What Gear Do You Really Need For Snowsports

Our 'what do you really need' series of protips is designed to help you get outside & save money. We talk honestly & frankly about the purpose that different items are designed to fulfill, as well as help you evaluate your needs, which there isn't always a good formula for, every body is different! Our goal is that you don't feel like you have to spend $100s before every trip buying all new gear, especially when many existing items may work! On our individual gear guides, we also have specific info on alternatives you can use. If you're looking to buy, check out our calculator first to see if it's a good deal!


What gear you really need for snowsports encompasses a few different topics, so we'll clarify the scope:

  • Backpacking gear: if you're backcountry skiing for multiple days, your trip becomes a combo ski-backpacking trip! We encourage you to review our separate 'what you really need' guide for backpacking, since many of those will apply. Just ensure that the gear is uniquely suited to deal with the cold (for example, a hydration tube & water bag may need to be insulated to prevent it from freezing while you're on trail; and you may want cold-weather or snow-appropriate sleeping bags, pads, tents)
  • Equipment (e.g., hard goods): such as skis, snowboards, snowshoes, are by definition required for their respective activity. You don't need us to tell you that you need skis to ski!
  • Clothing (e.g., soft goods): we have a very comprehensive 'what you really need' guide on clothing for outdoor activities, including snowsports. The reason it is broadly separated out is because we want to help you understand the differences between a rain jacket, ski jacket, snowboard jacket, belay jacket, etc., so you don't feel like you have to get them all. As you'll see in that guide, there are many overlaps, and you should decide how you want to manage the trade-offs. Nevertheless, because it's so important, we'll summarize the key clothing points below
    • 3 key wind- & water-proof outer layers that you may want to get specifically for snowsports are a jacket, pants, and gloves
    • Upper & lower body mid-layers & base layers can be a bit more flexible, chances are you already have something in your closet that will work. You want good insulation & breathable fabrics (generally synthetic)
    • Other accessories (e.g., a base layer buff for your face, neck, or head, mid-layer socks) are less important & you can decide case-by-case
    • How you should layer will depend on a lot of factors, including how much you plan to be exerting yourself (e.g., cross country skiers work out a lot more, so may want something more breathable, perhaps a soft shell outer layer rather than a hard shell) & the actual weather conditions (e.g., there's a huge difference between sunny & cold vs cloudy & snowing)

What's left is protective gear, which is still important to discuss because snowsports can be incredibly dangerous, whether you're downhill skiing at a resort, or navigating the backcountry. For the essentials that we offer, click on the item name to view the gear guide, with much more info on how to choose, how to use, etc.

Essential protective gear for any trip



We believe you should always wear a helmet if your activity has one. Remember, even if you're confident in your abilities, there may be crowds of other people less skilled than you. Combined with speed, and this can be dangerous. For example, even average skiers can reach speeds up to 60mph going downhill (97kmh), over 3 times faster that the top range of average commute speeds on a bike & as fast as highway speeds for vehicles (at least you need a license to drive)!



Snow reflects so much sunlight that it can cause snow blindness. Sunglasses still allow light at the periphery. Moreover, when you're skiing quickly, the wind can blow snow or ice in your face (not to mention if it's actively precipitating!). Just like jogging in the rain even with glasses is pretty annoying, skiing with sunglasses can be the same.

Optional protective gear

There is pretty much every kind of protective gear you can imagine, from butt, knee, and wrist guards, to reinforced/ armored vests or pants (impact clothing). Most people will not need these. Of these, the most commonly used are wrist guards. A lot of people instinctively will put their hands out when falling (especially in snowboarding, where most injuries come from this type of impact). Guards in these cases can help prevent broken or sprained wrists.

Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!