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Depending on where you live, you’re in the midst of the snowiest month of the year. I know that shoveling all that snow is the absolute worst but consider this a golden caveat: it makes for a great ski season!

I’ll admit that I carry a strong bias. I’ve been a skier since I was five years old and my mom carted me down the mountain between her legs, all while hollering, “MAKE A PIZZA!” at the top of her lungs. But, I also get that many people don’t start that young and learning a new sport as an adult feels daunting (especially a sport that asks you to be one with gravity and plummet downhill at high speeds). Plus, it’s cold so you need a lot of gear.

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While I can’t help you assuage the mental anguish brought on by an unplanned yard sale beneath the lift line, I can help you look the part until you get your skis together. Below you’ll find some of my favorite gear to get you started for your first day on the slopes (Rentals not included).

Julbo Hal Helmet

Julbo Hal Helmet, $100
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

If the last time you skied was in the mid-80s, you may still believe helmets aren’t cool. Alas, you’d be wrong since everyone and their grandmothers (literally) wears a helmet these days to protect their noggin. Julbo’s new Hal features adjustable airflow venting and a vented visor to prevent fogging in goggles. An EPS-injected molded shell absorbs and disperses the impact should the worst happen.

Spy Legacy Snow Goggles

Spy Legacy Snow Goggles, $230
Photo: Spy
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I mean, you can wear sunglasses if you want but aside from looking cooler, goggles actually serve a purpose by protecting your eyes and minimizing fogging (which is super useful while bombing downhill). The Legacy’s aren’t cheap, but they have the largest peripheral vision of any Spy googles which makes for a great user experience. An easy-to-use lever makes it a cinch to swap out lenses in varying light conditions and I’ve never once had them fog. Bonus: If you wear prescription glasses, you can pop these suckers right on top.

Mountain Hardwear Boundary Line Insulated Pants

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When you’re skiing inbounds, insulated pants are a nicety since you don’t have to worry about chilly thighs. The Boundary Line pants are built for beginners and advanced skiers alike and will easily hold up to years of abuse. Body-mapped synthetic insulation means you’ll stay warm where you need it (and sweat less where you don’t) and Gore-Tex shell ensures you’ll stay dry.

Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew Top and Bottom

Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Crew Top and Bottom Mens | Womens, $120
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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Wool is still the gold standard for baselayers and Smartwool’s new Intraknit line pushes the envelope just a bit farther. Gender-specific ventilation creates maximum breathability and thermoregulation which sounds fancy but accomplishes one main goal: moisture management. You’ll never have to worry about sweat sitting on your skin, even in the weird areas where perspiration typically gathers (we all have them, I know).

Columbia Sportswear Snow Rival Shell

Columbia Sportswear Snow Rival Shell, $180 - $300
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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You’ve got your baselayer to wick sweat away but the shell is all about preventing exterior moisture from getting inside. The Snow Rival uses a proprietary waterproofing system to keep weather out while still maintaining breathability on the hardest-of-charging days. Pit zips make it easy to dump excess heat in a hurry and a handful of pockets stashes away important stuff like cell phones, cash, and car keys.

Mountain Hardwear Direct North Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket Men 

Mountain Hardwear Direct North Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket (Men’s), $400
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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Maybe you’ve got an epic ski vacation planned, you show up, and temps are hovering around zero—at the base of the mountain. It can be tough to throw yourself into Arctic conditions which is why you need this Infinium jacket. Not only does it use 800-fill down insulation for incredible warmth, but the Gore-Tex Infinium shell (with Windstopper) makes it fully skier compatible. A internal powder skirt, drawstring hem, and helmet-compatible hood round out the features.

Black Diamond Mercury Mitts Men | Women

Black Diamond Mercury Mitts Men | Women, $82
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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Freezing digits are the worst, but Black Diamond’s Mercury Mitts keep plummeting mercury at bay. A removable liner uses 340 grams of Primaloft (synthetic) insulation while a Pertex shell with a goat-leather palm keeps weather and abrasions away. The liner also has a split-finger design to improve on dexterity. Bummer: There isn’t a leash so if you need to pull them off for any reason, don’t let go!

Darn Tough Goggle Guy Over-the-Calf Socks

Darn Tough Goggle Guy Over-the-Calf Socks, $26
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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A blend of merino wool, lycra, and nylon keep sweat away from your skin while constructing a sock that doesn’t slip or bunch (No hot spots here!) Mid-level cushioning underfoot offers all-day comfort and the over-the-calf height is perfect for ski boots. But, let’s be real: the goggles are where it is at.


Heather Balogh Rochfort is an outdoor expert and full-time freelance writer and author in the outdoor industry.

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