What to Wear Snowboarding

By Kathryn Walsh

Carve a fashion statement in the snow with sleek, warm outdoor wear

What to Wear Snowboarding

Sailing down a mountain with nothing but a board between you and the snow is exhilarating, daring and very, very cold. But the challenging thing about dressing for a snowboarding trip is that all that exertion also makes you sweat, so it's possible to have a frozen neck and dripping back at the same time. The key to comfort is all in the layering. Pick the right pieces and you'll be comfortable on any slopes, from Montreal to Mammoth.

Start with: long underwear

It may not be stylish, but long underwear is a must for any serious snowboarder. As a base layer, it'll keep you warm and dry, assuming you pick the right type. Opt for long underwear made of synthetic fibers or wool. Cotton is a no-go because it soaks up moisture, so wearing it against your skin would leave you feeling wet, cold and uncomfortable for hours.

Next add: a fleece layer

Fleece is insulating, so it traps your body heat and keeps you warm. Many boarders opt for just a fleece top and skip this layer on the bottom. That choice keeps you from feeling too bulky on the bottom, which is important for comfort and control on the board. But if you tend to run cold, you might want to try wearing pants made of fleece or another synthetic fiber on your first run, and then change out of them if you're not comfortable.

Tip

Always factor in the forecast when getting dressed for a day on the slopes. Boarding on a warm or sunny day can actually be a blast provided the snow conditions are right, but you'll get hot quickly in three layers. Bring a fleece layer to the lodge, but try a few runs without it. Adjust your layers if you're too warm or cold.

Stay away from: jeans and cotton

Wearing wet jeans is unpleasantly distracting, so it's just not a safe or smart choice for snowboarding. Bypass cotton socks in favor of a wool or acrylic pair. Essentially, avoid cotton completely when you're dressing for the slopes.

Top with: a protective layer

The top layer of your boarding ensemble should be designed to protect you from the elements without weighing you down. Snowboarders use two types of jackets and pants: soft shell and hard shell. Which one you'll need depends on your plans.

Soft-shell gear is designed to be breathable and lightweight. Hard-shell gear is designed to provide the most protection from the elements. So if you're just planning a fun day at a resort, a soft-shell jacket and pants should suffice. Hard-shell stuff is the better choice if you plan to do any backcountry boarding. Basically, if there's any chance that you could get stranded somewhere for any length of time, you want hard-shell gear to keep you warm.

Make sure the jacket and pants you choose are waterproof or water-resistant, or you'll be waterlogged after your first fall of the day.

Don't bother with: a scarf

Yes, your neck needs protection from the wind and cold, but a long scarf can be a hazard on the slopes. It can get caught in the lift, become unfurled and block your view or fly off and cause a boarder behind you to get hurt. Opt for a neck gaiter instead. It's a tube of fabric that protects your neck and chin without budging.

Tip

Don't forget your other accessories! Goggles, gloves and a helmet are all essential for comfort and safety.

Packing for snowboarding

Snowboarding gear can be bulky, but it's all necessary. Keep in mind that if you're spending your whole trip at a ski resort, you can wear your fleece layer around the area when you're off the slopes. So if you need to make room in your suitcase, do it by paring down your casual clothing. Compress your jacket and pants in a packing cube to optimize space.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.