how to layer for snowboarding

How To Layer for Snowboarding [Gear Guide 101]

by Ben

One of the greatest aspects of snowboarding is how close it brings us to some of Mother Nature’s harshest elements. Mountain resorts offer sanctuary in otherwise unhabitable conditions… which we sometimes take for granted!

As a result, I’ve dedicated this article to showing you how to layer for snowboarding. That way you’ll be prepared next time you hit the mountain.

I’ll break down each layer and offer an expert recommendation based on temperature range. It’s time to level layer up!

The Short Answer

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, like merino wool or polyester, to keep sweat away from the skin. Follow with an insulating mid-layer, such as fleece or down, to trap body heat. Finally, wear a waterproof and breathable outer layer to shield against wind, snow, and rain. Don't forget snowboarding-specific socks and protective accessories like gloves, helmets, and neck gaiters.

The 10° Rule of Thumb

According to the National Weather Service, winter and spring temperatures in the mountains can swing by 10°C (50°F) in just one day!

Expecting to feel comfortable all day without layering properly is a classic rookie mistake!

Even mid-spring, a storm can produce blinding winds and dump a meter of snow at any given moment. So, I recommend being overprepared regarding what you wear while snowboarding, especially if you are hitting the backcountry.  

This isn’t a reason to panic or cancel planning your snowboarding trip; it’s simply a reminder to be mindful of the elements when considering how to layer for snowboarding.

1. Base Layers

The foundation of your snowboard outfit and residing directly against your skin, it’s the base layer

Your base keeps you dry from the elements (and sweat). The goal is to be warm on the lift without being hot on the slopes. Easier said than done!

While other layers in your arsenal depend on the weather, you should always wear a base layer. Even if it’s a warm day or you’re skinning, a lightweight base will keep you dry when you sweat.

mons royale best snowboard clothing brand for baselayers


As mentioned, temperature changes are common in the mountains, so you want the fabric touching your skin to be as dry as possible if the weather turns. But you also need it to be warm!

There are three core categories of base layer:

  • Lightweight. A thin layer for warm days at the resort or labor-intensive adventures like skinning or hiking. 
  • Midweight. Medium thickness like a thermal or fleece long-sleeve shirt. 
  • Heavyweight. A thick, usually wool, rarely utilized layer reserved for extremely cold and windy days. 

Synthetic vs. Natural Base Layer

Your base layer should be made from breathable fabric; it needs to dry quickly if you get wet. Multiple types of synthetic and natural materials will work.


The most common synthetics are nylon or polyester, typically used for light and mid-weight layers. These are designed to wick away moisture whilst retaining heat. 

They are often cheaper than their natural alternatives, but might not feel as nice. 


Natural fibers like merino wool work well in colder temperatures because they are thick but still breathable and fast drying. This often comes with a less-favorable price tag (although Mons Royale baselayers are so darn comfy). 

Avoid Cotton at All Costs!

Cotton is comfortable, breathable, and you likely already have plenty of options, so why not wear it as a base layer?

Unfortunately, cotton absorbs moisture and can take hours to dry out. So, whether you just wiped out or are sweating while hiking the park, you’ll carry that moisture around all day. This makes for some freezing cold lift rides!

Base Layer Fit

Regardless of the material or thickness, your base should fit snugly against your body. This allows more efficient moisture wicking.

2. Mid Layer (Insulation)

The next layer is optional but should always be close by.

Insulation or mid-layers add warmth between your base and outer layers on a cold day. 

A fleece button-up, warm hoodie, long-sleeve tee, or lightweight puffer are the most used insulation layers.

arc'teryx thorium mid-layer

Mid-layers can also be used as your outer layer on a warm day at the resort. However, the most practical option is to leave it in the car or your pack and ride with your base and outer layer.

Choosing a Mid Layer

1. Material

The material you choose for insulation should be based on the temperature.

For those days that a base and outer layer won’t cut it, but it’s still warm out, opt for something light and breathable. Colder days require thicker (e.g. puffer jackets) or even multiple insulation pieces to ensure you stay warm.

2. Riding Style and Plans

Your mid-layer choice is critical if you are hiking or skinning in the backcountry. Bring more than you need; you can always stick an extra layer in your backpack.

Days where it isn’t snowing typically warrant taking off your jacket, so you’ll want the breathable mid-layer to keep you from sweating on the way up.

However for spring park laps, you can probably bring a thin mid layer and leave it in the car!

3. Fit and Comfort

Maintaining a suitable body temperature is at the core of how to layer for snowboarding; however, you also need to be comfortable on the lift and the slopes.

Ill-fitting insulation is the most common culprit when it comes to restrictive layering!

As a result, find a mid-layer that fits slightly looser than your base layer but without feeling bulky. You don’t want extra fabric bunching or extending beyond the length of your outer layer.

P.S. Cotton Hoodies are NOT Mid Layers!

While we love having a hoodie to shield the sun in the backcountry, it’s not the move at a resort.

Your hood either sticks out of your jacket, turning into a block of ice or bunches up inside your coat. 

I recommend a fleece, puffer or specialized riding hoodie as your insulation layer.

3. Outer Layer (Outerwear)

Finally, the layer that protects you from the elements. Your outer layer should keep you warm and dry, no matter the conditions.

Outerwear comes in a variety of fits, thicknesses and styles.

While insulated snowboard pants and jackets are by far the most common choice on the mountain, don’t feel restricted to this combo.

oyuki outerwear

Another popular alternative is lightweight, waterproof shells rather than heavy-duty jackets and pants. That way if it’s hot out or you’re hiking, you can just wear your insulation as an outer layer.

Here are the most common options for your outer layer and their advantages.

Shell Jacket and Pants

Lightweight but still waterproof, most experienced riders wear shells.

These thin outer-layers are breathable and moisture-resistant, but have no in-built insulation. This allows you to more easily adapt your layering based on the conditions.

This setup is perfect for a warm powder day. Just make sure you have a quality mid-layer for the lift. 

Note: Aim for a minimum of 10k waterproofing and 10k breathability. This is enough to keep you dry inside and out.

Insulated Snowboard Jacket and Pants

Insulated outerwear have varying degrees of down or synthetic padding integrated within them.

With this tried-and-true combo you’ll certainly stay warm, and you can wear your coat off the mountain. But make sure your chosen outerwear has adjustable vents. Without these, you’ll roast when the sun emerges! 

3-in-1 Snowboard Jackets

Some of the best snowboard clothing brands offer a complete solution… 3-in-1 jackets. These include a shell and a detachable mid-layer. This allows three different layering options, depending on the conditions. They do tend to be a little more expensive though. 

Onesie Snowboard Suits

I once forgot my snowboard pants on a backcountry trip in Whitefish, Montana. I ended up borrowing a snowsuit from the snowmobile rental company, and my life was forever changed (despite being called a gaper by my buddies).

So, don’t hate on the onesie wearers! They are warm, will keep you dry, and are far less likely to be left on the kitchen table when you rush to the airport. 

Snowboard Bibs

If you’ve ever fallen at top speed in deep powder, you know exactly how quickly snow make its way into traditional snowboarding pants. Bibs solve the problem for the most part and serve as extra insulation. 

I exclusively wear bibs now. They’re just better!

4. Accessories: The Finishing Touches

No layering setup is complete without your heroic winter accessories!

Here are some additional layering tips:

  • Gloves or Mittens: Waterproof and insulated options are best. Some prefer mittens for warmth, while others opt for gloves for dexterity. This was ironed out in our gloves vs mittens debate.

  • Beanie or Helmet: Helmets are recommended for safety, but if you choose to wear a beanie, ensure it’s made from a moisture-wicking material.

  • Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: These protect your face and neck from the cold and can be pulled up over your face on particularly chilly days.

  • Layer Adjustments: Always pack an extra mid-layer in your backpack. Conditions on the mountain can change rapidly.

Preparing for the Elements – Layering by Temperature

Now that we’ve covered each individual layer, you know your options. But you probably need some examples to fully understand how to layer for snowboarding.

Below I’ll provide some applicable layering options based on temperature.

Keep in mind though, temperature isn’t the only metric to consider when layering. Wind chill, precipitation, and lift lines/rides should also influence your decision before you head up the hill.  

5°C and Above (>41°F)

Early in the season or in the Spring, warm weather hits the mountains. It’s very easy to overdo your layers!

Start with an ultra-thin synthetic base layer. Then add in shell pants and a jacket to keep you dry. Some riders’ switch out their jacket for a hoodie – especially for park riding. 

how to layer for snowboarding over 5 degrees celcius-2

The choice really depends on whether you tend to run hot or cold. If you’re in the latter group, stick to a jacket (top line above). 

If you only have insulated jackets or pants, go with the thinnest base layer available and crank open those vents!

Remember to be prepared, as the weather can shift anytime in the mountains.

1 to 5°C (34°F to 41°F)

At these temps I’m probably reaching for a more mid-weight base layer under my jacket. 

If it’s mid-season (or you run cold) then consider a base layer and mid-weight mid layer. Sure, this might be slight overkill, but you’ll be covered if a snowstorm blows through.

The beauty of layering is that you can open jackets and vents, or remove a layer altogether. 

If you have a well insulated jacket, you still only need a thin base layer in these conditions.

I’ve even ridden these temps in just a tee and riding hoodie. It was manageable whilst riding but pretty chilly on the lifts. Do so at your own risk (or discomfort). 

Around Freezing (0°C/32°F)

Snowboarding at 0°C is ideal for most riders. This is a pretty typical average resort day for most lower-altitude resorts.

I recommend a lightweight to medium-weight base layer, breathable insulation, and outerwear.

Wearing just a base layer and light shell will be too cold on the lift, in the shade, or if you encounter a sudden drop in temperature.


However, if you have insulated outerwear, or tend to run hot, you might get away with a medium-thickness base layer. But bring along some insulation just in case.

If you get cold quickly, upgrade your base and mid-layer to thicker natural materials. 

0° to -10° (32°F to 14°F)

As the temperature gets below freezing, the stakes start to get higher. Getting caught in a whiteout or severe wind chill can ruin your day if you aren’t layered up.

I recommend merino wool or fleece as a base layer. You’ll also want a thick mid-layer like a down puffer to keep you warm on the lift. Stick to your snowboard jacket, bibs, or onesie; today is not the day for your favorite hoodie.

how to layer for snowboarding and skiing

Extra insulation may be overkill, but you can always open another vent or zipper when things start to heat up. Better safe than sorry!

Once you get below freezing, high quality gloves, wool socks, and thick base layer bottoms are also essential.

-10°C and Below (<14°F)

Extreme cold requires a heightened sense of awareness of the unforgiving nature of winter in the mountains.

Start with a midweight to heavyweight base and at least one thick mid-layer. Extra insulation keeps you warm when you aren’t moving.

Think about doubling up with a long sleeve tee and a down fleece just in case you encounter severe weather conditions.

snowboard layering guide

Pro Tip: If you really feel the cold, one-piece snowboard base layers are your saviour. Airblaster Ninja suits (pictured above) are the best example.

When wearing mine, I’m comfortable in some pretty extreme temperatures – without needing a mid-layer. This means less bulk, fewer layers and more flexibility. 

Layer Up - Better to be Sweaty!

The best part of layering for snowboarding is you can always remove your mid or outer layers. As a result, I highly recommend erring on the side of caution when riding in the dead of winter.

You can deal with being sweaty much easier than frostbitten toes!

Final Thoughts

Learning how to layer for snowboarding is a game-changer. It not only boosts your comfort, it also allows you to snowboard for longer!

Remember, conditions can vary, so it’s essential to adjust your layers accordingly. Always prioritize safety, comfort, and adaptability.

Now, with your layers perfected, the mountain awaits!  

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