How to Dress Appropriately for Cross-Country Skiing. Are you short on ideas for what to wear cross-country skiing? Look no further as we layered a full guide for helping you to prepare for your trip like a pro.

How to Dress Appropriately for Cross-Country Skiing

When the winter months roll around, it’s a good idea to take full advantage of the stunning scenery and blankets of snow. One of the best ways to do this is through cross-country skiing. Also known as Nordic skiing, this high-endurance winter sport is a fun seasonal activity—but you need to pay extra attention to the clothes you wear.

Because you’ll be exposed to the elements, your clothes should give you adequate protection from low temperatures, moisture, and frosty winds. And on top of that, going downhill can give your body an intense chill, especially if you’re already damp with sweat.

Your clothes must be properly layered to keep you warm and dry. However, they must also be light enough to allow for movement. Dressing for cross-country skiing can be tricky, so here’s a guide to help you out.

How to Dress Appropriately for Cross-Country Skiing

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Base or Foundational Layer

This layer is the closest to your skin, so your underthings should be form-fitting but not so tight that they feel uncomfortable and restrictive. Ideally, you should wear moisture-wicking fabrics, such as synthetic polyester or wool, so that moisture does not get trapped in your clothes when you sweat.


For your top, you can wear short-sleeve, lightweight, or medium-weight tops. You can also wear slightly thicker fabrics, depending on the temperature.


Your legs will need to be able to move freely while skiing, so you don’t want to wear bottoms that are too tight or too bulky. Keep your lower body warm by wearing a fitted garment with a lot of stretches.  Buy tights with a high denier rating so they feel thick and snug, or use long thermal underwear.


Lastly, your socks must feel like an insulating layer of polyester or wool fabrics. Generally, the thickness of your socks depends on the weather conditions and how cold your feet can get. If you feel the need, you can wear two layers as long as they don’t cause your boots to feel too tight. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting your socks on to avoid the risk of freezing once you step outdoors.

Middle Layer

Your mid-layers need to be soft, breathable, and lightweight. Ski jackets are stretchy and offer a degree of wind-blocking, which is great for strenuous physical activities in the snow. If the weather is extra cold, you can wear a light vest on top of your jacket. Consider wearing two layers for added warmth if you expect to have periods of rest or inactivity, as you may feel colder when you stop skiing.

Other examples of middle layers include light fleece pullovers or tops, thin vests (insulated), light puffy jackets, and thin wool sweaters.

Outer Layer

The ideal outer layer for skiing must be wind- and water-resistant but also breathable. With cross-country skiing, you need to be able to keep the cold and the wetness of the snow from penetrating into your clothes. However, you’re also susceptible to overheating since you’re going to be moving a lot. As such, you need outerwear that ventilates the excess heat and allows sweat to evaporate from your inner layers.


A soft-shell jacket is a good choice for outwear since it is made from water-resistant fabric, which repels rain and light snow. It’s also breathable and stretchy, allowing you to move while letting perspiration pass through.

For slightly harsher weather conditions, such as heavy downpours or snowfall, it would be helpful to have hard-shell jackets on hand. Other alternatives include windbreakers or rain jackets that are breathable and wind-resistant.

Pants or Tights

In mild weather, a good pair of leggings or running pants would suffice for your bottoms. However, avoid wearing cotton material, as this type of fabric retains a lot of moisture.

Headgear and Accessories

Body protection for skiing should also include coverings for your head, hands, and eyes. As such, consider wearing the following:


Fleece headbands are ideal for cross-country skiing since they cover your ears and keep sweat from getting into your eyes. You can also wear light caps or beanies as long as your headgear doesn’t weigh you down.


Although mittens are not inherently dangerous for skiing, experts recommend skipping them in favor of gloves. Generally, gloves are more favorable than mittens since cross-country skiing requires a firm grip and good dexterity for proper strides and maneuvers.

When shopping around for gloves, consider pairs that are lightweight or insulated. You can also opt for lobster gloves, which provide the warmth of mittens without restricting motor control. Some gloves also have a patch of fleece on the thumb part, which is essential for wiping your nose.


What to wear cross country skiing

Lastly, you need to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the direct sunlight reflected by the snow. While any kind of sunglasses would do, skiing enthusiasts usually prefer large-framed pairs for optimal protection.

What to wear cross-country skiing

But Before You Go…

There are no hard-and-fast rules about layering up for cross-country skiing, but the tips included on this list should be a good place to start. Aside from planning your base, middle, and outer layers, you also need to prepare your body.

For instance, you should consider wearing sunscreen for an added layer of protection from direct sunlight. It‘s also ideal to pack extra layers that you can put on or take off depending on the weather. And lastly, make sure to be proactive and change your clothes before you get too overheated or chilly.

Cross-country skiing is ultimately about enjoying the winter wonderland, but you can enjoy it even more if you wear clothes that give you adequate comfort. Happy skiing!

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