What Should You Wear Under Ski Pants to Stay Warm?

One of the things that can put a damper on all the fun you can have while skiing is the weather. That's why knowing what to wear under your ski pants is mandatory!

As much as there is to love about skiing (and there’s a lot), most skiers will admit that the one element that can put a damper on the activity at times is the weather. Specifically, just how cold it can get at times when you’re out on the slopes having a great old time.

Well, this is assuming you’re skiing the natural way and not indoors (which looks pretty dang sweet). Anyway, needless to say, it can get pretty frigid out there. Sometimes to the point where a pair of ski pants won’t be enough to keep you warm and comfortable.

That’s okay as you can always slap on something underneath them. Indeed, what to wear under ski pants is going to be the topic of discussion today. But, first, let’s take a quick look at ski pants and the different styles that you can find.

A closer look at ski pants

It’s more or less mandatory to invest in some nice ski pants if you have any interest in skiing on a regular basis. Regular jeans and trousers are simply not the way to go due to a lack of performance, waterproofness, you name it. Now, as for ski pants, as mentioned, there are a few different types.

Hardshell ski pants: Offering taped seams, the best hardshell ski pants will be fully waterproof. Due to such, if you’re expecting wetter conditions, these will be really nice.

Softshell ski pants: If the conditions aren’t going to be too wet, you may be able to get away with softshell ski pants. Outside of being breathable, they offer greater freedom of movement, while also being water-resistant. A soft stretch woven fabric is what you’ll find these ski pants made out of.

Insulated ski pants: As the name suggests, insulated pants will offer an inner layer of insulation. Meanwhile, the shell will be waterproof. Of course, the level of insulation will vary depending on the specific ski pants.

What to wear under ski pants?

With that now out of the way, it’s time to get into the meats and potatoes of the meal. For the record, what you wear underneath your ski pants is going to be referred to as a base layer. Typically, the base layer is going to be the only layer you wear underneath your ski pants.

No worries if you think that a single base layer won’t be enough as we’re going to dive into that a little bit later. As for how a base layer should fit, it should be somewhat thin and snug-fitting. The key is to not add a lot of bulk, as you want to be able to maintain full movement inside your pants.

However, the base layer should also be comfortable to wear. Ideally, it should be comfortable enough where you forget you’re even wearing it. Okay, with the basics done, we want to talk more in-depth about two critical areas of importance when it comes to base layers: weight and materials.

Base layer weight categories

Base layers are categorized (generally speaking) into three different weight classes, if you will. The temperature you’re going to be skiing in will help to dictate the weight of the base layer you’ll need. In other words, what to wear under ski pants is going to be one of the following base layer weights.

Lightweight: This is the lightest of the light when it comes to base layers, and it’s probably not going to be sufficient if the temperature’s going to be really, really cold. Such base layers will often be referred to as second skin, and these will be very thin and are primarily used for wicking away moisture from your skin.

Midweight: A midweight base layer is perfect if you feel a lightweight layer won’t offer enough warmth, but also if a heavyweight layer will be too much for you. It acts as a really nice insulating layer for your legs underneath a pair of ski pants.

Heavyweight: While not bulky, a heavyweight base layer will be looser-fitting than a lightweight layer. For extremely cold conditions, you could even use this as a secondary base layer. Let’s just say with a lightweight base layer, heavyweight base layer, and then your ski pants, your legs shouldn’t get cold.

Best base layer materials

As many of you are well aware, different mainline fabrics will come with different performance benefits and such. When figuring out what to wear under ski pants, choosing the correct fabric will be as important a step as any. So, with that said, what fabrics work best for base layers for the purposes of skiing?

Synthetic materials, silk, and merino wool are three of the best and most popular choices out there. A vast array of synthetic materials will be used to make base layers and they’ll offer moisture-wicking, breathable, and non-restricting performance.

Of course, when it comes to cold performance, it’s tough to go wrong with merino wool. Though it may not dry as quickly as some synthetics, the ability of merino wool to hold in heat while simultaneously having tremendous moisture-wicking properties makes it so terrific for something such as skiing.

How cold is too cold for skiing?

All this talk of what to wear under ski pants, but how cold is too cold for skiing? After all, a lot of determining what you want to wear underneath is going to come down to how cold the conditions will be while you ski.

Regarding this question, there really isn’t a definitive answer. Clearly, you want to keep yourself warm and safe to avoid frostbite, but the temperature you go skiing is ultimately up to you. Then again, the ski resort you go to may have restrictions.

Final thoughts

It all depends on the frigidness of your skiing adventure, but you’ll probably want to wear some type of base layer when thinking about what to wear under ski pants. Whether you choose a lightweight layer, heavyweight layer, or a combination of base layers is up to you.

No matter, though, opting for some type of synthetic material or merino wool is the best way to go. Yeah, that’s pretty much all we have to say about that. However, speaking of staying warm, that can be pretty hard to do sometimes when you’re in a tent. If you’d like to learn more about how to do just that, click this link, would you? Thanks!

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.