Skiing & Snowboarding Merino Wool Layers

October 27, 2022 5 min read

Skiing & Snowboarding Merino Wool Layers

Here at Duckworth, we’re obsessed with winter sports. When you live in Montana, you have to be - you won’t survive the cold months without them to pass the the time, as there’s only so much you can do indoors while staring out at the frozen grey and white of a typical Montana winter.

Our team favorites include snowmobiling, winter trail running, fly fishing (yes, you can do this just fine as long as the water isn’t frozen), cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowboarding, among others. As for the latter two, skiing and snowboarding, those are a natural fit for our squad, considering the vision and mission behind Duckworth was literally conceived on a local ski hill near the ranch in Dillon, Montana.

Because of their consistently growing popularity and visibility as sports, most people associate Merino Wool layers with skiing and snowboarding, so we want to get right to the bottom of answering some common questions.

Merino Wool Layers for Backcountry Skiers

Let’s start with the basics.

Is Merino Wool good for skiing and snowboarding?

The answer is simple: Of course! Merino Wool is extremely popular with skiers and snowboarders for so many reasons, most notably when applied in a Merino Wool layering system to keep a wearer warm, dry (wicking away sweat and kicked up snow chunks) and stink free after a full day of physical exertion. By comparison, cottons and synthetics don’t keep out the colds and trap in the warmth nearly as well, hold water like a sponge (which can be very dangerous, depending on the temps), and hold that stinky sweat odor long after a wearer has layered down for the day (no one wants to sit next to a stinky friend during après ski).

Best Merino Wool Ski Socks

A common misconception among consumers looking for Merino Wool ski socks is they think the thicker the sock, the warmer the foot. That's sometimes true, depending on the boot and the way the skier boots up. But if you’re an intermediate to aggressive skier, keeping that boot tight to your foot, ankle and shin is essential in getting the reactivity and performance you’re capable of. As such, a thick sock could threaten to inadvertently cut off some of the circulation to your foot, and you won’t notice until the foot is (ironically) freezing cold or in pain.

Instead, if you need tight boots for performance, a thin Merino Wool sock (which still thermoregulates like anything made with Merino) is essential for proper blood flow. Look no further than the Duckworth Lightweight Ski Sock, a performance-oriented Merino Wool sock for skiers and snowboarders, forged with our very own Montana Merino.

Duckworth Merino Wool Layers for Skiers and Snowboarders

Merino Wool Leggings for Skiers and Snowboarders

The legs feed the wolves, so to say, when it comes to skiers and boarders. No muscle group is more engaged and more demanded of when careening full speed down a groomer, powder run or through the bumps. As such, the legs are relatively easy to keep warm, even in freezing conditions, thanks to that extra use compared to other parts of the body. However, a good Merino Wool legging for skiers and snowboarders remains as essential as layers worn on the upper parts of the body - it’s just that you’ll need less of them.

For most people, a single Merino Wool legging under their snow pants is enough to stay thermoregulated and comfy. Our Comet Leggings (275 gsm) and Maverick Leggings (160-220 gsm) are the perfect choice. But for those needing a little extra warmth, doubling up on legging layers or throwing on our bestselling Powder Pants (a Merino Wool sweatpants) over a baselayer is never a bad idea. It’s all just a matter of preference.

Merino Wool Top Layers for Skiers and Snowboarders

Choosing the right upper-body Merino Layers for a skier or boarder is where a proper layering system becomes a bit more technical, but remains dictated both by the preferences of the skier/boarder and the expected conditions. For ease of reference, we’ll describe a Merino Wool layering system that we might use on the coldest of Montana winter days on the slopes. Think down to minus 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. For conditions less demanding than this, a skier or snowboarder would simply need to remove layers from the below list as appropriate for their preferences and conditions.

Many members of our team start with our lightest-weight fabric, Vapor, to kick off their layering systems. While we tout Vapor to be the ideal summer-weight Merino Wool layer, it is designed to wick sweat and moisture to impressive results. Plus, in a super hot lodge, it can be a nice and comfortable weight to relax in once you’ve layered down.

Next, we’d rock a Maverick or Maverick Peak layer combined with a Polaris layer: each is designed with thermoregulation as a top priority. Our Maverick (160 gsm) and Maverick Peak (220 gsm) lines both consist of 100% Merino Wool layers, ranging from leggings to crews and gaiters. Our Polaris (175 gsm) line is a proprietary Merino Wool waffle-knit layer, a rare design in the world of Merino Wool layers; those miniature waffle-knit depressions are incredible at trapping warm air against the skin, yet remaining very breathable if you were to need to layer down quickly. Polaris is available in crew and hooded designs.

Duckworth Merino Wool Layers - Comet Neck Gaiters and Balaclavas for Skiers

Next, we’d go with a Comet (275 gsm) layer, made with our proprietary bi-ply fabric. This highly technical design is geared toward removing sweat straight from the body and pushing it into the other layer, where it quickly evaporates. Plus, the hot air trapped between the two layers only serves to keep a wearer nice and toasty without sacrificing much weight. Comet is available in crews and hooded designs (along with leggings, as mentioned earlier).

On top of that, we’d go with Powder (300 gsm), an ultra soft and lofty fleece-like fabric available in a men’s hooded variety or women’s high neck cut. Just like our other Merino Wool layers, the Powder fabric is a great wool layer for skiers and snowboarders given the loft and warmth, anti-odor properties, moisture-wicking profile and ultra-soft feel (which is especially important considering this layer will brush against the neck and chin).

To complete the ensemble, we recommend a good ski jacket designed to lock all exterior moisture out and all the warmth in. But, on a particularly warm or sunny day, few things beat the freedom of skiing in as few layers as comfort allows!

Merino Wool Accessories for Skiers and Snowboarders

Last but certainly not least, the accessories. It’s always a good idea to have either a Merino Wool balaclava or a Merino Wool neck gaiter handy to keep the chin, mouth and nose warm and dry. But we caution you: don’t settle for a cheap synthetic or cotton piece, as those underperforming items notoriously become water-logged, mushy and icy - the exact opposite of the intended effect (not to mention, just plain uncomfortable on your face). A proper Merino Wool balaclava or neck gaiter for skiers or snowboarders is always the right choice, as that water vapor is quickly wicked away and evaporated off of the garment.