many cases, ski pants do have vents in them whereby you can open zips to allow your body to cool off slightly.

Before you even get to layering, however, you need to consider the layers that your ski pants are made up of. Essentially, it is your ski pants that will form the outer and mid-layer of your gear before you hit the slopes.

As previously mentioned, there is an external waterproof layer that meets the ice but stops the ice and water from getting into your pants. It stops it from meeting your skin. Next, there is an insulation layer, which isn’t standard, but you could use it on particularly colder days. Finally, there is an internal nylon layer that is closest to your skin. Although this layer is the one closest to your skin, it does not wick moisture, which means it does not absorb and trap sweat and moisture from your body. This basically means that after long enough, it can begin to feel like a sauna in your ski pants. But don’t fret because here is where the layering system comes in.

A layering system for skiing is designed to accommodate heat and moisture, that is, to keep the heat in and without moisture. That is why, at the base layer, the layer against your skin, needs to be either polyester or merino wool. Merino wool works particularly well because it is comfortable, and it is warm and cozy. Polyester, on the other hand, is ideal if you are skiing competitively or if you want your clothes to work with your movements down the slopes. If you find that your ski pants don’t have insulation, then you can opt for Merino wool as well.

How To Budget For Ski Pants

For all ski gear and ski clothing that you may purchase, there are a few factors to consider. The first thing to consider is how often are you going to be skiing. If you live close to a snowy slope and you have a passion for skiing, you may want to consider investing in the perfect skis, poles, gear, and clothes. This means getting base layer clothes that are durable, can be used in the long run, and that you can wear for hours or a whole day spent on the slopes.

On the other hand, if you are on vacation and you happen to visit a ski resort, it is perfectly acceptable to hire ski gear that will fulfill the purpose you need. This means that if you have polyester pants or long Johns, you can hire ski gear that accommodates the clothes you already have as opposed to purchasing attire for your ski trip.

You also need to keep in mind how often or how long you are going to be skiing. If it is your first time ever hitting the slopes, perhaps give it a go on hired equipment before you invest money into gear only to find that you aren’t particularly fond of the sport.


If you look out onto a snowy and ice-cold mountain wondering how you would ever enjoy the cold and damp, just remember that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Making sure that you are properly layered up with the correct equipment and dressed warm enough to take on the cold and wet snow, you are guaranteed to enjoy skiing, and you will probably find yourself returning time and time again.