Layering Up

A Guide to Thriving on East Coast Ski Days

East coast skiing is a blast, but sometimes the cold elements can quickly alter your day. Learning the proper layering techniques with your apparel will change your skiing experience – making those chilly days much more enjoyable.  Before hitting the slopes, always make sure to check the Mountain Report for accurate data specific to your ski area.

While layering seems self-explanatory, simply having tons of layers may not be warmer than a few, high-quality ski layers. A good layering system should provide full-range movement, breathability, comfort, and confidence. 

Let’s start with the inside layers and build outwards.  

Sunday River Sports Winter Jackets

Skin Layers: 

Base Tops: As you begin to sweat while skiing, a poor-quality base layer ineffectively absorbs the moisture away from your skin, leaving you cold and clammy from the get-go. An effective base layer should be tight to preserve your body heat as well as provide full mobility. Deviate from poor materials such as cotton and focus on purchasing a synthetic fabric such as polyester, polyester blends, or merino wool. Do not mistake thickness for warmth: a good, thin fabric may be warmer than a thick fabric that could absorb sweat before freezing. 

Your base top should be tighter-fitting so more layers can be comfortably added without creating any uncomfortable scrunching or bulky feel.  

Compression fit layers can increase overall blood flow, creating warmth and insulation. . Nonetheless, too-tight layers are not for everyone. Try a fitted long sleeve layer or a regular fit layer for comfort. While these layers may not be as insulating, being relaxed while skiing is key. 

Base Pants: Baselayer pants should also entrap body heat and provide an insulating layer before snow pants. Your base layer should combat moisture to be cozy and dry. A good base pant length should be just above your ankle in order to be comfortably layered under a sock. A too-long base pant can make your boot feel uncomfortable in combination with socks.  

Ideal fabrics for skin layer pants include thermal pants, polyester materials, or merino wool 

Each item touching your skin should be moisture-wicking, comfortable, and quick-drying.  

Middle Layers: 

Whereas a skin layer primarily gets rid of body moisture to encourage body heat, a good middle layer is responsible for trapping and maintaining said heat.  

Middle Tops: A mid-layer should not be too tight to feel restrictive or uncomfortable, but if a mid-layer is too loose, the insulating properties are diminished and can feel bulky under a ski jacket. Personally, I prefer a comfortably fitting ski fleece that walks the line of thick to medium-thick. The benefit of a three-layer system is that if you are too warm or too cold, you can add or remove a layer based on weather conditions.  

Many skiers also opt for a lightweight synthetic puffer jacket that provides a thicker layer of insulation with minimal added weight to slow them down on the slopes.  This is up to the skier to decide: it all depends on personal preference, where you’re skiing, and the weather that day. The layering of clothes should never feel restricting.  

Middle Pants: Some skiers opt-out of a second layer on bottoms, but better safe than sorry in freezing temperatures! Over your fitted base layer, a lightweight polyester pant is the way to go. While having bottom layers may initially feel uncomfortable, when you hit the slopes, it’ll be worth it.  

External Layer:  

sunday river sports ski jacket shell winter

Both a high-quality coat and snow pants are essential to a good ski day. Lower quality materials can easily absorb water after tumbles, provide minimal protection against harsh winds or snow, and restrict your movement.  

External Jacket: A good external jacket, especially for New England activities, is a hard-shell jacket. These coats protect against wind, slush, snow, and rain—all while keeping you warm from the harsh elements. Look for jackets with a high waterproof rating, but make sure they are also advertised as breathable. The breathability of a coat is measured by the time it takes to dry. 

Another important feature of a good jacket is pocket placement. With more and more resorts using RFID technology to ride the lifts, look for a thin pocket near the wrist on the sleeve. Outside pockets should be large enough to fit tissues, Chapstick, and any additional items you bring with you onto the slopes. Lastly, harsh and cold weather can easily kill your phone battery, a key safety item when you are skiing. Purchasing a coat with a warm, inside pocket that fits your mobile device is very important, as it otherwise might freeze. Regular, day-to-day jackets are not recommended for hitting the slopes as they lack key features for the slopes.  

External Pants: Your external pants are another key layer. Most of the standards for buying quality snow pants mirror those for a ski jacket. Double-check you have a full range of motion in your ski pants. I would recommend ski pants that have a zipper at the bottom in order to easily access boot buckles or dials. A good quality pant should also protect against snow getting into your boot since nobody likes wet socks! 


sunday river sports skida alpine hats

Ski accessories should be personalized to your wants, needs, and preferences. For items like helmets or goggles, it is truly a personal feel that associates in-store can help you find. For other items, there are some basic guides. 

Gloves and Liners: Before hitting the slopes, purchase waterproof gloves or mittens. While the external gloves are important, consider another layer to keep your hands warm. Buying a thin layer glove is an excellent way to stay comfortably warm. The liner gloves should be fitted, and I recommend gloves with touch screen abilities so you can still have a layer on your hands when taking pictures or answering texts. Reusable hand warmers are also an environmentally sustainable option for keeping warm.  

Neck Gaiters: For the harsh winds of New England, a face covering is a must. Skida face masks provide warmth through soft and cozy comfortable fleece. They are easily customizable to your ski outfit and easily breathable. Other brands, such as Buff, also provide good coverage. Rather than getting ahead and neck warmer that is sewn together, I would recommend getting them separately. On the occasion your next warmer gets wet, you can simply rotate it to a dry side! Be sure to check out our available neck warmers at Sunday River Sports where you can feel both the quality and coverage before purchasing, unlike online.

Skull Caps: Your body exerts the most heat out of your toes and head, so keeping those parts covered and warm is important. Using a skull cap on cold days is a lightweight option that makes an extreme difference. Turtle Fur caps make for a great option to insulate your head and form a barrier between your head and the helmet. While these can initially seem unnecessary, you will immediately notice a difference on chilly days.

Ski Socks: A good ski boot should not only fit well but should also keep your feet warm. Nonetheless, the cold brisk winds somehow always find a way. Medium-thick socks are better than too thin socks or too thick socks. Wool or synthetic socks are increasingly popular. Ski socks should be slightly compressing, but also offer shin padding, toe padding, and, reinforced fabric in high-use areas such as the toe or ankle. The socks should fit over your calf and be an inch or so above your boot. Smartwool does a great job creating a breathable yet warm sock that is perfect for colder days. Take the Smartwool sock quiz to find a match for you. Ski and snowboard socks do vary in construction to help with support based on the boot type. 

A true Mainer says: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, so make sure to smartly get dressed before hitting the slopes! Layering fewer pieces of high-quality apparel makes a much bigger impact than numerous poor layers that leave you cold, wet, and uncomfortable.  

Find your happy medium of clothing at your Happy Place, in Sunday River Sports’ flagship store in South Ridge Lodge, where our employees are more than happy to give a personal consultation on ski wear you need. 

  • Written by: Cecilia

    Marketing Intern