There’s (arguably) no better way to enjoy winter (and all the cold and snowy weather that come with it) than skiing and snowboarding. Whether you prefer carving down neatly groomed alpine runs in Europe or charging through deep powder in Utah and Colorado, we can all agree that winter becomes better than just “bearable” when you get out into the mountains.
And according to the National Ski Areas Association, lots of us are doing just that. During the 2018/2019 winter season, 58.3 million people visited ski areas in the U.S. and enjoyed days filled with good snow and good times. But nothing takes something as good as a day spent out on the slopes and turns it into a terrible experience faster than bad gear that leaves you cold, wet, and stuck in a pile of snow (speaking from personal experience here).
Luckily, ski and snowboard kits are more technical, better designed, and more environmentally friendly than ever before. So we tested and found the best snow gear that you can invest in to look good and perform perfectly every time you hit the slopes for seasons to come—from bell-to-bell days at the resort, to a once-in-a-lifetime heli-skiing trip, to backcountry touring laps, and evenings enjoying the aprés lifestyle.
Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS
All helmets that are sold at major retailers (such as REI and Backcountry) meet the most common U.S.-based standard for snow helmet certification, known as ASTM F2040. But that standard only requires that helmets be tested at four major impact points. Sweet Protection tests all of their helmets at 18 different impact points. That means that the Switcher MIPS helmet is tested for safety and quality in 4.5 times more places where you could hit your head when compared to other brands. The MIPS technology provides unparalleled brain protection in reducing rotational forces during angled collisions, and in-mold impact shields disperse force to protect the front and back of the head. And those are just some of the safety features. The helmet also features 22 vents that you can open or close with a simple sliding mechanism so you can regulate your temperature and stay comfortable whether you’re riding in a February storm or in the late-season spring sun. ($250)
Sweet Protection Interstellar Goggles
When you’re wearing goggles, the biggest concerns are normally that you’re wearing the right colored lenses for the weather and that you’re not getting fogged out and losing your vision. But Sweet Protection has upped the ante with their proprietary RIG lens technology, which allows each of their lenses (from Light Amethyst for stormy days to the Obsidian lens for extra-bright sunny days) to remain pigment-neutral to your eye’s color detection. This reduces eye fatigue, enhances contrast (so you don’t get caught off guard by a roller or undulation in the snow), and reduces distortion. Altogether, it combines to create a lens that allows you to see better than you could with your naked eye. Pretty cool. Plus, Sweet Protection has designed their lineup of goggles to work as a piece of additional protection equipment alongside your helmet (because when you fall, it’s only practical that your goggles should help protect your face and not hurt it, right?). The Interstellar goggle fits perfectly into the “goggle garage” on the Switcher helmet to negate any chance of a gap. Plus, the lens is a whopping 2.8 mm thick, which was able to withstand (and not break) when shot with a .22 caliber pellet at full power. ($200-$250)
And to protect your goggles, we couldn’t love Gogglesoc’s more. The Canadian company has a serious commitment to sustainability (each Gogglesoc is made of 88% rPET, meaning it’s made of recycled plastic bottles). Plus, using a Gogglesoc gives your expensive goggles a whole new life span—saving your high-tech lenses from scratches and dings when you have them in your backpack or in your car. ($17)
Merino 250 Base Layer One Piece
There are plenty of brands out there making heat-reflecting, battery-powered yada yada warming technology for base layers, but what I’ve found (and what plenty of professional guides and snow athletes whom I’ve talked to that agree with me) is that nothing beats good, old-fashioned wool. And no other wool brand beats Smartwool. The company (which is based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado), really hit it out of the base layer park with their Merino 250 Base Layer One Piece—a onesie (with an all-important drop seat) made from performance wool that wicks away sweat, is never itchy on skin, and is warmer than (much) thicker base layers that I’ve given a go in the past. Plus, this onesie makes it okay to ski in your pajamas. ($230; women’s here, men’s here)
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hoody
Instead of relying on a traditional insulated shell (you know, the waterproof puffy jackets that promise to be an all-in-one deal but actually end up being way too hot for warmer days on the mountain?), creating a layering system is the key for having the perfect kit no matter the weather. With a thin base layer, a warm mid layer, and a protective shell, you can mix up your layering to stay comfortable and dry in any conditions—and the mid layer you choose is what can make or break it when it comes to staying warm. And to date, I have not found a more reliable, warmer, or better-looking insulated down jacket than the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. I’ve had mine for five years and still take it with me every single time I go skiing (and I also wear it at the bar, to the coffee shop, and basically everywhere). The Ghost Whisperer is incredibly light (only 7.8 oz) and incredibly warm, thanks to its 800-fill, responsibly sourced (RDS-certified) down insulation. Plus, because it’s made from completely recycled face and trim fabric, this jacket is doing its part to save the planet. I haven’t found a better mid layer yet. ($325; women’s here, men’s here)
Houdini Rollercoaster Jacket
Because your shell is what protects you from the winter weather and wet conditions that inevitably come with skiing (and falling down while you are skiing), it is arguably the most important piece of clothing in your kit. And the Houdini Rollercoaster Jacket takes its job seriously (and does it better than most). The team at the Houdini made this jacket to protect you with its waterproof and windproof membrane and shell, but also to move with you without compromising its effectiveness. Most garments are cut on a flat surface and puzzled together with multiple pieces of fabric, but the Rollercoaster Jacket was draped directly on a body from a single piece of fabric in design. This creates a jacket that moves much better and more naturally—so you don’t feel like you’re walking around in a plastic bag. The fabric feels softer and smoother than every other multilayer shell I’ve ever skied in—and doesn’t make that horrible crinkling sound every time you move. It’s fully equipped with necessary features such as vents, chest pockets with fully sealed zippers (to keep your phone warm and dry), sealed waterproof seams, helmet compatible hood, and a powder skirt for extra deep days. And to top it all off, every garment in Houdini’s current line is made from recycled, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable, and/or Bluesign certified materials. The Rollercoaster Jacket is Bluesign certified and made of 70% recycled polyester. Plus, it’s just plain gorgeous. ($670)
Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Jacket
Skiers and snowboarders, meet the other high-performance, environmentally conscious shell with all the bells and whistles that you didn’t think existed. The Norrona Lofoten Jacket is made to withstand any kind of conditions that you find yourself in—and can handle chilly lift rides at the resort just as easily as it handles heli-drops and backcountry touring. The three-layer Gore-Tex waterproof membrane is as waterproof and durable as fabrics come, and will last for years (thanks to its durability *and* its timeless style). And to sweeten the deal (and do its part to protect the planet), the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro is made from 100% recycled Gore-Tex Pro fabric. (Starting at $525, additional sizing here)
Trew Chariot Bibs
Since brands heard our pleas crying for bibs that allowed more convenient access for bathroom breaks and answered them, there’s no reason I would ever choose snow pants over snow bibs these days. The suspenders and high cut keep your waistband up and keep snow out regardless if you’re knuckle-dragging while carving on a turn, sitting on a lift, or kick-turning. Plus, they just look way cooler than snow pants. The Trew Chariot Bib is an A+ choice for women, thanks to the fully zippered drop seat that honors the fact that we don’t go to the bathroom the same way that people with penises do. These bibs are built to be in it for the long haul with their reinforced seams and cuffs, fully taped zippers, and three-layer shell fabric. They aren’t too short in the torso (no crotch wedgies), and the thighs aren’t too snug (getting into an athletic stance is comfortable), but they are slim-cut enough to be flattering and keep wearers from looking like they are wearing a snow diaper. ($420)
Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs
The Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs are the perfect traditional ski and snowboard bib—with some added sustainability selling points. The bibs are made from Gore-Tex Pro recycled fabric (the same as this Norrona shell), which is the first 100% recycled nylon face fabric to deliver the highest level of durable waterproof/breathable and windproof protection available. Plus, they are Fair Trade Certified sewn. The articulated knees allow for intuitive and natural movement, and four pockets for stashing snacks, lip balm, your ski pass, and anything else you want to bring along for riding the best lines of your life. ($600)
Le Bent Le Sock Snow Light
There’s a reason why this sock won an award from Freeskier magazine. It’s light, it’s warm, it’s made of a wool/bamboo/nylon blend, it’s comfortable, it never bunches up and causes blisters, and it doesn’t get holes in it after a few trips up and down the mountains. Of course a crew of skiers and snowboarders who spent more than a decade performing professional bootfitting could make a perfect sock. ($18)
The North Face Patrol Balaclava
A buff and a beanie all in one—welcome to the world of balaclavas. The Patrol Balaclava from The North Face fits perfectly under a helmet (without causing the dreaded “gaper” goggle gap), and has a large enough face opening so you can pull it beneath your mouth on warmer days or pull it all the way above your nose for full-face protection. This balaclava is made from gridded fleece that doesn’t hold on to too much moisture and allows for breathability even when you have it fully covering your face. ($35)
Rab Pivot GTX Glove
No one has time for cold hands in the mountains. And while wearing the Rab Pivot GTX waterproof gloves, I can almost guarantee that you’ll never have them. They are incredibly supple, very warm (thanks to 170 grams of Primaloft Gold insulation), and lose no dexterity at the expense of durability and protection. The Primaloft Grip Control on the palms of the gloves ensures that your poles or phone don’t make an errant slip, and a very handy removable leash on the gloves ensures that you don’t drop them either. (RIP to all the gloves lost after falling off the chairlift and out of backpacks). ($140; men’s here, women’s here)
Black Diamond Cirque 35 Pack
If a ski and snowboard pack is good enough for professional athletes, it’s probably going to pass the test with flying colors for the rest of us. The Cirque 35 pack from Black Diamond is a waterproof ultralight pack with a simple and clean design. It’s got an integrated avy tools pocket with drain holes for riders who frequent the backcountry, and plenty of room for layers, snacks, water, and a day’s worth of essentials for those who don’t carry a probe and shovel in their packs. And for days you find yourself bootpacking to the top of a new line, the Cirque 35 features a tuck-away diagonal ski carry and A-frame carry, as well as a stowable helmet flap. ($200)
Kizik Aspen Boots
After fumbling with cumbersome ski and snowboard boots all day, the last thing you want to do is have snow boots that require lots of tugging and lacing to get on and keep your feet warm. Introducing Kizik, a Utah-based brand that specializes in shoes that you can slip onto your feet, hands-free (and yes, you really can just slip your feet in). The smooth leather on the Aspen boots looks sharp and keeps your feet dry while the faux fur collar helps lock in a little extra toasty warmth, while the lugged rubber outsole helps you keep your footing in icy parking lots. ($120)
Ugg Hendren TL Boot
A functional and stylish aprés boot, the Hendren TL from Ugg features a waterproof leather lined with an ultra-soft wool blend. The result: a waterproof, warm, lace-less boot that can hold its own in a bar or at a parking lot tailgate with function and style. ($200)
Looking for more cold-weather gear? Check out our other handpicked suggestions.
- 17 cozy things that will get you through the rest of the winter
- The 9 best women’s winter coats
- 8 women’s winter boots that you can actually wear to the office
- 7 winter boots for men that also work in the office
- The best winter coats for men
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