In the world of skiing and snowboarding, it’s all too common to constantly talk about new gear, new technology, and what new set of skis or snowboard is on the market. Sometimes in all this tech talk, the most enduring and reasonable questions can get lost in the excitement of all the newness. With this in mind, let’s take a look at one of the questions that plagues many snow sports enthusiasts that are newer to the sport, or maybe returning after a long hiatus; What do you wear under snow pants?

Do you wear pants under snow pants?

We’re going to start from the bottom up with this topic, and let’s look at the commonly asked question of whether or not to wear pants under snow pants. Although this seems like a straightforward question, the answer to this is yes and no.  Yes, because you do want to wear something under your snowboard or ski pants, namely long underwear (which we will go into a minute). But also no, as this questions implies that you could wear just your regular or normal pants under ski or snowboard pants.

Let’s look at a few of the issues with wearing nothing, or wearing normal pants, under your snow pants. Going out on the slopes with nothing but your skivvies and snow pants presents a few issues, the first of which being overall warmth. Many snow pants, especially men’s ski or snowboard pants, tend to have little to no insulation in them, as your legs don’t need as much protection as your torso does with a jacket.

Many snow pants are shell pants that have just a softer or even fleece lining, especially women’s ski or snowboard pants. Unless you’re exclusively spring skiing in warm sunny weather, this generally isn’t enough to keep your legs warm, particularly while your butt is stuck sitting on a cold chairlift. If you are looking for more information on the difference between shell and insulated snow pants, check out this blog that runs through all the differences and what pair may be right for you. There also may be comfort issues, as not all pants are lined, and the seams, zippers, and various technology may cause some chafing discomfort.

Now that we’ve covered why it’s not a great idea to wear nothing under ski pants, let’s discuss why not to wear regular pants under ski pants. Just to clarify, we’re talking about jeans, sweatpants, chinos, corduroys, basic cotton leggings, and really any other non-technical pants. Now this may seem like another area where skiers and snowboarders just want more techy gear and isn’t really a necessity, but bear with me, technical apparel is important.

Your regular pants aren’t built for extreme outdoor conditions, and sliding down a mountain covered in snow in sub-zero temperatures counts as extreme. And although it may seem like your snow pants will cover your regular pants adequately, the problem arises with what’s happening under your snow pants while you’re skiing or snowboarding. During any rigorous activity, you build up a sweat, and with nontechnical clothing that sweat will just be soaked up by your pants and hang there, making you uncomfortable, wet, and cold.

What to wear under snow pants:

We have thus far covered in depth what NOT to wear under snow pants, now let’s cover what TO wear under snow pants. The short answer is long underwear. This is also known as base layers, long johns, or thermal underwear. Before we delve into why long underwear is the best choice for under ski pants, if you’re not super familiar with the idea of long underwear and the differences between them, check out the video below where our in-house expert Brendan will run you through different base layers.

Okay, so now that you know the basics of base layer, let’s talk about why it’s the best choice for under ski or snowboard pants. The first reason would be warmth. As we’ve mentioned above, wearing nothing under snow pants can get cold, and while regular pants can make you even colder, base layers or long underwear will keep you warm all day. They are built to fit snug against your skin to maximize that warmth, as leaving room between the skin and the clothing means you then have to heat all that extra air to be warm.

But not all long underwear is the same when it comes to warmth. In general, there are three different weights, light, mid, and heavy, which correspond to how warm they are, with light being the least warm, and heavy being the most. Which type you choose depends on the weather outside and how cold you tend to be.

Next let’s look at moisture-wicking and breathability qualities. As we mentioned before, regular pants will get water-logged from sweat build up and be uncomfortably wet and cold for the rest of the day. Long underwear avoids this problem by using breathability and moisture wicking technologies. Breathability means that when you start to generate some heat from all the movement and activity of skiing or snowboarding, your long underwear will allow that heat to escape and move through it rather than trapping it and making you too hot.

But, since skiing or snowboarding is a very rigorous sport, you will likely build up at least some sweat during your time outside. Moisture wicking properties means that the long underwear can absorb that sweat and move it through the membrane of your long underwear to the outside where it can evaporate, leaving you comfortable and dry. These two technologies are really what stands long underwear apart from other fabrics for winter sports, and will make a world of difference for a long day on the slopes.

What Do You Wear Under Snowboard Pants?

What to wear under snow pants As you may have noticed throughout this blog, we have been using the terms snow pants, ski pants, and snowboard pants interchangeably. This is not a slip of the tongue, snow, ski, and snowboard pants are all pretty much the same things. So the above information applies to skiers, snowboarders, and general snow enthusiasts alike; the question of what to wear under snowboard pants has exactly the same answer as what to wear under ski pants: long underwear.

The main difference between apparel choices for skiers and snowboarders hangs on the fact that snowboarders tend to generate a bit more heat than skiers, due to the fact that they have to stand up and sit down when they want to take their bindings on or off. This extra heat means that wearing jackets or pants with less insulation may be a good idea so they don’t overheat as quickly. But as an overall rule, any snow pants can be used for skiing or snowboarding purposes.

What’s Next?

Now that you know what to wear under snow pants, and what not to wear, it’s time to decide on what base layer or long underwear is right for you. If you want to take a quick peak of what different brands, looks, and types of base layers are available for you, check out the links below.

If you are still looking for more information regarding ski or snowboard clothing set ups, take a look at how layering works, and what are the best ways to dress for a day on the slopes.

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9 Comments on A Question of Layering: What to Wear Under Snow Pants?

  1. mike
    November 10, 2017 at 9:04 am (5 years ago)

    what an incredibly well written article. I would pay for a subscription to a blog written by you

    • Kate Jurcak
      November 10, 2017 at 11:27 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much! If there are any topics you would like us to write about that you’re interested in, please feel free to share!

  2. Flo
    December 27, 2018 at 10:28 am (4 years ago)

    Well in my climate, a baselayer and a shell Snowboard pant just won’t cut it.
    I’ll have to search for a midlayer it seems…

    • Brendan Michell
      January 7, 2019 at 9:51 am (3 years ago)

      Hey Flo!
      Sorry to hear that won’t work for you, there are some great options for midlayers though. Patagonia makes a Synchilla (Fleece) Pant and even a Nanopuff (synthetic down) pant. A lot of the outdoors companies make similar options so it’s worth taking a look!

  3. Kevin
    January 14, 2019 at 7:17 pm (3 years ago)

    I have Gore-tex shell pants. Not quite warm enough with my mid baselayer. I have layers two pairs usually merino against the skin and other tech long under wear next.
    The most comfortable is merino base layer and a tech material sweat pant mid-layer.
    The ones I have are made by the big athletic brand you know. In fact football tights and cold wear shirts all work as well and much less expensive than ski wear brands.
    Hunters I know wear their polyester pajamas as a mid-layer seems like a good idea too.

  4. Tom
    November 14, 2020 at 8:19 am (2 years ago)

    After a day of boarding we kick off our shell pants and have a long drive or go out to eat. You do not want to do base layer. What is good comfortable pants to where over bas layer and under shell?

  5. Brooke Curcuri
    November 19, 2020 at 3:17 pm (2 years ago)

    I personally pack a pair of cozy sweatpants or leggings to throw on over my baselayer pants after a day of boarding. If its a super chilly day, I will wear a thicker baselayer pant, like midweight or heavy over my lightweight layer, and those tend to look less ‘long underwear-like’ so I feel more comfortable wearing them out and about.


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