Spring Ski Gear Basics

Helly Hansen - Cam McLeod - Spring Skiers

All right – you’re finally planning a ski trip! But wait – it’s in April. You may not want to wear that bulky down jacket.

But what should you wear? Knowing how to dress and modifications to make to use during spring skiing and riding can be tricky. In some ways, it’s easier since you won’t need as many layers and liners to keep you warm. But on the other hand, you tend to sweat more in the spring, which can ultimately make you colder – and you may have temperature fluctuations of 20 degrees or more between your first and last laps.

If you’re planning a spring ski trip, consider some of the suggestions below to make your days on the hill as comfortable as possible.

Pants: Ditch the Insulation and Look for Oversized Vents

Insulated pants, which can have actual insulation or be lined with warm fabrics like fleece, are popular in the winter for the obvious reasons. However, they don’t give you much flexibility – you can’t remove the lining at all. So, in the spring, look for non-insulated pants, usually called shells. These pants offer waterproof protection but not usually too much else. On days that start quite chilly but may warm up by 1 p.m., wear them with a warm base layer. That’ll give you about the same warmth as your insulated pant but allow you to pull off your base layer (I usually just stash mine back in the car) when the temperatures warm up.

You could also consider wearing them with a cropped base layer to reduce the layers of fabric around your shin. Sometimes a ski pant, a base layer, and a tall sock can be a little too warm.

Obermeyer Olive Crewneck

When buying spring ski pants, look for pants with oversized vents. While many ski pants have small vents inside the upper thigh, some warm-weather ski pants have vents that run the length of the leg or vents on both the inside and outside thigh. The larger your vents, the more heat you’ll be able to dump when the temperatures rise. You can start the day with your base layer and shell pant, and when the temperatures climb 25 degrees, ditch the base layer and open your vent. That should cover you for a wide variety of spring conditions.

Our favorite spring pants include:

Jackets: Same as Pants, or Opt for a Mid-Layer Jacket

Obermeyer Rhiannon Anorak

When it comes to jackets for spring skiing, you’ve got two options. You can follow the same strategy as pants by looking for jackets with large side (underarm) vents and ditching your base layer as you heat up. However, as long as there’s no rain or snow in the forecast, you might instead want to wear your full-zip mid-layer (also called an “insulating layer”) as an outer layer. Mid-layers usually aren’t very waterproof, but they do a great job of moving moisture away from your body. That makes them far more breathable than a shell, so you’re less likely to overheat. Mid-layers generally have fewer pockets than outer layer jackets, but if you don’t mind that, consider rocking your shell as your outermost layer.

Top picks for spring jackets include:

Gloves: Sorry, But You Need a Different Pair

Unless your peak-of-winter gloves are way too thin, you’re going to need a different pair for spring. You still want them to be waterproof, but you don’t need the heavy insulation. Wearing insulated gloves in warm conditions will cause your hands to sweat profusely, dampening the lining (which can make them difficult to pull on and off.) Moisture in your gloves can also make your hands cold, which you never want, regardless of the outside temperatures.

Look for lighter-weight gloves with good waterproofing. Spring gloves tend to be a bit less expensive than heavy-duty winter gloves, especially since you won’t need features like a handwarmer pocket or dense insulation.

Good options include:

Helmet: Open Those Vents, Baby.

Helly Hansen - Cam McLeod - Spring Ski Women

You certainly can buy a different helmet for spring skiing, but you likely won’t have to. Most ski helmets have vents to help direct heat away from your head (and improve airflow, which reduces moisture build-up.) Higher-end helmets usually have a switch to open and close the vents, so you can leave it closed in the a.m. when it’s chilly and flip open the vents when the sun starts blasting on your head.

All helmets have some level of padding, but if yours has removable padding (which usually Velcros or snaps into the liner), keep it clean between ski sessions. The liners absorb sweat, so after a warm day of skiing, they’re going to be pretty dirty. Clean liners help keep your skin cooler and prevent microbial (bacterial) build-ups, which can cause skin conditions like acne and not-so-great odors.

Your helmet manufacturer should have instructions on how to wash the lining, but in general, you want to hand wash them and let them air-dry. Avoid tossing them in a machine dryer.

Some ventilated options perfect for spring include:

Other Gear You Won’t Want to Forget

Shoes: Personally, I love peeling off my snowboard boot and socks and letting my overheated feet breathe in a pair of flip-flops after a day on the hill, but that’s not your only option. You certainly won’t need your heavy snow boots during spring-ski après, though.

If you don’t want to rock flip-flops, consider grabbing a pair of roomy, breathable slide-on shoes. They’ll help keep your feet cool when you’re hanging out in the sun. You could also opt for a short waterproof boot without insulation if you think you'll be walking across a lot of melted snow.

Lenses:I hate having bulky items in my pockets while snowboarding, but one of the things I always carry in the spring is a pair of sunglasses. Sunshine reflecting on the snow is blindingly bright, but it’s often too warm out to keep my goggles on while I’m relaxing outside or waiting for friends at a lift. I like having a pair of lightweight, durable sunglasses on hand to protect my eyes on peak spring ski days.

Hot Chillys Mountain Sock Men's

Socks:Skiers, keep rocking those thin socks. Snowboarders, consider switching to something a bit thinner than your normal mid-weight – it doesn’t take much for your feet to overheat on warm spring days. I always recommend bringing a second pair of socks to change into post-skiing instead of wearing your sweaty ski socks around during après.

Try adding the following to your spring quiver:

Of course, “spring skiing” is more about the conditions than the weather. In Colorado, you could have a blizzard in April, and in California, you may get a 45-degree bluebird day just 24 hours after a massive February storm. What to wear down to moisture control and comfort, the latter of which is a personal preference. Check this article for tipson picking the right base layers or browse this quick guideto the basics of planning your first ski trip. Spring skiing is all about sunshine, having fun, and enjoying a day outside. If you’re doing those things, then you’re already having the perfect spring ski day.