Learning how to layer for snowboarding is one of the most important ways you can prepare for a day on your board, in freezing temperatures, whether you’re boarding at a resort or planning a backcountry adventure. Layering often involves wearing a few layers of clothing that you can remove once you or the weather starts to heat up. Even if you have the best snowboard jacket, layering will still be important since you can easily become too hot once you’ve been shredding for a few hours.

Layering System

snowboarder in the cold

The reason you need to layer your clothing when you head out for a day out in the snow is pretty simple; you need to protect yourself from the elements, yet this level of protection must be adjustable in order to compensate for the changes in conditions. If you decide to wear just a snowboard helmet and an extra-thick jacket, then you’re setting yourself up for excessive sweating and overheating, should the temperature rise.

The basic layering system is the most common because it works for a variety of conditions. It consists of a light base layer, insulating layer, and a waterproof layer. You can subtract or add layers to this system based on weather conditions.

Base Layer

Investing in a good base layer of clothing is one of the best snowboarding tips for beginners you can follow. The base layer is what you’ll wear next to your skin. The base layer’s main job is to wick moisture away from the body to keep you warm. This means that the base layer should be made out of wool or synthetic materials, not cotton. I strongly recommend avoiding cotton for any of your layers of clothing since it can trap moisture and can lose all of its insulating power once it gets wet. This means you’ll get cold and clammy pretty quickly.

Don’t make a common mistake that many beginners make and cheap out on the base layer. A good base will last much longer and will keep you more comfortable, all day long. It’s definitely a worthy investment. Wool is a great choice since it resists odors and can keep you warm and dry for hours.

Many boarders will choose a long sleeve shirt and long underwear as their base. Some boarders prefer wearing capri-cut underwear, which allows the cuffs to stay out of their boots. Others may prefer wearing a boarding onesie, which is a one-piece suit that makes for a comfortable base layer, without gaps that can allow cold air or snow in.

Whatever type of base you decide to go with, make sure it fits you well and can keep you comfortable and warm for hours.


The middle layer is the insulating layer. This layer does most of the work by keeping the wearer warm in freezing temperatures. The mid layer is what will help to moderate the boarder’s temperature. For those riding in the springtime, a base layer and a shell may be all that’s needed. If you happen to get cold, it’s very easy to add to the mid-layer. Layering this way will not overheat you easily like wearing an insulated jacket can in the spring. Basically, the legs will remain warmer and the boarder won’t need to worry about a mid-layer for their lower half.

For those planning on boarding at a resort, the weight won’t matter, and they can go with any type of synthetic or wool layer. Some brands even make outwear pieces that include an insulating layer that can zip out of a shell layer for situations in which the boarder wants to wear one without the other. This feature is commonly found on snowboarding jackets and it’s perfect for people who are looking for a jacket that’s more versatile.

For boarders who plan to hike around the backcountry, an insulating layer that’s packable and light will be important. That type of combination is often found on synthetic or natural down jackets. The large puffy jackets only weigh a few ounces and can easily be packed down to the size of a water bottle. However, in terms of warmth they pack a huge punch. How this layer fits will be very important. It must fit comfortably over the base layer; however, you don’t want it to be too bulky or it will be difficult to fit a shell layer over it. Search for a jacket that features water-resistant insulation, which will prevent it from getting soggy and losing its warmth, should it get wet. Some types of jackets also feature weatherproof materials so that they’ll work well without a shell layer in a wide range of weather conditions.

Another popular option for mid-layering is fleece and thicker wool layers. Both are great choices for areas where it doesn’t get quite as cold.

Always keep an extra insulating layer in your pack if you’re touring. You never know when the temperature is going to drop.


friends snowboarding

The outermost layer is referred to as the shell. The job of this layer is to keep out the elements. You’ll want this layer to be breathable, windproof, and waterproof. This means that it will keep water and cold air from getting in, while allowing the moisture from sweat to escape. Be sure that this layer fits comfortably over the other two layers and that it comes loaded with the type of pockets and storage you need. Many of your accessories will be carried in the shell, so you’ll want to consider what gear you want to have easily accessible and be sure there is storage for everything. Instead of regular pants, you can also purchase ski bibs. These pants have more storage options and are very comfortable to wear all day long. Additionally, they do a great job of keeping snow and moisture out.

Once you have your layering system put together, try experimenting with it and figure out what works and what’s tight and uncomfortable. Consider how you’d change up your system if the temperature rises or drops. The best thing about a layering system is its flexibility. With a good system, you’ll be able to swap out individual pieces in order to better prepare for the weather conditions and ensure you remain dry and comfortable all day long.

Other Considerations

If you’re having trouble deciding on a layering system, consider where you’re going. Snowboarding in the winter will be much colder than riding in the spring. Spring riding will also be somewhat wetter, so you’ll want to make sure that your shell layer is waterproof.

What type of boarding will you be doing? If you’re going to be hiking rails and lapping a park then wearing layers that you’re able to ditch will be key since you’ll get hot quickly. If you’re touring in the backcountry, then the same will apply. You’ll get hot hiking, but you’ll cool down quickly at the top, so you’ll need plenty of removable layers. If you’re planning on some mountain cruising, then warmer layers are better since you’ll spend more time sitting on lifts to get around the mountain.

What time of day will you be out? Later afternoon and early morning are the coldest times on a mountain. Early afternoon and midday are the warmest. Night riding will also be pretty chilly, so be sure to add an extra layer if you plan on heading out after the sun goes down.

What’s your skill level? If you’re a beginner, then you should plan on falling a lot. This will result in wet clothing, if you don’t have a high-quality shell or decide to forego a shell altogether. Until you get the hang of boarding, always wear extra-warm layers.

Do you need body protection? Body armor is a protective cushioning material that will protect the rider from bumps and knocks while they board. However, wearing this type of gear will add another layer to your system. Be sure that the body armor you choose is comfortable, breathable, and not too bulky. You can wear it underneath a mid-layer or over a base layer.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to layer for snowboarding will help you stay warm and dry for hours on the mountain. However, there are many factors that you’ll need to consider when you’re shopping for some new gear. This includes the weather conditions, time of year, time of day, your skill level, and even the type of snowboarding you plan on doing. With this guide, you should have no trouble putting together a system that works specifically for you, your budget, and your riding needs.