Ski season is upon us, and if you’re a skiing family, you’re busy cataloguing your gear and checking to see what fits each family member. If you don’t ski often, you may not be outfitted yet at all. If you only ski once a year or so, we highly recommend using a ski wear rental service like Get Outfitted (see our full review), but if you plan to go several times this winter, it’s worth investing in the basics. In this post, I’m not going to list exact items, since that can change in a season or two. Instead, I’ll list quality brands you can trust for each category. Here’s what everyone in the family needs:
Family ski wear checklist
Each family member’s ski pants should be waterproof (of course), and ideally, they should grow with your kid. To that end, we love Obermeyer’s ‘I-Grow’ system, which integrates cuffs and hems that are designed to be taken in and then let out to give you more life out of your pants. Young kids will appreciate ski ‘bib’ style pants, which do a great job of keeping cold and snow out, especially if they may spend a significant amount of time on the snow, and older kids will like the ‘cool factor’ of pants with suspenders or strap-free waistlines. Make sure your kid’s ski pants come down over his or her boots, with an inner lining to keep out slush. No matter which style you prefer, these are the brands we love best, based on affordability, value, and quality:
- Obermeyer: You won’t lose your kid in the Volt Pant
- Columbia: The Bugaboo pant is the best value out there
- Patagonia: The Snowshot Freeride is pricy, but will last through several teens
Picking the right ski jacket for your kid is a bit more complex than picking a pair of pants. Style comes into play even more, and since it’s nice to try to get at least two seasons out of a jacket, be sure to go with the style your child prefers. You can opt for a two-part jacket that features an inner fleece layer that zips out for solo use and an outer waterproof shell, or you can get an all-in-one. If you’re only getting one jacket, be sure it’s a waterproof shell with some insulation; otherwise, I prefer to outfit my kids with a ‘puffy’, which is what we call a down jacket or sweater layer, covered with a thin but waterproof shell. That way, they can go with just the puffy on cold but dry days, and have the shell to go over on wet days. If you have advanced extreme skiers or riders, I suggest getting a jacket with a built-in Recco avalanche beacon system. You’ll see the Recco logo displayed on these jackets, which are, as you might guess, more expensive.
Favorite brands for puffy jackets and shells:
- Columbia: Try the Powder Lite Puffer
- Patagonia: The Patagonia Down Sweater is hard to beat
- Helly Hansen: Try the Arctic Puffer for young kids
- Craghoppers: The CompressLite packs down to almost nothing
Favorite all-in-ones or two-part system jackets:
- Columbia: The Snowcation is a great value
- High Sierra: The Frankie is fleece-lined
- Craghoppers: We love the NatGeo Oliver Pro shell for our teens, paired with the Liston Half Zip
- Free Country: The boys’ Helium is extra warm
Base layers are so crucial, and so many people neglect to get high quality Merino wool or synthetic base layers! They can get expensive, but in our experience, good base layers will last through a few seasons for each kid, and can be passed down. Look for wool, as it wicks away moisture from the body, but most importantly, find a brand and material that your kids can tolerate. Some kids don’t like the feel of wool. Here’s where to shop:
- Hot Chilis: The La Montana is a simple base pant that’s soft and stretchy
- REI: You can’t go wrong with their mid-weight offering
- L.L. Bean: Can’t beat their Wicked Warm for the value
- PolarMax: Our kids have worn PolarMax for years
Gloves or mittens:
This is another ski wear category that centers around personal preference. I love mittens, as they keep my hands warmer (since your fingers are together and share body heat). My kids like gloves. Whichever you prefer, think QUALITY when it comes to hand protection. The last thing you want are soggy gloves. You can always buy a back up pair on the cheap, just in case. Best brands:
- Head: Their kids’ ski mittens are colorful…you won’t lose them
- Spyder: Try the Mini Cubbies
- Outdoor Research: We like Revolution gloves for high quality for a great price for teens
- Whatever Costco is selling (we’ve always found them to be good quality!)
This is another highly important category…we always want to make sure feet stay dry and toasty warm! Sorry to be repetitive, but go with wool, folks. Make sure you select a ski/snowboard dedicated sock, which will come up to the knee. Otherwise, your kid will be complaining about pain in their shins in no time. Top sock brands for ski days:
- Darn Tough Vermont: Go for the Over-the-Calf Junior
- Smart Wool: My kids think the Racer Socks look cool
- Fox River: The Okemo is stylish for teens
Don’t forget goggles! This is a category of gear that can vary greatly in terms of both quality and price. For newbies to the sport, no need to spend a lot of money for top-of-the-line goggles. Instead, look for used gear at your local ski swap or ski store. But if you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder, you’ll definitely notice a difference wearing quality goggles. What we recommend:
- Native Eyewear Upslope: Native goggles have a great anti-fog coating, which really makes a difference in most weather conditions. The lenses also have multi-mirror, hydrophobic, and oleophobic coatings to repel oils and water. The Upslope works well for women because they fit a smaller face.
- Native Eyewear Backbowl: The Backbowl has all the same features as above, with a wider frame and wider field of vision. I love the mirror lenses…they just look so cool! These are perfect for the men in your family.
- K2 Captura: These women’s goggles are a good mid-price option, with spherical lenses and a smaller frame.
- Smith Optics Sidekick: Great for kids, these goggles are a solid choice that won’t set you back!
Ok, you’re outfitted! All you need now are your ski rentals, a helmet, and a face mask or bandana in case of wind and cold! Have a great ski season!