Winter temperatures can be brutal, a large deterrent to the joys of skiing & snowboarding. Despite the technological whims of the modern world, we still can’t control the weather. So, what can we do? We can prepare for extreme temperatures by choosing the right items to stop the cold in its tracks. Ski base layers are the perfect way to kickstart your defenses against winter’s chill.
From long sleeves and half zips to crewnecks and midweights, the best base layers for skiing & snowboarding live here. Explore our phenomenal selections, assembled to provide comfort, warmth and a solid clothing base to build from.
Best Overall ski Base Layers
The Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Boxed Long Sleeve Base Layer strikes the perfect balance between comfort and utility. The classic design sits flat around your neck, covers your arms and provides an excellent platform to layer on top of. Merino wool, long known for its odor-prevention properties and soft feel, makes this base layer a must-have.
With both men’s and women’s options, it's easy to find a version that suits you! Between the 100% merino wool, shoulder pads to alleviate seam itch, slim fit design to match the contours of your body, and nylon for durability, the only thing missing here is you.
Regarded highly throughout the outdoor industry, Patagonia has been a leader in outdoor leadership and sustainability. Here, they took those concepts and built them into a great base layer, the Patagonia Capilene Air Crew Neck. The crew neck is built with merino wool and recycled materials (polyester), which creates a durable and quick-drying base layer.
The Patagonia Capilene Air Crew Neck is a great way to warm up your torso on any cold morning. On top of the recycled polyester, the Capilene also features elastane for stretch and enhanced durability for long days on the slopes. The result is a flattering body-hugging base layer for apres ski and a comfortable and warm long-sleeve to wear beneath a skiing jacket.
Another 100% merino wool option, the Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crew, is a great base layer. Boasting soft material, underarm gussets for increased mobility and flatlock stitching, this base layer has you covered. Happy customers love the stylish and warm combination, which can be worn in a variety of cold weather situations.
Lightweight base layers like the Icebreaker 200 are more versatile than other selections. You can use it to layer underneath a snowboard jacket, but you can also wear it for cool weather, yard work and apres. For variable winter weather, a base layer like this is a great building block.
The Mountain Hardwear Mountain Stretch Long Sleeve Baselayer is a fantastic offering for skiing and riding. This lightweight base layer features excellent stretch to accommodate multiple body types, along with convenient, low-profile thumb loops at the tip of the sleeves. Made from durable polyester, the Mountain Stretch won’t just stretch over your body; it’ll stretch across multiple skiing and riding seasons.
Contain the cold with offerings in both men’s and women's styles that look good on and off the slopes. The casual fit and tight stitching give you a durable layer for skiing, riding, winter hiking and mountaineering. Even the coldest days feel warmer when you can build from a great base.
Helly Hansen, the Norwegian manufacturer of all things winter, has come up with a unique base layer that’s worth checking out. The Lifa Active Stripe Crew T-Shirt is not only an attractive base layer, it has an advanced 2-layer construction and is made from recycled material. Base layers aren’t often seen as fun or stylish, so Helly Hansen added stripes along the sleeves to remind us all that they can be.
Perfect for full day resort skiers who want to stroll around town afterwards, the Helly Hansen Lifa Active Stripe Crew is ready to be worn, and Altitude Sports has what you need to make it yours. Not convinced? The base layer is also lightweight, wicks moisture during intense activity and is a certificate bluesign product.
The Kari Traa Sikla Wool Half Zip Baselayer is a wonderful addition to any winter clothing collection. The base layer is made from 100% merino wool, which increases odour resistance and keeps the base layer smooth. It’s also an ultrasoft baselayer with a Scandinavian-inspired design, making it more stylish than the vast majority of base layers out there.
While it can be worn beneath heavier winter jackets, the styles and designs of this baselayer demand to be seen. If you’re trying to catch an eye walking through a resort town, or while sipping a hot beverage near a warm fire, give this option a try. All in all, the Kari Traa Silka Wool Half Zip is an attractive offering that’s impressively soft while keeping you impressively warm.
Smartwool’s Intraknit Merino 200 Crew shirt is a lightweight, minimalist base layer. It accommodates your body's natural movements, features very breathable material (perfect for high-output activities) and still keeps your body temperature steady. The crew shirt also features a ribbed elbow for added durability.
If you ski or ride aggressively and know the temperature is going to turn up inside your outer layers, pay attention to this one. The lightweight breathability & thermoregulation of this base layer are key features to keep you comfortable during high intensity activities.
Best Base layers for extreme cold
Sometimes, the weather's so cold you need something a little thicker than the traditional base layer. Icebreaker’s 260 tech long-sleeve half zip answers the call. This stylish base layer features lightweight Merino wool and a long neck for added warmth and quick-drying properties.
The Icebreaker 260 is a midweight layer that looks good on anyone and with a 260 warmth rating, can handle more extreme temperatures while keeping your body temperature consistent. This one’s great for mid-winter backcountry touring, skiing, riding or snowshoeing adventures.
The Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight guarantees warmth via its 2-layer construction and accommodating neck sleeve. The outside of the midweight is made from Merino wool, so it's super soft and has great odour resistance. The synthetic materials, tight stitching, Lifa technology interior, and stylish look make it a must-have for ski and snowboard season.
This is one of my favorite base layers. Between the thicker construction, moisture wicking interior, warmth regulation and lightweight feel, the Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight has accompanied me on many frigid ski adventures.
Back with another entry, the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer is perfect for extra cold days. Featuring a flat style, padded shoulders to remove irritating seams and thermoregulating qualities, this is a fantastic option. You also get a base layer with excellent moisture management, quick drying abilities and comfort all rolled into one.
Variety is the spice of life, and the Smartwool Merino 250 can be used in a variety of situations. For mid-winter powder days, it’s a fantastic first layer. For cool spring or autumn days, it's great below a jacket or on its own for walks through your neighborhood. With the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew Boxed anchoring your outer layers, you’ll be skiing & riding blissfully all day.
Best ski jackets for men and women
What are the different types of Base Layers?
Base layers can be made from several different materials that influence their durability, warmth and comfort.
Synthetic base layers
Synthetic base layers are usually made from polyester or nylon. These durable materials can be found in various outdoor pieces of equipment, including tents. With synthetic materials, you get more durability in extreme conditions.
Merino wool base layers
In a lot of ways, merino wool is the miracle wool. Not only are merino wool base layers soft to the touch, making them easy to wear against the skin, but the wool also helps absorb body odour. What you get is a soft base layer that smells neutral, even after a long day of winter sports.
Blended base layers
Blended base layers take the best of synthetic materials and merino wool and combine them. Most base layers, unless they are 100% polyester, nylon or merino wool, will blend materials to utilize their best qualities. Blended base layers also commonly have elastane (better known as spandex) to increase their elasticity.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING BASE LAYERS
Before jumping into a purchase, consider these factors so you can choose the best option for your winter adventures.
Climate and weather conditions
If you are in a very cold place that experiences a lot of extreme temperatures, you want thicker materials to help you retain body heat. A longer neck sleeve, 2 layers of fabric and better warmth retention are important for cold weather.
For warmer days, consider lightweight layers with a high degree of breathability and quick-dry technology. After all, skiing and riding are intense, high-output activities that can make you sweat.
Material and fabric technology
Merino wool is more comfortable in a base layer, while polyester is more durable. If there is some elasticity from spandex the base layer can fit snugly against your body shape. Proprietary technology (like Lifa for Hely Hansen) for moisture management is also quite nice, along with flat-seams to reduce itch.
All of the selections here have some form of moisture-wicking. Wicking is the ability of a fabric to pull moisture away from your skin so it doesn’t freeze or cool against you. Without this, any wet shirt that touches you will drop your body temperature.
Quick drying and moisture-wicking are similar but not the same thing. Quick drying means a piece of clothing that doesn’t stay wet for long. For spring skiing, I’d recommend a lighter layer with good moisture management.
Fit and comfort
Form-fitting means the base layer has some spandex, so it will be nice and snug. A relaxed fit is the opposite, where it fits loosely but may feel less restrictive. And again, fabric type matters for comfort with wool & especially merino winning against polyester.
The base layer is only the first of several layers you need to defend against winter cold. For a seamless system, pair base layers with an insulating layer (fleece or down if it’s really cold) and wrap it up with a waterproof & windproof outer layer. Soft shells should not be worn on the outside unless the temperature is warmer and there isn’t any wind.
You should also consider leg-focused base layers for ski adventures. Start with underwear, then long johns, and wrap it up in a thicker pair of ski or snowboard pants.
In the world of ski base layers, it’s best to focus your search the following way. Do I want the most comfortable item or something with more durability? Do I want to wear it out after skiing? How cold is it where I am? How warm will it get? Set yourself up for success by matching the likeliest environment to your fashion and comfort styles. With hundreds of offerings available, Altitude Sports is the best way to find winter base layers. Between both our women’s and men’s selections, you should have no trouble finding what you need.