Skiing can get cold. Really cold. While normal gear is often enough to stave off freezing conditions, sometimes you need extra help. Balaclavas, special face warmers designed to keep the heat out and the cold in, do just the trick.
A warm mask is a perfect way to handle tough or frigid ski runs. However, getting the right one can be more difficult than it first seems. This guide makes that search easier by breaking down the best balaclavas on the market and analyzing their features to show why they stand out from the pack.
- Cheap and durable, the balaclava from Fantastic Zone is a great item for skiers on a budget. It’s extremely affordable but doesn’t sacrifice quality. The 4-way stretch fabric is flexible, the long neck gives you ample protection from the cold, and the two halves allow you to wear it in many different ways. If you’re somebody who wants extra versatility with your mask, this is the way to go.
- The Smartwool Men’s NTS Balaclava is a multi-functional headpiece for skiers who absolutely need to stay warm. The wool exterior is backed by warm lining and durable insulation. That triple threat provides you with ample protection no matter what elements you’re up against. It is also extremely thin, which makes it a great choice for skiers who want warmth that won’t hold them back during speedy runs.
- More serious skiers will absolutely love the Seirus Innovation Neofleece. This balaclava makes our list because it offers excellent protection against all elements. The tough construction holds up to wind and snow, while the neoprene forms to your face for the best possible fit. The breathable liner makes it a great choice for skiers who need extra ventilation and the velcro closure makes it quite easy to use.
Who Should Get This?
Balaclavas are the perfect accessory for skiers who deal with extremely tough conditions. A face mask won’t always be needed on clear or sunny days, but they do come in handy when the temperature rapidly drops. If you ski in particularly harsh conditions with a lot of wind, these are the way to go.
Balaclavas are also good options for skiers with sensitive faces or for those who tend to run cold. If you find that the wind gives you problems regardless of when you ski, a balaclava cuts down on general discomfort. They also help add a bit of extra protection for people who are out on the mountain for long periods of time.
Best Balaclava for Skiing: What to Consider?
When picking out a balaclava, you need to pay attention to the material. Every model comes with different construction, and they all bring something unique to the table. Polyester wicks moisture, nylon is extremely versatile, and wool is both soft and comfortable. Know what each does. You can either get a balaclava made of just one material, or you can get one that mixes different ones together. It’s completely up to you.
All balaclavas protect your face, but they come in many shapes and sizes. Some have mouth holes, while others provide a full fit with just two eye slits. Do you need half-protection? What about one that covers your neck or ears? Such questions are extremely important, and they all need to be answered before your final purchase. Know what will best suit your individual skiing style.
The last aspect to consider when buying a balaclava is ventilation. The masks need to keep out the wind, but not everyone needs a full, tight fit. Some skiers may want a light, breathable mask, while others may want something much heavier. Your mask’s breathability depends on what you want to get from it. If you’re often in extreme or rough conditions, a little extra padding with less ventilation may be your best bet.
Best Balaclava for Skiing: Our Picks
You may not recognize the name Fantastic Zone, but their balaclava is one of the best on the market. Not only does it have a light, 4-way stretch fabric for extra ventilation, but it also comes with a polyester construction that will last for years. This is also split into two separate halves. That gives you the option to mix up how you wear it and provides you with unmatched versatility.
What We Like:
- Thin-but-durable construction
- Separate upper and lower half
- Extremely versatile
- 4-way stretch fabric
- Fits just about all sizes
What We Don’t Like:
- No breathing hole
- Can fog goggles
Skiers looking for a well-rounded balaclava should check out the Smartwool Men’s NTS. This option uses a warm lining on top of great insulation and durable exterior to keep you warm on every mountain. Extremely well made, this model utilizes a wool construction to ensure the wind never gets in your way. As an added bonus, it’s thin enough to store in your coat pocket. It also dries quickly and cuts down on odors.
What We Like:
- Soft, wool construction
- Snug fit
- Odor resistant
- Dries quickly
- Fantastic insulation
- Great for skiing and hiking
- Warm lining
What We Don’t Like:
- Limited color options
- Seam is a bit scratchy
If you want a simple balaclava, look no further than the Seirus Innovation Neofleece. While not as flashy as similar models, this mask is water-proof, breathable, and utilizes a special neoprene construction that forms to your face. In addition, the large nose opening allows you to breath and the fleece keeps your neck warm no matter how low the temperature drops. It’s quite affordable as well.
What We Like:
- Neoprene fits to your face
- Seals under your goggles
- Sturdy, premium wind protection
- Large nose opening allows you to breath
- Doesn’t fog goggles
- Water-proof mask
- Exceptional ventilation
What We Don’t Like:
- Can be a bit loose on smaller heads
- Doesn’t completely cover ears
Useful Tips and Information
Balaclavas are fantastic ways to add extra warmth out on the mountain, but they are far from your only line of defense against the snow. There are many great items that help keep you nice and toasty. If you’re interested in other ways to fight the wind and ice, look at the tips and tricks outlined here.
Another important part of skiing is layering. You may have warm gear or modern clothing, but such items don’t matter if you don’t know how to use them. Rather than guessing the best way to wear your clothing, watch this video to learn how to best utilize your layers to get their full effect.
A balaclava may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ski gear, but few items keep you warmer. Getting cold on the slopes can quickly turn a fun day into a drag. Luckily, all of the above items prevent such issues no matter how windy it gets.
When choosing a balaclava, make sure to get one that suits your skiing conditions. Lighter, flexible models are good for lighter environments, while heavy-duty ones are best for skiers who brave tough slopes in frigid weather. As long as you do your research, you’ll be happy with your purchase.
Do you use a balaclava? If so, which brand or style do you prefer? Let us know down in the comments!
Joseph Scalise is an avid writer, editor, and snow sports enthusiast who loves to spend his time outdoors. He began his love of writing early on in life and continued to pursue it as he grew older. While his time behind the computer doesn’t get him into the wild unknown as much as he would like, he never misses a chance to head up (or down) a mountain, across a river, or through a lush forest. When he’s not planning new trips, you can always find him typing away on his next project.