The REAL Difference Between Ski and Snowboard Clothes

When practicing extreme winter sports, it’s vital that you have the right equipment, and the same is true for clothes. There are clothes specifically designed for sports like skiing and snowboarding, built to keep you as comfortable, warm, and dry as possible, while still being able to perform. 

But while there are a lot of similarities between snowboarding clothing and ski clothing, they’re not quite the same. The following will break down the main differences between these types of snow sport clothing, as well as the main similarities. 

The Differences Between Snowboard Pants and Ski Pants

Like all snow sport clothing, both snowboard pants and ski pants are designed to shield you from getting cold or wet. The basic function of both pants is the same, but there are some differences.

The Three Layer System

Whether they’re snowboard pants or ski pants, many will be constructed with a three layer system, which is considered the most efficient way for pants to keep you from getting too cold.

The first of these three layers is the layer that’s in direct contact with the skin, and will be made of a material that’s moisture wicking. The second layer is the insulation layer. This is the one that holds body heat, but will also wick some moisture like the first layer.

The third and final layer of the three layer system is the outer layer, which is designed to be both windproof and waterproof, while also allowing the escape of body moisture.

If a pair of snowboarding pants or skiing pants don’t come with the three layer system, they’ll at the very least have the insulation and outer layers, and you’ll be able to buy the inner layer on its own. 

Protection and Padding

A lot of snowboard and ski pants will contain padding to protect you from hard falls- it is an extreme sport, after all. There’s some differences between where the padding is focused, though. For ski pants, most of the padding will be found around the hips and buttocks area. For snowboard pants, though, the padding will more so target the knee area and the buttocks area. 

You can also buy specially designed shorts, which provide extra padding for your buttocks, hips, sides, and your upper legs. These can be worn under both snowboard pants and ski pants, and are ideal if you’re looking for a little more protection. 

Style and Fit

The style and fit are the main differences between snowboarding pants and skiing pants. Pants designed for skiing will be form fitting and snug, while pants designed for snowboarding tend to be baggier, which allows them more freedom to do jumps and tricks. You don’t need to buy one or the other, though- if you’re a skier and would prefer looser fitting pants, then pick up a pair of snowboard pants. 

Do You Need Snow Sports Pants for Skiing and Snowboarding?

There are not many suitable alternatives to these pants when it comes to snowboarding or skiing. If you’re participating in snow sports, you’re going to want a pair of pants that are specifically designed to protect you from the elements- waterproof, at the very least. Denim pants, or any casual pants, will not hold up. 

The Differences Between Snowboard Jackets and Ski Jackets

Just like with pants, the main difference between snowboarding jackets and skiing jackets is the fit. There’s also some other differences, though, and they’re all worth being aware of. 


Jackets for snowboarding are looser, while jackets for skiing are more form fitting. This is for the same reason that snowboarding and skiing pants have similar fits: more freedom is required when it comes to snowboarding.


Snowboarding jackets tend to have more street appeal than skiing jackets, which is largely due to snowboarding’s roots in motocross, skateboarding, and surfing. Skiing has been around for a lot longer than snowboarding, so skiers are used to more traditional clothing. 


There are also some differences when it comes to the materials used. Jackets designed for skiing tend to use lesser materials, for the benefits of both aerodynamics and speed. Snowboarding events are more often focused on tricks, which is why streamlining is less of a priority. 

The Main Similarities Between Ski Jackets and Snowboard Jackets

While there are differences, there’s realistically very little reason you’d need to use a ski jacket for skiing instead of a snowboarding jacket, or vice versa. They have a lot in common, including the following…

Both snowboarding jackets and skiing jackets tend to be made with materials that contain insulation and waterproof properties. They tend to have a fleece lining and a waterproof shell. They’re also both resistant to wind, and are built to keep either skiers or snowboarders warm and dry. 

They’ll both have zippers, both on the inside of the jacket and on the outside, for you to store your belongings. Another thing they have in common is that their prices, quality, and features can vary quite a lot. Some are designed for beginners, while some are targeted at professional athletes. 

The Differences Between Snowboarding Gloves and Skiing Gloves

Much like pants and jackets, snowboard gloves and ski gloves are largely interchangeable, but there are some notable differences. You’re going to want more insulation for your hands when you’re snowboarding, because you’ll be spending a lot more time touching the snow itself, rather than if you’re skiing and mostly touching your poles.

This is also the reason snowboarding gloves tend to have more protection around the knuckles area. 

A lot of snowboarders actually wear mittens, rather than gloves, because in many cases they’re just as warm and insulated as snowboarding gloves. The downside to wearing mittens is that, if they get too warm, they can accumulate sweat quite quickly. 

Snow Sports Clothing: Buyer’s Guide

What to Look For in All Snow Sports Clothing 

Whether you’re going to be skiing or snowboarding, there are a number of things you should be looking out for when you’re choosing snow sports clothing. Remember to dress for the climate in which you’ll be doing either sport.

Up in the Rockies it’s going to be a lot colder and drier than it’ll be in the Pacific Northwest, where waterproof gear is more of a priority than insulation. 

If you already own outdoor clothing and can’t afford the pricier snow sports wear, you’ll probably be able to get away with regular jackets or regular gloves.

The main thing to avoid is wearing any pants that aren’t waterproof. Remember, though, you can always rent gear if you’re only going to be skiing for a short period. This tends to be a lot cheaper than buying snow sport clothes outright. 

Whether you’re a skier or a snowboarder, the ideal combination is synthetic insulation, and waterproof. These clothes will ensure that neither damp conditions nor your own sweat will get in the way of your warmth and comfort.

You can also come prepared with foot warmers and hand warmers, if you’re concerned you’ll be too cold despite your layers. For a lot of skiers, particularly in the coldest climates, hand warmers are considered an essential. 

One last tip worth mentioning is that, in the vast majority of regions, you should remember to lather on sunscreen before you go out skiing or snowboarding. Even if it doesn’t seem very sunny, sunlight is far more intense if you’re at high altitudes, and the snow reflects the sun. 

What to Look for in Snow Sports Jackets

As well as the aforementioned three layer system, you should also be looking for jackets that have numerous pockets, because you often won’t be carrying a pack. Some jackets will also feature clear pockets so you can easily display lift passes. Specialized hoods are another thing to look out for; some are removable, and some can be adjusted so you can wear them over your helmet. 

What to Look for in Snow Sports Pants

When it comes to pants designed for snow sports, one of the main things you should be looking for is snow gaiters, which are built-in cuff gaskets that prevent snow from getting in. Thigh vents are crucial too, for increased ventilation. 


There are several differences between ski clothing and snowboard clothing, mostly in terms of fit, style, and padding. But for the most part they’re interchangeable.

The vital thing to consider when it comes to choosing snow sports clothing, regardless of the sport, is that they’re both weatherproof and well insulated. 

As long as your clothing features both of these elements, and as long as they’re comfortable, it’s really down to personal preference whether you wear skiing or snowboarding clothes. 

About the author

Jesse Blaine

Jesse is the owner of, contributes to a lot of the material, and directs day-to-day operations. He lives in Colorado with his wife and kids and loves the outdoors. He’s an avid skier, hiker, kiteboarder, and adventure sports explorer. Jesse has also traveled the world and lived in five different countries. He speaks several languages and loves communicating with people

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