Your guide to winter sports layering


Hitting the slopes, we all hope for sunshine and clear skies but the weather doesn’t always go our way leaving us to deal with a whole load of nasty weather from snow, to ice, to freezing winds. Luckily, gone are the days of itchy long johns and bulky thermals, instead modern technology means your ideal outfit will be lightweight, streamlined and keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, without overheating, and it’s all down to one word: layering.  

Here’s how it’s done.   



Layering the right fabrics will keep you protected from outside moisture while allowing sweat to continually move forward, away from your body, to keep you warm and dry.  Wearing too much or non-breathable fabrics will first leave you feeling hot and damp from sweat; when you stop, such as on a chairlift or for a break, the damp fabrics meet the cold air, cooling the sweat, then leaving you cold and damp.   

So how do you do it? Follow the three step layering system for the perfect winter sports outfit. 




This is your most important layer in the system as it sits closest to your skin. You want this layer to be as close fitting as possible to maximise the fabrics sweat-wicking capabilities to help keep you dry. Base layers tend to be free from buttons, zippers, and pockets to keep it snug against your skin and make layering possible.  


Look for fabrics that are sweat-wicking and breathable, never cotton as it will absorb moisture, holding it next to your skin leaving you feeling cold and damp. Base layers can be any item of clothing from t-shirts, to underwear, to leggings and come in different weights, thickness, and materials.  



The majority of today’s base layers are either merino wool or synthetic fabrics for optimum performance. You can also find base layers made from other natural materials such as bamboo, which like merino wool, is naturally antibacterial.  



Base layers are also your most versatile layer. On warmer days they can be worn alone or teamed with your outerwear. On colder days layer up with a mid-layer or too for warmth and comfort. They can also be worn for other sports and activities in cooler weather such as running, hiking, and cycling. 





You mid layer provides versatile insulation, keeping you warm on and off the slopes. Like your base layer this layer should be breathable and sweat-wicking to ensure the moisture can escape.   


A good mid layer will have mesh panels for ventilation or a looser fit. This is the layer that often has half zips and pockets for customisable comfort.   




Like your base layer your mid layer will also be merino wool or a synthetic sweat-wicking fabric such as fleece.  




Choose a weight to suit you; if you tend to get colder, even on warmer days, choose a warmer, heavier weight fleece. If you rarely get cold choose a thinner, microfleece for optimal performance. This layer can also be worn on its own or as a top layer on cooler autumn days for other exercises like hiking, running, and cycling.  




Your outer layer is usually your snow pants and jacket, designed to protect you from snow and wind. This layer is usually waterproof to some degree, breathable, and feature added ventilation for comfort.   

Some outerwear is a shell, simply providing protection, while others feature a lining or insulation for your comfort and warmth. Which option you go for is down to personal preference and when and where you’re skiing or snowboarding.   



Outerwear comes in varying degrees of waterproofing and breathability, it could be down for extra insulation or synthetic for extra waterproofing. Find the perfect level for you with our guide to waterproof ratings and breathability. 




Although this is your protective layer it still needs to allow great mobility for the best performance. Outer layers are often constructed with 2-way or 4-way stretch to ensure they don’t restrict your movement.  


It’s also important to remember that although your wax or rubber jacket might be great for walking around in the rain at home, you’ll soon find it insufficient when up against fierce snow and wind while on the move, so it’s best to invest time and if possible, a little budget, towards this layer.