The weather in the mountains is changeable and varies through the seasons – so how you dress for snowboarding becomes very important.
In the heart of the winter temperatures can get pretty low and if you get any winds up there the wind chill factor can add to that frosty feeling!
But then, come spring, you can actually get quite hot up there. Especially as you are riding all day and building up that heat.
Whilst some riders can make it look pretty cool and casual it can actually be a very physically demanding sport – you can burn up to 800 calories an hour (depending on your weight).
So, how you dress will depend on the season and the particular day you are riding. But you should always be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
I’ll get into a list of stuff towards the end of the post but first let’s take a look at some critical factors for snowboarding clothing.
Warmth, Dryness and Breathability
Warmth, dryness and breathability are the key things that you want out of your snowboarding clothing.
In addition to that you want clothing that will help to protect you.
On those super cold days it’s important to stay warm especially when you are on the lifts. I would say that I’ve very seldom felt cold when riding down the hill – but it’s on the lift where you really appreciate that warmth.
One of the keys to warmth is having clothes that hold in the heat and that block out the wind – and that you cover all exposed skin preferably.
Another key component of warmth is staying dry.
When it’s cold you want to stay as dry as possible. One of the fastest ways to get cold is by getting wet. If you can stay dry then that’s half the battle to staying warm.
And getting wet doesn’t just come from rain and snow – it also comes from sweat – and that’s where breathability comes into it.
Breathability is important both when it’s hot and when it’s cold.
When it’s hot you want that breathability in the fabric of your clothing so that you don’t overheat and to reduce the amount that you sweat and to generally just feel comfortable.
When it’s cold you can still get hot and sweaty on the way down – particularly beginners who might be working harder or more advanced riders that are trying something new or really pushing the limits.
When you sweat you want your snowboarding clothing to wick away that sweat so that it doesn’t stay trapped against your body – therefore making you wet. Because once you get on that lift – or after a break in the lodge – that sweat goes cold and you can really get chilled then.
Finally your snowboard clothing can help out with your safety on the mountain – not just in terms of keeping you warm.
It can help to stop scrapes etc from icy snow just by the strength of the material – and if you want to include the likes of helmets as part of your clothing then these have obvious safety benefits.
O.k. now let’s go through a list of clothing that you might want to have – and the characteristics that you will want that clothing to have.
O.k. let’s start with the first layer.
One of the things snowboarders and skiers complain about the most is cold feet.
So you want to make sure you get the right socks.
Personally I prefer Merino wool socks. They keep your feet warm in most conditions but they’re generally also thin so they’re not too bulky. Also they wick sweat away well which also helps to keep your feet dry.
There are other materials too that do a similar thing but I prefer the feel of Merino wool. If you buy snowboard socks specifically then you shouldn’t have any issues.
The other thing with buying snowboard specific socks is that they are made to be comfortable in boots too. So they usually have padding in the right places that makes your boots more comfortable and also re-enforcement in the places that you are most likely to wear through the quickest.
TIP: Only wear one pair of socks. If your feet are too cold with your current socks, then getting thicker ones rather than adding another pair. Having two pairs makes it more likely for wetness to be trapped – and thus making them colder.
Your snowboard boots will also play a part in keeping your feet warm.
Wearing a cotton t-shirt is about the worst thing you can do going snowboarding. It’s not going to do much to keep you warm and if you sweat at all, then that will all be trapped in.
Like with the socks you want something that is warm comfortable and that will, importantly, wick the sweat away.
Again, for this layer, I prefer Merino Wool. But so long as it’s something that is warm but also wicks away moisture, then it should be fine.
You can get these in long sleeve and short sleeve.
You can also get pants that help to keep you warm dry. You can get shorts length, ¾ length or full length.
This isn’t something that I use myself and normally I find that I don’t need it – but I do run hot, especially my legs. Some people feel the cold more in their legs and for them this layer is more crucial. There have been a couple of really cold days when I’ve wished for thermal underwear!
I find a mid-layer is only necessary on really cold days. Usually I stick with a base layer and then my snowboarding jacket (more on jackets below).
However, on really cold days a mid-layer is needed and for some people who run cold a mid-layer is needed more often.
The important thing to remember for a mid-layer is that you don’t undo the good work you did with your base layer and get something that doesn’t wick away moisture. So don’t just throw on your old cotton hoodie!
There are hoodies and the like that you can get that will keep you warm but also wick away moisture.
Personally, when it’s really cold and I feel like I need a mid-layer I usually go with a short sleeve merino top on top of a long-sleeve one.
Of course, how much of a mid-layer you need will also depend on how good your outerwear is.
As I said earlier, I tend to go with a base layer and then jacket for the top half and pant for the bottom. You might want a base-layer for your bottom half too.
If you get a good jacket and pants you can usually do this on average days. If it gets really cold you’ll want a mid-layer.
This also depends on whether your snowboard jacket/pants are a shell or if they’re insulated.
Because this is the outermost layer, waterproofing is very important but it’s also important to have good breathability.
You also want other functional things such as pockets etc.
Learn more details about choosing a snowboard jacket at the link below.
For pants you want pretty much the same thing as for jackets – waterproofing, breathability and functionality. There are a couple of other things to look out for too – check out the link below for more.
I recently bought Gore-Tex gloves.
My old gloves were in a sad state and (despite the duct tape!) were leaking. This lead to some very cold hands on a couple of days before I had them replaced.
I hadn’t tried Gore-Tex gloves before but decided to make the switch. And so far I couldn’t be happier. Even when my old gloves were in a good state, they’d still let rain in if the rain was heavy enough.
So far the Gore-Tex have kept my hands dry and warm, even in very wet conditions.
Gloves, like the jacket and pants, definitely need to be waterproof. There’s nothing worse than cold wet hands!
But they too need to be breathable. On those hot days you don’t want sweaty hands – that could turn cold later in the day/evening – and your gloves end up smelling pretty bad too!
Some riders have two pairs of gloves – super warm ones for the cold days and lighter gloves for warmer days.
Keeping your head warm is also extremely important on those colder days. If your jacket has a hood (which most do) then this can help but you’ll probably want some extra protection.
Some may not consider a helmet “clothing” per se but I’m going to include it here anyway.
I find that my helmet actually does a really good job of keeping my head warm as well protecting it from knocks.
So much so that it can get too hot on the warmer days. So you want some breathability for sure (usually in the form of holes when it comes to helmets!)
Make sure also that your helmet will fit well with your goggles.
If I’ve got really cold weather, then I like to add a balaclava to the mix. This not only helps to keep my head warm but it also goes over your face – which is a real plus on windy days.
Also I find if I wear it upside down that I can use it as a face cover without having the extra warmth on my head if I feel I don’t need it.
If you don’t wear a helmet (which I highly recommend you do!), then a beanie (or Tuque if your Canadian) is a great idea. But I always recommend wearing a helmet – sometimes you can wear your beanie under your helmet if it’s particularly cold and you don’t have a balaclava.
Goggles are a must in my opinion.
They protect your eyes from knocks and from the sun and when the snows coming down (particularly when it’s accompanied by wind) you’ll be thankful to have goggles.
When I started riding, I used to wear sunglasses instead because I didn’t want to invest in goggles – and the ones I had tried previously had fogged up too much.
The biggest downside to sunglasses (apart from not being safe) is that when you crash they typically don’t stay on your head and you’ve got to go trudging up the hill to retrieve them!
Get the right goggles and you shouldn’t have any issues with fogging up.
You can get goggles that come with different lenses – some are more suitable when it’s sunny and bright and other lenses are better for dark and gloomy or low visibility days.
Thanks for Reading
I hope this post has helped you to decide how to dress for snowboarding.
If there’s anything else that you think is important in terms of snowboarding clothing please leave a comment in the comments section below. All other comments or question welcome too.