The Bare Minimum Gear for Snow Sports: What Do You Really Need?


Beginners often wonder what they really need and what they can just make do with. You probably have things in your closet you can repurpose for the occasion and other things you won’t want to be without. Circumstances will dictate what you need and what you don’t, so read this guide carefully and make your own determinations.

Key Variables

Before you determine what gear is necessary for your trip, ask yourself three questions. This will help you make critical decisions when it comes to what to pack.

How Active Will You Be on the Slopes?

The more active you plan to be, the more protective gear you’ll need. You’ll also sweat more and stay warmer, so you need fewer layers Also consider your experience level. If you don’t plan to be very active, but you don’t have much experience, you may fall quite a bit, which requires more protective gear, too.

What Will the Weather Be Like?

Yes, it will be cold. Don’t forget about the windchill. The colder it is, the more layers you need for warmth. At freezing, you don’t need as many layers as you do if it’s below zero. Even at warmer temperatures, when the wind hits you at full speed down the slope, you may get chilly.

How Will Your Body React?

You know how your body reacts to exercise and cold temperatures. If you can tolerate the cold well, you need fewer layers, and if you sweat a lot, you need to wear more clothes that keep you dry. On the contrary, if you don’t respond well to the cold, you need more layers, and if you don’t sweat a lot, you won’t need to worry about wicking away a lot of moisture.


You want outer layers, no matter what other things you decide not to include. Jackets, pants, and gloves are designed with snow sports in mind and help increase your performance and your comfort. With wind and water resistant capabilities, you’ll stay dry and warm. They’re also breathable and are sized larger to accommodate inner layers if you choose to wear them.

When it comes to repurposing other items in your closet, you can make do with mid and base layers as long as you have a good quality outer layer. Materials like fleece for mid layers and polyester blends for base layers will help trap heat and allow perspiration.

Some people wear beanies, but if you wear a helmet, it may be warm enough, especially if it has ear muffs. Neck gaiters and scarves are also optional. The ends tend to be long and loose, but you could pull it up to cover your face for added warmth.

Protective Gear

You should always wear goggles and a helmet at the minimum. Goggles protect your eyes from UV rays. Not only does the sun shine from above, but it reflects off of the snow. Snow blindness makes it hard to see, and strong winds can blow snow in your eyes. Helmets protect your head in case of a tumble, and there’s no replacing its safety purposes.

You can choose whether you want wrist guards, knee guards, or butt guards. All are good depending on how you tend to fall or what you’ve injured in the past. Snowboarding causes you to fall on outstretched hands, in which case wrist guards are handy.

You could repurpose sunglasses in place of goggles, but they won’t work as well. If you combine them with a ski mask to protect the rest of your face, you may find that it gives you the protection you need, but you could also be very uncomfortable.

It may take several ski trips for you to develop preferences but this should give you a starting point. Listen to your body and be safe. It’s better to layer and remove items as you get hot than it is not to be prepared for any circumstance.