A great ski day involves snow, and plenty of it. However, you also need great gear that can hold up under a range of different conditions. Even the best powder days in the world cannot be fully enjoyed if you’re unprepared or don’t have clothing that lives up to the demands of the sport. You need a good outfit to get the most out of the mountain.
When hitting the slopes, you always need to make sure you have the right equipment. Skis, boots, and bindings are obviously essential, but you also need to have the right clothing to keep you warm and dry no matter how bad the weather gets.
Many people know they need to get snow pants and a good jacket to protect them from the elements, but there are other essential clothing items as well. That is where different layers come in handy. This guide will break down the best mid-layer options out there and explain why they’re so essential.
- Quick Summary
- Who Should Get This
- Best Mid-Layer for Skiing: What to Consider
- Best Mid-Layer For Skiing: Our Picks
- 1. Best Overall Mid-Layer: Arc-Teryx Atom LT
- 2. Fjallraven Greenland Re-Wool Cardigan
- 3. Best Budget Mid-Layer: North Face TKA Glacier Snap Neck Pullover
- 4. Columbia Steens Mountain 2.0
- 5. Best Women’s Mid-Layer: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
- 6. Voormi Women’s Special Edition Drift Jacket
- 7. Best Cold Weather Mid-Layer: North Face Thermoball
- 8. Black Diamond Aspect Wool Hoody
- Useful Tips & Resources
- Final Thoughts
- For a great mid-layer option, look no further than the Arc’teryx Atom LT. This option is available for both men and women, which is an added bonus. Another great well-rounded model is the Fjallraven Greenland Re-Wool Cardigan.
- You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a quality mid-layer. Both the North Face TKA Glacier Snap Neck Pullover and the Columbia Steens Moutain 2.0 make for solid budget options.
- If you want a women’s specific option check out the Mountain Hardwear Women’s Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket and the Voormi Women’s Special Edition Drift Jacket.
- For cold weather days, a down mid-layer is a great choice. If you ski in the deep winter or live in an extremely cold location, you’ll want to know about the North Face Thermoball and the Black Diamond Aspect Wool Hoody.
Who Should Get This
If you ski often, it’s a good idea to have enough gear and equipment to prepare yourself for just about any condition. A mid-layer is a versatile and comfortable jacket or sweater that will come in handy for plenty of situations on and off of the mountain. A good mid-layer can be worn on its own when conditions are warmer and will provide great warmth and comfort when the temperature drops.
Modern mid-layers are all lightweight and easy to pack. That makes them good to have around on any ski trip because you can pack it up and have it ready for when the conditions or situation calls for it. You might not need a mid-layer for every ski day, but you’ll be glad you have one when you do. Every skier can use a good mid-layer.
You can easily ski without a mid-layer if conditions allow for it. If you have a heavy outer shell or a big down ski coat, you can probably get away with just using a base layer and the shell. It really comes down to preference and your desired level of warmth. If you’re the type who runs warm or skis really hard, you might not need a mid-layer because it will make you too hot.
Best Mid-Layer for Skiing: What to Consider
Thickness is incredibly important when picking out a mid-layer. The thicker the layer, the more potential warmth it will provide. We will take a look at different types of insulation below, but the general rule is that the more material you have on any piece of clothing, the warmer it will be. The choice in how thick you want your mid-layer is up to you and can be catered to your personal preferences or the conditions you find yourself in most often.
If you tend to not get cold or have a really warm outer shell, you can use a thinner mid-layer. If you want extra warmth, go with a thicker layer. Most mid-layers fall somewhere in the medium thickness area. That’s a good balance to look for because it will keep you warm but not be too thick or bulky while you ski.
Many mid-layers offer different types of insulation. Regardless of which you end up with, remember that the thicker the material, the warmer it will be. Some materials are inherently warmer than others, but all of the mid-layers listed here will provide adequate insulation for most skiing circumstances. The most common materials are wool, synthetic, down, and fleece.
A wool mid-layer is a bit old school, but is still recommended by many. Wool is a great natural fiber that has excellent insulation properties even when it gets wet. A wool mid-layer could be a simple sweater or you can get a merino wool variety that is very soft, warm, and comfortable. Wool is not as durable as synthetic materials, but it can still hold up for years. Just be sure to never wash wool in hot water and always put it in the dryer.
Synthetic materials are more and more common in modern mid-layers. Synthetic mid-layers can be less bulky and more comfortable than wool, and they will still provide excellent insulation even when wet. There are many different options when it comes to synthetic mid-layers, and this type of insulation makes a good all-around choice for those who want something durable, warm, and comfortable.
Down insulation is another old-school material that’s quite effective. Down insulation is made of duck or goose feathers and this material offers excellent warmth and protection against the cold. Down is really good for extra cold days and can keep you warm as long as it doesn’t get too wet. Down insulation can be expensive, but it serves as a great choice for cold conditions.
Fleece is another common material used in mid-layer design. Fleece is a well-known synthetic material that’s used for its warmth and comfort. It is a solid choice for a mid-layer because it has an inherent water-resistance due to its fully synthetic construction and it dries out pretty quickly.
You want your clothing to last quite a while. Most skiing gear is pretty expensive, which is why you need to look for durability when purchasing a mid-layer. A good mid-layer should last for many ski seasons under normal wear and tear. That strength often comes down to the material.
Natural wool and down mid-layers are warm, but tend to not be as durable as synthetic options. Wool fibers can begin to unthread or separate after steady use and down jackets have been known to get holes and loose feathers. Down can also clump up if it gets really wet. Synthetic materials tend to last longer overall, which is why so many skiers choose a blend of synthetic and natural materials for their mid-layer.
Another consideration is if you want your mid-layer to be fully wind or water-proof. Since this article of clothing is designed to go over your base layer and underneath your outer shell, it doesn’t technically need to be made of water-proof or wind-proof materials. For instance, a wool sweater works just fine.
If you want to wear your mid-layer as a jacket when you’re not on the mountain, you do want wind and water-proof properties. This is a personal choice, but I always like the versatility of a mid-layer that can also function as a light jacket off of the ski hill. You get more for your money that way.
You want your mid-layer to fit snugly over your body. If it is too large and baggy it will let in cold air and be harder to fit under your outer layer. You also want the mid-layer to be comfortable and to give you a full range of motion. If the garment is too tight, it can restrict your movement while skiing. That can be uncomfortable and affect your abilities on the slopes.
Weight also comes into play with a mid-layer, especially if you’re a backcountry skier. Many modern mid-layer designs are fairly lightweight and compactable, two aspects that make them great for a variety of situations. That also makes mid-layers easy to pack. However, lighter weight can also mean less warmth. If you want something with great insulation, try to get a heavier layer when possible.
Best Mid-Layer For Skiing: Our Picks
1. Best Overall Mid-Layer: Arc-Teryx Atom LT
One of the best options for a mid-layer for any skier is the Arc-teryx Atom LT. Arc-teryx has been making quality cold-weather clothing for years now and they deliver some of the highest quality options in that regard. The Atom LT is a warm, comfortable mid-layer jacket option built to withstand the rigors of steady skiing. It is a zippered style jacket with a nice hood that makes it versatile and reliable.
The hoodie is made from a synthetic blend of nylon, polyester, and spandex for a strong, durable feel. It is also lightweight at just over 11 ounces and offers lots of warmth and weather-resistance in a highly maneuverable and free moving shell. It also comes in a variety of colors and has fits designed for both male and female skiers. High-quality through and through.
- Strong synthetic design
- Excellent weather resistance
- Multiple color options
- Men and women styles
- Not everyone likes a hood on their mid-layer
One of my personal favorite skiing mid-layers is the Fjallraven Greenland Re-Wool Cardigan. If you want a natural wool fiber sweater, they don’t get much better than this. The Re-Wool cardigan is a sleek and stylish sweater that’s sure to keep you warm on the slopes, but will also look good in the streets after your ski day has ended. The sweater has a full zipper so that it easily fits over your base layer and under your shell.
This layer’s wool construction makes it warm and comfortable, but it also caters to eco-minded individuals because it is constructed out of recycled wool scraps. You would never guess from the look of it that it is recycled wool, but it’s a nice feature that will give you peace of mind. It’s always good to have a purchase that helps the environment. Every step matters.
- Made from recycled wool
- Full zipper
- Not water-proof
- Wool is not as durable as synthetic materials
3. Best Budget Mid-Layer: North Face TKA Glacier Snap Neck Pullover
If you’re looking for an affordable mid-layer, be sure to take a look at the North Face TKA Glacier Snap Neck Pullover. This is a great North Face model, and shows why so many trust the brand for their cold weather and outdoor clothing. The lightweight fleece pullover is a great choice for a comfortable skiing mid-layer. It is also warm and easily fits under a shell.
The Glacier Pullover is available for both men and women and has a snap neck design that allows you to increase airflow and breathability on hot days while buttoning up when the temperature drops. It features an elastic hem and is available in a variety of different colors. This 100-weight fleece jacket is a great budget option for anyone who values versatility.
- Comfortable fleece material
- Lightweight pullover design
- Many color options
- Available for men and women
- Neck buttons can be hard to secure in the snow
Another great budget option for a mid-layer is the Columbia Steens Mountain 2.0. Columbia is another brand that has made a name for itself in the outdoor industry and this fleece mid-layer style jacket will meet the needs of just about any skier. It is especially useful for those who want a more affordable option.
This jacket is made from 100 percent ultra-soft polyester, a feature that gives it a warm, comfortable fit. It has a full zipper and an easy-to-adjust collar. It also comes with two side pockets that allow you to easily store any small belongings you want to bring along while skiing. It comes in a variety of different color options as well.
- Multiple colors available
5. Best Women’s Mid-Layer: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
For an excellent mid-layer specifically for women skiers, check out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. This is a lightweight down jacket that works as a mid-layer thanks to the compact design and effective insulation. It weighs in at just under eight ounces, making it a great backcountry option or lightweight travel jacket.
The jacket is 100 percent nylon, which makes it durable and reliable. It also comes with ample insulation to keep you warm and dry. The low-profile quilted design traps in body heat while allowing for adequate airflow. It also compacts into its own pocket. That makes it easy to pack and travel with. A great option for people who love versatility.
- Stuffs into own pocket
Another great option for women is the Voormi Women’s Special Edition Drift Jacket. This is a sleek, stylish jacket that functions as a great mid-layer, but can also be used as a light jacket in other circumstances. It is a fully zippered, pull-over type of jacket that also comes equipped with two side pockets and an inner secret pocket to keep your valuables safe while skiing.
This jacket is built with a combination of merino wool and synthetic materials which make it a nice blend of strength and warmth. It also has a slim fit that allows it to sit on the body without bunching up or feeling bulky underneath an outer shell. This is a solid mid-layer from a small company.
- Warm and comfortable
- Well-built design
- Nice wool/synthetic blend
- Can run small
7. Best Cold Weather Mid-Layer: North Face Thermoball
If you’re looking for a cold-weather mid-layer that’s sure to keep you warm when the temperature drops, the North Face Thermoball is a great option. This jacket is another solid offering from North Face, and it comes in designs for both men and women. It’s a combination of down and synthetic materials, a combination that makes it durable and warm at the same time. The down insulation makes it warm, but it’s also quite comfortable.
- Trusted Brand
- Not great if it gets wet
Another good cold weather mid-layer option is the Black Diamond Aspect Wool Hoody. This option is made with a comfortable, machine-washable lavalan wool that offers excellent warmth. It features breathable side panels that increase airflow and also allows for excellent movement. This jacket is fully zippered, comes with a nice hood, and is easy to pack. Another solid mid-layer option.
- Easy to pack
- On the lighter side for a cold-weather option
Useful Tips & Resources
Layers are key to a successful day on the slopes. They give you the versatility to adapt to changing conditions while also ensuring that you’re fully prepared for anything that comes your way. While you can get by without one of these layers in some situations, having all three enables you to prepare for anything.
Layers in and of themselves offer a tremendous amount of versatility, but a mid-layer is perhaps the most versatile. A mid-layer provides extra warmth on cold days, but it can also function as an outer shell in spring or a light jacket in other non-skiing situations. Those uses allow you to wear the garment on the street in addition to the slopes.
If you want to learn a bit more about layering and how it can help you prepare for skiing, check this out. Depending on which type of material you get for a mid-layer, you also need to know how to wash it properly. Natural fibers can be easy to mess up in a wash. and ski clothing tends to require additional care. Check out this write-up for more information on the topic.
I think that every skier should have a good mid-layer in their arsenal. This garment will provide you with extra warmth when you need it, but is versatile enough to be worn in a variety of other situations. You can easily take off a mid-layer and leave it in your car or the ski lodge when you don’t need it. If conditions get really cold, you’ll be very happy that you have the extra layer of warmth that a mid-layer provides.
While there are plenty of mid-layer options, what matters most is that you actually have one. Just as you should be as prepared for any sort of outdoor adventure, so should you be for skiing. There are other aspects that need to be paid attention to as well, but a mid-layer is key to ensuring you are warm and ready for anything the mountain brings your way. It’s easy to wear and all of the above options will give you great results.
Do you wear a mid-layer while skiing? What are your favorite styles and material? Let us know in the comments below.