Decent waterproof, breathable clothing to keep you warm and dry on the slopes is essential.
If you are a beginner or fair-weather skier or boarder, you'll be able to make do with some of the basic clothing available, but you need gear that has been specially designed for use in the great outdoors, if not specifically for snowy mountains. Old jeans or tracksuit trousers just will not do - they'll soon become wet and then freeze. In extreme conditions you could be endangering your life in them. A decent pair of trousers and a decent jacket, both designed specifically for skiing or boarding, are well worth having. But you'll also need:
- Warm clothes under your jacket - layers such as T-shirt, polo-neck shirt and sweater or fleece are best so that you can remove some if you become too hot
- Thermal underwear - worth considering if you feel the cold a lot
- Long 'ski' socks which wick away moisture (just wear one pair)
- Good-quality ski or snowboard gloves
- A hat or beanie - essential because most of your heat loss goes through your head.
- Headbands and neck warmers are also worth considering - Turtle Fur is incredibly soft and warm, light and quick drying.
Experienced skiers and boarders who go out in all conditions really need top-quality technical outer clothing made out of quality materials, such as Gore-tex, to keep them protected from extreme conditions. There are all sorts of options now available, such as shell jackets with removable fleeces, and jackets and trousers which zip together to give one-piece protection. Cotton, although a traditional warm-weather favourite, is the last thing to use: if you sweat at all it will become wet, and lose any insulating properties it had. Instead, use synthetic 'wicking' wests and shirts that carry moisture away from the skin.
The most essential piece of après-ski wear you'll need is a good pair of stout, waterproof, walking boots with a good sole to give grip on snow and ice.
If you are trying snowboarding for the first time, doing it in your ski clothing is fine. And renting boots and a board is the most sensible move for first-timers. But if you get hooked, buying specialist gear makes sense.
In general, snowboarding clothing is bigger and baggier than ski clothing, giving the body more room to bend and stretch. And it has more padding and reinforcement in key places, such as the bottom and the knees, which you use a lot more in boarding than in skiing. But there is now a lot of 'cross-over' clothing around, designed to be used for either boarding or skiing. Snowboarding gloves are, however, generally bigger, longer at the wrist and designed to be much tougher than most ski gloves - to reflect the substantially increased contact with the snow that boarders have.
Children's Ski Wear
All the basic rules for adult clothing and accessories apply to children too, only more so. Being cold and wet is a guarantee that your child (and you in turn) will have a miserable holiday. There is now a wide range of fun, colourful children's clothing and accessories available.
One-piece suits are warm and comfortable (but a bit inconvenient when using the loo!). Separate jackets and trousers are more practical for use at home as well as on the slopes. For toddlers, link their gloves with string and thread it through the suit or jacket, otherwise they may get through several expensive pairs in a week. Remember, if your child's jacket doesn't have an insulated hood, some sort of fleecy bobble hat is essential for keeping their heads warm.
It's now widely accepted that children in particular should wear a helmet when skiing or boarding. The latest studies show that over half the head injuries to children could be avoided by wearing one.
Hiring ski wear and equipment can be a good option if it is your first ski holiday.
As for equipment, we'd recommend beginners to rent for the first week or two of their career - for both skiing and boarding. You progress so quickly that what makes sense on day one almost certainly won't by day six. And rent in the resort rather than in the UK, as you can then take back and swap uncomfortable or unsuitable equipment during your week on the slopes.
The first thing to consider buying is boots, ensuring greater comfort and control than with worn-out, ill-fitting rental boots. Once you're a confirmed intermediate you can consider buying a pair of skis or a snowboard that will allow you to progress for the next few seasons - be ambitious and buy equipment that you can grow into.
Many people are now taking two sets of equipment with them for added holiday variety - maybe two separate kinds of skis or maybe a set of skis and a snowboard.
For more tips and advice on learning to ski: Ski goggles and sunglasses | Ski boots | Snowboards | Extra gear | Ski fitness