This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see our affiliate disclaimer here.
Although it‘s hidden beneath your ski pants or ski bibs, what you wear beneath them is just as important and in some ways, more important than the ski pants or bibs themselves. In this article, we’ll be looking at the base layer options available including the different fabrics used, weight options and the lengths available.
One of the most important things to consider when undertaking any sport or activity during the autumn and winter months is layering. Each item of clothing is a layer from the outer garments such as your SKI JACKET and SKI PANTS (or SKI BIBS) to those worn against your skin which is the base layers. Layering allows you to decide the warmth and protection you need for whatever climate or conditions simply by choosing a specific fabric and weight. But aside from protection against the cold, a decent BASE LAYER should also wick moisture away from your skin so any sweat doesn’t turn your skin cold keeping you warm, dry and comfortable all day.
On the upper body, we may wear a mid-layer on top of a base layer to give additional warmth but under ski pants, you will typically just wear a base layer. Wearing more than this may restrict your movements and reduce the breathability of your pants. The warmth will come from the choice of fabric and the weight of that fabric so don’t worry, you won’t be cold. Don‘t forget you will also wear SKI SOCKS beneath your base layer adding another layer of warmth - and if you really feel the cold, go for knee-high socks.
Today’s fabrics provide breathable, stretchy base layers which are flexible and easy to keep clean. When deciding which fabric is right for you consider these points:
- What’s my sport?
- What‘s my budget?
- How often will I use them during the year?
- How long will I wear them every day?
- Do I need them to be easy to keep clean - say in a hotel or cabin?
As with any outdoor sports gear, the cost will differ depending on the fabric you choose so it‘s worth thinking about how often you’ll be using them so you get the best items for your budget.
These are the most popular fabrics used for base layers:
- Polyester and polyester blends offer flexible and breathable layers which are inexpensive and easy to keep clean. Synthetics are great at keeping the body temperature regulated and ensuring moisture doesn’t sit against the skin.
- Cotton is lightweight but isn’t so good at wicking away moisture from the skin.
- Wool and Merino wool are popular because they’re not only breathable but provide excellent insulation and warmth, not to mention being comfortable and cosy against the skin. If you suffer badly from the cold or plan to ski in extreme conditions, this could be an ideal choice. However, wool and especially Merino wool can be expensive and you must follow the care instructions to ensure it‘s not stretched or damaged.
The weight of your BASE LAYER will affect how warm it is, so it’s another important point to keep in mind. Consider the climate and conditions in which you will wear them and this along with your own preference on how warm you want to be, will help you decide what’s appropriate.
There are three weights:
- Lightweight is the most common and the one most typically used for regular skiing in normal conditions. This weight provides excellent breathable conditions for your skin while still keeping you warm and allowing your temperature to remain constant.
- Middleweight will provide a heavier, warmer base than the lightweight. For extra warmth wear these two weights together.
- Heavyweight or thermal weight, as its name suggests, is a heavier base layer ideal for extreme conditions. This layer will be thicker and heavier and because of this may feel bulkier than the lighter versions. For extremely cold conditions you can wear a combination of these layers to add maximum warmth and protection for your legs. The fit of the heaviest layers will be slightly different, it’s looser to allow the fabric to be breathable and should feel comfortable without being overly heavy.
Leg base layers come in a choice of two lengths:
- Full length covers your entire leg down to the ankle.
- ¾ length covers the leg until the top of your ski boot.
Your base layer should fit snuggly against your body but not be so tight it restricts your movements or impedes your breathing. You want it to feel as if it’s a thin second skin with no baggy areas that might ripple or bunch beneath your outerwear, any creases could cause skin irritation and become uncomfortable.
Except for the heaviest weights where you can expect a looser fit.
If it‘s the right size and fit, you should almost forget you’re wearing it.
Tip - never tuck your base layer into your ski socks, for your socks to work correctly they need to be next to your skin. If you are feeling the cold, you need to look again at the layers and/or socks you’ve chosen.
Think about your other clothing and buy base layers that complement and work with these for the best protection and warmth.
Wrap up, layer up and keep warm.