The Best Ski Gear for Any Type of Skier, According to a Ski Instructor

Whether you're hitting the slopes or just there for the après

February 15, 2024 2:04 pm
The best ski gear includes the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Jacket and Smith I/O Mag ski goggles, on a blue background
Courtesy of brands

Whether you’re a casual skier, pro or eager beginner, having the appropriate ski gear can make all the difference between an enjoyable experience and a nightmare.

With that being said, you shouldn’t go out and spend a fortune on all-new gear if it’s not a regular hobby of yours. “If you’re a first-time or casual skier, rent your skis, boots, poles and helmet,” explains Mark Aiken, a ski instructor at Stowe Mountain and PSIA Eastern region examiner, since it’s more convenient. 

While you can get away with renting those items at the mountain, some non-negotiables that you should purchase, according to Aiken, include base layers, a waterproof and warm outer layer, waterproof gloves or mittens, goggles, ski socks and a neck warmer.

Below, we’ve compiled our picks for the best ski gear for any type of skier.

Things to Consider:


When it comes to skiing, staying warm is the name of the game, so ski gear constructed of materials that can accomplish that is vital. “Warm, waterproof mittens or gloves are pretty important,” Aiken tells us. Consider products that feature materials like wool and polyester for insulation. Windproof materials like GoreTex will keep you warm, and waterproofing will be just as important so seek out items that have Durable Water Repellant (DWR) finishes.

Important to remember, though, is that skiing is a sport and you may break a sweat, even when it’s cold. With this in mind, materials like merino wool that promote breathability are also great choices.


If you’re new to skiing, you may not want to spend a fortune on ski gear, especially if you’re not sure that it’s a hobby you will want to do for the long term. However, if you think it’s something you’ll want to do more regularly, investing a few extra bucks can mean that you’re buying something built to last.

If you’re interested in saving money when renting skis, boots, and poles, consider something like My Epic Gear, which can be a more affordable option than renting daily at the mountain.

Our Picks for the Best Ski Gear:

Best Ski Jacket: Arc’teryx Sabre Jacket

Pros: Spacious without being boxy, sleek coloring, reflector, water and windproof
Cons: Exorbitant price

Even if you’re not going backcountry skiing, a proper coat is vital. As stylish as it is functional, this jacket from Arc’teryx is an unbelievable piece of ski gear to keep you protected. Featuring a three-layer GORE-TEX Fabric, it’s windproof and waterproof. The regular fit promotes movement and offers the ability to layer up, but it’s not boxy and is available in four sleek colors. You’ll also find a draw-cord adjustable StormHood that is helmet-compatible. With two zippered hand pockets, a zippered security pocket, a zippered sleeve pocket for passes and two internal dump pockets, it’s built to handle all of your necessities of storage. Oh, and a reflector can be a lifesaver in bad conditions.

It’s not lost on us that this is an exorbitant option. But, it’s a high-quality piece of gear that earns its price point. 

Best Affordable Ski Jacket: REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Jacket

Pros: Water and windproof, offers chin protection, abrasion resistant 
Cons: Hood not as spacious as some would prefer

If you’re not looking to spend a fortune, this option from REI is another amazing pick at a fraction of the cost of comparable jackets. It’s built to take on the more unforgiving ski days with its two-layer waterproof, windproof and abrasion-resistant nylon shell, and has a high collar for chin protection. But what we really appreciate about this jacket is that it’s lined in tricot to avoid chafing. This choice is also pocket-friendly and machine washable.

Just be aware that despite claiming the hood is spacious enough for helmets, some reviewers didn’t find this to be the case.

Best Ski Pants: The North Face Freedom Bib Pant

Pros: Vented, two-layer membrane, multiple color options
Cons: Not enough pockets for some

The Freedom Bib Pant from The North Face features a two-layer membrane designed to keep you dry and adjustable suspenders for peak comfort. It also comes with inner thigh and chimney vents for additional cooling. Gripper elastic works to seal in your boots, which is vital to make sure no snow slips in and freezes your ankles. Plus, six fun color choices make these an awesome pick for some individuality on the slopes.

Some reviewers, however, found that these pants could benefit from more pockets.

Best Ski Socks: Smartwool Ski Targeted Cushion OTC Socks 

Pros: Merino wool, targeted cushioning, breathable
Cons: Only comes with one pair, too thick around calves for some people

Designed specifically with skiing in mind, these over-the-calf socks from Smartwool include targeted cushioning and mapped mesh zones to help keep you comfortable and cool on the slopes. Plus, the pair uses merino wool, further enhancing their breathability.

It’s worth noting, though, that some reviewers find these to be somewhat tight around the calf, so if you have thicker calves they may not be ideal for you. 

Best Ski Mitts: Black Diamond Mercury Mitts 

Pros: Waterproof liner, water-repelling shell, durably made
Cons: Run small, limited color options

Aiken tells us that mittens are generally warmer than gloves, so if you’re prone to frosty fingers, you’ll want to consider the Mercury Mitts from Black Diamond. They feature a 100% waterproof insert and DWR on the shell for maximal dryness. The four-way stretch fabric shell allows for movement so your hands aren’t locked into place. The insulated liner is removable and the goat leather palm adds a degree of durability that we appreciate for the harsher days on the slopes. These also include an extended wrist that helps to keep you warm.

Available in both black and dark curry colors, these are a nice subdued choice, but they aren’t going to make a statement if you’re looking for something flashy. Additionally, be aware that mittens can be less dexterous than standard gloves, and some reviewers note that these run a bit small, so be prepared to size up!

Best Ski Gloves: Gordini GTX Storm Glove

Pros: Excellent fit features, affordable price, moisture-wicking
Cons: Not as warm as others

If you’re new to skiing and don’t want to spend a fortune, these gloves from Gordini are an excellent choice.

Insulation, a moisture-wicking lining, and a zippered hand warmer pocket all work overtime to keep you warm, and the gauntlet cuff that features a drawcord and a wrist strap makes this a great fit that can seal the heat in. Plus, the textured palm and finger offer additional control for your grip.

One downside of these is that they may not keep you as warm as the mittens, though they will be more dexterous. However, they are available in more colors: Black Tan, Black, Army Black, Gunmetal Black and Rust Black.

Best Ski Boots to Wear to the Mountain: Vasque St. Elias

Pros: Comfortable out of the box, flexible sole, waterproof
Cons: May run small

Whether you’re on the way to the mountain or you’re peeling your ski boots off at the end of the day, you’ll want something nice and protective to put on your feet for transit to and from the mountain.

Vasque’s St. Elias boots feature a full-grain leather specifically designed to be comfortable for first wear with an easier break-in. Athletic flexibility in both the midsole and outsole as well as EVA cushioning pods further enhances comfortability. And of course, no pre/post-ski-friendly boot would be complete without waterproofing, while a lug system in the heel offers better grip.

Be aware that some reviewers find you should size up.

Best Neck Warmer: Smartwool Intraknit 200 Gaiter

Pros: Excellent breathability, odor prevention, durably made
Cons: Not ideal for the coldest days

Another piece of ski gear Aiken recommends is a neck warmer. We like this one from Smartwool because it employs a combination of polyester and merino wool, so not only will it keep you warm, but it’ll keep you ventilated as you break a sweat on the slopes. In addition to the temperature regulating properties, merino wool is a good choice for preventing odor, while polyester ups the durability and dry times. 

Reasonably priced, this gaiter a great choice, but it’s worth noting that it won’t offer quite as much warmth as other options, making it suitable for the days where the sun is out and the wind is low so you can keep warm while enjoying the breathability.

Best Base Layer: Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Crew Base Layer

Pros: Moisture-wicking, breathable, multiple color options, features merino wool
Cons: Pricey for a base layer

A proper base layer sets the tone for your day on the slopes, and the Lifa Merino Midweight Crew Base is our preferred base. Combining the breathability of merino wool (also Aiken’s pick for underwear for its cozy and soft feel) with the brand’s proprietary LIFA-wicking interior to help keep you dry, it’s a high-level piece of ski gear and is available in eight color choices.

Just be aware that you are definitely paying for performance, as this is a pricier option for a base layer.

Best Affordable Base Layer: Uniqlo HeatTech Cotton Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt (Extra Warm)

Pros: Warm without limiting mobility, fights odor, affordably priced
Cons: Limited color options

A fraction of the price of many competitors, this Uniqlo tee is a high-quality heat provider. Using the brand’s HeatTech technology, it’s designed to keep you warm while wicking moisture and fighting odor — and trust us, you don’t want to smell bad after a long day of skiing (not good for the après, you know?) The tighter fit helps retain warmth, while the stretchier nature ensures you don’t sacrifice performance. 

On the downside, this option is limited in color options, fortunately, nobody will see it thanks to the cropped sleeves that keep it hidden under other layers.

Best Ski Goggles: Smith I/O Mag

Pros: Super easy to swap frames, clear detailing, anti-fog lens
Cons: Bulky for some

A proper pair of goggles is a non-negotiable when skiing. Going without them will not only be uncomfortable but can be potentially dangerous. If you’re looking to invest in something that will last, Smith’s I/O Mag is a top-of-the-line pick. They feature the brand’s ChromaPop technology to bring out the natural contrast of whatever you’re looking at for more detailing and better color and clarity. They also feature an anti-fog lens and a quick fit strap to get the right fit quickly, while face foam wicks moisture to keep you dry. They also feature a MAG lens change system should you want to swap out the lenses. 

Just be aware that some people find these to be a bit bulky for their preferences.

Best Budget Goggles: Goodr Apres All Day Snow Goggles

Pros: Comes with two lenses, magnetic system makes them easy to swap, anti-fog and anti-glare
Cons: Lenses may not stay as easily in place as competitors

A more affordable pick, Goodr’s Apres All day Snow Goggles don’t skimp on quality for the price. They feature an anti fog and anti-glare coating for visibility, and an adjustable strap with silicone built in to prevent slippage. The best part? For the lower price, they also come with a second lens made specifically for lower light with UV400 protection, and it secures into place with ease through a magnetic lens system. 

Just be mindful that some people note the lenses can pop out if you’re not cautious. Fortunately, it’s not a glaring issue by any means.

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