9 Best Base Layers for Skiing

The first step in wearing the proper clothing starts with a base layer. This is the first garment that you put on your body when getting ready for skiing, and it can provide you with a lot of protection against the elements.

Hi, I’m Christine, and I created this blog to provide my fellow skiers with a valuable resource for essential gear and important information. I have experience with many of the base layers you’ll see in this post and know how to find the best options available. 

The Smartwool Merino 250 is my top pick for the best base layer of the season. This is a very warm and comfortable option made of high-quality Merino wool. You can expect solid insulation and outstanding moisture-wicking capabilities from this garment.

There are a lot of base layers to choose from, but I’ll show you the top models in this post. To be prepared for anything that comes your way on the mountain, you need to have a good foundation – and that starts with a great base layer. 

Let’s get after it.

Who Should Get This

All skiers need to use layers. By wearing multiple clothing items while skiing, you’ll be well-prepared for anything that might come your way. 

This also gives you the ability to adapt because you can add or remove a layer if you get too hot or too cold. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

A typical layering setup for skiing is a base layer, mid-layer, and outer shell. This article will address base layers, and I would always recommend wearing this layer to any skier, regardless of the conditions. 

You don’t need a mid-layer if it’s warm out, but a base layer adds comfort in any environment. It also feels better against your skin than a sweater.

Even though a base layer is highly recommended, it is possible to ski without one. If you ski in a warm location or the spring when temperatures are higher, you might not need to always wear a base layer. 

I know some skiers who just ski with a t-shirt and a light shell during the spring.

Base layers provide the first layer of insulation against cold weather, and they have a significant effect on how warm you will stay. Not only do they block out wind and cold, but they also help wick moisture away from your body, keeping you warmer in the long run.

This is really a personal preference, but I don’t know too many skiers who wear more than one bottom layer when skiing. I wear a pair of shorts or tights as the first layer, and then my ski pants go over the top of those.

Generally, ski base layers should have a reasonably tight fit. They don’t need to be highly form-fitting, although that’s fine to use if it’s your preference. You just don’t want a base layer to be really loose, or it won’t won’t correctly.

Not really. You can wear a bra if you want to, but a good base layer is designed to sit right on your skin. This ensures that it works properly by giving you good insulation from the cold and wicks away moisture that your body creates.

Cashmere is too delicate to make for a good base layer. It’s a type of wool, so that will give you good insulation even when wet. But I like to use a more rugged material that isn’t going to wear down, especially since cashmere is expensive.

Best Base Layer for Skiing: Top Picks

Here are my top picks for the best base layers for skiing. Every garment you see below will deliver a solid layer of insulation to help you stay comfortable and warm when you ski.

1. Best Overall: Smartwool Merino 250

  • Key features: All Merino wool, warm, breathable, durable, odor-resistant, good moisture-wicking 
  • Materials: 100% Merino wool 
  • Fit: Slim 
  • Cost: $$$

If you’re searching for a complete, all-around base layer, look no further than the Smartwool Base Layer Top Merino 250. 

Smartwool makes excellent wool-based clothing for various outdoor activities, and their base layers are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the world. The key here is the Merino wool construction, which is warm, breathable, and incredibly lightweight.

The wool also makes this model odor-resistant, even for skiers who work up a sweat on cold days. It is also quite durable and will hold up well under heavy use. 

It’s a bit expensive, but I still think it’s more than worth it for how high-quality of a base layer it is. 

==> You can also get it on Smartwool or Backcountry.

2. Also Great: ibex Woolies 2 Crew

  • Key features: Super comfortable, excellent construction, durable, stitch thumbholes, warm
  • Materials: 100% Merino Wool 
  • Fit: Crew
  • Cost: $$$

The ibex Woolies 2 Crew is one of the most comfortable base layers out there. It has a standard fit that isn’t too loose or tight and lightweight construction that makes it easy to wear for long days on the mountain. 

This one features a 100% Merino wool construction, which means you can expect reliable warmth and comfort no matter how or where you like to ski. Merino is one of the best base layer materials out there, and it shows here. 

The Woolies 2 Crew is also a highly durable option with excellent stitching in the 240 grams of wool that help reduce wear and tear. The stitched thumbholes are another nice touch to give a little more practical use. 

The only real downside to mention with this base layer is its price. It’s expensive and might be out of the budget for the average skier.

==> You can also get it on Ibex or Garmentory.

3. Best for Full Body: AirBlaster Ninja Suit

  • Key features: Full body design, 4-way stretch fabric, includes a hood and thumb loops, warm
  • Materials: Polyester/Lycra  
  • Fit: Slim, full body 
  • Cost: $$$

If you want an easy solution to full body insulation, check out the AirBlaster Ninja Suit. This will give you full-body coverage that is useful on really cold days.

The garment really does look like a ninja suit. You get coverage from your ankles to the top of your head, letting you stay warm and comfortable no matter how cold it is. 

I also like that it’s made out of 4-way stretch wicking fabric because it keeps you very comfortable and allows excess moisture to evaporate quickly. 

This is another reasonably expensive option, but I still highly recommend it.  

==> You can also get it on Evo or Backcountry or PRFO Sports.

4. Best for Women: Smartwool Women’s Base Layer 

  • Key features: All Merino wool, women’s specific fit, comfortable, warm, durable
  • Materials: 100% Merino wool  
  • Fit: Regular 
  • Cost: $$$

The Smartwool Women’s Base Layer Top is a fantastic base layer for female skiers. This is another excellent option from Smartwool and is one of the most comfortable and warmest options that you will find anywhere. 

That is because the base layer is made with 100 percent merino wool to ensure warmth, comfort, and versatility. It can be worn all day under any condition.

It also has a great design that utilizes an Interlock knit to increase comfort, odor resistance, and breathability. 

It has a 1/4 zipper that allows you to regulate your body temperature as needed, as well as a crew neck to add extra protection against the wind and snow. It also comes in multiple colors.

It has a zipper, which some skiers might not like if they wear a tight-fitting mid-layer. 

==> You can also get it on Moosejaw or EMS or DICK’S.

5. Best Fit: Under Armour Cold Gear Compression Mock

  • Key features: Great fit, durable, comfortable, 4-way stretch fabric, warm 
  • Materials: Polyester 
  • Fit: Slim 
  • Cost: $$

If you are looking for a great fit and don’t want your base layer to slide around as you ski, the Under Armour Cold Gear Compression Mock is recommended. 

This is a slim-fitting and comfortable option that will work well for many different kinds of skiers. It has a polyester construction good for insulating and wicks away sweat and moisture very quickly. 

It’s also made out of 4-way stretch material so that you won’t be limited with any of your movements on the mountain. 

It might be a little tight for larger skiers, but the stretch design can help. 

==> You can also get it on DICK’S or Walmart or Zappos.

6. Best Classic: Helly Hansen Dry Stripe

  • Key features: Classic design, good fit, affordable, lightweight, comfortable 
  • Materials: Polypropylene  
  • Fit: Regular 
  • Cost: $$

If you want an affordable, high-quality base layer, you should check out the Helly Hansen Dry Stripe Crew (review).

Helly Hansen makes some great cold-weather gear that’s built to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable under nearly any condition. If you’ve never tried the brand before, this base layer is an easy and cheap way to see what they offer.

This lightweight base layer provides tremendous comfort and breathability at a great price. The garment is fully synthetic, making it durable, while the slim, athletic fit makes it a great option for those who like their base layers snug. 

I had one of these base layers last me for over ten years before my dog finally thought it was a chew toy and put holes in it.

Some people think it’s a little too lightweight for cold days, but I think it holds up well in just about any condition. 

==> You can also get it on Helly Hansen or Backcountry.

7. Budget Option: ThermaJane Long Johns Set

  • Key features: Affordable, soft, comfortable, easy to wear
  • Materials: Polyester, Spandex  
  • Fit: Regular 
  • Cost: $

The ThermaJane Ultrasoft Underwear Set is another great option for skiers on a budget. As the name implies, this is a soft, comfortable item that almost feels more like pajamas than a skiing base layer. 

It comes as a set, so you get a base layer top and bottom for one low price. They have a nice snug fit that’s good for skiing and will fit underneath other layers with ease. 

They are also available in many color options and have thousands of great reviews. 

Not the highest quality option on the list, but it’s hard to beat the price-to-comfort ratio.

8. Best for Kids: Rocky Thermal Underwear 

  • Key features: Affordable, durable, fun designs and colors, comfortable 
  • Materials: Polyester, fleece  
  • Fit: Regular 
  • Cost: $

The Rocky Thermal Underwear Set is an excellent choice for a kid’s base layer. This option comes as a set, so your little skiers will have both a top and a bottom base layer when they go out into the snow. 

This also has an elastic waistband on the bottom and utilizes a moisture-wicking fiber design throughout both garments.

The 92 percent ultra-soft polyester and 8 percent spandex blend make this option comfortable and durable. They also come available in various fun colors and fabric designs, which kids always love.

Kids grow quickly, so you might want to size up, so they don’t outgrow these too fast. 

==> You can also get it on Walmart.

9. Best for Backcountry: Arc’teryx Motus AR 

  • Key features: Lightweight, comfortable, excellent moisture-wicking, very durable 
  • Materials: Polyester 
  • Fit: Regular 
  • Cost: $$$

The Acr’teryx Motus AR is a great base layer option for any serious backcountry skier. 

This is a durable, high-performance option that will give you a serious layer of insulation and help you wick away sweat on those long uphill ascents. 

It also has a ¾ zip design, so you can regulate your temperature by zipping or unzipping the garment to your liking. 

It can run a little long in the sleeves, which is better than too short. 

==> You can get it on Arc’teryx.

How to Choose a Ski Base Layer

This section will cover some important things to consider when choosing a base layer for skiing. 


A skiing base layer can be made out of different types of material. We will look at some of the best and most common materials used, but first, I want to tell you what kind of materials you should avoid. 

Cotton is a no-go for your base layer. The common fabric is great for warm weather, but it does not have the proper insulation for the cold.

Merino wool is a great base layer material. Wool, in general, makes for great cold-weather gear because it offers excellent insulation and will also keep you warm when it gets wet. Merino wool is soft and comfortable, which is why so many base layers utilize the material. 

It can be expensive and requires some extra care, but for warmth and purpose, it’s a great choice for any skier.

Base layers are also commonly made from synthetic materials or a blend of wool and synthetic materials. That construction is cheaper and still offers plenty of warmth and moisture-wicking properties that you want while skiing. 

Polyester, nylon, spandex, and elastane are all common materials used in synthetic base layers. Synthetics won’t be as warm as wool, but they are still high-quality.


To get the most out of a base layer, it needs a proper fit. While fit comes down to personal preference, you want your base layer to be pretty snug. 

I like a tighter base layer because it allows for direct contact on the skin and keeps out any snow from getting into any loose-fitting areas of the garment.

Remember, a skin-tight fit does not have to be uncomfortable. A snug-fitting base layer will work just fine, but be sure there aren’t any really loose-fitting areas. If your base layer is too loose, it can also bunch up and cause you discomfort.


Insulation is critical when picking out a base layer, but durability is also important. You want a base layer that will hold up under a lot of use, meaning it has to be strong and durable. 

Many skiers will use the same base layer every time they go skiing. It should hold up if you only go out a few times a year. However, if you plan on going a lot, your base layer could wear out if it doesn’t have suitable construction.

Durability can be tricky because the best materials for warmth aren’t always the strongest or the longest-lasting. If you get a base layer made of Merino wool, it will be comfortable and warm, but it also will wear out faster than synthetic materials. 

Moisture Wicking/Breathability

You want a base layer that can wick away moisture and keep you dry. As the base layer goes directly onto your skin, it will directly absorb any perspiration. 

You need something that will keep that sweat away and allow it to dissipate without holding you back. If you’re sweating, you’re going to be hot – so get a breathable base layer.

Lightweight base layers typically have better moisture-wicking properties and are more breathable than mid or outer layers. That is because there’s less material to trap in excess sweat. 

If you sweat a lot on the slopes, I would recommend a lightweight base layer that’s either made from 100 percent merino wool or is a blend of wool and synthetic materials.

Useful Tips & Resources

The best way to combat cold conditions is to be prepared. Layers are one of the best ways to do that. I touched on the need to wear a base layer, mid-layer, and outer shell on any ski day. 

Though most skiers know that combination, if you’re just learning to ski or want some more tips on how to dress for the activity, take a look at this article.

Although there are numerous base layer options out there, if you’re serious about staying warm and want the best option, you want to get one that’s made out of merino wool. 

We have talked a lot about this material, but you may want more information. If you do and want to know what makes it better for base layers than other types of wool, check out this link.

It’s also good to remember that a base layer doesn’t just keep you warm, it keeps you cool as you sweat. By keeping moisture away from your body, a base layer acts to keep you comfortable and dry when your body builds up a sweat to cool down.

Final Verdict

The Smartwool Merino 250 is my pick for the best overall base layer for skiing of the season. This is a great clothing item that will keep you warm when you need it to and also wick away moisture on those warmer days to keep you comfortable. 

Every skier needs a good base layer, and the options you see in this post are some of the best you can find anywhere. If you want to be prepared for anything that comes your way, get your hands on one of these. 

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