Invented in 1965, the Snurfer consisted of two snow skis bolted together and is largely considered the first snowboard prototype.
From those humble beginnings, there are now over 2 million active snowboarders in the US alone. And if you’re thinking of joining those ranks, the first thing you need to know is what to wear snowboarding.
Your snowboarding attire can make or break a day on the slopes. The right gear will keep you safe, warm, and dry while giving you space to move around.
If you’re not sure where to start, this helpful guide will go through every layer you need plus all the accessories. Keep reading to learn more.
Staying Warm with a Base Layer (But Not Too Warm)
The first step of how to dress for snowboarding is your base layer. Your base layer should keep your warm, but not too warm.
To make up your base layer, you’ll need:
- Long underwear bottoms
- Long-sleeved, long underwear stop
- A beanie or wool hat (because heat escapes from your head)
All of these items should fit well (not too tight that you can’t move but not too lose that cold air gets between your skin and your gear).
In your first few runs, your body will be warming up. As you continue to move throughout the day, you’ll get warmer. And, if you’re lucky, the day will get warmer as well.
This is why it’s important to layer. As you warm up, you want the option of removing layers to keep your body temperature stable. Should the day stay cold, those layers will trap the heat you’re creating and keep you comfortable.
But just as important as layering is, layering with the right materials is important too. That means no cotton.
Cotton is a breathable fabric that’s also absorbent. So it won’t cause you to sweat and it absorbs whatever sweat you do produce. But cotton can’t wick that sweat away from your body, meaning your left feeling sticky, damp, and cold by the end of the day.
Instead of cotton, look for materials like polyester, polyamide, acrylics, and elastane. These fabrics make much better activewear because they help maintain a balance in the heat your body produces. They’re also capable of wicking away the sweat and moisture you produce as you start moving.
Alternatively, wool and silk are acceptable options as well. In terms of their rating, choose between lightweight or midweight depending on the temperatures outside and your own body temperatures.
A Note About Socks
You’ll also need a decent pair of socks as part of your base layer. Socks made specifically for snowboarding will sit above your snowboarding boot. Some even have padding at the shins to keep your legs protected while you bend your knees in your snowboard stance.
Remember that your socks shouldn’t be too thick and you should never wear more than one pair of socks. Because thick socks will make your boots tighter, they tend to cut off circulation and will actually end up making your feet colder. Look for not-too-thick, non-cotton socks that wick moisture from your feet.
Consider a Second Layer
Also known as your mid-layer, a good second layer serves to insulate you from the cold.
Your second layer can be as simple as a pair of fleece sweatpants over your long underwear bottom or a fleece or wool sweater that goes over your long underwear top. But the same rule applies: avoid cotton and opt for a synthetic fabric or one that wicks moisture away from the body.
If the temperature is balmy and dry, this can also work as an outer layer. But you’ll still need a shell or some other top layer to protect you from
The Third Layer
Your third layer of clothing is probably the most important. It consists of your jacket and your snowboarding pants.
These should be made of waterproof and windproof materials. GoreTex is a popular material for outer layers because they’re lightweight and capable of protecting you from all the elements. While it tends to be on the pricey side, its durability makes it an investment that will last years on the slopes.
Keep in mind that your jacket and pants will be going over your base layer and (possibly) your second layer. You’ll need to make sure that everything fits comfortable together and doesn’t restrict your movement. So be sure to try everything on together.
Ski and snowboarding jackets are usually insulated jackets that are wind/waterproof, or at the very least, wind/water resistant. Depending on the temperatures where you snowboard as well as your own preference, the weight of the jacket can range from a heavy parka to a light shell.
If they’re specifically designed for the mountains, they often come with convenient pockets and other features designed for a day of chair lifts and downhill runs. They should also come with a powder skirt which attaches to your pants and prevents snow from getting inside your jacket when you fall.
You might also consider a 3-in-1 design. These jackets have an outer shell that’s resistant to wind and rain and an insulating layer, often made of fleece. Depending on the weather that day, you can wear them together or choose between the shell or liner.
And if you’re not ready to make the investment in a jacket designed for the sport, a well-insulated winter jacket is definitely an option. You might even opt for a waterproof rain jacket layered over a really warm sweater. The key is to find something versatile that will keep you dry and warm (but again, not too warm).
If you’re a beginner, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time sitting on the hill as you learn the technique. So having pants that are waterproof or water resistant is especially important. You’ll also want to be sure they’re well-insulated, so they keep you warm despite how long you spend on your behind.
Pants made for snowboarding usually have similar features to snowboarding jackets. They’ll have:
- convenient pockets for storing stuff you might need on the hill
- vents that can be opened up to let heat out and cool air in
- snow gaiters to seal out the snow from getting inside your boots
- reinforced inner ankles that protect the cuff of your snowboarding pants from any sharp edges
If you’re wearing traditional pant-style snowboarding pants, you might want to look for something with belt loops. You’re going to be moving around a lot, and a belt can help keep your pants up when you need to be paying attention to what you’re doing.
Alternatively, and if your jacket doesn’t have a powder skirt, you might grab yourself a pair of pants with a bib. These look like those old school, overall-style snow pants you had as a kid. They’re great for keeping snow far away from your body and also give you a wide range of movement.
You can also opt for regular snow pants if you’re just giving snowboarding a try. Try and find something that’s resistant to water – rain pants might be a good option.
The (Not-So-Optional) Accessories
While you don’t necessarily need goggles, a face mask, or a helmet, they’ll make your day on the hill a lot more comfortable, enjoyable, and safe. But we’ll explain all the details of the not-so-optional snowboarding attire accessories below.
The wind, snow, and glare on the slopes are more than just distracting. They can affect your visibility and send you down a triple black diamond run when you’re only ready for the greens. But goggles protect you from all of that and keep you on the right track.
Goggles can be optimized for where you ride and when. In fact, many goggles will come with two lenses: one for conditions with low light or night riding and another for bright and sunny days.
Your goggles should fit with your helmet, without leaving any gaps. And if you wear glasses, you’ll also want to be sure your goggles fit over them.
Gloves specifically made for snowboarding have some pretty cool features. These include:
- thumb wipes for wiping your goggles without streaks
- pockets made specifically for heat packs to fit inside
- fingertips with touchscreen compatibility so you can use your phone while you ride the lift
Snowboarding gloves are also designed to fit your jacket better. They’ll have a long cuff that’s designed to fit either over or under your jacket sleeve so the snow stays out. Like most of what to wear snowboarding, your gloves should be insulated and at least water resistant, if not waterproof.
If you’re looking for warmth, mittens are a good choice. Grouping your fingers together keeps your hands warmer, but also limits your movement and your ability to put your bindings on before going down a run. Gloves give you a wider range of movement and some hybrids will give the warmth of a mitt with the dexterity of a glove.
Your snowboard boots should fit snugly. But what exactly does that mean?
When you’re sitting, your toes should be touching the front of the boot. They shouldn’t be jammed up against it, but lightly touching. When you stand with your boot on, you should have room for your toes to move back a bit while your heel doesn’t move.
Beginners should look for a soft to mid flex boot that has more give and room to move around. A hard flex boot transfers your movement to the binding and the board, and you don’t need that kind of accuracy when you’re first starting out.
Face Mask or Balaclava
When your boarding on a really cold day, the long ride up the chair lift can get really cold. You’ll want something to protect your mouth and nose from those freezing temperatures. Consider purchasing a neck gaiter, a face mask, or even a balaclava to keep your face protected while you go up and down the mountain.
A helmet can cut your risk of a head injury between 22% and 60%. So although your helmet isn’t mandatory – it’s mandatory if you value your head and what’s inside it in any way. As an added bonus, it’s another layer for keeping your head and ears warm and dry, too.
Ski resorts typically rent helmets, so you have the option of picking yours up when you get to the hill. Just remember not to wear a hat under your helmet because it can affect how it functions.
Other Safety Gear
Snowboarders are more likely to suffer wrist and ankle injuries than skiers. And among all of the snowboarding injuries, beginners are more likely to get hurt than intermediate snowboarders.
Before taking to the slopes, make sure you’re doing your best to protect your body. Some of the safety gear you’ll want to consider includes:
- Stomp pads. This foam or plastic pad sits between the bindings on your board. It provides traction for your loose foot when getting on an off the chairlift.
- Wrist guards. When we fall, we instinctively put our hands out to try and soften the impact. This can lead to wrist injuries. Wearing wrist pads will help protect your wrists, regardless of how you fall.
- Impact shorts or butt pads. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on your butt. Impact shorts or butt pads will soften the blow to your tailbone.
Another safety item you might want to think about when buying your helmet, jacket and pants are Recco Reflectors. Whether you’re having a casual day on the slopes or heliskiing in Alaska, avalanches are a very real threat on the mountains. In the case of an avalanche, these help ski patrollers find you without you having to do anything but wear it.
More on What to Wear Snowboarding and Other Backcountry Sports
When it comes to what to wear snowboarding, you need to consider warmth, comfort, and moveability. Having the right materials, a good method for layering and all the things that protect your head and body will ensure your day on the slopes is an enjoyable one.
But snowboarding isn’t the only sport that requires the right attire. For any backcountry sport, you’re gonna need the right equipment and know-how. For all that and more, check out our blog.