The Importance of Layering for Backcountry Skiing

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Key Takeaways

– Layering is essential for skiing to regulate body temperature and stay comfortable.
– A good baselayer made of merino wool or a wool/synthetic blend is recommended for its temperature-regulating properties.
– A sun hoody with a UPF rating is important for protecting against the sun’s rays.
– A midlayer made of fleece or synthetic insulation provides breathability and water resistance.
– A hardshell jacket is necessary for protection against precipitation and wind.
– Consider a softshell jacket for better breathability and flexibility.
– On colder days, a heavier puffy or parka is recommended for added warmth during breaks or transitions.


When it comes to skiing, layering is not just a fashion statement, but a crucial aspect of staying comfortable and safe on the slopes. Layering allows skiers to regulate their body temperature, adapt to changing weather conditions, and stay dry throughout their skiing adventures. In this article, we will explore the importance of layering for skiing and provide recommendations for the best layering options for backcountry skiing.

The Baselayer: Your First Line of Defense

The baselayer is the foundation of your ski outfit and plays a vital role in regulating your body temperature. For backcountry skiing, it is recommended to choose a baselayer made of merino wool or a wool/synthetic blend. These materials are known for their excellent temperature-regulating properties, keeping you warm in the winter and cool during uphill climbs. A midweight baselayer like Patagonia’s Capilene Air is ideal for colder days, while a lightweight set like Smartwool’s Classic All-Season is better suited for spring skiing conditions.

Protecting Against the Sun: The Sun Hoody

Skiing often involves spending long hours under the sun, which can be harmful to your skin. To protect yourself from the sun’s intense rays, it is essential to wear a sun hoody made of light and breathable synthetics with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. The UPF rating indicates the level of protection the fabric provides against the sun’s harmful UV rays. A popular choice among backcountry skiers is the Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie, which offers a UPF 15 rating, along with features like thumb loops and a stretchy hood for added comfort and protection.

The Midlayer: Adding Warmth and Breathability

The midlayer is responsible for providing additional warmth and breathability. Fleece and synthetic insulation are preferred materials for midlayers due to their excellent breathability and water resistance. The Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is a top pick for backcountry skiing, thanks to its soft, stretchy, and breathable synthetic material. This midlayer effectively traps heat while allowing moisture to escape, keeping you comfortable and dry throughout your ski adventures.

The Outer Layer: Hardshell or Softshell?

The outer layer is your shield against precipitation and wind. For backcountry skiing, a hardshell jacket is recommended. You can choose between a standard hardshell jacket or a ski-specific one, depending on your needs and preferences. Standard hardshell jackets are more streamlined and breathable, making them ideal for long days of touring and spring skiing conditions. Ski-specific hardshell jackets offer additional features like powder skirts and interior dump pockets, catering to the specific needs of skiers. Whichever option you choose, make sure the jacket provides adequate protection against the elements.

Considering a Softshell Jacket

While hardshell jackets are the go-to choice for many skiers, some backcountry enthusiasts prefer the flexibility and breathability of softshell jackets. Softshells are less weatherproof compared to hardshells but offer better breathability and flexibility. They are particularly suitable for milder weather conditions or those who prioritize mobility over weather protection. The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol and Ortovox’s softshell jackets are popular choices among backcountry skiers, offering a balance between breathability and weather resistance.

Extra Warmth: Puffy or Parka

On colder days or during breaks and transitions, it’s essential to have an extra layer of warmth. A heavier puffy or parka is recommended for these situations. Down jackets are preferred for their extra loft and compressibility, providing excellent insulation in cold conditions. Rab’s Neutrino Pro is a favorite heavyweight down jacket among backcountry skiers, offering exceptional warmth without sacrificing mobility. If you prefer synthetic insulation, the Patagonia DAS Parka is a well-rounded and capable alternative, providing warmth even in wet conditions.


Layering is a fundamental aspect of skiing, allowing you to regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable throughout your adventures on the slopes. By choosing the right baselayer, sun hoody, midlayer, and outer layer, you can adapt to changing weather conditions and ensure optimal performance. Remember to consider the specific needs of backcountry skiing, such as breathability, water resistance, and mobility. With the right layering system, you’ll be ready to conquer any skiing challenge while staying warm, dry, and protected.

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Written by Martin Cole

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