Having the right base layer can change your day on the slopes from a chilly, moist one to a warm, dry one. A good base layer will keep you warm and dry by being moisture-wicking and will regulate your temperature so you don’t overheat. It should also be soft and comfortable next to the skin so as to not cause irritation while you’re focusing on doing what you love – skiing.
Finding the best base layer for skiing is a hard task. There are so many to choose from and they are all slightly different. You have synthetic base layers, 100% merino wool base layers, and silk base layers, but which of them is best?
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Base Layers For Skiing
In this article, we have rounded up a variety of the best base layers for skiing and reviewed each one in detail covering fit, materials, breathability, warmth, and anti-odor technology. Have a read to see which one is best for you.
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Best On A Budget
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Best For Cold Weather
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The Under Armour ColdGear Base Layer is a great base layer for skiing. It’s a synthetic base layer made from a combination of polyester and elastane, the addition of elastane is to provide a compression fit so that it’s tight next to the skin.
The advantages of compression are increased warmth and temperature regulation, and easy layering. But you have to find the right fit for it not to be too tight and uncomfortable. It also makes it tricky to pull away from the skin for ventilation.
Polyester is an excellent fabric for moisture-wicking, breathability, and warmth. This base layer is going to keep you dry and warm while on the slopes. It is however bad for building up odors but UA has added some anti-odor technology to the base layer to reduce and stinky build-up.
Once you have found the right fit, this base layer is soft and comfortable against your skin, and the flatlock seams ensure no chafing. It also has great freedom of movement thanks to the inclusion of elastane that gives it a 4-way stretch.
Overall this is a great compression base layer for cold weather as long as you get your size right.
The ColdPruf Platinum II Performance is a bit of a different base layer for skiing. It’s a part synthetic base layer and a part natural.
The inside is made from 100% polyester while the outside is 70% polyester and 30% merino wool. This double layer combination traps more air for increased warmth and is made for cold weather and has been made with ring spun yarns for a soft and comfortable feel next to the skin.
Both merino wool and polyester are excellent at moisture wicking to keep you dry and therefore warm, but the extra layer may cause you to overheat when you’re really going for it on the slopes.
If you’re worried about odors, don’t be. Merino wool has natural anti-odor properties and this long-sleeved base layer comes with Silvadur anti-odor technology.
It made with a relaxed fit which is still tight, but not compressed. The shirt is made with ribbed cuffs and an extended tail to provide great coverage and freedom of movement too.
The sizes do run a little large though and it is advisable to order a size down to find the right fit.
Overall this is a warm, dry, high-quality base layer that is very affordable. Some people can find it a little itchy though so bear that in mind.
Helly Hansen is a Norwegian-based company that has been making outdoor gear since the 1800s. It’s a really popular brand amongst ski instructors which can only be a good thing in the world of base layers for skiing.
The Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew Base Layer is made from 100% Polypropylene, an unusual fabric but one that has all the right properties you’re after.
The 100% Polypropylene material called “Lifa Stay Dry Technology” provides warmth and insulation plus temperature control for when you’re being active in cold weather. It’s also really thin but still surprisingly good at keeping you warm, making it nice and light to wear.
The material is made from 3 layers weaved into one that also gives great moisture-wicking plus anti-odor and anti-bacterial protection. The Lifa Stripe Crew is not a compression base layer and has a relaxed fit. it made with flatlock seams to avoid any chafing plus it’s soft and comfortable next to the skin.
Overall an awesome base layer that does everything you need for an affordable price with a lifetime warranty. The sizing does run a little small so remember that when ordering.
The MERIWOOL Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt, as you can probably guess by the name, is made from 100% merino wool. It’s a versatile midweight base layer for skiing as it can be used as a base or mid-layer, plus it looks cool enough to wear to a bar too.
The merino wool used is responsibly sourced from sheep in Australia, so you’re ticking an ethical box with this one. The natural benefits of merino wool are if you don’t know already; great breathability, good moisture-wicking, and solid anti-odor and anti-bacterial properties.
It’s like it was made to be base layer material and you can be sure that this long-sleeve base layer will keep you warm, dry, and help your temperature regulation so you don’t overheat while carving up the slopes.
When wearing this base layer, the soft and comfortable feeling next to the skin is to die for. The fit is also on point, not baggy but not too tight either. Plus, it’s really lightweight and won’t impede your movement while you’re skiing.
It says it’s machine washable and dryer safe but a lot of people have had it come back quite a bit smaller than when it went in.
Overall it’s a great base layer for skiing that ticks all the boxes.
The Smartwool Midweight Zip T Base Layer for skiing is also made from 100% merino wool. Its build quality is excellent and provides long-lasting durability for use season after season. The seams are also made to conform to the contours of your body for a zero-chafe fit and great freedom of movement.
Being made of merino wool it’s breathable, warm, moisture-wicking, and has great anti-odor properties. You’ll certainly stay warm and day with this on while you’re carving the slopes, and you won’t stink up the bar at the apres-ski after either.
The merino wool they use is ethically sourced ensuring the sheep they harvested it from had a nice life and great conditions. A big eco tick there.
The fit is tight and snug but it’s not a compression fit like some of the others. It’s long enough to give you good coverage and the sleeves don’t ride up when you’re stacked with layers and being active.
There is a 1/4 zip that leads to a high collar which great for protecting your neck from high winds and you can unzip the top to cool down if you need to.
Overall it’s an ideal midweight baselayer for keeping you warm in cold weather, but it is a little more expensive than the others.
The Under Armour Base Layer 4.0 is labeled as their warmest base layer for skiing to date. It made to keep you warm in extremely cold temperatures and is probably on the best base layers if you’re going on some seriously cold adventures.
It’s a synthetic base layer, but you can’t for the life of you find out what material it is made from. The inside is soft and comfortable next to the skin and brushed in order to trap air. This allows it to closely manage your body heat to keep you warm and provide temperature regulation so you don’t overheat.
The material wicks sweat very well and is super-quick drying, ensuring you stay dry and warm on the slopes. It also has UA Scent Control Technology to make sure no odors build up and after a day of skiing, you can’t smell anything.
The fit is tight but not compressed, so the base layer sits a little away from the skin. It has a 4-way stretch, hinting elastane is in there somewhere, that gives you great freedom of movement so you won’t be impeded while you carve away.
Overall another great base layer, the only drawback being that it’s a little expensive.
The LAPASA Thermal Base Layer for skiing is made from 100% merino wool. They don’t mention where they source their wool from, so it might not meet some of your ethical standards.
It’s a solid long underwear base layer that provides great breathability, warmth, and is moisture-wicking to keep you dry. It also has great anti-odor and anti-bacterial properties to make sure you smell fresh coming off the slopes.
The merino wool used is 200gm, 18.5 microns merino wool to ensure this base layer is as soft as can be against your skin. It’s also pretty lightweight and great for layering on top of.
The fit is quite tight, not compressed, but tight. It doesn’t restrict your freedom of movement though, so you’ll be able to swing your arms on those turns with ease.
The downsides to this base layer are the sizing, they run a bit small, and that they can shrink in the wash even though they are said to machine washable.
The Columbia Omni-Heat Stretch Base Layer is made from 100% polyester and is really durable. Everyone who uses it tends to own it for quite a few seasons.
It’s a great base layer for skiing thanks to the ergonomic seams with flatlock construction that provide a zero-chafe experience while you’re on the slopes. It also features a 4-way stretch to keep you comfy and stop any restriction of movement.
The polyester is made with thermal reflective Omni-Heat technology to help keep you warm in cold weather. It also has Columbia’s Omni-Wick feature that helps remove sweat from your body and evaporate it away quickly. The result is a very warm, and dry base layer.
Polyester is known for its smelliness but this stuff has had an antimicrobial treatment thrown at it to reduce any bad odors, so you won’t have to run off to the showers immediately after you end your session.
Overall a great base layer, the only complaint being the sleeves tend to be a bit long and can ride up with layering.
Choosing the right weight base layer is key to your comfort on slopes. If you go for something too light, you’ll end up being cold. Something too heavy, you’re going to overheat. There is no industry standard measurement for base layers and they are simply split up between light, mid, and heavyweights based on thickness. Here is what each of them means.
Lightweight base layers are thin and do more moisture-wicking than insulating. They provide minimal heat while pulling moisture away from your skin to keep you dry while you ski.
The best time for using a lightweight base layer is when it’s warm weather outside or when you plan on hitting the slopes hard. By hard, we mean constantly rushing down the slopes and nailing all your runs at speed. If you go out in cold weather and are inactive, a lightweight base layer is not going to help you keep warm.
Midweight base layers for skiing are the most popular and this is because they offer the middle ground where you don’t get cold or overheat and sweat like a lion in an antelope cage. You’ll be warm when you’re being inactive and having lunch outside or chatting on the ski lifts, and you’ll be cool and dry while rushing down the mountainside.
They are also ideal for a wide range of activities, so they are an excellent go-to for most situations. If you have any doubt, go for a midweight base layer.
Heavyweight base layers are, you guessed it, super thick, warm, and wicking. They are designed for mid-winter alpine cold or serious levels of inactivity, like lying in the snow and not moving for a while. If you go skiing in these and it’s not minus a lot outside, you are going to overheat instantly and no amount of wicking technology is going to save you from being a sweaty mess.
However, if you do tend to get really cold, and nothing can keep you warm, then they are a must. You could also consider heated socks, as the extremities tend to get coldest first – especially when wearing ski boots!
As we already discussed, you need to match the thickness and weight of your base layer to your activity level and the weather outside. If you plan to ski hard all day, then a light base layer is the way to go. But, if you plan to have a quick ski in the morning, chill at the lodge, go out for lunch, then have another ski in the afternoon, you’ll need something heavier as you won’t be active enough to maintain the warmth you need.
All base layers for skiing are made to be breathable and they are excellent at it if you’re wearing merino wool or polyester. So breathability isn’t something you really need to worry about with your base layer. But, once the heat and moisture have left your base layer, where does it go?
Overall breathability comes down to your outer-layer choices and having an outer-layer that you can unzip to let air in to evaporate and cool the moisture is your best option.
Of all the materials base layers for skiing are made of polyester is the fastest at drying followed by merino wool. It important your base layers dry quickly so that moisture doesn’t sit next to your skin or get your clothes damp, as you’ll end up feeling cold. Cotton is the worst material for drying, so don’t try to slip a cotton t-shirt under or over your base layer, it’ll only make you colder.
Black base layers also dry faster than any others as they absorb heat faster that leads to quicker drying time.
Base layers need to remain comfortable when layered on top. The tighter the fit, the better for layering as the base layer won’t move around so much and there is more room for layering. But, skin-tight base layers aren’t comfy for everyone, so pick the tightest base layer you can handle.
The all-around best base layer for skiing is the Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew Base Layer. Made of Polypropylene, this synthetic base layer is really lightweight but still keeps you warm and has all the other features you could want from a base layer. It’s durable, long-lasting, warm, moisture-wicking, anti-odor, comfy, and affordable.
The best base layer for skiing if you’re on a budget is the ColdPruf Platinum II Performance. Made a mixture of polyester and merino wool, this semi-synthetic baselayer gives you the best of both worlds. You get the warmth of merino with the moisture-wicking durability and tight fit of polyester, in a very affordable long-sleeved base layer.
The best base layer for skiing in cold weather is the MERIWOOL Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt. Made from 100% merino wool with an excellent fit and build quality, it’s soft as butter on your skin while keeping you exceptionally warm when you need it to. The breathability allows for temperature regulation while the natural moisture-wicking and anti-odor properties ensure you stay dry and smelling fresh.
Synthetic base layers are usually made from 100% polyester but can have some elastane in them too for stretch and a compressed fit. They are more durable and quick drying than natural base layers, like merino wool. They also have the advantage of the compressed fit which assists with layering.
The main disadvantage of them is the odor build-up. If you use a synthetic base layer for multiple days without washing it, it will stink, even with the anti-odor technology that goes into them. Merino-wool base layers can be worn for days without building up any odor.
Merino wool is without a doubt the material that is best for base layers. It does everything you need a base layer to do naturally. It’s warm, breathable, it wicks moisture, dries quickly, and has natural anti-bacterial and anti-odor properties.
You can wear merino wool many times without any body-odor build-up. It’s perfect if you’re skiing far away from a washing machine. If you were wearing a synthetic base layer, like polyester, day after day, you would end up smelling terrible.
The only disadvantages of merino wool are its higher price and that it doesn’t last as long as synthetics, but it’s better at everything else.
Slik is used less commonly than it used to be due to the popularity of Merino wool. Silk base layers for skiing are still a solid choice when you’re in warmer weather though. they are thin, light, soft on your skin, and are excellent at wicking moisture away from the skin.
Silk doesn’t have any natural anti-odor properties though and you’ll want to choose a silk base layer for skiing that is treated for odor reduction.
The main issue with silk is how delicate it is. A silk base layer doesn’t survive very long when used for skiing and falls apart pretty quickly, which is why merino wool became so popular.
The best mid-layer for skiing is a jacket that is either made from fleece, down or synthetic insulation. Each of them has its uses and we have outlined the pros and cons of each. Your choice comes down to how much you want to spend and how warm you need to be.